During the mid-1970s, the Tulsa Oilers had a minor-league card set that was sponsored by Goofs and included a Daffy pitcher.
The 1976 Goofs Pants Tulsa Oilers set had several attractive lures for collectors. Originally sold by the team for $5, it’s worth much more now but difficult to find.
Of the players who were on the roster of the St. Louis Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate in 1976, 26 had either played or were destined to play in the major leagues. Eleven of the 16 pitchers that season had (or would gain) major-league experience.
Interestingly, the Oilers finished 65-70 in 1976, third in the four-team Western Division of the American Association.
The biggest draw for this 26-card minor-league series, however, are the two autographs in the set. One is of Hall of Fame pitcher Satchel Paige, while the other is of former Gashouse Gang pitcher Paul “Daffy” Dean, who opened his major-league career with back-to-back 19-victory seasons in 1934 and 1935. Dean also was the brother of Hall of Fame pitcher Dizzy Dean.
Autographed cards had not come to prominence yet and having signature cards in a minor-league set was even more unusual. The Paige card is interesting because he is wearing a uniform front depicting an 1876-style jersey. As it was the National League’s 100th anniversary and the bicentennial of the United States, it was a nice photographic opportunity.
The card back for Paige included the pitcher’s “Six Rules for a Happy Life,” which includes the classic warning: “Don’t look back, something may be gaining on you.’
And then there was the sponsor. Goofs was a nationwide clothing chain that was owned by Levi Strauss & Co. and had a store in the Tulsa area. It was a factory outlet business that sold Levi’s overruns and discontinued styles of clothing. The company leaders enjoyed promotions, and baseball cards seemed a natural lure to advertise the store. In late 1977, Goofs would get more ambitious for its sixth-anniversary. The grand prize was a 1978 AMC Gremlin with a Levi’s logo, a car that was “as great as the jeans it was named after.”
The autographs include Paige, who was a coach for the Oilers; and Dean, who was the director of the team’s youth camp. Paige cards do sometimes show up on eBay where they sell for over $500.
The cards measured 2½ inches by 3 3/8 inches. The player is shown in a black-and-white photo, framed by a white border. “Tulsa Oilers” is located to the right of the player’s photograph, while the promotional information for Goofs is stripped across the top of the card front.
The team was managed by former major-leaguer Ken Boyer, who would pilot the St. Louis Cardinals from 1978 to 1980. The card set featured major-leaguers Mike Easler and Garry Templeton. Easler had a fabulous season in Tulsa, leading the Oilers in hitting (.352), home runs (26) and RBI (77). After previous stints in the majors with the Astros, Angels and Pirates, Easler came to the majors to stay in 1979 with Pittsburgh. He would stay in the majors for nearly a decade before finishing his career in Japan.
Templeton batted .321 for the Oilers in ’76. The Cardinals would promote the shortstop to the parent club in August 1976, where he played 53 games in the season’s final two months. He would remain in the majors through 1991, compiling a .271 career average in 16 seasons.
Lloyd Allen was the ace of the Oilers’ staff, going 11-6 with a 2.81 ERA, but he had already spent seven years in the majors had would not make it back.
A rare complete set, including both the Paige and Dean autographs, sold for $650 in 2012 through Huggins & Scott Auctions.
The Goofs Pants set of the Tulsa Oilers set is a tough group of cards, but it is one of the more interesting minor-league releases of all-time.