Hello COMC Nation!
We are putting out a Call to Arms…err…Pens…hmm.. Keyboards! We want you to write for the COMC Blog! We want to offer the talented writers of the COMC Nation a platform where they can share their experiences in the trading card card industry and be read by thousands of fellow collectors! We’re hoping that this initiative will help bring a wealth of diversity and different collecting backgrounds and points of view on the hobby to our blog.
Here are just a few ideas of the type of guest blogs that we are looking for:
To Submit a Guest Blog: We ask that each guest blog be at least 500 words, and contain at least two photos and/or images of trading cards. Using images found on COMC is encouraged! Blogs can be submitted via email body, word document, or any other standard file format. Simply send your content to email@example.com . In your email, please include a brief biography (1 paragraph or less) about yourself, so that our readers can have a little insight into who you are and what you collect! Please include your COMC username as well! We’re looking forward to hearing from you!
By James Good
For the last three plus years at COMC I’ve seen every single tweet, Instagram picture, and Facebook post that we’ve been tagged in. My absolute favorite posts that we get repeatedly see are our customer’s Mailday pictures, where they show their followers all of the items that they recently received in their latest COMC shipment. We routinely reshare these on our instagram page and twitter accounts, so be sure to keep tagging us in your #Maildays!
Seeing all of our customer’s incoming items for their personal collection inspired me to share some of the contents of an incoming COMC package of my own. While there are plenty of not so exciting items in that package that simply fill the gaps of my Mitch Haniger player collection, there are bunch of other items that have been inspired by my latest inspiration for collecting: buying cards based on unique card design.
I think that card design is a very low priority for a lot of collectors, as we’ve grown accustom to cards designed around sticker autos and recycled designs, among other visually unappealing decisions. Most prospectors don’t even consider card design when stashing away players in hopes of a later payday. The truth is that the card design for the majority of modern cards is very underwhelming. I’m not going to publicly shame any manufacturers, because with so many sets being printed these days, poor design choices were bound to happen. Just like without the bad moments in life we wouldn’t appreciate the good ones, without bad card design, we couldn’t appreciate good card design.
The 2008 Topps Factory Set Mickey Mantle Chrome Refractor Reprints set is the perfect example of the modernization of a reprint done right. There isn’t an overload of numbered parallels, and the design is simply a clean replica of the original on a modern chrome cardstock. The 1952 Mantle RC has been reprinted time-and-time again over the years, most having some sort of poor design choice shoehorned in. Topps got it right in 2008, and in the 2006 Topps ’52 set where they swapped the background color of this iconic card in a creative re-imagining. I’ll probably never own the real thing, so these reprints fill the void in my collection.
One rookie card that I am fortunate enough to own is a PSA 9 2007 Bowman Chrome – Prospects Tim Lincecum Gold Autograph #’d 31/50. As I talked about in one of the earlier installments of The Good Word , I love manufactured patch cards. These three are among my latest pick ups that fit the qualifications of well designed cards. Lincecum’s unconventional pitching delivery might have shortened his career, but it did produce a wealth of great trading cards along the way. I’m a sucker for the stars and stripes, so the 2010 Topps – Jumbo Packs Manufactured Hat Logo Relic on the right ranks highly on my well-designed sets list.
Which leads me to this 1912 Player’s Countries Arms & Flags Tobacco Card #4. I am not much of a vintage collector, much to the chagrin of my colleague Rich Klein, who two years ago at a National Sports Collector’s Convention took my 1960’s football card knowledge to task. I think that anytime you can buy something that’s over 100 years old for $0.50, you probably should, and this card was no exception. Even being 107 years old with a bit of paper loss, it still checks all the boxes for a well designed card.
As a kid growing up in the 90’s, nothing stuck with me more than the roller coast ride that was the 1995 ‘Refuse to Lose‘ Seattle Mariners. During that period of time, I opened so many packs of 1995 Score in search of the Gold Rush parallel of my favorite Mariners and 1996 Upper Deck Collector’s Choice looking for Gold Facsimile Signatures and You Crash the Game cards. I was never able to pull these two, but thanks to COMC, my hundreds of dollars of summer jobs and allowance money was not wasted in vein.
By comparison, the 1995 Score Gold Rush Parallel is inferior to the Platinum Team Set version. I really love the design on the Hitters Inc. subset, and not just because Albert Belle’s mean mug is a hidden gem. There were many iterations of Collector’s Choice ‘You Crash the Game’ contest across multiple sports, but the 1996 baseball version did it best with a bright orange and red foiled explosion design. Not only was it a great design, but it was a great concept that has stood the test of time. I know a certain 2019 Topps insert set with an awfully similar promotion.
