One of the great aspects of collecting old cards is one can create myriad little “topical subsets” some of which are fairly inexpensive to work on and can be done as needed. One of my favorite pastimes from my old school dealing days was to find cards of either Mets or Yankees still pictured wearing their old team’s uniform or former New York players who had joined other teams and were listed on that team checklist but who were still pictured wearing their old Mets or Yankees duds.
Not only is it inexpensive but it’s a fun way to sort of extend a team’s master set. Most of these cards I’m referencing in this column will be from the early 1960’s but there are some other great examples over the years. And the best part of this is many of these cards can be found for less than a cost of a meal at a fast food joint.
The first card we are featuring is the 1961 Topps Johnny James who had joined the Los Angeles Angels but is still shown in his Yankee flannels. It was the Angels’ first year as an expansion franchise but as the cartoon on the back even states “Johnny was traded to the Angels in May”. He wasn’t part of any expansion draft. We talk frequently about how releasing cards in several series made for a ‘living set’ in the pre-1974 era and the James card is just another example of Topps updating its set because of roster moves made during the early part of the year.
Our next card is the 1962 Topps Don Zimmer. This is one of only two 1962 Topps cards which actually feature Mets players in Mets uniforms during their historically terrible first season. Getting current photos onto cardboard was obviously a lot tougher back then and with the roster not being set until late March, I suppose they did the best they could with what they had. The only other card which even shows a player with a Mets cap is the Bob Miller single print high number.
Zimmer, one of many former Brooklyn Dodgers to dot the inaugural Mets roster, got off to such a terrible start –including an 0 for 34 streak– that he was soon traded to the Cincinnati Reds. His 1962 card does list him as a Red but he’s quite clearly still in Mets colors. When I lived in New York, most of the dealers– and frankly many of the collectors–really treated this card as a 1962 Mets card.
Then there was the 1963 Topps Stan Williams. Stan had an interesting career. He even fanned more than 200 batters one year for the Dodgers as a key member of the their pitching staff in the days before Sandy Koufax became, well, Koufax.
During the 1962 off-season Williams was traded to the Yankees for Bill “Moose” Skowron, who later that year became one of those rare guys who played in the World Series both as a Yankee and on a team which opposed the Yankees during the Fall Classic. Wililams’ card shows him as a Dodger but the copy identifies him with his new team on the opposite coast.
And to get off the New York area thread and to show this can be done for other teams, we will conclude with a card which is on the list of one of the screwiest ever created. Glenn Beckert was dealt by the Chicago Cubs to the San Diego Padres following the 1974 season. The Padres were this close to moving to Washington D.C. but a nickname had yet to be decided. As has been well documented, Topps opted to consider it a done deal and began putting “Washington/Nat’l League on cards of Padres players. The move died at the last minute and the Padres are still in San Diego more than 40 years later.
Beckert’s first card of 1974 shows him in his old Cubs uniform, hitting at Wrigley Field for a team that never existed, with Padres team colors as an accent. Topps did dump the Washington cards in the middle of the printing process and put San Diego back on the front but why Dave Winfield never got a Washington variation is still beyond me.
The flip side is Jerry Morales, who went to the Cubs in the Beckert trade, is very clearly shown wearing a San Diego uniform in the same set but is listed as a Chicago Cub. The front of Morales’ card is an interesting mix of pink, yellow and brown.
There are many more examples through the years, of course, and we’d love to hear about your favorites, but this listing is a good start on your next project.