Monday, December 21, 2020

Barrier Breakers: 1947 Larry Doby - Cleveland Indians


We all know Larry's story. Second to Jackie Robinson in the MLB and the second MLB manager behind Frank Robinson.  He also played in Japan in the early sixties. He has been one of my favorite subjects in this blog. I've made a few cards of him already. Here is a '55 Bowman, a 1963 Menko, an Alt-Topps MLB Dream Bracket card and a 1978 Topps manager card.  These all made appearances on my blog going back as many as 9 years.





I had floated the idea of the 1947 Bond Bread card on Twitter. Most liked it and thought it captured the era accurately.  The only complaint was the photo I had originally used.  Someone pointed out that it was already used on a  1979 TCMA card.  It actually was used by TCMA  again in 1984 and 1986.  In all, I found over a dozen cards that used that same photo, including several from Fleer and Topps. This version uses a magazine phot from that era.  I can't tell if it was colorized or just the print quality of the magazine.  At least I haven't found it on any other cards. Yet.



Thursday, December 17, 2020

Barrier Breakers: Hank Thompson - New York Giants

 Yesterday, the commissioner of Major League Baseball announced that seven of the Negro Leagues that operated between 1920 and 1948 will be considered Major League team and (I assume) their stats will be also included.  I have been making cards of Barrier Breakers as part of my latest project.  This is my latest, a 1949 Leaf card of Hank Thompson.

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Hank Thompson was the only player who integrated two different teams.  In 1947 he was the fist Black player on the St. Louis Browns. On the Browns, he was joined on the field two days later by Hall of Famer, Willard Brown. He made his Giants debut on July 8, 1949.  He started the game at second base and was the leadoff hitter.  Monte Irvin made his Giants debut that same day.  Because he came in as a pinch-hitter in the 8th inning, Thompson technically broke the color barrier by 7 innings.



Friday, December 11, 2020

Barrier Breakers: Jackie Robinson - Brooklyn Dodgers

 


This is the ultimate "Barrier Breaker".  Jackie Robinson's integration into the league is well documented.  Instead of going into all of that, I want to address the hobby aspect.  I chose to make my own design of the Bond Bread card because Jackie Robinson did have several card in 1947. Those were issued by Bond Bread.


He had his own 13 card set.  The cards were distributed as a promotion with a couple slices of bread and a coupon.  There is some dispute whether this set was actually from 1947.  Some point out that the photos used were not from 1947.  It is possible that they were distributed over a few years, starting in 1947.  The cards were nearly the size of standard cards today. Instead of 2.5" X 3.5" it was 2.25" X 3.5". They were plain black and white photos and there were 3 different backs. 


I took some of the design elements found in other Bond Bread promotional art.  I wanted to capture the style of the era but wanted to incorporate color/colorized photos and a standard 2.5" x 3.5" format.  This is what I came up with.  I have already posted a Hank Thompson card in this 1947 format, and (spoiler alert) plan to use this format for the 1947 card of Larry Doby.

For more information on the REAL 1947 Bond Bread set click here.  It is very interesting with some good photos too.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Dick Allen

 1942-2020


It is with great sadness that I learned earlier today of Dick Allen's passing.

This one really stings.  I grew up a Sox fan in the '70s.  Dick Allen was a hero to me.  I had a homemade baseball bat that was just ridiculously way too big.  We called it the "Dick Allen" bat.  I could only use it playing sandlot ball because it was obviously not legal for little league play.  If you follow this blog, you know that I have used Allen as the subject of many posts. The 72 "In Action" was one of my first fake cards. Here are as many others that I can remember making:














Friday, December 4, 2020

1975 NFL Rookies of the Year

 In 1975 there were still 5 different organizations who awarded Rookie of the Year titles to NFL players. AP, UPI, NEA, Pro Football Weekly and The Sporting News.  That year there were 11 different awards split among 3 recipients.

The player all five organizations agreed upon was Oilers linebacker Robert Brazile. Houston drafted him with the 6th pick of the first round, just two picks behind his Jackson State teammate, Walter Payton.  Like sweetness, he would be enshrined in Canton, OH.  He played all 10 of his NFL Seasons with the Oilers and was selected to 7 Pro Bowls.  He is also on the Titans/Oilers "Ring of Honor".

Mike Thomas was named NFC Rookie of the Year by UPI.  He was Offensive ROY according to AP and shared the Pro Football Weekly Offensive ROY award with Steve Bartkowski.  Thomas was the lowest draft selection among the three ROYs.  He was picked in the 5th round by Washington from UNLV.  He ran for 919 yards in his rookie campaign. In 1976 he rushed for 1101 and was selected for the Pro Bowl. In his 6 year NFL career he had 6207 total yards from scrimmage for the Redskins and the Chargers.