If I were to rank Topps flagship designs, 1968 Topps would likely fall in the middle of the list. It’s not a bad design per say, it’s just not my style. I do love the rounded corners of the black border and white space between the player photo and border, but the textured brown outer border doesn’t work for me. That being said, this card jumps off the page to me because it features one of the best photos of any Mariner ever featured on a trading card.
Vogey looks larger-than-life in this pose, and the Safeco Field logo in the background is a nice finishing touch. It almost makes you forget that he has a career MLB batting average of .197, or that Safeco Field is now T-Mobile Park.This card screams “In Vogey We Trust” , that he’s our guy of the future, and that I’m willing to put in writing that he’ll hit 30 bombs whenever he’s given his first full year in the Bigs.
Last but not least, there hasn’t been a better non-sports set idea since the Map Relic Insert Sets from Upper Deck’s last two Goodwin Champions sets. These sets have checked all of the boxes I’m looking for when determining good card design:
These cards do an perfect job encapsulating the points of interest they feature. The embedded map relic is a unique element that I don’t recall ever seeing on a card prior to these sets. My goal is to eventually collect all of the map relics of places that I’ve visited. Right now that list is at eight:
Ruby Beach holds a special place in my heart because it was one of the destinations along the first road trip that my fiancé and I went on almost four years ago. Traveling to the coast of Washington to be close to the water has been a recurring trend in our relationship. Later this year, we’ll get married near the beaches of Moclips, Washington, about 65 miles south of where the photo of this card was snapped.
Now it’s your turn! In the comments below, let us know some of your favorite cards from your most recent mailday!
One of the best parts about my job at COMC is the amount of collectors I get to talk with about the hobby on the weekly basis. Whether it’s at The National talking to our members in person, or retweeting personal collection pick ups on twitter, it’s fascinating to see what collectors enjoy collecting and how they build their personal collections. I was recently talking with one of the members of our Developmental Team who didn’t collect cards prior to joining the COMC Team, but is slowly carving out his niche in the hobby – collecting trading cards featuring dogs!
That conversation led me to the discovery of a set that I had never seen or heard of before – The 2006 Enterplay Nintendo Nintendogs set. Nintendogs is a real-time pet simulation video game that was released on the handheld Nintendo DS console almost 15 years ago. This would fall somewhere in the timeline after the rise-and-fall of Tamagotchi toys, but before social media and mobile games such as Farmville gained massive popularity. The game spurned a whole slew of spin-offs and imitation games that can be had for a buck or two at any used gaming store.
Furthering down that rabbit hole, I wondering what other video game themed trading card sets were out there that I didn’t know about. To my surprise, the answer is shockingly not that many. Before we go any further, for the sake of this blog post, I’m removing all Pokemon related cards from the discussion, as that is a video game that has transcended beyond gaming to pop culture status. My Grandmother can name far more Pokemon than just Pikachu, and she hasn’t played a single video game since the days of Atari in the early 1980’s.
The origin of video game related trading cards can be traced to the 1980 Fleer Pac-Man Stickers set. Each $0.30 pack contained 3 stickers, 3 trading cards, and 1 piece of gum, with each box consisting of 36 packs. The cards themselves even feature a cleverly designed rub-off game that is essentially the Pac-Man game built into a card. The price point is interesting at $0.30, considering a game of Pac-Man at the arcade would cost you $0.25 (or your whole pocket of quarters, because who only plays one game of Pac-Man?)
Nintendo appears to have initially been hot on trading cards as they began to make a name for themselves in the United States. In the late 1980’s, they released stickers and several trading cards sets that featured similar scratch-off games themed after popular video games such as Double Dragon, Punch Out!!!, Super Mario Bros, and the Legend of Zelda.
Perhaps the lack of retail success of these sets could be the attributed to the reason why Nintendo branded trading cards all but dropped off the face of the earth in the 1990’s. While there were a handful of food issue cards and promo cards included with video games, there are very few Nintendo trading cards from the 90’s. In fact, the only real video game set with any hobby relevance appears to be the 1993 Topps Sonic the Hedgehog set, a Sega-brand character, and even that is a set that COMC has seen very few cards from over our existence.
It strikes me as odd that the 16-bit and 64-bit eras of gaming in the 90’s are incredibly underrepresented in the trading card world. The Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 produced so many great series that would have translated well into trading card sets, such as Kirby, Yoshi’s Island, Donkey Kong Country, Mortal Kombat, and Street Fighter just to name a few. Even Sony didn’t venture too far into the world of trading cards, with only a couple of sets released highlighting Final Fantasy, one of their flagship series at the time.
It wasn’t until Enterplay acquired the licensing rights to several of Nintendo’s most popular franchises in the late 2000’s that video game related trading cards would see any sort of consistency with products and releases. Along with the aforementioned Nintendogs set, they also released sets for Nintendo Wii games such as Mario Kart , Super Mario Galaxy, and the Legend of Zelda. While it appears that Enterplay still has a partnership in place with Nintendo, they’ve since shifted their focus almost entirely to the My Little Pony Collectible Card Game, which now has over a dozen different sets since it’s debut in 2012.
