Thursday, June 30, 2016

Diamond Stars Ruth custom ends recent draught

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that new entries have slowed considerably in recent weeks.

Much of my time since I returned to Wisconsin for the summer has been taken up with visits to health care providers and facilities.

I haven't been able to prioritize new custom card creations for some time. The creative fire just isn't there right now. I've proved to myself with the last 300-400 cards that I can do the work. As important, I've begun to recognize that there are some projects that are beyond by current abilities.

This 1936-style Diamond Stars Babe Ruth card has been in the concept stage for several years and has been a "work in progress" for some six weeks. Unlike many times in the past, I'm not ready to jump right in on a new card creation. I'll have to wait for particularly vivid inspiration to move me.

You can order this card. Unless noted, all of my custom cards are available to collectors for $12.50 each, postpaid for one or two cards; $9.95 each for three or more (mix/match). Complete checklists of all my custom baseball, football and non-sports custom cards were published on this blog in late May. To order, email me at for directions on paying via check/money order, or to my PayPal account.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Chet Krause dies at age 92.


Chet Krause died on June 25 of complications from a fall he suffered in February, 2016, and a stroke in January 2014.

For the entire second half of the 20th Century, the name of Chet Krause was well-known throughout the numismatic hobby; first nationally, then globally. This recognition resulted from his life's work focused on providing coin collectors with authoritative reference books, accurate price guides, hobby news and entertainment and trustworthy marketplaces to bring together buyers and sellers.

Chester L. Krause was born Dec. 16, 1923, in rural Waupaca County, about six miles east of the village of Iola in central Wisconsin. He was the youngest of six children. His education began in a one-room schoolhouse that had been built by his father next door to the family farm. From an early age, Krause learned the building trades working with his father who was an accomplished stone mason. He attended high school in Iola, graduating in 1941.

At the age of 19, Krause was drafted into the U.S. Army in February, 1943. He served as an auto mechanic with the 565th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion, part of Patton's 3rd Army, in Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany through the end of World War II. He was among the first U.S. troops to witness the concentration camp at Buchenwald the afternoon after it was liberated in May, 1945.

Following his release from the Army in 1946, Krause returned to Iola where he worked on the family farm and set himself up as an independent builder. Through the early 1950s he constructed two dozen houses, two churches and a 105-foot ski jump in the Iola area.

In October, 1952, Krause published the first issue of Numismatic News. The one-sided 11" x 17" sheet was meant to fill a niche Krause identified to serve the buying, selling and trading needs of coin collectors nationwide who were far removed from metropolitan areas where numismatists enjoyed coin shops, clubs, shows and conventions. He was the prototypical customer for his new venture: a serious coin collector who was geographically cut off from that hobby's mainstream.

For the next five years the publication grew in advertising volume and circulation as Krause nurtured it on evenings, weekends and when inclement weather kept him away from current construction projects. In 1957, Krause finished the last building he would ever construct, a 40" x 40" brick and glass office a block off of Iola's Main Street. That would remain, with occasional additions as expansion dictated, the offices of Krause Publications for nearly two decades.

Numismatic News grew throughout the 1960s and Krause Publications expanded through acquisitions and start ups of periodicals to fill needs Krause identified in the coin collecting community.

When the coin collecting hobby suffered a serious downturn in the mid- 1960s, almost forcing the demise of his publishing business, Krause recognized that diversification was key to insure its survival. In 1971 he founded Old Cars, a virtual clone of the contemporary Numismatic News, and began to develop a parallel line of periodicals for antique auto enthusiasts.

His involvement with the car collecting fraternity led to one of the most significant contributions he would make to his hometown. In 1972, in conjunction with a pig roast and donation auction fundraiser sponsored by the  Iola Lions Club, Krause invited two dozen area vintage car owners to display their vehicles at the cookout. That was the first Iola Old Car Show, an annual event that draws tens of thousands of spectators to the village to view more than 2,000 collector cars and do business with 1,500 swap meet vendors. The event has raised millions of dollars with profits benefiting the dozens of area civic organizations that provide volunteer staffing for the largest collector car show in the Midwest.

The car show is only the most visible of the philanthropic activities that Krause has been engaged in over the years. Both personally and through a family foundation that he endowed, millions of dollars have been spent in such projects as village park improvement, street renovation, the removal of dilapidated buildings and the provision of assisted living housing for seniors.

Less visible support of the community has been ongoing for decades, often unbeknownst to the general public. He has been instrumental in drawing resources into the community such as medical practices, outdoor winter sports facilities, housing for seniors, day care operations and other amenities not usually found in similarly sized rural Wisconsin locales.

