Thursday, January 31, 2008

1969 Fleer Baseball Pennants and Stamps

As we keep rolling along through the late 60's / early 70's Fleer issues, the next oddball item on our list is the 1969 Fleer Baseball Pennants and Stamps:

As with all the Fleer releases from around this time frame, the wrapper has a 1968 copyright, but that date pertains to the copyrights for the logos and not the year the issue was released.

This set is from 1969 given that the Seattle Pilots make an appearance as well as the other 1969 expansion teams such as the Royals, while the Phillies are still sporting their pre-1970 logos (meaning these couldn't have come from 1970). Apparently however, the Expos were not included. The Expos do not appear in any of Fleer's various 1969 releases, but finally appeared in 1970.

Each pack contained a sheet of stamps that would contain a large team pennant, a large team logo, a team cap, and 7 smaller stamps on the right side of the sheet as shown below:

This is the only picture I've seen for these in the form of the complete sheets that you would have found in a pack. It is a very colorful release, and gave kids a number of different team logos on each sheet.

If we assume every team had a pennant (except the Expos), that would mean there would have been 23 different sheets. However, there are also AL & NL pennants, so it looks like there were 25 different sheets.

These were packaged with a quiz card, even though the packs don't mention them. Given the packs would have been very flimsy without something a bit more sturdy like a thin piece of cardboard, Fleer included a quiz card in the pack to provide a solid backing. In case you are wondering what I mean by quiz card, here is an example:

I will be getting to the various quiz cards that Fleer issued in future posts.

At least one kid saved the loose stamps that had been removed from the sheet as one auction had the following loose stamps:

Given that these aren't cards, most kids wouldn't think about saving a complete sheet of stamps - they'd likely remove the stamps and stick them. While plenty of the cloth stickers from around this time still survive today and can be found pretty easily (because even though they were stickers, they were also standard card size and possibly more likely to be treated and saved like cards), this release seems to be somewhat obscure - probably both due to limited demand for this release when it came out (Fleer didn't do a second series), and due to the nature of the release itself (perforated stamps), this is a rarely seen item.

As you can see, Fleer was really trying to get their moneys worth out of their license to use MLB logos. In 1969 alone, so far we've seen 3D trophy plaques, Iron Ons, and now Pennants & Stamps. If Fleer couldn't produce player cards, they were at least trying many different ways to attract some of kids baseball card spending money.

UPDATE 12/2009:

Here is the Pilots Pennant sheet that 1969PilotsFan mentioned in the comments below. Thanks Sean!

UPDATE 4/2010:

I was able to acquire an unopened pack from Fleer collector Barry

and have done a post on opening the pack

which yielded this great sheet:

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Picture Paints A Thousand Words

Keeping with the theme on baseball photographs, I wanted to share a photo I came across that started me thinking about a number of different things today - uniforms, bullpen cars and the Orioles near miss at a joining the ranks of being considered a dynasty.

According to the dateline on the photo, this was taken in October during the 1971 World Series. The rotation of Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar, and Pat Dobson was the last staff to have 4 - 20 game winners in the same season. As the caption mentions, they won 81 games between the four of them (21 for McNally & 20 for each of the other 3). In 2007, only 1 pitcher won 20 games (Josh Beckett) - yet this team had 4 all to itself!

And this is the really amazing stat in light of how pitchers are used today - they pitched 70 complete games! 70 games or almost half the season without a pitching change! WOW!

Here are the stats from the 1971 team:

I won't get into how pitching has completely changed since then with pitch counts and the change in the role of relief pitcher from Fireman (who used to come in to the game only in an emergency)

to the Closer who now comes in to seal the deal.

I realize we are talking different eras, but complete games for 70 out their 81 victories strikes me as amazing!

Anyway, back to what this picture brought to mind:

1. Uniforms. Unfortunately there is an image so frightening that has been previously burned into my brain that I have tried to repress, but the picture above made me cringe as I could not help but remember this:

Thats right folks. The last set of 4 20 game winners also has the distinction of being photographed in what some people feel is the biggest baseball uniform blunder of all time. This is always the picture that gets used when people talk about the horrible all orange uniform experiment since apparently all the other evidence of this ill advised uniform combination has been destroyed.