My biggest issue with the Enterplay cards is that they’re emotionless, featuring very uninspired designs and characters ripped straight out the video games. These cards do a very poor job celebrating these beloved franchises, which have been well represented elsewhere through time by big named artists and fan-created artwork that put the Enterplay cards to shame. I understand that Enterplay is a relatively small player in the trading world, and probably needed to keep production costs down on these products, but even fan submitted artwork om these sets would have drastically increased the overall production quality. Give me an insert featuring painted landscapes of all of the locations in a Zelda game, or the tracks in Mario Kart. But don’t expect me to get excited over cards that come across as second-rate marketing material.
So where do we go from here? Video game sales topped $43 billion dollars in 2018, an 18% increase of 2017. We’ve come along way from the days of 8-bit side-scrollers and top-down racers. Gaming franchises are only becoming more beloved as their creators tell deeper and more complex stories, with characters displaying stunningly human-like ranges of emotions, motivations, desires, flaws and traits. I would argue that most story-driven video games do a better job with their narratives than even the very best Hollywood movies can accomplish. So why do we have so many non-sports card sets for movies such as Doctor Strange, Aliens, and James Bond, but none of Final Fantasy 10-15, Red Dead Redemption, or Assassin’s Creed? Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a knock on movie cards , but rather a call to action for the gaming industry
Fortnite is the biggest video game on the planet right now. Children, teenagers, and even (or, especially) adults spend literally hundreds of dollars on a game that is free to play by purchasing cosmetic items that allow them to customize their character. These items have zero effect on competitive game play. With Fortnite’s publisher Epic Games making money hand over fist with their product (the company has an estimated value of $8 billion dollars), why aren’t card companies like Topps, Upper Deck, and Panini eagerly trying to acquire the licensing rights? There HAS to be a multi-million dollar market for these products just waiting to be capitalized on.
Imagine if a card manufacturer was able to sign some of Fornite’s top competitive players and popular streamers, offering chase cards that granted those who pulled a card the opportunity to play with some of these players? It doesn’t even matter what the quality of the product was at that point, that concept alone would sell insane amounts of product. Those unfamiliar with the concept of eSports and video game streaming culture may not understand why this would be a big deal. So imagine if you busted a pack of trading cards, and inside you won a trip that involved taking batting practice with Kris Bryant, or running routes and receiving passes from Patrick Mahomes II, or learning how to shoot threes with Steph Curry. For those ingrained in the video game world, who watch these players on a daily basis the same way we watch sports athletes, it’s the exact same concept.
Perhaps I’m just angling too hard for the cross-over potential of two things that I love and am passionate about. The history of video game related trading cards over the years paints a picture of repeatedly missed opportunities. There have been a lot of clever innovations over the years in the video game industry. Nintendo is among the those at the forefront of that effort, from utilizing NFC-technology in their Amiibo figurines to creating Nintendo Labo DIY kits that are functional robotics with just the technology of a Nintendo Switch controller. But aside from Pokemon cards, they don’t seem to have a desire or clue how to take their franchises, their most powerful asset, and capitalize on the beloved characters and stories they’ve created over the last 40 years. Maybe it’s time to pause and hit the reset button, because they’ve been playing the trading card game wrong for a really long time.
(Editors Note: Please welcome Johnny Martyr to the COMC Blog! Being a Night of the Living Dead Enthusiast with the world’s largest NotLD trading card collection, Johnny wanted to share his collecting story and deep knowledge of the subject through the following guest blog. Johnny is a photojournalist has been collecting for 20 years, and has compiled a full checklist of all NotLD cards that can be found here.)
By Johnny Martyr
When did you first see George Romero’s classic horror film, Night of the Living Dead? I was about five years old when I watched it through my fingers on a rented VHS tape in the early 1980’s.
Article after article has been written on why this unassuming little production, released 50 years ago, continues to have such a massive impact on the horror genre and independent movie making. Trading card after trading card has been released for the last 25 years distilling all those reasons into a fun and enduring collectible.
In 1998, at age 17, I discovered the horror convention scene and began journeying to meet cast/crew members from Night of the Living Dead, or NotLD as they called it. That is when I met Bob Michelucci, designer at Imagine Inc who designed the first official NotLD trading card set in 1988 and produced sets through 1993.
The Imagine cards, today, are the bedrock of any respectable NotLD card collection and include some of the most expensive/desirable NotLD autograph cards like the Keith Wayne autographed green border and On Location cards. Keith Wayne played the character Tom, who tried to make peace between lead Duane Jones (as Ben) and Karl Hardman (as universally despised, Harry Cooper.) Mr. Wayne, regretfully, took his own life in 1995, before NotLD card collecting really took off or many cons took place, making these two cards very special to fans.
