I learned something new today. Warren Spahn hit 35 homers in his career —ranking him third behind Wes Ferrell (38) and Bob Lemon (37) for pitchers all time.
He was around a long time, playing 21 seasons and acquiring 363 wins. His cards are readily available and relatively affordable.
And I've got my share.
I must have more poor old Warren Spahn's than any other player. And this card does not disappoint. Take a look: creased, rounded corners, scuffed, pen marks, glued to a scrapbook and glasses drawn on his face.
When it comes to poor old baseball cards this one checks all the boxes except for ripped in two.
For all it's flaws, I love it. How can you not love Warren Spahn?
I once had a colleague propose that baseball's Hall-of-Fame should be limited to a certain number of members. An interesting argument.
In other words, if a new player is deserving, an older player must be removed. Top 100 players only.
Frankie Frisch would not approve. Some say it's his fault the Hall has so many mediocre players.
As a member of the Veteran's Committee, Frisch is said to have used his influence to usher in what some consider the Hall's least-deserving members.
My thought is this: Either you're a Hall-of-Famer or not. If you need to make an argument for a player's inclusion, maybe he's not deserving. A Hall-of-Famer should be automatic, you should't need to think long about whether they're worthy.
Rickey Henderson: No argument.
Derek Jeter: No argument.
Lee Smith: No dice.
Is baseball's Hall-of-Fame oversubscribed?
And by perfect, I mean perfectly poor.
As I've mentioned before, I rarely purchase any baseball card that is not in poor condition. I can't justify spending big bucks for a card I can get for a fraction of the price.
Plus, I like my cards to tell a story. And this card's story probably includes the back of someone's jeans pocket.
As the new single-season home run king, Maris was on top of the baseball world in 1962 and must have been one of the most desirable cards of that year's set. That, along with the fact it's card No. 1, means condition will always be a concern.
I can just imagine unwrapping this gem in the summer of '62. I'm sure it's new owner couldn't help sharing it with friends, keeping it in his back pocket for safekeeping.
Come to think of it, that's where I kept it when it arrived a few days ago – in my back pocket (in it's rigid sleeve) ready to show the world my latest find.
A month after a winning bid on eBay, my first Japanese baseball card arrived from half-way around the world.
The listing said it's of Tadayoshi Kajioka, a pitcher who would win 131 games in the Japanese league.
Is it really Kajioka? I have no way of knowing.
Does anyone out there read Japanese? I'd love to know what the card says.
Regardless, it's a valued addition to my poor old baseball card collection.
You might say I'm downright opposed to encasing these poor old baseball cards in plastic.
But this card is different.
As a kid, before the Internet, I used to buy most of my cards from a dealer in Northern California. He would send me a list of cards he had available and every few weeks I'd place my order.
Then, like now, I gravitated to the older cards — T206's and strip cards made up the bulk of what I collected.
Back then, HOF strip cards would run about $10 or so. Bigger names like Ty Cobb would be more. Commons would be available for about $3-$5.
Except Pickles Dilhoefer. Pickles would always be listed at HOF prices. I couldn't justify spending that kind of money for a ballplayer who's only claim to fame was being part of a trade involving Grover Cleveland Alexander.
Thirty years later, I want Pickles Dilhoefer.
While it's never about the money, my purchase of these poor old cards are in a sense an investment. I always try to pay what I think the card is worth, never more.
But when it came to Pickles, my sense of 'want' overtook my sense of 'worth.' This card cost me $27. Is it worth it? I'm not sure.
But it doesn't matter. I am the proud owner of my very own Pickles Dilhoefer.
Post inserted two cards in issues of the April 13, 1962 Life Magazine. It was part of an ad linking Post Cereal and subscriptions to Life Magazine.
Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, coming off their battle for the single-season HR record, were promoted heavily and the only two players to appear in the advertisement. The perforated edges and lack of blue lines separating the stats provide us with other clues that this card is not a cereal box card.
Sometime during this card's life, Mantle was ripped in two. Was it done when separating the card from the ad? Was is done in later years? Who knows?
What I can tell you is it wasn't done recently. That transparent tape is brittle and old.
