Saturday, May 9, 2009

Reggie Jackson - Baltimore Orioles Confidential

Mario's recent Wax Heaven post on the upcoming Ballpark Collection featured a Career Legacy Triple card of Reggie Jackson with a very familiar picture:

Unless I'm mistaken, the picture of Reggie on the A's is simply a tightly cropped shot of this photo that I reviewed back in March after finding it on the Corbis website:

I think its great that a picture that I had never seen before and spotlighted on the blog since I really liked it has turned up on a baseball card. This picture may have been used before on card, but if it has, I don't recall ever seeing it.

However, the reason I wanted to write today's post was based on something Mario said in his review noting the fact that there was no Orioles jersery to go along with the other teams Reggie played for: "Memo to Upper Deck, Reggie Jackson played with the Baltimore Orioles in 1976 and even led the league in slugging."

This comment got me to thinking about the fact that there really are very few pictures of Reggie as an Oriole. Certainly that is due to the fact that he only played for the Orioles for one season, but it is made even worse by the fact that 1) he wasn't traded to the Orioles until right before the beginning of the season on April 2 (and therefore never attended Spring Training with the team when lots of pictures are typically taken), and 2) even after he was traded, he held out for a month before joining the team due to a salary dispute, missing the first month of the season.

Given he never spent a day of Spring Training with the team and missed the first month of the season, its not surprising that you don't see that many photos of Reggie as an Oriole. I've been trying to track down pictures of Reggie from that 1976 season, and here's what I've been able to find:

Probably the most familiar shot of Reggie on the Orioles is his Sports Illustrated cover:

Here is the lesser seen picture that accompanied the SI story:

The other well know picture is from the 1988 Score card:

One of the more famous pictures of Reggie in an Orioles uniform is the card that was never produced - the Topps proof card showing Reggie on the Yankees but still using a picture of him on the Orioles before the Topps airbrush artists doctored up another picture to make Reggie look like a Yankee:

The Renata Galasso Reggie Jackson set also features this photo as well as one other shot on the O's:

Reggie did actually show up in the 1977 Topps set in an Orioles uniform - on the Orioles team checklist (middle row, far right):

The Star Company also featured Reggie on the Orioles on this 3 card panel from their 1985 Reggie Jackson set:

This picture seems to be taken from the same game as the Star card on the right based on the person dressed in white in the dugout:

and these 2 shots appear to be from the same time (but just a different angle) as the picture on the middle card in the panel of Reggie signing autographs at Yankee Stadium:

The final Orioles card is from the Crown Gasoline Orioles set which features a picture of Reggie

that looks like it was taken as the same photo shoot as the picture that was used for the team post card set that year (note the same undershirt in both pictures)

This picture also seems to be from the same photo session:

Here are a few more pictures of Reggie in an Orioles uniform, including Reggie's first home run as an Oriole:

An unused shot from Sports Illustrated that appears to be taken the same time as the picture that made the cover:

Reggie scoring at the plate while Carlton Fisk waits for the throw:

and a few other shots:

Here is a picture from Tiger Stadium of Reggie standing behind Mark Belanger and Lee May as they are warming up:

and another picture of Reggie at bat at Tiger Stadium:

And finally, perhaps my favorite shot - the classic Reggie Jackson corkscrew swing where he completely ends up turned around (which just happens to be against the Yankees):

Reggie only played 134 games for the Orioles due to his holdout, yet still managed to finish 2nd in HRs in the AL with 27. The Orioles finished 2nd that year, 10.5 games behind the Yankees.

Even if Reggie hadn't held out the team likely wouldn't have made up that much ground to catch the Yankees, but when I think back to that season (which is the first season I really started following the Orioles), I wonder how that season might have played out differently had Reggie showed up in Baltimore on day 1 ready to prove Charlie Finley wrong for trading him rather than sitting out a month trying to negotiate a better deal with the Orioles.

Even beyond the 1976 season, I wonder how things might have turned out had the Orioles been able to work out a long term agreement with Reggie. Reggie did not have a contract for the 1976 season which is why he was a free agent at the end of the season.