Complete, 79-card master sets of green border, 71 red border, alternative border silver foil cards and eight On Location Imagine cards, with all potential cast/crew signatures can sell for hundreds today. Not bad for a a little movie out of Pittsburgh!
I bought my Keith Wayne and other rare autograph cards from Michelucci years ago but continued to fill out my sets with impossible-to-find Imagine cards until very recently. Uncut sheets, unopened packs and original test wrappers are also popular among collectors.
If the Imagine cards are the bedrock to any NotLD card collection, Jim Cironella’s Living Dead Festival cards are the pièce de résistance. While even entry level NotLD fans have at least a few Imagine cards, only die-hard fans are packing Living Dead Festival cards.
These cares were printed in limited quantities in 2009 and 2013 and consist of just two and three base cards (respectively.) But they were only distributed at the Living Dead Festival shows of those years, not sold by retailers anywhere. The other catch is that the cards were created to be autographed by cast/crew who appeared at these shows. So collecting all 36 or 63 (respectively) variations of card and autograph is an ambitious goal indeed, and often strictly the domain of friends of Image Ten (the production company behind Night of the Living Dead.)
Because most signatures on LDF cards are by extras and crew, they appeal to collectors who’ve already collected all the more common principal cast signatures. It’s extremely rare to see a complete set on the market and its unclear just how many actually exist. I own a complete set of 2009’s (all possible signatures on both card styles) and a third of a complete set of 2013’s (all possible signatures on one style card as well as some of the other two cards). Lighting designer Joe Unitas, was still passing out 2013’s as of the last Living Dead Weekend show in 2018.
Speaking of Joe Unitas, a little sidetrack, if I may. Joe is related to the famous Baltimore Colts quarterback, Johnny Unitas. And Joe played some ball himself. He actually appears in jersey #73 on the 1958 Baltimore Colts team photo Topps trading card!
But back to the NotLD card sets…
In 2012, Steve Kirkham of Unstoppable designed what is probably the most definitive NotLD trading card set. The 36 base cards are easy and cheap to come by but some of the six promo and nine autograph cards are quite difficult to locate. The rarest are the Tom Breygent variant promo card, the sketch promo card, Judith O’Dea single autograph card and the Marilyn Eastman and Karl Hardman cut autograph cards. Unstoppable sketch cards are of course one of one and many great artists participated. I’m always looking for more Ashleigh Poppelwell and Elfie Lebouleux. Artist, Ted Dastick mixed dirt from the Evans City Cemetary where NotLD was shot, into the pigments for his sketch cards!
Fantasm Media is currently releasing a very rare, very attractive nine card set designed by Brian Steward. The cards can only be found as random inserts with purchase of their commemorative magazine, 50 Years of Night. These Fantasm cards are sure to become a hit among fans because they feature images that haven’t appeared on any other trading cards and require some serious legwork to obtain a complete set.
Full sets aside, Night of the Living Dead and its famous director, George Romero have appeared in numerous other non-sports sets.
A favorite of mine is the mega rare Bill Hinzman autograph card by Necroscope for their Terror Cards series. Hinzman played that first zombie, or “ghoul” we see in the cemetery opening of Night of the Living Dead. Hinzman passed away in 2012 but was a warm and encouraging actor who was a favorite at conventions. I believe that only 50 of these cards were printed and all are hard signed. It’s an attractively designed and desirable card, given Mr. Hinzman’s role in history as cinema’s first contemporary zombie!
Breygent’s Classic Vintage Sci-Fi & Horror Movie Poster Series II of 2010 featured a number of fun NotLD cards including a promo, many nice sketch cards and two autograph cards. What I like about these is that they measure 3.5″x5″ which make the larger sketches and signatures look fantastic!
And, if you would really like to subject yourself to torture and drop some good money, there are the Donruss and Panini 2008, 2009 and 2011 George Romero Americana cards with their numerous parallels. Some of the parallels are numbered a mere one of five and feature foil printing, an autograph and even a swatch of Romero’s clothing.
eThe 2008 Donruss Americana II is #248, and I have five of the seven parallels, including the autographed card, silver proof (one of 25) and silver proof foil (one of 25.) In 2009, Panini took over the Americana line with Romero as card #52. I have eight of twelve of these parallels and am looking very hard for a signature-only card. I have the relic-only card and relic plus signature card. For 2011, Panini released both a “regular” George Romero Americana, #57 and same lineup of parallels from 2009, but also a special Americana Celebrity Cuts autograph card. This card is pretty desirable because it is in horizontal orientation and built around a hard autograph of just 75 copies, whereas the rest of the Americanas are sticker autographs with up to 99 copies.
