Wednesday, June 22, 2011

1948 Speedway Tigers checklist grows

The series of 8" x 10" blank-back, black-and-white premium "Tiger of the Week" pictures sponsored and given out by Speedway 79 gas stations in 1948are not readily identifiable as such.

The gas stations were a sponsor of Tigers radio broadcasts, but their advertising does not appear anywhere on the pictures. They are non-descript player portraits, bordered in white with a facsimile autograph for identification.

For many years the checklist for the set has stood at 14. Now, though it is too late to incorporate into the 2012 edition, we have a new player and a variation to add to that list.

The variation comes with the picture(s) of Vic Wertz (whom the checklist has misidentified as "Bill" Wertz for many years). The Wertz picture can be found either with the salutation "Sincerely," or with a "Best Regards," salutation. Perhaps Wertz was Tiger of Week twice during the promotion.

Now, courtesy of John Rumierz, we have a 15th player to add to the set, Johnny Groth.

The 21-year-old outfielder was called up to the Tigers in late September, after hitting .340 for Buffalo in the International League and leading the team with 199 hits, 97 RBI and 30 home runs.

In six games with Detroit between Sept. 25 and the end of the season, Groth went 8-for-17, batting .471 with three doubles and a home run.

That seems to have been enough to earn him recognition as a Speedway 79 Tiger of the Week, and his picture was added to the issue. Because the other pictures were probably prepared and printed well in advance of Groth's arrival, his Speedway 79 portrait is in a slightly smaller size, at 6-3/4" x 9-1/2," according to Rumierz. The format is otherwise identical to the rest of the set.

It also appears as if the Speedway 79 set is due for a catalog value increase. The 2011 books carries the complete set price at $175 in Excellent condition, but the recent auction of a set in that condition for $660 indicates a bump is in order.

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