If only baseball cards could talk.
Walker, more commonly known as Gee Walker, was a pretty good player. He was named an All Star in 1937, beginning that season (on Opening Day) with an "unnatural cycle" (a cycle in reverse order: HR, 3B, 2B, 1B).
He had a good career.
So who would scratch out Walker's name in 1934, replacing it with a not-yet-Major Leaguer named DiMaggio?
My guess is this creative drawing was done a few years later. DiMaggio was in the Pacific Coast League in 1934, an outfielder with the San Francisco Seals. He would not make his Yankees debut until 1936.
Was DiMaggio even on the baseball world's radar in 1934? Maybe he was. In 1933, DiMaggio hit .340 and was undoubtedly in the news for his 61-game hitting streak. Between May 28 and July 25, he hit .405 (104-for-257).
I'm sure that opened a few eyes.
Maybe even for a young baseball collector hoping to have the next up-and-coming star. You think?
A few days ago, I took a chance. I offered $7 for this beauty on eBay. It had a Buy it Now price of $15. I expected to be counteroffered.
I wasn't and the card was mine for $7. What a bargain.
Clemente was coming off his second batting title in 1964. He would win the title four times (1961, '64, '65 and '67).
He ended his career with 3,000 hits. Who knows how many more were in his bat before dying in a plane crash carrying relief supplies to Nicaraguan earthquake victims.
While it's a beaut, there's one thing that bothers me about this card. "Bob."
His name is Roberto and he wanted to be known as such. I wonder why baseball card companies felt the need to Americanize his name?
A snippet from Encyclopedia Britannica online:
While Clemente amassed a mountain of impressive statistics during his career, he was often mocked by the print media in the United States for his heavy Spanish accent. Clemente was also subjected to the double discrimination of being a foreigner and being black in a racially segregated society. Although the media tried to call him “Bob” or “Bobby” and many of his baseball cards use “Bob,” Clemente explicitly rejected those nicknames, stating in no uncertain terms that his name was Roberto. There was also confusion over the correct form of his surname. For 27 years the plaque at the National Baseball Hall of Fame read “Roberto Walker Clemente,” mistakenly placing his mother’s maiden name before his father’s surname. Only in 2000 was it changed to its proper Latin American form, Roberto Clemente Walker.
If my memory serves me, baseball card shops were starting to spring up about then. A few years later, there would be hundreds to choose from.
As I made my way throught the shop, I felt like a kid in a candy store. I know that phrase is overused but that's the best way I can describe the feeling I had as I saw shelf after shelf of vintage cards in cases.
The pricetags were scarry for a 13-year-old. Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Earnie Banks, Willie Mays. Superstar cards selling for $20-30 each!
How could I justify spending my entire earnings on a single card? What would my mom say if I told her I spent it all on a baseball card?
Instead, I gravitated to a binder marked 25 cents. Looking through, I found my first poor old baseball cards. Warren Spahn, Bob Lemon, Ed Mathews, Luis Aparicio, Early Wynn, Al Kaline, Juan Marichal and this Willie Mays. All cards from the late 1950s into the 60s.
I was thrilled. I must have spent $3-$4. Each card went into my binder.
It was in that same shop that I bought my first Bowman, a 1955 Art Ditmar. Later I learned about Goudey and bought a 1933 Phil Collins. And then I saved up for my first T206, a George McQuillan.
I remember, for some reason, really wanting a 1933 Goudey Frankie Frisch. I must have called that shop every day for months asking the owner it's price. It was always too much.
A week ago I got a 1934 Goudey Frankie Frisch. I'm still waiting for that 1933.
When trying to find the meaning of 'Puddin-Head' I got several explanations.
One refers to the fact that Willie Jones wasn't the brightest bulb in the box. Another attributes it to a popular song of the 1930s. A third says Jones was hit in the head, not ducking while sliding into second base. A fourth says he actually liked to eat pudding.
So which was it? Anyone out there know?
Jones himself was a pretty good third baseman and two-time All-Star. He was an important part of the 1950 Whiz Kids team. And he had a unique nickname.