You might have noticed, perhaps more so than most classic film trading cards, that NotLD trading cards seem to go hand-in-hand with autographs. This, to me, is an important reason I’ve enjoyed collecting NotLD cards. As I’ve counted, there have been no less than 28 different cast/crew members to sign trading cards. In most cases, if they didn’t sign a card, they didn’t sign anything for the public at all. So regardless of if your focus is on trading cards, autographs, or horror collectibles, Night of the Living Dead trading cards bring a lot to the table for everyone.
Thanks so much for reading! Happy collecting and as George Romero said “STAY SCARED!”
(Note: COMC Communications Manager James Good wears many hats at COMC, including Social Media Manager and Blog Editor. While he does a wealth of the writing and curating of other blog posts found on our Blog, ‘The Good Word’ is a new regular Editorial style blog series where he will more openly share his opinions and thoughts on sports and trading cards.)
It is rumored that P.T. Barnum once said, “There’s a sucker born every minute”. I’d like to think that there are no such thing as suckers when it comes to collecting, but that every single one of us has a guilty pleasure or two that other collectors might see as silly or downright foolish. Whatever you want to call it, I have no shame in admitting that I love manufactured patch cards. Manufactured patches are hit-or-miss among most collectors, and I like how polarizing they are. There is very little gray area when it comes to them, collectors either love them or hate them.
My fascination with them began in 2008 when I was getting reacquainted with the landscape of the card industry following a hiatus from collecting. Among the first Felix Hernandez cards that I bought for my personal collection were his 2008 UD Premier Stitchings manufactured patches. The logo inside these cards was very well designed, and in Mariners colors as well.
The first Seattle Mariners card I ever fell in love with was obviously the 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr.. The second was Alex Rodriguez’s 1994 Flair RC. The third card in that list is one from a set that most collectors are probably much less familiar with. When I first saw the 2007 Upper Deck Black Pride of a Nation set, I thought it was one of the most unique sets I had ever seen. I was 22 years old at the time and didn’t have a lot of money, but I was able to strike a deal with a collector via a forum and in four $25 weekly paypal payments I was the owner of this beautiful piece of cardboard:
I think that when done right, a well-designed manufactured patch or logo card is better than most authentic game used swatch jersey cards. Don’t get me wrong, there is no substitute for a sick patch, laundry tag, or logoman. But take a look at the below series of cards and tell me which one appeals to you more:
Ok fine, maybe don’t answer that last one, because as far as I’m concerned the Babe Ruth Jumbo from Tools of the Trade is the pinnacle of jersey cards. It goes without saying that most of the time we would much rather have a historical piece of the game over a manufactured patch, so my theory doesn’t exactly apply to legends and Hall of Fame players. Which creates an interesting question. I prefer the manufactured patches of Tim Lincecum and Peyton Manning shown above now, but what about fifty years from now? Will the overproduced jersey and patch cards of today’s greats be coveted or as remotely desirable as some of present day in-demand Hall of Fame memorabilia cards such as 1/1 bat knobs and the Babe Ruth that I shared above?
Card manufacturers will need to continually innovate as they roll out new products, parallels and cards that are intended to draw the interest of new collectors. For some lifelong collectors, flagship Topps Series 1 or the Young Guns RC’s in Upper Deck Series 1 hockey is more than enough to keep them ripping wax on a yearly basis. But as long as the demand remains for unique cards, the rat race of latest and greatest goes on. I think that manufactured patches, rings, and relics offer a solid creative outlet for them to continue to produce some unique additions to the hobby.
To wrap up the first installment of ‘The Good Word’, I felt compelled to share some of my personal favorite cards featuring manufactured materials. Enjoy!
How about that old axiom, everything old is new again? A few months a good friend of mine and head of the local SABR chapter here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area was giving a talk on his favorite childhood team, the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies and the Whiz Kids. During the conversation, he mentioned how Jim Konstanty, who pitched in 74 games that season, nearly half the team’s games, had an undertaker he knew back home working on ensuring the baseball spun enough.
Today we talk about spin rate for pitchers, but did you know that even back in 1950 they understood that how a ball spun was important? While there are no cards created of that hometown friend of his, we do have plenty of Konstanty cards. So yes, they were aware of spin rate way back when.
Recently, one of my friends posted on Facebook about Babe Ruth facing a shift back in 1919. We all may have thought the shift was created by Lou Boudreau to neutralize Ted Williams power, but instead they had tried shifts nearly 30 years prior.
