Thursday, April 28, 2011

Board game card may be Reese's rarest

While Pee Wee Reese appeared in many scarce and rare card issues over the course of his lengthy (1940-1958) career with the Brooklyn and L.A. Dodgers, his rarest card may be that which originated in a mid-1950s board game based on a television game show.

Masquarade Party was a half-hour game show that appeared (at various times on CBS, NBC and ABC) between 1952-60 on prime time television.

The show's premise was that a celebrity would appear in costume and make-up before a  panel of other celebrities (you know, the professional "game show "celebrities like Betsy Palmer, Jonathan Winters, Ogden Nash, etc.) who would ask a series of questions to try to determine the identity of man (or woman) behind the mask. For each secod that the costumed celeb stumped the panel, a dollar was earned, usually donated to a favorite charity.

The game was pretty standard stuff for its era, but in 2001, it was voted 8th on TV Guide's list of 50 Greatest TV Game Shows.

According to some tidbits I found in two 1953 issues of The Sporting News, at least two major league baseball figures were guest stars on the program in 1953, and there is evidence in the form of a board game, that at least one other player appeared on the show circa 1955 or earlier.

On June 22, 1953, a masked figure in Elizabethan garb, complete with flowing cape, was brought on stage by emcee Douglas Edwards. After $239 worth of time had elapsed, it was revealed that the caped figure was New York Yankees star Mickey Mantle. The clue was the cape, or mantel, that Mantle wore. The Mick donated his prize winnings to the Police Athletic League of New York City.

Later that season, on Aug. 17, a pair of figures dressed as a lion and lioness appeared on the show. Questioning eventually revealed that the faux felines were New York Giants manager Leo (Get it? Leo the lion?) and his wife, actress Larraine Day. The $285 that the duo won was donated to the Texas Children's Home Society.

I could find no record of when Dodgers' captain Pee Wee Reese appeared on the game show, but his inclusion in a 1955 board game based on the show indicates he had done so.

The board game was published by Betty B. Products and the base set included 16 (sometimes 24) game card pieces that had colorful masquaraded figures on front. Evidently, correctly answered questions allowed the game card's hinged flaps to be opened one at a time until the identity of the secret celebrity was revealed. "Fun for the whole family!" Besides the pieces that game with the boxed set, extra sets of game cards could be ordered from the game's manufacturer.

Long-time Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards contributor Tim Pulcifer has acquired the Pee Wee Reese game card from the board game. It is #12 from among an issue of undetermined scope. He also confirms the existence of a Durocher-Day card.

The Reese card is about 3-1/2" wide at top, tapering to 3" at bottom. Folded, the card is about 7-1/2" tall; open, it is 15-1/4."

Whether a Mickey Mantle card was ever issued with the game, or any other sports celebrities, is unknkown. The web site BoardGame Geek lists the Masquarade Party board game as "very rare."

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