Friday, April 2, 2010

1st Issue of Bob Laughlin's Inside Pitch from The Troy Files

Fleer Sticker Project contributor Troy sent one final item related to Bob (R G) Laughlin - Bob's initial issue of his hobby newsletter called "Inside Pitch" from September 1975 (click on the pictures to see a larger version of the newsletter):

I am very glad Troy sent me this copy of the newsletter as it provides confirmation of which year each Fleer baseball card set was released. Since Fleer did not put dates on their cards that came with their annual cloth patch releases, there has been some confusion as to what year certain sets date from.

While Bob's World Series sets from 1970 and 1971 are dated correctly, some of the other sets are not, either in the price guides or consequently by the grading services. Based on Bob's comments in this article however, we can confirm the following dates for each of these sets that Bob produced for Fleer:

1970: Fleer World Series

1971: Fleer World Series

1972: No Fleer set using Bob's work. They issued Quiz cards instead.

As we saw in the previous post, in 1972 Bob produced a set called Great Feats of Baseball that he released on his own

since Fleer decided not to release it based on Topps releasing its Greatest Moments test set in late 1971.

1973: Fleer Famous Feats

This set is often misidentified as being from 1972 in price guides and through grading services as seen with this graded card:

1974: Fleer Wildest Days and Plays

This set is also misidentified in price guides and by grading services as being from 1973:

Just for good measure, here is an ad from Bob in the May 1974 issue of The Trader Speaks advertising his new set for 1974, confirming in fact that the Wildest Days and Plays is from 1974 and that the 1973 set was the Famous Feats set:

1975: Fleer Pioneers of Baseball

1976: Fleer Baseball Firsts

The price guides and the grading services incorrectly identify this set as being from 1974

when in fact we have the confirmation from the artist himself that the set was going to be released in 1976, along with Fleer's directives on how the set should be laid out.

Its interesting that Fleer referred to these cards as "bottom boards" in their letter to Bob. I think that gives some insight as to why the cards were never mentioned on the packs or the boxes of Fleer's annual cloth patch sticker sets from 1969 through 1976 (the 1970/1971 World Series cards were separate sets from the cloth patch releases).

The one exception is the 1976 Baseball Patches box where a picture of one of the cards is shown (see the top left corner):

The cards were included in the packs to give the pack some solid backing since a pack just containing cloth stickers and gum would be somewhat flimsy. So it seems like Fleer thought of these as much as kind of a backing board as they did them being a collectible card set.

The other interesting information from the article is how Bob describes the mood at Fleer at this time in their history. Fleer has just filed its antitrust lawsuit against Topps earlier in the year.

According to this court document:

"Fleer's president, Donald Peck, met with Joel Shorin on April 17, 1975, and threatened suit unless Topps granted Fleer the rights to sell player pictures on stickers, stamps, and decals. Shorin refused and Fleer approached the MLBPA about joining in its suit against Topps. The Association declined and Fleer filed a complaint in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania naming the MLBPA as a co-conspirator with Topps in a suit for violation of sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act."

Bob indicates that Fleer is "super-sensitive and doesn't even want to list, on the copy side of the cards, any active players (who are under card contracts to Topps)." As Bob points out, it would not seem that just mentioning a player's name when listing statistical information on the back of a card would be a reason for litigation, but the Fleer director told him "Topps is just looking for a way to get back at us."

It would take 5 years, but ultimately Fleer would be successful in their case against Topps, which allowed them to finally get back into the baseball card business in 1981. Stay tuned for the next installment of The Troy Files as we take a look at how the hobby publications covered some of Fleer's releases during that time that Fleer was battling Topps in court during the late 1970's.

As always, thanks to Troy for another great item from his files!


Matthew Glidden said...

Great job, love all the extra details.

One question comes to mind--does this confirmation for 1970 and 1971 World Series sets change anything about Laughlin's self-published issue? Still 1968/69?

Fleerfan said...

Laughlin's self published World Series B&W set dates from 1967, and possibly into 1968 as he released it a few cards at a time during 1967, and was able to include the 1967 World Series either at the end of 1967 or early 1968.

Keith E. Rhodes said...

Keith Rhodes
Can anyone verify when the 2nd printing of Laughlin's 67'set was produced? It's on thinner card stock w/no address.I have heard in 74'by Fleer? Help!!!

Marty said...

Hi Keith!

Bob did do a second printing of his B&W World Series set, and 1974 sounds about right. Fleer was not involved in the printing of his self issued sets, like this one. As you mention the later printing does not have the address, and is thinner than the original printing, although the original printing was on very thin paper stock - so thin that Bob eneded up gluing two sheets together to get the desired thickness. Every once in a while you will see folks selling 67 cards with glue residue on the front or back, the result of the two layers separating. Happy collecting!