In the same theme, I was reading in USA Today about how the 1963 Army-Navy game featured the birth of Instant Replay. Well, not so much because it might not have been called instant replay, but when Roger Maris hit this then record-breaking 61st homer in the 1961 season, the play was supposedly repeated almost immediately. While we’ll never know the true first time instant replay was used, the most famous usage of the term came in 1967 when Bart Starr scored on a quarterback sneak behind Ken Bowman and Jerry Kramer. Kramer kept a diary of his 1967 season and because that play was so famous, his tome would be titled Instant Replay. Kramer took his fame, and although his Hall of Fame induction was delayed way longer than it should have been, he is finally enshrined in Canton
Of course, it’s a shame that there is no card of this play, or any card at the time of the Hail Mary pass from Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson, or so many other great plays. Those seem like truly missed opportunities. My one suggestion to card companies is to be more alert for future great plays and get those saved on cards. Not just on sets such as Topps Now or Panini Instant, but in the base sets as well so we can always relive our memories. I’m still upset to this day that after the 1975 World Series Topps no longer did their game-by-game reviews, but instead gave the greatest series of my lifetime up to that point such short shrift.
Although it is nice to have the shot of Fisk coming to the dugout as part of this card, but geez, I was upset then and today about how little that Game 6 was honored.
And yes, even in the card world. everything old is new again and still not keeping up with history.
Some people don’t like to admit their age or how long they have been doing various aspects of their life. On the other hand, I am proud to say that I’ve been following sports for more than 50 years now. Obviously, one does not always give today’s players the same respect as they do to the ones from their youth.
A few months ago, I watched the entire first half without interruption of a Warriors/Cavaliers NBA finals game and was struck by just how great of a team the Golden State Warriors are. That is correct, they play as a great team even if one of their players gets so hot for a game because they let them explode. Witness the Klay Thompson NBA record 14 three-pointers recently. Somehow, that record reminded me of the game Kevin McHale scored 56 points for a Boston Celtics record, only to inspire Larry Bird to post a 60 point game just nine days later. It makes you wonder if Steph Curry will be going for 15 three pointers in a few games.
Of course, in those 1980’s days there were not enough cards issued for anyone to commemorate those games. Today, we’d have a Panini Instant card and then another one issued a few days later. Since we don’t have any of those for the Celtics, how about a nice Kevin McHale Rookie Card instead? That nine-day interim between those two events reminded me of how the WWF (now WWE) passed the Heavyweight Championship torch from Pedro Morales to Bruno Sammartino. Since you could not have a good guy defeat another good guy, you had to have an interim champion. Well for nine whole days, Stan “The Man” Stasiuk was the WWF champion until Bruno pinned him.
By the way, this rookie card featuring DeBusshere and others as floating heads is a cool card in that it was issued in 1963, but Topps had first series issues and just as many of us have difficulties getting used to a new year, Topps still thought it was 1962 when they were beginning their 1963 set. This was corrected reasonably early to reflect the correct year.
The final starter was Dick Barnett, who had a jump shot with his legs going in an almost question mark design, and also loved to say “Fall Back Baby” whenever he shot. By the way, with everything else gong on in Game 7, Barnett chipped in with 21 points very quietly.
One aspect about sports in New York around 1970 was that the world was seemingly revolving around getting books out about the Jets, Mets and Knicks, who within an 18-month period all won their first championship. There was even a commercial featuring the Knicks subs getting pulled from the starting lineup because they had dandruff. I could not find that commercial, but you’ll have to trust me that it was made.
And for those of you who want to devote about 90 minutes of so of your life and see what real team game NBA basketball once was, here is a YouTube video of the famed game 7:
Thanks for reading and we’ll see you again real soon with another reminisces or two about days past and present
As 2018 comes to a close, we want to take a moment to look back at one of our very favorite posts that we have ever shared on the COMC Blog. A long time COMC user graciously submitted this incredible career retrospective of Fred Hutchinson. We’re hoping to be able to share his writing with as many sports fan as possible. This story was originally published on 03/09/2018 and is presented in it’s entirety in this blog as well
(Note from COMC: The following post comes to us from the desk of Stan Opdyke, a lifelong fan of the game of baseball who started collecting cards over 60 years ago. He has an affinity for the Baltimore Orioles, his favorite team in his youngest days. Through his involvement in the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Mr. Opdyke was inspired to research and write this brilliant look at the cards produced by the life and times of Fred Hutchinson. If you would like to submit your article to us for consideration to be published on our blog, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Fred Hutchinson, at the age of 18, began his professional baseball career in 1938 as a pitcher for his hometown Seattle Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League. Baseball cards were relatively scarce items at the time, at least in comparison to what they would become after World War ll, so unsurprisingly no baseball card of Hutch was produced in his first professional season.
Hutch was sensational for the Rainiers in 1938. Pitching most of the season as an 18 year old, Hutch compiled a 25-7 won/loss record and a 2.48 ERA. On his 19th birthday on August 12, 1938, he pitched before a standing room crowd at Seattle’s Sick’s Stadium in search of his 19th victory. Hutch got the win in a game that stands with the Edgar Martinez double that defeated the Yankees in the 1995 post season as one of the most iconic baseball games ever played in Seattle.
