Saturday, April 18, 2015

'59, '63 Topps Maury Wills customs

Many vintage-card collectors know the story of why there are no Topps cards of Maury Wills as a Los Angeles Dodger.

The official line is that when Topps began signing players in 1951, their scout didn't think Wills had what it took to make the major leagues, and no contract was proffered to him.

For a number of years, it looked as if the scout was right, Wills was a banjo-hitting (also, coincidentally, a banjo-playing) utility player in the low minors. The Dodgers' farm people kept him moving around in an attempt to find a position that he could field without being a detriment to the defense.

But Wills always could run, and as he worked his way slowly up the Brooklyn-L.A. farm system, he became a proficient base stealer.

After nine years in the bushes, he was finally ready for The Show. He credited Spokae manager Bobby Bragan, for whom he played in 1958 with turning him into a switch-hitter, paving his way for promotion to the big club. Wills burst onto the big-league stage in time to help the Dodgers win their first World's Championship in L.A. He was integral to three more Dodgers pennants, piling up an MVP, multiple All-Star selections, a few Gold Gloves and six consecutive stolen-base titles before being traded to the Pirates for 1967.

While there were no Maury Wills cards to be found in Topps packs until 1967, kids still had a few options.

If you lived in SoCal, Wills could be found on a dozen or more local/regional baseball cards and team-issued collectibles. Nationally, he was available on Post cereal and Jell-O box backs 1961-63. When Fleer made a run at Topps monopoly on current-player bubblegum cards in 1963, Maury Wills,, fresh from his MVP win, was their main attraction.

Over the years I've been asked to create some of the "missing" Topps Maury Wills cards; it was never high on my to-do list. Besides, lots of other custom-card guys were filling the gaps (though few, if any, have undertaken to make the card backs).

Recently, however, one of my most regular followers made a good case, and the availability of a couple of really nice circa 1960 color photos compelled me to action.

Thus you have here my take on 1959 and 1963 Topps-style Maury Wills cards.

These will likely be the only Topps-style cards of Wills that I undertake, though it is tempting to see what I could do to improve what Topps did in 1969 making an Expos card of Wills with a heavily airbrushed Pirates uniform.

While working on my '63-style Wills card, I noticed that Topps was not entirely consistent in some of its details between earlier and later series.

For instance, on some cards the player position on front and back was spelled out, while on some cards it was abbreviated. On some Dodgers cards, the team name was spelled out, "LOS ANGELES DODGERS", while on some cards it was abbreviated "L.A. DODGERS".

In the biographical data, sometimes the birth date was spelled out, as "Oct. 2, 1932", and sometimes is was presented as "10/2/32".

Another curious inconsistency is that beginning with card #512, in the midst of the high-numbers, the cards included a vertical rule in the stats box between the TEAM and LEA. columns. Strange, eh?

For my 1963 Wills card, I picked and chose the options that best suited my design eye.

Since I've now created templates for 1959 All-Star Rookie and 1963 Topps cards, you may see more of them in the future.

1 comment:

  1. So cool. I had a complete 1963 set as a kid--I (blush) learned to shoplift that year and I always wondered where the Maury Wills card was.


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