Saturday, March 4, 2017

#17 Jim Hegan


 #17 Jim Hegan
Progress: 1st of this card
214 of 407  52.6% complete
How acquired: $7.58 on ebay
Condition: Fair
Since the first time I saw this card, I've felt like Jim Hegan looks like the young version of Kevin Costner's dad at the end of Field of Dreams.  Chronologically this card has the distinction of being the first Topps card to ever show a catcher in his gear.  It's the "Pafko" of catcher cards.  I'm not sure if that's a thing, but it should be.  Any list of the best Topps cards ever, is going to be heavy on catcher cards.  I imagine there have to be people out there who collect catcher cards the way others collect teams or players.  Which could explain why this card seems to always top the $10 mark when it shows up on ebay.  Hegan was a great player, but the sales of this card still out pace guys with similar careers in this set.  My copy has obvious issues on the back, and I still feel pretty good about getting it at this price.

Stats: 17 seasons, 5x All-Star, 1,087 hits, 92 home runs, .228 avg., World Series Ring in '48

Best Hall of Fame Showing: 1.7% in 1966

Monday, February 27, 2017

#8 Fred Marsh



#8 Fred Marsh
Progress: 1st of this card
213 of 407  52.3% complete
How acquired: $0.99 on ebay
Condition: Poor
I'm a huge fan of these 52's taken at what I presume to be Spring Training.  I'm not sure if that's California or Arizona, but I feel safe in asserting that it isn't St. Louis.  I'm also a fan of this particular Browns cap that Marsh is wearing in the card.  I wouldn't go so far as to call myself a hat collector, but I have more hats than I need, and will probably try to track one of these down.  With a 7 1/2 size head, most adjustable hats look goofy and the fitted are the only way I can go.  As a result, instead of a closet full of hats from golf courses and department stores, I have what resembles a New Era hat collection.  Okay, so maybe I dabble in hat collecting.

Stats: 7 seasons, 296 hits, 10 home runs, 96 RBI's, .239 avg.

Best Hall of Fame Showing: N/A


Saturday, February 25, 2017

#62 Chuck Stobbs


#62 Chuck Stobbs
Progress: 1st of this card
212 of 407  52.1% complete
How acquired: Sent by "CommishBob"
Condition: Very Good
This is one of my favorite cards in this set, or any Topps set for that matter.  Chuck Stobbs is a pitcher.  In my lifetime, I don't think I saw a pitcher doing something other than pitching or standing on the foul line until Dwight Gooden showed up running the bases in 1994.  I don't really understand the thinking (granted I'm someone that thinks the "DH" is an abhorrent affront to the dignity of baseball) in never showing a pitcher at the plate.  A starting pitcher is going to see a plate appearance in as many games as he pitches in.  How cool would a Tom Seaver batting on a '75 Topps have been, or Nolan Ryan taking cuts on his '84 Topps?  They both had 20 other cards to remind us they were pitchers.  It's not like shortstops were only given cards fielding grounders.  "But pitchers usually bunt."  So what, I literally saw picture going around of someone dressed as an '83 Topps Ned Yost bunting card as Halloween.  Am I to believe kids in 1978 would not have tolerated a card of Steve Carlton bunting?  Or that Fernando Mania would have fizzled out if his '85 Topps had shown Valenzuela slugging (the guy hit 3 dingers the previous season)?  It's a bizarre double standard that pitchers must be shown in the field, but the other eight positions get a healthy mix of both.  The fact Topps obviously didn't start out with this prejudice against cards of pitchers with bats, makes it all the more strange.

Stats: 15 seasons, 107 wins, 130 losses, 4.29 ERA, led AL with 20 losses in '57

Best Hall of Fame Showing: N/A

Friday, February 24, 2017

#54 Leo Kiely


#54 Leo Kiely
Progress: 1st of this card
211 of 407  51.8% complete
How acquired: Sent by CommishBob  (thank you)
Condition: Excellent
This Kiely is a card I could have sworn I had.  It's one I've probably bid on a dozen times only to come up short.  Typically, I like to find a seller with a good number of cards up for auction at the right price and combined shipping, and I'll bid on 10-15 of them knowing I'll come up short on most.  I've noticed I typically come up short on the same cards over and over again.  Not necessarily on semi-stars either, typically the cards that routinely out price the other commons are just aesthetically attractive ones.  I'd put this Kiely in that category.

I'm a Yankees fan.  As a kid, Yankee Stadium was where I saw games, and even though I identified as an Expos fan then, the Yankees were my AL team of choice.  When Montreal lost the Expos, the Yankees became my team by default (it didn't hurt that at the time, I could take a train the the old Stadium from my college and enjoy the now non-existent $8 bleacher seats).  My point being, I'm not a fan of the Red Sox.  But even as a Yankee fan, I can acknowledge that the uniform shown on this card is an all-time classic, and give credit to the Red Sox for not messing with a good thing.

In addition to it being a cool looking card, there may be a bit of a novelty factor that keeps the price point on this Kiely slightly higher than the other commons in the series.  Kiely was the first Major Leaguer to play pro-ball in Japan.  He did so during his military service in the middle of his career in 1953.