Apparently Reggie wanted a 3 year deal for $675,000 which the Orioles were not willing to pay as they did not have the revenue stream to support this level of salary (in hindsight this would have been a steal as Reggie ended up signing a 5 year deal with the Yankees at the end of the season for $3 Million).

While they were trying to work out a contract, the Orioles agreed to pay Reggie around $200,000 for the season as he played without a contract. Unfortunately, this caused quite a problem in the Oriole clubhouse as there were a number of players who had not signed contracts for the 1976 season that had been forced to take paycuts. There was a lot of resentment from the other players who were not playing with a contract that season that Reggie was getting a better deal even though he'd never played a game for the team before.

Remember, these were the final days of the Reserve Clause, which meant that essentially a player belonged to a team forever, whether or not there was a signed contract. This would all change at the end of the 1976 season with the first free agent draft. That is why the team was able to force paycuts on players who would not sign a contract - the players had no other option at that time. But this is also exactly why the players who did not have a contract in 1976 didn't want to sign one - they wanted to be in that first free agent class at the end of the season.

With Reggie holding out and the turmoil that was caused by him not joining the team at first, and then the additional problems caused by the Orioles rewarding Jackson with more money than he was making with the A's to get him to show up while at the same time penalizing the other players who would not sign contracts, the 1976 season ended up being a difficult one for the Orioles.

As a kid, I'd wondered why the 1976 Topps Traded set didn't feature a card of Reggie as an Oriole since the traded set seemed to cover the other preseason trades:

In retrospect, given the A's didn't trade Reggie until right before the season started, I guess Topps already had the traded set ready to print before the season started, and didn't have time to add Reggie, or Ken Holtzman, Don Baylor, Mike Torrez, and Paul Mitchell who were also involved in the trade. Looking back, its probably for the best, as at least we don't have a Reggie card with a terrible Orioles cap airbrush job like this:

UPDATE: 2/2011

Speaking of the 1974 design shown directly above, the Dick Allen Hall of Fame site created a great looking custom card of Reggie using the SI Cover shot:

Even though Reggie wasn't an Oriole in 1974, the classic 1974 design which features the Orioles team colors makes for a great looking card. Excellent job! This is something I would love to see from Topps as a Vintage Legends card.

UPDATE: 2/2011

Speaking of Topps, there is a new Reggie Jackson card to add to the list as Reggie appears in an Orioles uniform on an insert card in the 2011 Topps set:

At first glance I thought this was a new shot of Reggie, but it appears to be this picture with some changes made to the crowd in the background:

Friday, May 8, 2009

1988 Fleer Classic Mini Cards & Stickers

1988 marked the 3rd and final year of Fleer's Classic Baseball Miniatures sets:

The team logo sticker designs are the same as the 1986 and 1987 sets, with both the red & white striped border and the yellow stars background designs, but the difference in 1988 is that the parts of the stickers that had been blue in '86 and '87 were replaced with green in '88:

The other difference is that whereas the 1986 and 1987 stickers were blank backed, the 1988 stickers had the same stadium back designs as the regular 1988 stickers:

Once again the boxes contained a complete set of 120 cards, but did not contain a complete set of stickers. With only 18 stickers in the box there was no way to get all 26 teams unless you bought multiple boxes. To make things even more challenging, since there are 2 different sticker designs for each team, that makes a total of 52 different stickers for a full master set.

That would mean at a minimum, you would need to buy 3 boxed sets just to have a shot at the full set of team stickers with both border designs. In reality, it takes many more given the duplication that you inevitably run into.

The cards featured the same design as the regular size Fleer cards, but did feature a different photo, so unlike the 1975 Topps Minis, the Fleer Mini cards are not simply smaller versions of their regular sized counterparts:

As the novelty of mini cards was starting to wear off, Fleer did not produce any more Classic Miniature sets after 1988.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

1988 Fleer Baseball Stickers

The design of the 1988 Fleer Baseball stickers is identical to 1987 except for the color of the border. The front of the 1988's look almost the same as the 1987's except for the fact that the border color changed from blue to green:

The backs of the stickers did change however, as the logo backs from 1987 were replaced with pictures of stadiums in 1988.