However - I was able to find a bit of information on the uniform from Uniwatch in a post about uniforms that only made it onto the field once. Apparently these were worn twice - once in Baltimore, and once on the road in Cleveland.

Uniwatch posted this information from Bill Henderson, who has published an incredible amount of research on uniforms in his book An Illustrated Guide to MLB Jersey Styles and Lettering: The Double Knit Era Collectors' Reference (1970-2005).

This is only other photograph I've been able to find of the fabled Orange Alternates from 1971. Note the 2 Hall of Famers Brooks & Frank Robinson in their orange duds. Apparently Brooks Robinson owned the company that provided these uniforms to the Orioles.

Finally, we have this from Dressed to the Nines, which is the Baseball Hall of Fame site that has a uniform database that you can search by team and by year. Here are the Orioles uniforms for 1971:

The Orioles would bring back the Orange jersey in 1975, but thankfully the Orange pants have never made a return.

2. Bullpen car. You really don't see too many pictures with the bullpen car, which is why this picture first caught my eye. These were a passing fad in MLB which reached its peak in the 1970s but died out by the mid 1980s. I thought it was great to see a picture of the Orioles bullpen car. I had a plastic one when I was a kid, but never saw the real thing, so it was fun to see what it looked like.

Paul Lukas who runs the Uniwatch blog also writes for ESPN, and wrote an interesting article on the history of the bullpen car. Click the link to the article as it is an interesting read with some good pictures.

3. The Orioles Near Miss at being considered one of the All Time Great Teams. When you hear discussions of the great Baseball Dynasties, the 1969-1971 Orioles usually end up on the honorable mention list. They just didn't quite get the job done to cash it in every time they had the chance. Sometimes the 1966 World Champion team will be included to discuss the 1966-1971 Orioles, and you could even make a case for looking at the team from 1966-1974 as they won the AL East in 1973 & 1974 as well.

Unfortunately for the Orioles, the 1972-1974 A's came right after them winning 3 World Series in a row, followed by the Big Red Machine's back to back titles in 1975 & 1976, and then the Yankees back to back titles in 1977 & 1978. With a long run of repeat winners, the Orioles got lost in the mix given they were only 1 for 3. The Orioles made it back to the Series in 1979, but lost AGAIN IN 7 GAMES to the Pirates.

When I see the picture of the 4 20 game winners, I first remember what an amazing feat they accomplished, but then I start to think about the one game they couldn't win. That one game isn't any specific game or any specific play, just any one of the 4 that they lost to the Pirates back in 1971.

Would history remember these Orioles teams from this period any differently had they won back to back Series in 1970 & 1971? I tend to think it would. The team finished 109-53 in 1969, 108-54 in 1970, and 101-57 in 1971 for a 3 year total of 318-164, or a .660 winning percentage. Not many teams can claim a 3 year run of 100+ win seasons. The Orioles also won the first three ALCS's by a total of 9 games to 0, sweeping the Twins in 1969 and 1970, and the A's in 1971. The completely dominated the AL.

In the World Series, as much as the Orioles were favored against the Mets in 1969, something was going on with the sports gods as the Jets upset the Colts in January 1969, so was it any surprise that the Orioles ultimately suffered the same fate against the Mets 10 months later? I can chalk that loss up to fate being on the side of the Mets, and don't play any "what if" games in my mind wondering if the Orioles could have won that Series.

The 1970 Series was as good as it gets for O's fans. Beating the Big Red Machine (who were just a Joe Morgan away from hitting on all cylinders) in 5 games with Brooks Robinson taking center stage was fantastic, and showed how great the Orioles could play defense, score runs, and pitch. They had the total package.

It was essentially this same team that took on the Pirates the next year, which is why it is so frustrating to see them come so close to back to back titles and fall one game short.

The Orioles jumped out to a 2 games to none lead after winning the first game 5-3 and the second game 11-3. The Pirates then came back to win the next 3 by scores of 5-1, 4-3, and 4-0, including the first night game ever for a World Series.