Besides providing financial impetus for such improvements, Krause consistently gave of his time to the community. He was a member of the local volunteer fire department, a member of the Iola Village Board of Trustees for eight years and a member of the Waupaca County Selective Service Board during the Vietnam War era.

Though most of his philanthropy has been focused locally, Krause has been a major benefactor over the years to the Rawhide Boy's Ranch for at-risk youths, the Badger State Winter Games, the Melvin Laird Center medical research facility at the Marshfield Clinic and the Max McGee National Research Center for Juvenile Diabetes at Children's Hospital of Milwaukee.

Through much of his publishing career, Krause devoted time and money to further the growth of the hobby fields in which he published. He testified frequently on coinage related matters before Congressional committees in Washington, D.C., lobbying the U.S. Mint and Treasury Department on behalf of the interests of his coin collecting readers.

He is a lifetime member of the American Numismatic Association and has been recognized by that organization with every major award it can bestow. In 2007, when the ANA was struggling with financial and operational issues, Krause ran for and was elected to the association's board of governors at the age of 83, bringing his decades of business acumen to bear in creating new leadership and direction for the ANA.

Krause guided the growth of his publishing company through the 1980s, expanding into more that a dozen collectible hobbies including sports cards and memorabilia, postcards, comic books, records, stamps, firearms, knives, toys, and general antiques, producing dozens of periodicals and more than 150 book titles, with revenues exceeding $50 million annually.

At the age of 63 he stepped down as president of the firm in late 1986, remaining as chairman of the board. In 1988, he converted the company to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, eventually vesting the company's stock in the hands of its 400+ employees. When he had completed the transition of his shares to the ESOP in 1992, Krause retired from active participation in the company, though he maintained an office in the company headquarters.

While the ESOP was intended to insure that Krause Publications would remain in the hands of its employees, and thus in the Iola community, in 2002 a group of its largest shareholders voted to sell the company to an outside investment capital group.

Krause severed all ties with the company at that point. He set up a retirement office from which he oversaw the disposition of his lifelong collections of numismatic material, vintage autos and a large personal collection of World War II U.S. Army vehicles.

Now, as he nears the age of 90, Krause spends much of his time writing monographs on subjects ranging from family and local history to a compendium of places named Iola throughout the U.S.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Buzz Clarkson added to my growing list of 1952 Topps customs

My newest custom card in the 1952 Topps format depicts Buzz Clarkson, a long in the tooth, short-term member of the Boston Braves.

It's generally acknowledged that Clarkson came to the Braves as a 37-year-old rookie in April, 1952.

Clarkson’s major league debut was as a pinch-hitter on April 30 at Pittsburgh. He came to the plate for Bert Thiel in the top of eighth, with the Braves behind 11-1. He singled off Murry Dickson and scored on a single by the next batter, Roy Hartsfield, that featured an error by Pirates right fielder Bill Howerton. Clarkson stayed in at SS for Jack Cusick. While the Braves rallied for four runs in the eighth, Clarkson ended the game 11-5 with a fly out in top of 9th.

Clarkson's call-up to Boston in the midst of a long road trip was a long-shot gamble by manager Tommy Holmes. The Braves were in seventh place in the NL, five games out. Fourteen games into the season, starting shortstop Jack Cusick was hitting just .175.

In the May 7, 1952, issue of The Sporting News, Al Hirshberg, of the Boston Post, summed up the roster move thus:
In desperation the Braves pulled James (Buzz) Clarkson up from their Milwaukee farm. Clarkson is a comparative ancient colored shortstop…The only thing against him is his age, which is indeterminable….Clarkson doesn’t exactly fit in with the Braves’ new youth movement, but he can hit and he can play short, and the Braves have got to do something to strengthen themselves.
           Clarkson had figured in an article in TSN during spring training. Titled "Brewers Shun Clubhouse Barred to Negro Teammate," it was reported that when the Brewers arrived in Bartow, Fla., for an exhibition game with Buffalo, Clarkson was barred from the clubhouse by a "Whites Only" sign on the door. He was told he could dress at a National Guard armory across the street. The other Brewers declared "We dress where he dresses," and followed Clarkson to the armory.

Holmes gave Clarkson only a fair chance at making a contribution, starting him in four games in May and bringing him in as a pinch-hitter or defensive replacement in two more. 

Clarkson was batting a respectable .267 when Charlie Grimm replaced Holmes as Boston manager on June 1. One of Grimm's first roster moves was the demote Clarkson to AAA Milwaukee, calling up Johnny Logan.