Hutch’s superb season drew the attention of major league teams and one of the two major producers of baseball cards in the 1930’s. On December 12, 1938, the Seattle Rainiers traded Fred Hutchinson to the Detroit Tigers for four players and $50,000 Depression era dollars. The huge outlay of cash undoubtedly influenced the Goudey gum company to include Hutch in its 1939 Premium set. The other major baseball card manufacturer of the era, Play Ball, did not issue a card of Hutch in 1939.
The 1939 Goudey Premiums are listed in the 2013 Standard Catalogue of Vintage Baseball Cards in two distinct series, R303-A and R303-B. The R303-A cards are slightly smaller but otherwise identical to the R303-B cards. Both series of 1939 Goudey Premiums are unnumbered. Hutch appears in the 303-A series. The 1939 Goudey Premiums are baseball cards in that they were issued by a gum company and depict images of baseball players. However, in other ways they are not like baseball cards at all. The smaller sized 303-A cards still measure a very large 4 inches x 6 3/16 inches, far too large to fit in anyone’s shirt pocket. The Goudey Premiums also differ from typical baseball cards because they are printed on paper stock that is about the thickness of a newspaper page. The 1939 Goudey Premiums have the look and feel of a small poster.
The photograph Goudey selected to use of Hutch is a portrait of a teenager sporting a warm grin. It is a rare photo of a smiling Fred Hutchinson. When he grew older, Hutch was given the nicknames “The Bear” and “Old Stoneface,” quite a contrast to the photo on his 1939 Goudey Premium card.
Hutch struggled in 1939. His trouble began in Spring Training when he lost the ability to throw strikes. His lack of control would have undoubtedly cost him a major league roster spot had the Tigers not invested so much money in him. However, because of the huge cash outlay, Hutch began the 1939 season in the major leagues.
Hutch made his major league debut in one of the most significant games in baseball history. The New York Yankees played against the Tigers in Detroit on May 2, 1939, and for the first time since May 31, 1925, the name of the legendary Lou Gehrig did not appear in a regular season box score. The Yankees scored early and often without Gehrig in the line-up. With the Tigers trailing 13-0, Hutch was brought into the game by Tiger manager Del Baker. Nothing went right for Hutch. Pitching just two-thirds of an inning, he surrendered four hits, five walks and eight earned runs.
Hutch was sent to the minor league Buffalo Bisons of the International League after his disastrous major league debut. His traditional pitching numbers (won/loss and ERA) were better in Buffalo than in Detroit, but in both the major and minor leagues in 1939, his performance significantly lagged the excellent season he had for Seattle in the Pacific Coast League in 1938.
Hutch’s demotion to the minor leagues led to his second appearance on a baseball card. In 1940 the Buffalo Bisons issued a team set of baseball cards. The 1940 Bisons cards are printed on thicker paper and are much smaller then the 1939 Goudey Premium cards. The unnumbered 1940 Bisons Fred Hutchinson card shows him winding up as if he is about to deliver a pitch. The photograph was obviously staged because the picture was taken on the grass in front of a dugout rather than on a pitcher’s mound.
Hutch pitched for both Buffalo and Detroit in 1940. Detroit won the American League pennant in 1940 and Hutch was included on the Tigers World Series roster. He pitched one World Series inning against a team he would one day manage, the Cincinnati Reds. He allowed one walk, one hit and one earned run.
In 1941 Hutch, pitching for the Buffalo Bisons, turned in a performance reminiscent of his sensational 1938 season in the Pacific Coast League. He won 26 games for Buffalo in 1941 and in 284 innings he turned in an excellent 2.44 ERA. With such a stellar season behind him, Hutch seemed destined to earn a spot on the Tigers major league roster in 1942. World War II however intervened.
Hutch enlisted in the Navy shortly before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He served in the Navy’s physical education program. Hutch pitched for Navy teams in Norfolk, VA, Seattle, WA, and Hawaii, so during the war he was able to keep his baseball skills sharp.
The baseball players who served in the military in World War II returned en masse to organized baseball in 1946. Hutch was part of the 1946 waive of ex-servicemen returning to professional baseball. He spent the entire year in 1946 with the Detroit Tigers. It was the first time he spent a full season in the major leagues.
In 1947 Hutch appeared for the first time on a post war baseball card. The Tip Top Baking Company issued several regional baseball card sets in 1947 to promote the sale of Tip Top Bread. The unnumbered cards feature black and white pictures with the player’s name, position, team and league affiliation printed underneath the photo. Hutch’s Tip Top Bread card features a close up portrait of him wearing a Detroit Tigers cap.
