Wednesday, March 4, 2015

'69, '71 Spahn Tulsa manager customs

As promised on Saturday, here is another pair in my series of Warren Spahn "cards that never were."

Topps, of course, didn't have any minor leaguers in its 1969 or 1971 baseball card issue. But when I found this photo of Spahnie as manager of the Tulsa Oilers, I decided to work in those formats. I don't often use the same photo for two different customs, but with the recent long, gray winter days, I decided to do two.

The '69 came first, frankly because I wanted to work on the back design. 

When I made a 1969-style Joe DiMaggio coach's card a couple of years ago, I discovered I could not convincingly replicate the original 1969 managers' backs.

Topps had used a posterized effect on the managers' portraits that I do not have the skills or tools to copy. I've done what I could, and am satisfied with the result. If you're not comparing my Spahn side-by-side with a "real" '69, your mind's eye might be fooled by thinking I had successfully copied the style.

Likewise, the typography on the back of my custom is only an approximation of the Topps fonts. After considerable searching through font catalogs, I've come to believe that the names and career highlights on the back of 1969 Topps managers' cards were hand-lettered. That, too, is beyond my ability, so I've come as close as I can with commercially available typefaces.

That sort of thing wasn't a problem in creating my 1971-style custom. That year Topps stuck with design elements and fonts for which I already had templates from some of my earlier work.

Spahn managed for five years at Tulsa, about 100 miles north of  his ranch at Hartshorne, Okla. During his tenure (1967-71), Tulsa was the tpo farm team of the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1967-68 it was part of the Pacific Coast League, in 1969-71 the Oilers were in the American Association.

In his years at Tulsa, Spahn's teams finished, respectively, 6th, 1st, 2nd, 2nd and 4th. 

Among the next generation of stars who played for Tulsa under Spahn were Al Hrabosky, Jerry Reuss, Ted Simmons and Pat Corrales.

When Spahn won the Pacific Coast League pennant in 1968, and was named P.C.L. Manager of the Year, he was playing against teams managed by four of his former Boston/Milwaukee Braves teammates: Billy Martin (1961) Denver, Roy Hartsfield (1950-52) Spokane, Joe Adcock (1953-62) Seattle, and Mickey Vernon (1959) Vancouver.

I've read that Spahn's association with the Cardinals came to an end when he refused St. Louis manager Red Schoendienst's request that he move up to the big club as pitching coach for 1970. Allegedly he didn't want to leave his ranch. I'm not sure how much credence I give that, however, since Spahn signed on with the Cleveland Indians as a coach for 1972.

Spahn's job in Tulsa was directly responsible for Sparky Anderson's future as manager of Cincinnati's Big Red Machine in the 1970s. 

When St. Louis replaced Charlie Metro as Tulsa manager after the 1966 season, Anderson thought he should have been in line for the AAA position. After managing AAA Toronto in the International League in 1964, he'd spent 1965-66 managing for the Cardinals' organization at Class A. 

When Spahn got the Tulsa job, Anderson managed one more year in the St. Louis chain at Modesto, then signed on with the Reds' organization for 1968. The rest is baseball history.

I've still got a couple more Warren Spahn customs on the drawing board. As always, you'll see them here first.

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