Stats: 7 seasons, 26 wins, 27 losses, 3.37 ERA, 1 home run as a hitter

Best Hall of Fame Showing: N/A

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

#21 Ferris Fain















#21 Ferris Fain
Progress: 1st of this card
210 of 407  51.6% complete 
How acquired: sent by "CommishBob"
Condition: Good
This card was sent by this site's most consistent commenter, "Commishbob" (thank you!).  I'm not going to look this card in the teeth too much, other than to say, it's in pretty decent shape, and far exceeds my standards for inclusion.

Fain is a guy I wasn't familiar with (this set has really put my stat-nerd historian ego in check), but as the back proclaims with an "!" Fain was the AL batting champ in 1951.  He had brief, but prolific nine year career, making five straight all-star teams from '50-'54 and winning back to back batting titles in '51 and '52.  Apparently my baseball knowledge prior to 1960 is on a par with that of the typical disinetersted grandmother.  "Yeah, Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth were both good, but so was Shoeless Joe."

Stats: 9 seasons, 5x All-Star, 1,139 hits, 213 doubles, 48 home runs, 570 RBI's

Best Hall of Fame Showing: N/A

Saturday, February 18, 2017

#288 Chet Nichols


#288 Chet Nichols
Progress: 1st of this card
209 of 407  51.3% complete 
How acquired: 99¢ on ebay
Condition: Poor
When I started this effort, I envisioned a scenario in which nearly every card I picked up would look like this.  That hasn't been the case.  Not for lack of trying or a change in philosophy regarding standards (I'm quite pleased with this Nichols), there just aren't that many of them.  Cards in this rough of shape just don't show up for sale very often, and when they do, they're often not any cheaper than cards in significantly better shape.  And I'm not actively trying to get the worse looking cards I can find, I'm just trying to do this on a budget.  So if it's a difference of 50¢ to a $1, I'm going to go with the nicer card.  

I have a couple theories regarding why finding these cards in extremely poor condition is more difficult than expected.  The first is that the type of people who saved these cards back in 1952, were the type of people who were going to take care of them.  I imagine that the most serious collectors were probably left with cards damaged by tape and glue stains, and the high end Mantles and such that show up in auctions, probably belonged to kids to who didn't really care, and tossed them in a shoe box and forgot about them.  Kids willing to let a card deteriorate to this condition, probably didn't mind tossing them in the trash, or had parents who didn't.

The other working theory I have is the owners of large numbers of cards like these are just sitting on them.  "They're not worth anything in that shape, it's better to just to keep grandpa's cards for sentimental reasons."  I don't like this explanation as much, but I'm sure it's a factor.  A card this well worn, obviously received a lot of handling.  It's a bit of a tongue in cheek cliche we use, "well loved," but these cards really were "well loved." And if they survived in a closet for 60+ years, someone cared about them a lot.  So I can see why kids and grand kids would be reluctant to sell them off, especially given the nominal financial gains to be found.

While I think the first theory is the better explanation, I can relate to the second on a personal level.  My father's cards survived my grandmother's spring cleanings.  It runs from about 1958-1966 on a bit of a bell curve as far as the numbers go.   It's by no means a huge collection.  My own vintage collection from that era has exceeded what he had.  But I keep his cards separate.  On my checklist of set needs, his aren't included.  His cards are in very nice shape (not NM, but VG/EX), but the idea is the same.  Those were his cards.  They're not just vintage Topps cards to be used to complete a set.  Selling them is never going to be an option.  I get a bit of a chuckle at the idea of my theoretical great grand kids trying to decide what to do with 50,000 meticulously organized, worthless Tim Wallach cards fifty years down the road.

Stats: 9 seasons, 34 wins, 36 losses, 3.64 ERA, '51 AL ERA (2.88) Champ , finished 2nd in '51 NL Rookie of the Year voting to Willie Mays

Best Hall of Fame Showing: N/A

Thursday, February 16, 2017

#273 Erv Palica


#273 Erv Palica
Progress: 1st of this card
208 of 407  51.1% complete
How acquired: $8.49 on ebay
Condition: Very Good
I'm not going to deny it, I like the Brooklyn Dodger and New York Yankee cards more than the other cards in this set, at least in a general sense.  I'm not the only one.  The fact that a lot of the big guns from those teams are unattainable hi-numbers for most (PeeWee Reese, Campanella, Robinson, Bill Dickey, Mantle) or more than I want to pay for Hall of Famers (Yogi, Billy Martin, Rizzuto), makes the "commons" that much more desirable.  I think it's a common thought process, which leads to dropping nearly $10 on the likes of Palica.  But unlike a few other cards I've blown past the $5 mark on, there was no sense of disappointment or regret when this Palica arrived in the mail.  It's a really cool card in hand.  If you're a younger collector who found this blog by accident (or even an older one) and has never bought a card from the 50's or earlier, against my own self interest, I encourage you to pass on the next $10 Topps Now offering commemorating some #3 starter's 12 strike-outs on a Tuesday for a third place team, and instead drop it on a '52 of a random guy from your favorite team.  If you don't like it, it'll be easy enough to get rid of, but it's worth a try.

Stats: 9 seasons, 41 wins, 55 losses, 4.22 ERA, 20 CG, youngest player in baseball in 1945 (17 years old) when he appeared in two games as a pinch-runner.

Best Hall of Fame Showing: N/A