Logan was hitting just .194 after a week, when Clarkson was recalled to Boston, where he was used as a pinch-hitter and filled in a couple of games for Eddie Mathews at third base. When Clarkson's average dropped to .200 after two weeks, he was sent back to Milwaukee, his big-league career over.

In his Baseball: Past and Present blog on June 11, 2012, Nick Diunte presented a great baseball biography of Clarkson . . . 

Beyond the barriers broken by Jackie Robinson lie the truncated major league careers of Negro League veterans. Past their prime, these baseball lifers persisted well into their late 30′s and early 40′s, playing out their careers before teammates and crowds that never had the opportunity to see them at their peaks. The well-documented exploits of Satchel Paige reaching the majors in his 40s and Sam Jethroe winning Rookie of the Year at 33 are more prominent stories from this group. There were other less-celebrated and now forgotten Negro League vets who took whatever time they could get in the majors, thirty-somethings like Ray Noble, Pat Scantlebury, Quincy Trouppe, Bob Thurman, and Artie Wilson. This is the story of one overlooked fence buster, James “Bus” Clarkson.
Years before his 1952 debut in the majors at 37, Clarkson was a power-hitting shortstop and third baseman in the Negro Leagues. Debuting in 1937, Clarkson terrorized pitching wherever he went, whether it was in the United States or the Caribbean, finishing second to Josh Gibson in home runs in the 1941 Mexican League. Overshadowed by younger prospects coming out of the Negro Leagues, Clarkson headed north to Canada in 1948, where he blasted 31 homers while batting .408 for St. Jean of the Provincial League. Despite his monstrous numbers and Robinson having broken baseball’s color barrier the year prior, Clarkson returned to the Negro Leagues with no offers from major league organizations.
By 1950, Major League Baseball could no longer ignore Clarkson’s talents. He signed with the Boston Braves and was immediately assigned to their AAA team in Milwaukee. Immediately, Clarkson lived up to his reputation as a dangerous hitter, batting .302 while playing third base. Holding down the left side of the infield with Clarkson was a young Johnny Logan, who would later become a fixture in the Braves infield. “He happened to be an outstanding hitter,” Logan said of Clarkson. “When you can hit, you play someplace. He was a tremendous guy. As a young ballplayer, we looked up to him.”
With Logan spending most of the 1951 season in Boston, Clarkson at age 36 took the bulk of the shortstop duties, batting .343 while leading the Brewers to the 1951 Junior World Series championship over the Montreal Royals. Among his teammates was Charlie Gorin, a 22-year-old rookie pitcher fresh from the University of Texas. Speaking with Gorin in 2008, his memories of Clarkson willing his throws across the diamond from shortstop were crystal clear. “I could remember pitching, and when they hit a groundball to Bus, he’d field it and just throw it,” Gorin said. “He didn’t have a burning arm because he was up in age. His arm wasn’t that good, and it would tail off, or go in the dirt. He’d make the throw to George Crowe and he’d say, ‘Do something with it George!’”
While Clarkson proved to be a capable fielder, his superior abilities at the plate afforded him a chance with the Boston Braves in 1952. Batting .385 during the first month of 1952 in Milwaukee, and with Boston faltering in the National League, the Braves made Clarkson a rookie at 37. Clarkson saw action in four of the first six games that he was with Boston. He went 2-for-11 with zero extra base hits and was quickly relegated to pinch-hitting duties for the next month-and-a-half. Clarkson would end his campaign at the end of June with a batting average of .200, with five hits in 25 total at-bats.
Boston teammate Virgil Jester, who also played with Clarkson in Milwaukee, felt that Clarkson wasn’t given a fair shake during his time in the majors. “I thought he was a great, great player,” Jester said. “He was one of the strongest hitters that I ever saw. I don’t think the Braves gave Clarkson a good break to play there.” George Crowe, when interviewed in 2008, echoed Jester’s sentiments, saying that Clarkson had difficulty going from playing full-time his entire career, to coming off the bench every few games. “He didn’t play that much in Boston as I recall, like I didn’t play that much when I was there either,” Crowe said. “It’s hard for a guy that’s used to playing every day that gets in there once every one-to-two weeks.”
It didn’t help that Boston had young Eddie Mathews stationed at third base and also had stock in upstarts Logan and Jack Cusick at shortstop. When Charlie Grimm took the managerial reigns from Tommy Holmes in June, 1952, one of his first moves was to option Clarkson to the minor leagues and recall Logan. Even though Clarkson was recalled a few days after being sent down, he sat the bench for the rest of June except for a few pinch-hitting opportunities along the way. He last played June 22, whereupon Boston sent him back once more to Milwaukee.
Clarkson’s career however didn’t end after the Braves sent him down for the last time. Clarkson signed with the Dallas Eagles of the Texas League in 1953 and terrorized Texas League pitching for the next two years. At 39 in 1954, Clarkson led the league with 42 home runs while batting .324. Ed Mickelson, who was playing with the Shreveport Oilers, remembered a blast by Clarkson. “He hit a line drive at our shortstop at Joe Koppe,” Mickelson said in 2009. “Joe wasn’t very big, he was 5’8” or 5’9”. He went up and jumped for the ball, and I don’t think he put a glove on it; it was only a few inches above his glove. The ball kept rising and went out of the ballpark in left-center field. Still rising, it went out of the field, a line drive out of the park.”
Clarkson carried his tremendous 1954 season into the winter when he played with the Santurce Crabbers in Puerto Rico. His team, which has been dubbed the greatest winter league team ever assembled, featured an outfield of Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, and the aforementioned Bob Thurman. Clarkson anchored the infield at third base, while Don Zimmer was at short stop, Ron Samford at second base and George Crowe at first base. Valmy Thomas and Harry Chiti held down the catching duties while Ruben Gomez, Sam “Toothpick” Jones and Bill Greason handled the majority of the pitching. They easily captured the Caribbean Series.
Greason spent many years facing Clarkson in the Negro Leagues, as well as in the Texas League and Puerto Rico. He said the majors missed out on an extremely talented ballplayer. “Clarkson would have made it no doubt in the majors if he was younger,” Greason said in 2009. “He could hit and field. He was like Raymond Dandridge. People would have seen something that they don’t see too much now. The fielding, throwing, and hitting in one player like Clarkson and Dandridge. Those guys were tremendous … ‘phenoms’ as we called them.”
There are a number of other good articles about Clarkson to be found around the internet.
Understandably, Clarkson had no Topps or Bowman baseball cards in his brief major league career. His years of service in the winter Puerto Rico League in the 1950s, however, led to his appearance in several of the better-known Caribbean issues.
1950-51 Toleteros
He led the Puerto Rico League with 18 home runs in 1950-51 and was included in the Denia album-card issue of that season.
1972 Puerto Rico League sticker
Clarkson is included in all three major Toleteros issues of the era, 2948-49, 1949-50 and 1950-51 in which he has variations showing him with Ponce and with Santurce. 
A thorough study of the 1950-51 Denia and Toleteros "In Action" sets would probably find Clarkson pictured, if not named, in those sets. 
Clarkson managed the Santurce Crabbers to the PR League championship 1952-53, but by then card issues had virtually ceased in that part of the baseball world.
Piecing together a creditable 1952-style card front for my Buzz Clarkson card was not an easy task. 
There are very few photos extant of him in a Braves uniform, and none in color. I did find a picture that fit the "look" of 1952 Topps, though, and was able to colorize it.
The facsimile autograph was another challenge. (Note that he signed as "Bus".) Fortunately, I had the signature on a souvenir cardboard visor issued by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1951 and was able to work that into my card.

