Rich Reminisces: The Front Row Awaits

By Rich Klein
I’m sitting here in my Dallas-Fort Worth office listening to a great tribute for Ed Baer. Don’t know who the “Big Bad Baer” was, well he was a New York area radio personality for nearly six decades.If you are like me and are someone who likes listening to old air checks of these voices you grew up with,  they are part of your memory. One great advantage we have in the card collecting world is that we have tangible items we can look at to keep our memories alive.  Here is a photo of Mr. Baer late in his life:
Image result for ed baer
Sometimes one can just go card by card for a player’s career and each card tells a story. Sometimes the mediocre major league baseball players becomes  legends for other reasons. Such is the case with Bob Uecker, who has been a very good defensive catcher, comedian, television star and baseball announcer for six decades now. Just think about this, Uecker has been in the front row of our existence since his first card in 1962. His very first card is from the very difficult 1962 Topps Rookie Parade high number subset. Because of the difficulty of this card and the price thereof, many collectors need this card as one of their final cards needed for that set.

Note the floating head concept, and yes, these would be among the first cards to use the concept. Several of these players have interesting stories as Doc Edwards would become a manager, and Doug Camilli was the son of Dolph Camilli, who was the 1941 National League Most Valuable Player while a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Camilli’s uncle was a fighter named Frankie Campbell, who lost his life after a battle with future heavyweight champion Max Baer Yes Ed and Max are tangentially related.

Uecker’s 1963 Topps card is the easiest of his cards. The card is a second series card, so if you want an early Uecker card then this is the one for you. In fact, 25 years later the card was reprinted by Blue Cross and is by far the most difficult of any cards using his1963 photo. The only real way you can tell the difference is on the back. It’s oretty easy to tell the difference between the regular 1963 and the 1988 just by looking at the back.

Next up is his 1964 Topps card. The 1964 card is a high number card which is one of the most underrated of the 1960’s high number series. Many collectors know about the difficulties of the high numbers, but 1964 sort of flies under the radar.
The 1964 St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series and while Bob was not a starter, for them his attitude probably helped to keep the clubhouse loose. Interestingly, the starting catcher for those Cardinals was Tim McCarver, who also had a baseball career spanning nearly six decades since his 1959 major league debut.
The 1965 Topps Uecker featured a reversed negative. Was Uecker playing a trick on the photographer, or did Topps get the photo wrong as they did on the 1957 Hank Aaron card? Frankly, with Uecker’s background, playing a trick on a photographer could certainly have been possible. At least those tricks were more harmless than the Billy Ripken bat prank noted on his 1989 Fleer card that we’re choosing not to link to in this particular blog for obvious reasons.
This is also a late series 1965 card which makes this more difficult than the first two series of that year.
In 1966, we get an easier Bob Uecker Topps card but this time, there was a variation twist. The harder variety of this card does not have a trade notation on the back.
We now come to Bob’s final Topps card. Yes I wish there had been a 1968 Braves card featuring him as Phil Niekro won the National League ERA title in no small part to Bob’s use as his designated catcher. It would have been a nice conclusion to his card career, but instead this Phillies card was the final one of his career.

I personally love the 1967 Topps set and think this is the nicest of the Bob Uecker cards as it shows him in full catching gear getting ready to go behind the plate.

It’s hard to imagine, but his six year card career had more interesting twists and turns than most players. His future career (s) would continue to keep him in the public eye even as he approaches his 85th birthday. We hope that he’s in the front row for a long time indeed.