Friday, June 1, 2012

Ho-hum . . . another 1954 Topps-style Mantle. But mine has a story.

Everybody and their uncle seems to have done a 1954 Topps-style Mickey Mantle card. Upper Deck had one in its 1994 All-Time Heroes set. Topps had a bunch of them in 2007, and again in 2011 and now in 2012 Archives.

And several of the other custom card makers had tried their hand at creating the 1954 Topps Mantle "card that never was."

For that reason, I never made too much of a priority of doing one of my own. But, because of a long held -- but as it turns out, faulty -- childhood memory, the time has come for me to make such a card.

We have to first travel back to the late 1970s, when I renewed my interest in 1950s baseball cards. It was about 1979 that I became aware of the "organized" hobby, such as it was 35+ years ago, with its collectors' papers, nascent show circuit and rudimentary catalogs/price guides.

At the top of my newly created want list back then, besides the Johnston cookies Milwaukee Braves sets of 1953-55, were 1954 Topps cards of Henry Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I bought a copy of Larry Fritsch's baseball card checklist book and discovered that there was no 1954 Topps Mickey Mantle card.

Mind, until 1956 when Topps finally started including them in wax packs, we kid collectors never had a checklist for the Topps and Bowman cards we accumulated every summer. The only way we had of knowing how many cards were in a particular set was when, after buying pack after pack late in the summer, nobody in the neighborhood had found a card numbered beyond a certain point. And in those years when the companies skipped a few card numbers, some obsessive kids went broke trying to find the "missing" cards (as the gum companies had intended).

Why did I have a '54T Mantle at the top of my want list? Because I was sure I had seen one as a kid.

We now have to travel back even further in time, to about 1959. I had a vivid memory of having seen a '54T Mantle during a card trading session.

A handful of us second or third grade collectors had gathered on the sidewalk in front of Dave Domenget's house. I know it was about 1959 because I was still attending public school and Domenget was a classmate. In  1960 I was transferred to the newly opened parish school and didn't hang out with my old classmates much.

I don't remember who I misremembered as having had the 1954 Topps Mantle, but even 25 years later, I could recall the lime green background on the card's front. Obviously I was unsuccessful in trading for the card.

As an adult collector, I soon realized that what I thought had been a 1954 Topps Mickey Mantle card had probably been a Gene Woodling, which sports the lime green background that I so distinctly remembered.

Naturally, when I decided to finally realize my childhood dream of owning a 1954 Topps Mickey Mantle, my custom card had to have that green background.

If you're interested in the other pieces that were assembled for my Mantle . . . 

The facsimile autograph was lifted from a 1954 Bowman. It is more period-correct than the sig used by UD in 1994 and Topps this year.

The portrait photo is from some auction or other. While you can't see it on my card, the rookie-year picture has the 1951 American League 50th anniversary patch on the uniform's left sleeve. The photo was originally in black-and-white, so I colorized it.

The full-length photo is from the Dormand postcard series of the mid-1950s. It shows the N.Y. Yankees 50th year sleeve patch that the team wore in 1952. Unlike the portrait, the Dormand photo was originally in color, so I converted it to black-and-white.

The cartoons on back were repurposed from original '54T. The cartoon at left is from Jim Pendleton's card. Those in the center and at right originally appeared on Preston Ward's card.

Since I've gone to the effort of creating such a compelling card-portrait photo, I've decided to put together a 1955 Topps-style Mickey Mantle card in the near future. 

Watch for it here.

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