When I was at Beckett and the primary editor of the Beckett Almanac of Baseball Cards and Collectibles, there were always some cards which bothered me because I wanted to get to catalog them and add them to the burgeoning Beckett data base. Among the sets which truly bothered me was a set featuring period photos of players with a biography and a black back. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had heard this set was part of a United Press International (UPI) Set but was never able to verify that. Thus this set never was catalogued and these cards remained without a Beckett home.
A few months ago, COMC sent me a card to research. Since the card was one of Jim Gentile, many searches proved to be unrewarding based on his last name.
Gentile had his own interesting baseball playing history as nearly 50 years after the fact, he was proved to have tied Roger Maris for the 1961 AL RBI title. If those stats had been in effect in 1961, Gentile would have earned a $5,000 bonus which in those baseball days was a significant amount of money, Nowadays for most players a $5K bonus can be attained after one or two at-bats. So, we get this blank-backed card and I could not put my finger on the card nor could the fine verifiers at COMC. Thus, that became a card to put away in the memory banks for another day.
A few months later, I got a photo of a Ken Boyer card from the same set so I decided to dig deeper in an effort to identify this issue. My next step was to post a photo of the Boyer card on the Net54 post-war message board and hope that someone would know what I did not.
Well, luck was with me and within a couple of hours the card was revealed to have been issued with a record album called All-Star Tips. The set had been dated 1973 because there was a photo of Willie Mays in a New York Mets cap on one of the cards. However, to me the most bizarre part of that was trying to determine why this sat on the shelf for what was probably a decade before being released: Willie Mays, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford, Bill Mazeroski, Ken Boyer, Frank Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Al Kaline, Sandy Koufax, Pete Ward, Jim Gentile, Don Drysdale…with narration by Marty Glickman.
I did get the answer to the UPI part of this mystery. You see, in an SCD article I had never read there was a photo of this Mantle card in one of the string of Mickey Mantle collectible articles right next to a photo of Mantle from a UPI album. You can see why collectors were confused by which set these came from.
We have had a few of the cards from this unlabeled issue surface at COMC but no definitive checklist has been presented. As I, along with many other collectors, truly appreciate the old Negro Leagues, any time we can add to the checklist history I’m a big fan of doing so.
Thus, our next COMC Challenge is to checklist the other players in this Negro League set so it’s complete (or as complete as we can get). The person who does it best will earn a large number of COMC ‘history points’ to use on the site.
Send a portion of the checklist or all of it to me at [email protected] and we’ll try to have a winner by early next week. Good luck!