Beatlemania was in full swing in 1964, and so were records — 45 RPM singles and 33 1/3 “long-playing” albums. If a household did not own a “Victrola” (a fancy name for what later was called a turntable), then portable record players would suffice. Kenner’s Close N Play is a good example.
In 1964, Auravision Records brought major-league baseball players to that popular medium. Auravision, a division of Columbia Records, issued 16 picture records that measured 6 ¾ inches by 6 ¾ inches and were made from plastic-laminated cardboard. The records sported some high quality photos on the front and back; the grooved front had a color photograph with a facsimile autograph, a Sports Record trophy logo and a notation that told the owner that the record was a 33 1/3 RPM.
A color border frames the photo, and on the back there also is a colorful border. The back contains another photo of the player, along with a career summary and complete major- and minor-league statistics.
The set is a popular one for collectors, particularly since 10 of the 16 players featured became Hall of Famers. Collectors who actually punched out the center hole and listened to the record — and in 1964, who wouldn’t? — would be treated to a player describing parts of his career or offering tips. The players were interviewed for five minutes by sportscaster Marty Glickman.
Originally, the records were available through a mail-in promotion from Milk Duds candy or Meadow Gold milk. The backs of the 5-cent Milk Duds boxes trumpeted the virtues of the player records: “It’s a full color photograph! It’s a real Columbia recording, with top stars telling you, in person, how to play baseball.”
Auravision All-Star Lineup
The records were full of star power: Hall of Famers included Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, Warren Spahn, Don Drysdale, Ernie Banks, Whitey Ford, Al Kaline, Bill Mazeroski and Frank Robinson. Roger Maris, Rocky Colavito and Ken Boyer also were big names in the set. Surprisingly, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente and Harmon Killebrew were not included in the set.
The toughest record to get in the set is the Willie Mays version, which has been designated a short print. The Mantle and Koufax records also fetch a good price.
It’s a novelty set, but a fun one to collect. The records are large enough, the photographs are colorful and sharp, and it’s definitely fun to hear one’s favorite player talking about his career or passing along some baseball nuggets of wisdom.
Check out what’s currently available on eBay here.