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Ramblings: Unlicensed but OK, Flood Fun, Mystery Sheet, Vic Wertz

Some random thoughts I have had about cards in the past few days…

Rich Ramblings 2014I opened a Donruss Baseball Series II box the other day and that box reminded me of opening 2014 Donruss Series II boxDonruss/Leaf boxes about ten years ago. It felt like a hit in every pack and with two autographs and one relic, not even counting the inserts, parallel and parallel inserts the box seemed like a good deal.

Some may look down on the non-league licensed products, but I wonder if not having to pay for a MLB Properties license works out OK for Panini.  Having to pay for only an MLBPA license, they can then create and include extra content.  For collectors who don’t insist on logos and officially licensed products and prefer autographs and other hits, there is a certain ‘bang for the buck’ factor.

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1964 Topps Curt FloodOur story about Curt Flood’s 1964 Topps card got some nice publicity when ESPN The Magazine picked up the ball and found the man who has been hoarding them. He has over 4,000 Floods and while that is certainly a lot of copies to own, I would wager his cost is not really that much depending on how long he has been collecting these cards. Let's say he’s been chasing them for 15 years and it’s cost him $8000 total ($2 per card). That means he has spent an average of $10 per week for that time period.

Let's face it, in the card collecting sphere, $10 per week is really not very much money and if seeing that card keeps his memory of being nine years old and seeing his favorite player help lead the Cardinals to the world championship, who are we to say anything but good job and enjoy your unique collection.

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We'll have more about this later the next time I do a Rich's Ramblings Reader Reaction column as the first question a reader recently asked me led to a second question. The second question 1969 Topps Joe Sparmareferred to a 1969 Topps uncut sixth series sheet this man owns. I would have sworn that the Lee May and some other cards would have been on the row which are all single prints. No, the one row which was single printed included Joe Sparma, a card Rob Veres of Burbank Cards always swore was the toughest one in the 1968 set.

Makes me wonder if there are not two sheets with one sheet having the row with Sparma the single print and the other has the row with Lee May being the single print. Just another hobby mystery to pursue. I will see if we can get a better copy of the sheet in the new few days.

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Gus Zernial 1952 ToppsRecently I was up late one night and having an email conversation with good SABR trivia friend D.Bruce Brown. We were chatting about the great 1952 Gus Zernial card and he mentioned how much he enjoyed the Vic Wertz article. When I saw that I realized that the 1950's were full of these slow-footed first baseman/outfielder types who were basically interchangeable.

You would have Gus Zernial turn into Vic Wertz who would become Del Ennis who then would become Norm Zauchin (for a season or two) or Bob Speake (for a month of two) into Hank Sauer.  But I was thinking it would be interesting to talk about Wertz.

You see Wertz was the batter when perhaps the most famous catch in World Series history occurred that of Willie Mays running down a fly ball during the eighth inning of the first game of Vic Wertz 1960 Toppsthe 1954 World Series.

Wertz also had a season in 1960 near the end of his career when he drove in over 100 runs and scored just 45 runs. Since he hit 19 homers that season, he scored on other people's hits just 26 times. And in 1956 he finished second in the American League with 32 homers; however Mickey Mantle blasted more than 50 on his way to the Triple Crown so second place was far away indeed in 1956.

But I then got to thinking, Wertz was a pretty decent player during the 1950's and wondered what his card career was like.  And more importantly, I also wondered if kids really collected Wertz cards back in the 1950's as he was always just one level behind the major stars. A search of the Topps and Bowman issues show that completing a Vic Wertz collection is very attainable with the most difficult card being his high numbered 1949 Bowman rookie card. Wertz's cards are priced like the minor star he was during that era.

And as for 1954, there is a Bowman card to honor the year of his most famous at-bat, although it turned out to be a very long out. He had cards through 1963 and in retrospect, what better way to truly trace the card history of what some people consider the golden age of card collecting but by working a nice run of Wertz cards? You get 15 years of cards and a nice mix with nothing really that difficult to obtain. And once you finish Wertz, there is always Ennis, Sauer, Zernial and the rest of the 1950's gang. You can find Vic Wertz cards, who passed on in 1983 before the hobby show boom here.

About Rich Klein

Rich Klein has spent almost his entire life collecting baseball cards having begun at the tender age of seven. He has spent more than three decades in the organized hobby including editing the first 12 editions of the Beckett Almanac of Baseball Card and Collectibles. He lives in Plano, TX along with his wife Dena and their two dogs. You can reach him at [email protected].

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