The first pick of the 1975 NFL draft was Steve Bartkowski from the University of California, Berkley.  He was All American for the Cal Bears and led the nation in 1974 with 2580 passing yards. In addition to sharing the PFW Offensive ROY award with Mike Thomas, he earned NFC ROY honors from the NEA and The Sporting News.  In all he played 11 seasons with the Falcons and one with the Rams. He was a Pro Bowl selection twice.



Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Barrier Breakers: Ernie Banks, Chicago Cubs


January 31, 1865 the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery passed in Congress. Coincidentally, January 31st is the birthday shared by Ernie Banks and Jackie Robinson. Mr. Cub broke the color barrier for the Chicago Cubs more than 6 years after Jackie Robinson did the same for all of Major League Baseball.  The Cubs were the third NL team to integrate, and Banks was the third Negro League turned MLB player enshrined in Cooperstown behind Robinson and Monte Irvin. When he was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama, he presented the first Black President with a bat used by Jackie Robinson. 

On and off the field, Banks was known for his friendly, joyous demeanor.  "Mr. Sunshine" was his nickname even before he became "Mr. Cub".  After his passing in 2015, Jesse Jackson described his cheerfulness as a thermostat that helped control the temperature of his times. He was beloved by fans and teammates alike. His enthusiasm was infectious. 

I also have to mention Gene Baker who was acquired by the Cubs prior to Ernie Banks but made his MLB debut 3 days later.  The two were the first black double play combo in the Majors.




Monday, November 23, 2020

Barrier Breakers: Tom Alston, St. Louis Cardinals

 


The integration of the Cardinals was a complicated story. First, the Cards' owner from 1947-1953, Fred Saigh, was opposed to signing any black players.  When he pled guilty to tax evasion, he was forced to sell the team to August "Gussy" Busch Jr.   Busch is credited as saying "Wow can it be the great American game, if we don't have any negro players? We've got to get colored ballplayers." That sentiment was less progressive than it was pragmatic.  He followed that up with "Hell, we sell beer to everyone."

The rest of the story is a tale of two players, Tom Alston and Len Tucker.  In 1953 the Cardinals signed Len Tucker as their first black player. Tucker was an all around college athlete at Fresno State. He was a track star, he led the Basketball team in points per game and led the baseball team in homers and RBIs.  Despite performing well in the  Cardinals minor league system but never got promoted to the bigs.  


Instead the Cardinals went with a more proven player.  They purchased Tom Alston from the San Diego Padres of the Pacific League.  They immediately experienced buyer's remorse.  Alston was two years older than they had thought and asked for $20,000 of the $100k they spent on him to be returned.

Alston was hitless in his first seven at-bats, but his first two MLB hits were both over the fence. By mid-May he was batting over .300 with 4 homers.  After that, he cooled off quite a bit. By the end of June he had the same 4 homers and an average of .246. He spent the rest of the season in the minors. He played in just 25 more MLB games over the next three seasons.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Barrier Breakers: Hank Thompson, St. Louis Browns


Hank Thompson began his career as a 17 year old outfielder for the 1943 Kansas City Monarchs. He spent the next 2 1/2 seasons in the Army.  He was a machine gunner at the Battle of the Bulge.  In 1946 he rejoined the Monarchs in the midst of a championship run.

In 1947 he and teammate, Willard Brown were signed by the St. Louis Browns.  Thompson made his field debut first on July 17th.  Two days later, Brown made his debut.  Neither player would be on the Browns after the '47 season.  Although Willard Brown played only a partial MLB season, he would be inducted into the Hall of Fame for his Negro League accomplishments in 2006.  Hank Thompson would go on to be the first black player on the New York Giants in 1949.

The card itself was an invention of mine.  Bond Bread did produce baseball cards in 1947 but they were little more than black and white photos. I took some liberties by altering some non-sports cards of theirs from that era.  I wanted a color card that was the modern standard dimensions of 2.5" x 3.5".



Monday, November 16, 2020

1974 NFL Rookies of the Year

 In 1974 there were nine different Rookie of the Year awards. The Associated Press (AP) and Pro Football Weekly (PFW) awarded the top Rookie on Offense and defense. The Sporting News (TSN) and United Press International (UPI) awarded the top rookie from the AFC and the NFC. The Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA) awarded just one overall Rookie of the Year.

The unanimous ROY winner from all five organizations was Chargers running back Don Woods. Woods was a quarterback from the University of New Mexico.  The Packers drafted him in the 6th round but dropped him before the start of the season.  San Diego picked him up and used him as a running back.  He set the  rookie record for rushing yards despite not playing in the first 2 games of the season.  A knee injury limited him to 5 games in the 1975 season.  With the addition of Rickey young to the Chargers backfield in 1975, then Lydell Mitchell in 1977, Woods' touches were greatly reduced. His numbers never matched those of his rookie season. 