Once again, the team logos are featured on a baseball on a trophy stand:

Why 2 Dodgers and 3 Twins stickers? For both the Dodgers and the Twins, there are back variations. The Dodgers can be found with the picture of Dodger Stadium in two different directions (the picture on the top is the more scarce of the two as the picture is upside down and was corrected fairly early in the print run):

The Twins also have a back variation related to the information at the bottom of the sticker. The early printings misidentified the first game played in the Metrodome as taking place in 1922. Fleer caught the error fairly quickly and corrected it to 1982.

The Twins have an additional variation on the front.

Take a close look at the stitching on the ball in the logo.

The stitching changed from black to red as the Twins apparently made this very subtle change in their logo in 1988. The 3 Twins variations therefore are Black Stitching front / Incorrect Opening Day back, Black Stitching front / Correct Opening Day back, and Red Stitching front / Correct Opening Day back (the error was fixed before the logo changed so there is no error back for the Red Stitching logo).

The Pirates also have a logo variation as the logo changed for the 1988 season, but Fleer apparently didn't make the change until after having printed some of the stickers with the older logo. The older logo is the much less common version.

Other than the Dodgers and Twins back variations shown above, the trophy stickers do not have any other back variations. Fortunately, Fleer matched up the backs with the fronts with the trophy stickers so that the team that is pictured on the sticker has their own stadium on the back.

Fleer also repeated the "2 on 1" sticker design with 2 team logos sharing the sticker, along with 4 red and white strips with the team names. Unlike the 1987 set which had no back variations however, the 1988 2 on 1's have many stickers which can be found with 2 different stadiums on the back (a result of the stickers being double printed on the sheet and Fleer not trying to match up the backs to the fronts like they did with the trophy stickers) .

In the pictures below, if a sticker shows up twice, its because it can be found with 2 different stadiums on the back (and usually neither stadium is for the teams pictured on the front). For example, looking at the first row, the Braves/Tigers 2 on 1 only has one back whereas the Orioles/Braves sticker has 2 different stadium backs:

One exception - the White Sox/Twins sticker doesn't have a back variation, but it does have a front variation with the black seams & red seams as discussed above.

Things get real interesting with the Twins/Pirates stickers. Not only do you have the old logo/new logo variations on the front for both teams, there are 2 different stadium backs as well which is why I've got 4 different Twins/Pirates stickers shown above.

More fun with the Pirates. We actually end up with 5 different Pirates/Blue Jays stickers because we've got the old logo and new logo (2 variations) and 2 different stadiums (another 2 variations). So what is the 5th variation - well, one of the stadium backs just happens to be the Metrodome which can be found with and without the 1922 Opening Day error, which is why there are actually 3 versions with the old Pirates logo.

Here is a look at the backs with the stadiums:

Reviewing these sticker backs makes me feel really old - 19 of the 26 teams no longer play in the stadiums pictured above.

The stickers were inserts in 1988 Fleer Baseball packs:

as well as Fleer's Factory set:

and Fleer's 2nd annual glossy "Tin" set:

The stickers can also be found in the 1988 Fleer Update Set

and the 1988 Glossy "Tin" Update set

The stickers also came with Fleer's Baseball Star Stickers which would see its run come to an end with the 1988 release (these had been an annual offering for much of the 1980's) :

The Box Set bonanza was still in full swing in 1988 as there were once again 9 different box sets (the same number as 1987) available through different chains like McCrory's, Eckerds, Toys 'R Us, Walgreens, Revco, 7-11, Ben Franklin, and Cumberland Farms which each came with 6 stickers in addition to the 44 card sets:

What a fun time it was to be a collector! As you can see by the number of Fleer releases in 1988, there were a lot of new releases to track down, but it was still somewhat manageable.