In 1948 Hutch did not appear on a baseball card. In 1949 two gum manufacturers, Bowman and Leaf, produced baseball cards of Hutch. Fred Hutchinson’s 1949 Leaf card is his highest priced card. The 1949 Leaf set is extremely difficult to complete. About half the cards in the set are short printed and Hutch’s card is among the short printed cards. His 1949 Leaf card in excellent condition is worth $900.00. By way of comparison two other Hutch cards that are also difficult to find, his 1939 Goudey Premium card and his 1947 Tip Top Bread card, have much lower prices. His Goudey Premium card in excellent condition lists at $75.00 and his 1947 Tip Top Bread card in excellent condition lists at $150.00. (All prices are from the 2013 Standard Catalogue of Vintage Baseball Cards.)
In 1950, Bowman was the only gum company to produce baseball cards. Hutch is included in the 1950 Bowman set. His 1950 Bowman card is derived from a painting that was transformed into a baseball card. The painting depicts Hutch at the very end of his follow through after delivery of a pitch. Bowman got good mileage out of the painting because they used again in 1951. That same year, Hutch was named to the American League All Star team. He pitched three innings in the 1951 mid-summer classic.
In 1952 Hutch made his first appearance on a Topps card. Topps produced its first baseball card set a year earlier, but in its initial set the company did not issue a card of Fred Hutchinson. Topps made up for its 1951 omission by producing a magnificent card of Hutch in the 1952 set. Bowman again used a painting to create the front of its baseball cards. The artist hired to paint Fred Hutchinson must have noticed the look on Hutch’s face after he had surrendered a long home run.
The Tigers had a miserable year in 1952, almost as miserable as the look on Hutch’s face on his 1952 Bowman card. On July 5th, with the club in last place, Tiger manager Red Rolfe was fired and Hutch was hired to replace him. Hutch remained on the Tigers active playing roster after he took over as manager. He continued in his dual role as a player and a manager in 1953.
Both Topps and Bowman included a card of Hutch in their 1953 sets. Topps took a page from Bowman by using a painting as the template for the front of its 1953 cards. Bowman emulated Topps by issuing a larger baseball card in 1953 than it had produced from 1948 to 1952. (Bowman did not issue a card of Hutch in 1948). The 1953 Bowman set is considered by most collectors as one of the best baseball card sets ever produced. Hutch’s 1953 Bowman card is representative of the picture quality that exists throughout the set.
Hutch was out of a job, but he was not out of baseball. In 1955 he returned to his hometown to manage the Seattle Rainiers to a Pacific Coast League pennant. A year before Hutch”s arrival, the Rainiers began issuing baseball cards to fans who purchased popcorn at the team’s home games. Seattle minor league teams issued popcorn cards every year from 1954 through 1968. It is hardly surprising that Hutch, the popular hometown manager, was included in the popcorn cards the team produced in 1955.
In 1956 Hutch returned to the major leagues to manage the St Louis Cardinals. Topps was the only gum company that manufactured baseball cards during the three years Hutch managed the Cardinals.
Topps did not issue a card of Hutch while he managed in St. Louis. Topps included few cards of managers in the sets it produced from 1956 to 1958. Brooklyn’s Walt Alston and Philadelphia’s Mayo Smith were the only managers Topps included in its 1956 set. No managers were included in the 1957 set. In 1958 Topps issued only two cards of managers, a card of Reds manager Birdie Tebbetts with two of his players, Frank Robinson and Ed Bailey, and a card on which managers Casey Stengel and Fred Haney appeared together.
Hutch enjoyed some success with the Cardinals. In 1957, St. Louis finished in second place, fueling expectations that the team would contend for the pennant in 1958. However in 1958 the Cardinals played poorly, and as a consequence, Hutch was fired shortly before the 1958 season ended.
In 1959 Hutch returned to Seattle to once again manage the Rainiers. His second stint with the club lasted only three months. He was in town long enough though to appear in the 1959 edition of Seattle Rainiers popcorn cards.
In the middle of the 1959 season, Cincinnati Reds manager Mayo Smith was fired. Hutch was chosen to replace him. Hutch managed the Cincinnati Reds to a 1961 World Series appearance. As was customary, he served as the National League All Star manager the following year. As a result of managing in the 1962 All Star game, Hutch became one of about a dozen men in baseball history (Hank Bauer, Yogi Berra and Alvin Dark are a few of the others) to manage and play in a World Series and manage and play in an All Star game.
Hutch remained the manager of the Reds until deteriorating health caused him to take a leave of absence in 1964. Hutch appeared in each baseball card set Topps produced from 1960 through 1964.
In late December of 1963 Hutch was diagnosed with cancer. He died of the disease eleven months after he was diagnosed. Between diagnosis and death, Hutch managed the Cincinnati Reds for most of the 1964 season. The determination and courage Hutch displayed during his last baseball season is told by Bruce Markusen in his excellent Hardball Times article, available online, “The Final Year of Fred Hutchinson’s Life.”
Hutch resigned as the manager of the Reds in a letter he sent to team owner Bill DeWitt dated October 11, 1964. Exactly one month later he died in Bradenton, Florida.