The Steelers linebacker jack Lambert was the Defensive Rookie of the Year according to both AP and PFW.  The second round pick from Kent State was selected to the Pro Bowl in nine of his eleven NFL seasons. He has four Super Bowl rings and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990.






The Sporting News and UPI disagreed on the NFC Rookie of the Year.  TSN chose 49ers running back Wilbur Jackson who was the first black football player to receive a scholarship at the University of Alabama.  Jackson was San Francisco's first round pick in the 1974 draft.  He ran for 705 yards his rookie season.  In all he played 8 seasons for the 49ers and Redskins.








UPI's pick for NFC Rookie of the Year went to Giants' guard John Hicks.  Hicks was the #3 pick of the 1974 draft. In 1973 he was runner up for the Heisman Trophy, All-American, All Big Ten and the winner of  both the Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy for best college lineman. After his Rookie season, injuries took their toll. His entire career was just 4 years with the Giants. In 2001 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.



 


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Barrier Breakers: Sam Jethroe - Boston Braves


The 1950 NL Rookie of the Year was the 33 year old centerfielder, Sam Jethroe.  I made this card despite the fact that Jethroe was relatively well represented on cardboard during his short MLB career.  He had Bowman cards in 1950-1953 and Topps cards in 1951 and 1952. Although his MLB career was just 3 years as a Brave from 1950-52 and a short stint on the Pirates in 1954, his professional baseball career spanned 18 seasons.  He played minor league ball in Toledo, Montreal and Toronto. He also played Negro League ball in Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Cleveland.


As I said, Jethroe already had a card in the 1950 Bowman set.  So the card itself is a creation of my own based on the 1950 Drake TV Baseball Series. The Drake Cookie cards were a black and white tv card similar to the 1955 Bowman cards and measured 2.5" by 2.5". The 1950 Bowman measured 2 1/16" by 2 1/2".


 I wanted a more standard 2 1/2" by 3 1/2", color card. So I modeled it on the huge console TVs of that era. The screens were actually more rounded and small compared to the piece of furniture that housed them.



Monday, November 9, 2020

Barrier Breakers: Bob Trice - Philadelphia Athletics

 


My new project is to create cards of each MLB team's first black player.  Some are well known  superstars others are not as well known. I will be posting these in alphabetical order by team, starting with the Athletics, ending with Yankees.  There are just 16 teams as by the 1961 expansion all teams had integrated to a degree.  The cards themselves will be from the year of their first MLB appearance.  This will require me to take a little artistic license.  I will re-imagining certain cards that are pre-Topps/Bowman/Leaf.

Bob Trice was a September call up in 1953.  By that time he had already won 21 games for the Ottawa A's.  He won 2 of his 3 starts for the major league A's in 1953. A former member of the Homestead Grays, he would only play 3 MLB seasons all for the Athletics, two in Philly and one in Kansas City. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

1980 Topps Sadaharu Oh

 

On this day in 40 years ago, Sadaharu Oh announced his retirement.  This was after 22 years and 868 homeruns. He played his entire career for the Yomiuri Giants in Tokyo.  His home stadium during that time was Korakuen Stadium which has the dimensions of 288 feet down the line, 396 in center and 361 in the gaps.  I give these numbers not to dispute his HR numbers but to give a comparison with Hank Aaron, his MLB counterpart.

The dimensions at Fulton County Stadium were 325-330 down the lines, 400-402 in center and 375-385 in the gaps. These dimensions changed a couple times during Aaron's career.  Most of that time it was 330-375-400. Milwaukee County Stadium was 315 down the lines, 362 in the gaps and 402 in center.

So there may be an argument that the fences were a little closer.  But another argument is that the seasons were much shorter in Japan.  The length of the regular seasons varied from 114-140 games, most were in the 130 neighborhood. Although comparisons are difficult, you cannot discount his accomplishments. 

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Series 1 Packs

As promised, I now have packs of physical Cards That Never Were.  I am selling these through this site only for $10.00 per pack plus $4.00 shipping. Please use the link:

py.pl/3Yh5Aw7VL9s

You can also buy them individually on eBay. My seller's name there is ctnwblog_8.


So, what's in each pack?


12 Cards That Never Were plus an insert Card That Wasn't and of course, Bazooka bubble gum.


The insert card is a 1969 Nolan Ryan Deckle.


All cards are professionally printed.


Front and Back.


The backs are formatted in a style consistent with their year.


The front of the cards are glossy.


The backs are not.


These are similar in look and feel to the Topps Archives cards.


I hope you enjoy these cards,


As much as I did making them.


For those that wish to buy the cards individually,


They are currently available on eBay. 


My user name on eBay is ctnwblog_8.