You can order this card. Unless noted, all of my custom cards are available to collectors for $12.50 each, postpaid for one or two cards; $9.95 each for three or more (mix/match). Complete checklists of all my custom baseball, football and non-sports custom cards were published on this blog in late May. To order, email me at for directions on paying via check/money order, or to my PayPal account.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Latest '63 Pepsi Bateman sale inspires reprint

The sale on June 1 of a PSA-graded (NM 7, no tabs) example of the 1963 Pepsi John Bateman soda-carton stuffer card for $10,722 inspired me to work up a reprint of one of the hobby's rarest modern cards.

Back around 1980 when Krause Publications was launching Baseball Cards magazine and working on the purchase of Sports Collectors Digest from the Stommen family, I first became aware of the 1963 Pepsi-Cola team set of the Houston Colt .45s.

As a kid collector in 1963, being about 1,250 miles north of Houston, I'd never seen these regionals.

I broached the subject with my mentor Larry Fritsh one night while attending a minor league ballgame. He advised me not to start a set that I couldn't finish. He explained that the '63 Pepsi Bateman was even rarer than the T206 Wagner, and in those pre-internet days was almost never seen in hobby circles. I don't recall now whether or not Larry had the card in his own collection.

In the 2014 edition of its National Pastime publication, the Society for American Baseball Research detailed the story behind the Bateman rarity. You can read it here: Bateman article .

The article was more recently revised or reprinted in Sports Collectors Digest.