Game 6 was a nail biter, and was won in the bottom of 10th inning by the Orioles by a score of 3-2 as Frank Robinson beat the throw on a sac fly from Brooks Robinson to score in a picture immortalized on this card:

For the record, I think World Series cards are awesome, and should be mandated by law to be in the following year's base set every year, with one card dedicated to a key play from that game.

Moving on to Game 7, the Orioles ultimately fell short to the Pirates 2-1.

As a result, the Orioles were 1-2 in their 3 consecutive World Series appearances. Had the Orioles prevailed in any one of those 4 games they lost to the Pirates, they would have had back to back titles as well as a run of 3 titles in a 6 year run. Not as impressive as the A's 3 in a row which would follow, but still a very impressive run, and one that would get them much more recognition as a truly great team.

That is why when I look at the picture of the 4 20 game winners, I can't help but wish that between the four of them, they could have earned just one more victory in 1971.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Baseball Photography

I've been reading Steve's posts at White Sox Cards regarding the great photography that was used in the 1991 & 1992 Topps sets and the 1993 Upper Deck set. As his reviews of the photographs used for these sets shows, the base sets used to matter.

Before card collecting became a legalized lottery with all of the focus on inserts, one of the ways the card companies tried to compete was to make cards that collectors would actually enjoy looking at. The sets that Steve has picked out to showcase are great examples of where the sets really stand apart due to the extra care that seems to have been used in selecting the pictures to go on the cards.

Go take a look at the cards that Steve has posted, then take a look at your 2007 Topps cards. No comparison. I just looked through a handful of 2007 Topps, and they all look about the same to me. Closely cropped action shots of a pitcher throwing or a batter swinging.

See what I mean:

Its almost like they set up a photographer in two or three spots, and they shoot all the pictures from about the same location so the action shots all end up starting to look the same. There is nothing unique about any of these photos. Other than the card showing the Marlins dugout in the background, I can't tell where any of these pictures were taken.

I enjoy action shots, but I'd like to see more variety in the photos, and some more interesting candids of players doing things other than batting or pitching. Maybe something along the lines of the photos I've come across on a great website dedicated to baseball photos, a few of which I'm showing below.

I was eventually going to get around to posting a link to this site, but given how well it fits the topic, now seems like a great time to share this link.

If you want to see some fantastic baseball photos, generally dating from the late 1960s through the early 1980s, then you need to check out Steve's Baseball Photography Pages.

Just to clarify, this is not the same Steve from White Sox Cards.

Let me share some examples of these great photos using some of my regular readers favorite teams:

For Steve at White Sox Cards:

For Kevin At Orioles Card "O" The Day:

And from when the O's used to be really good:

For David at Cardboard Junkie:

For Blake at

And finally, just an awesome picture that anyone who loves baseball should enjoy - Nolan Ryan v. Reggie Jackson back when Nolan was throwing no hitters for the Angels and Reggie was winning World Series and an MVP with the A's.

It doesn't get any better than this!

Steve has these pictures and over a thousand others for sale either through his site, or listed on ebay. If you are wondering about the "thatsmyboy03" watermarks, that is Steve's ebay ID, so you can use that ID to look him up and see what he has for sale. I bought the Jim Palmer picture shown above, and it looks great. The quality of the prints is fantastic.

Steve updates his home page every few days with new pictures, so make a point of checking his page every so often. You'll never know what great photos you'll see.

In recognition of these amazing baseball photos, I've added Steve's site to my list of favorite links.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

1970 Fleer Baseball Iron Ons

As promised, its on to the second series of Iron Ons that Fleer produced in 1970.

Since the Seattle Pilots again make an appearance, I would think these would have to have been released early in the year, perhaps around the time of Opening Day. Then again, given that Topps made no effort to try to correct the fact that the Pilots had moved just days before the 1970 season started, maybe these came out later in the summer and Fleer just pretended the team was still the Pilots since thats what Topps did with the 1970 set.

