Basketball cards have been red-hot lately, and with the increased interest in mainstream vintage basketball sets, which are few in number from 1949 to 1969, collectors often turn their attention to rare (and frequently obscure) regional and local issues to fill the voids, such as, the 1960’s Kahn’s Weiners set or the 1961 Bell Lakers set. One recently uncovered issue, the 1960 Los Angeles Examiner Lakers set, stirred up quite a lot of interest among Lakers, West and Baylor collectors when it came to light.
The Examiner was one of L.A.’s secondary daily newspapers, eventually merging with the Herald and ultimately folding in 1989. Since it was secondary to the Times, the Examiner tried various gimmicks to increase circulation. In 1936, for example, the Examiner participated with several other newspapers around the country in issuing ‘sports stamp’ cut-out cards in the daily sports section, an issue that is well-known and has been the subject of some excellent research. The Examiner sports stamps are among the more challenging to find and had one unique trait: without any local major league sports, the local teams represented in the issue were California high school, semi-pro, and college football teams.
Fast-forward 24 years and the rapidly growing City of Angels finds itself home to three major league sports teams, including the 1959 World Series Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, the Los Angeles Rams and the newly-arrived Los Angeles Lakers. In celebration of its sudden status as a major sports hub and the presumed local interest, the Los Angeles Examiner revived the sports card cut-out concept in its sports section. From 1960-1961 the Examiner issued four sets of cards under the general format of pin ups to be cut out and placed in albums: Dodgers, Lakers, Angels (in early 1961) and National League Umpires (really). Unfortunately for football fans, no cards are known of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, but there is always the possibility that a set will surface.
The distribution of these cards is similar to the sports stamps: they were issued as part of the regular newspaper sports section with instructions to cut them out and save them. Unlike the early stamps, however, which had no defined borders on the biographies that accompanied them, the 1960-61 issues were of a uniform size with biographies and images encased within a dashed line border. Two circles at the top were meant to be punched out by the collector, presumably to mount with ACCO fasteners in some sort of album. No folder is known for the Los Angeles Examiner issues. Since there is a dashed border all around the card, it is easy to see whether the card was removed intact. The cards are substantially larger than the 1936 sports stamps, measuring approximately 4 x 7 inside the dashed line borders. How frequently the cards were issued and the date and order of issue are unknown. Judging from the biographical notes they were issued before the teams’ respective opening days.
Until 2020 regional collectors who knew of the Examiner issues were aware of only the Angels and Dodgers cards, some of which can usually be found on eBay. Sets of the two baseball teams turned up in an estate sale in the Southern California area, accompanied by previously unknown sets of umpires and Lakers. The cards were carefully cut to their borders and taped to cardboard backing and two-hole punched at the top for the ACCO clips (the tape itself was so decayed that it fell right off the cards from the find, leaving tape stains but no tape itself).
The Lakers cards precede the 1961-62 Fleer issue and therefore have rookie cards of Lakers whose ‘official’ rookie cards are in the 1961 Fleer set. The West card biography reflects the high hopes the franchise had for the new rookie from West Virginia, starting out by asking: “Can Jerry West really be as fabulous as they have been saying for the last three years?” The answer turned out to be: “No, he is even better than that.”
Elgin Baylor’s card asks no questions because the answer was already apparent: his biography recounts his two-year NBA experience as rookie of the year and two-time all-star averaging over 29 points per game in his second year.
Another card of interest is “Hot Rod” Hundley, who received the Curt Gowdy Media Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for broadcast excellence.
Another rookie card is that of Rudy LaRusso, the team’s enforcer/rebounder who has a card in the 1961 Fleer set but no other mainstream cards.
The checklist of the Lakers cards is as follows:
- Fred Schaus (coach)
- Elgin Baylor
- Rudy LaRusso
- Tom Hawkins
- Howard Joliff
- Bob Leonard
- Frank Selvy
- Jerry West
- Rod Hundley
- Jim Krebs
- Ray Felix
- Jim Hannah
Schaus, a long-time NBA and college coach and executive, was brought in from West Virginia expressly to coach his star collegian, Jerry West. His card is an interesting addition to the set.
In terms of availability, the Dodgers and Angels cards pop up from time to time on eBay. The umpires and Lakers are only known at present from the Southern California find. With more dogged effort, perhaps additional examples will become known.