Evidently the sole known hoard of '63 Batemans is going to be slowly doled out into the hobby. At prices such as that realized in the June 1 auction, most of those who need the card to complete their set are going to have to go without, unless or until the trickle of available cards eventually slakes the pent-up demand.

The previous last time I know of the sale of a 1963 Pepsi Bateman was in the 2011 Robert Edward Auction annual sale. A Bateman, unslabbed and also without top and bottom tabs, was sold in a lot with 40 other 1963 Pepsi Colt .45s, comprising a complete set of 16 plus duplicates. That lot went for $6,463.

Just to try my hand at recreating one of the modern hobby's fabled rarities, I put together this reprint of a 1963 Pepsi John Bateman. Unlike all of the known examples of the real thing, my reprint has both top and bottom tabs. It is discreetly marked as a 2016 production.

You can order this card. Unless noted, all of my custom cards are available to collectors for $12.50 each, postpaid for one or two cards; $9.95 each for three or more (mix/match). To order, email me at for directions on paying via check/money order, or to my PayPal account.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Twins surveyed 1962 stadium radio use

According to an audit made at one 1962
game, about one in 17 fans in attendance
at Metropolitan stadium had a radio,
listening to a broadcast of the contest.

It's been a number of years since I attended a major league game in person but from what I see on TV, it seems that cell phones have replaced portable radios for individual in-stadium entertainment. Every crowd shot shows a number of fans with their noses buried in their mobile screens.

When I was attending a lot of games in the 1970s and 1980s, the transistor radio was ubiquitous in the grandstand.

In 1962, the Minnesota Twins and their flagship broadcaster, WCCO radio, along with principal sponsor, Hamm's beer, undertook to quantify the phenomenon. 

At a Friday evening game on July 6, there was a capacity crowd of 40,944 to see the visiting N.Y. Yankees. More than 100 Andy Frain ushers fanned out through the triple-deck Metropolitan Stadium to conduct an audit of portable radios tuned to the game in progress.

This unscientific count tallied 2,426 radios, about one for every 17 fans in attendance. There were probably more radios than that at the game, with some going unseen, covered by scorecards, jackets, etc.

An observer was quoted as saying, "In some parts of the stadium, there are so many radios tuned to the game that it sounds as though the broadcast is coming from loud speakers."

It was reported that as a result of the survey, some sponsors began to target some of their commercials to the in-house radio audience.

Monday, June 6, 2016

'75-style custom caps Cepeda's career

My newest custom baseball card is an example of what many collectors today feel Topps didn't do enough of back in the day . . . a card that has stats on back recapping the player's entire big-league career.

I don't fault Topps for this policy; they obviously felt that having a card showing three or four rookies was of greater interest to their kid customers than one showing an "old-timer" who was no longer playing.

My card is a look back at what a 1975 Topps card of Orlando Cepeda might have been.

From his 1958 rookie card, a personal favorite of this seven-year-old collector, through most of his 17-year major-league career, Topps did a good job of getting Cepeda on his current team with each new year's issue.

With the Giants until early May, 1966, Cepeda was traded to the Cardinals. Topps had him in its 1967 and 1968 in the proper St. Louis uniform.

Just before the 1969 season opened, Cepeda was traded to the Atlanta Braves. The best Topps could do for his '69 card was picture him capless (and looking none too happy about it).

The slugger played with the Braves all of 1969-1971, being traded to the Oakland A's in June of 1972. He is correctly pictured with Atlanta in the 1970-72 Topps sets.

After that, the gum company was always a step behind Cepeda's travels. Though he was released by the A's in December of 1972, he was pictured in the Topps set for 1973 in Charley Finley's green-and-gold., though he had appeared in only three games for Oakland in 1972.

Cepeda's last career-contemporary Topps card was in the 1974 set, pictured with the Boston Red Sox, for whom he had played all of 1973. By the time the 1974 Topps cards were released, however, Cepeda had also been released prior to the opening of the 1974 season.

He was noodling around with the Yucatan team in the Mexican League when he was signed by the K.C. Royal on Aug. 6, 1974. He finished his major-league career with a month in the Royals' uniform.

Topps didn't see the need to issue a career wrap-up card for Cepeda in the 1975 set, but I figured that since there exists some nice photos of him with Kansas City, I could pay tribute to one of my favorite ballplayers of his era.

You can order this card. Unless noted, all of my custom cards are available to collectors for $12.50 each, postpaid for one or two cards; $9.95 each for three or more (mix/match). Complete checklists of all my custom baseball, football and non-sports custom cards were published on this blog in late May. To order, email me at for directions on paying via check/money order, or to my PayPal account.