There is no mention of the Brewers in the 1970 set even though the team moved before at least the last few series would have been issued. One of the last cards in the final series is the Pilots team card (#713):

I'm pretty sure the 7th Series didn't get released before Opening Day. Way to be on TOPPS of things.

Maybe Topps got a lot of grief for not bothering to change the name to Pilots after the team had already moved so they did this a few years later:

Whoops, our bad! The team didn't move after all.

Getting back to the Iron Ons, once again, the series consisted of 16 strips with 3 iron ons each, a card with the instructions for applying the iron on, and a stick of gum.

The Wrapper has the Orioles, Mets and Cubs logos on the front, and has a 1968 (C) on the back. That is why these Iron Ons (as with the 1969 set as well) are often thought to be from 1968. The 1968 (C) is when the logos were copyrighted, not when the iron ons were issued. The fact that the 2 teams from the previous year's World Series are on the front is another indication that this is most likely a set from 1970.

Boxes contained 24 packs for a nickel a piece:

Many of the logos changed from the earlier series. You can check the post on the 1969 Iron Ons to check out the differences.

To better see the iron ons, I've reversed the images below (since these are iron ons, the iron on itself has the image backwards so it will look correct when applied to a surface).

Major differences include:

An orange circle around the Orioles logo instead of black, blue star & orange lines for Astros (revered from previous year):

Black stitching on the baseball in the Twins logo instead of red, white diamond around Angels logo instead of green, orange baseball in Giants logo instead of white, new Phillies lettering, white brim under Yankees hat instead of blue:

Blue square background for Braves logo instead of white circle, Indian's feather now on the left instead of the right:

The A's have a white baseball instead of green, the Pirates now have a yellow background, the Phillies have a new logo (which they didn't wear until 1970), the Cubs get a team name (missing from 1969), and the Expos finally show up (absent from the 1969 set):

The Tigers logo is different:

The White Sox team name is now vertical instead of horizontal, and the Cardinal logo does not have a baseball background:

There are a number of other more subtle differences as well. For those of you who are following along, keep these variations in mind as you may recognize many of them later as they will pop up again soon in other sets I'll be covering.

This series seems to be more easily found than the 1969 series. You can almost always find a pack of these being auctioned on ebay, and its not unusual to see unopened boxes as well.

If anyone has a memory of buying these as a kid and having them ironed on to something, I'd like to hear your story.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Here's Another Clue For You All....

I have an update to my earlier post regarding the mysterious disappearance of the Astros logo from certain late 1960's Fleer sets and the missing team name from Topps cards around the same time, but here is another twist, courtesy of the 1966 Topps Rub Off set:

Wait, something looks odd, but I can't put my finger on it. Since the image is reversed (so it will show up correctly when rubbed off), lets reverse the picture to get a better look:

Hey -this is an Astros logo I've never seen before! What happened to the Astrodome?

If you are not familiar with the 1966 Rub Off set, it was an insert in packs of 1966 Topps Baseball cards featuring players as well as team pennants, as seen on some of these uncut strips:

The team pennants are nearly identical to the pennants on the 1965 Topps Baseball cards, and carry the same team logos that were used that year - except of course the Astros:

As I covered in my earlier post, the Astros unveiled their new insignia in December 1964 shortly after the team changed its name from the Colt .45s as seen from this newspaper article:

This would have given Topps over a year to acquire the artwork for the logo to include in the 1966 Rub Off set.

Either Topps didn't bother trying to get the logo, or else they didn't have permission to use it. In either case, it looks like Topps just decided to create their own version.

Whats interesting is that the Astros logo shows up in the 1966 Baseball set as you can see with Joe Gaines' shoulder patch:

I'm guessing the improvised logo was more a result of Topps getting to the final stages of putting together the Rub Off set thinking that had all the artwork necessary to do the pennants ("we'll just use those logos we put on the 1965 cards"), and then realizing that the Astros didn't have a logo from that set. Otherwise, if it was an issue over having permission to use the logo, I don't think Topps would have been using pictures in its card set with Astros players clearly wearing the logo.

Yet another odd twist to the Astros mystery, and a very unique (and never seen again) logo!