Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Story Behind One of the Most Oddball Cards of All Time - the 1976 Topps Bubble Gum Blowing Champ Card

Thanks to the magic of YouTube, we now have the video to go with one of the more interesting oddball baseball cards of all time - the 1976 Topps card featuring the 1975 Joe Garagiola / Bazooka Bubble Blowing Champ Kurt Bevacqua:

Anyone who has collected the 1976 Topps set or just enjoys oddball cards has probably seen this card before. The back of the card is just as odd as the front:

A card with brackets is definitely something you don't see every day!

The Bubble Blowing Championship was broadcast on "The Baseball World of Joe Garagiola"

which was the pregame show to Game 3 of the 1975 World Series:

The item you see behind the graphics is a fishbowl full of Bazooka Bubble Gum:

The show starts off with Joe introducing American League Champ Kurt Bevacqua and National League Champ Johnny Oates as they are digging into the bowl to get their gum:

Before the Championship gets started, Joe talks about the competition leading up to the big event, and we get to see some footage from a few players

including Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter

Bill Buckner

Tim McCarver, who talks about knowing the gum is ready when its "bubbleable":

and Andy Messersmith, who Joe says was a "one of the legends of bubble blowing". Andy talks about having a 10 year run where he was undefeated, and that he decided he would retire once he lost. He mentions having been defeated the previous season by Steve Yeager, which is when he knew it was time to hang it up.

After a commercial break, we're back to the Championship, with Kurt, Johnny, Joe and National League Umpire Dick Stello who will do the official measuring:

In the background, we see some uncut sheets of 1975 Topps cards as well as a full uncut sheet of the Joe Garagiola card that Topps made for Joe to use as business cards:

Joe makes a reference to this being at a National League Park and that Johnny Oates will go last, so presumably this was done at Riverfront Stadium before the start of Game 3 of the World Series.

Kurt goes first

and then Johnny

They both get three tries, and Kurt ends up being the winner. As a result, Kurt wins $1,000 for himself and an additional $1,000 for his favorite charity, and Johnny gets $500 for himself and $500 for charity.

Topps President Joel Shorin presents checks to each of the players after the competition:

Thanks to the great Topps Archive site with Dave's post on this classic card, we've got a copy of the rules (click to enlarge):

One of the more odd items in the rules is that for the judging during the preliminary team and league championship rounds, the measuring and judging could be done by an umpire or a clergyman.

In addition to the cash prize, one of the awards for both the AL and NL Champions is a giant sized baseball card of themselves. In this shot, you can see Johnny Oates' giant card behind Kurt:

This set of rules appears to be what Joe is holding in his hand in the picture below as at the beginning of the competition Joe reads some of the rules

The other interesting thing to note in this picture is that Kurt isn't wearing any shoes. We never see Johnny's feet, so I don't know if he was barefoot as well.

At the very end, we see Kurt out of uniform, and looking very 1975-ish as he stands with Joe as they talk about the competition:

You can enjoy the entire proceedings here in Part 1

and Part 2:

The great thing in watching these clips is how serious everyone is taking this competition. As Paul Harvey would say, "Now you know the rest of the story".

Sunday, June 27, 2010

1986 Topps & OPC Box Bottom Cards / Panels

Using the same approach as they did for their 1985 Football box bottom cards, Topps issued 4 different panels of 4 cards each on the bottom of their 1986 Baseball boxes. And just like the 1985 Football cards, the cards on the bottom of the boxes replaced the regular black borders with red to help differentiate the cards:

The backs look just like the regular issue, except for the fact that the cards are "numbered" A through P:

Even though Topps did not publish a checklist on the back of some of the cards like Fleer, they did let collectors know which players were available on the back panel of the box:

Topps' strategy of multiple box panels worked well on me as I remember buying multiple boxes

and checking the bottoms of each one to make sure I completed the set.

OPC issued a similar set with the same design, with the only difference being the O-Pee-Chee name on the front of the cards:

and the English / French backs with the OPC logo:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

1986 Fleer Box Bottom Panels

Fleer jumped on the cards on the bottom of the box bandwagon in 1986 by issuing 2 different panels on the bottom of their 1986 wax boxes:

Just as Donruss had put a small version of their insert puzzle on the panel, Fleer used one of the spaces on each panel to feature their insert specialty - team logos. In this case, Fleer featured the previous season's World Champion Kansas City Royals and NL Champion St. Louis Cardinals logos, although they did not note these achievements.

The logo cards served as checklists, although it appears that someone had trouble counting:

Both checklists mention this is a 6 Card "Limited Edition", and then proceed to list 8 cards. Presumably the logo cards must not be worthy enough to be considered "Limited". The cards are numbered C1 - C8.

Here is a look at the front of the 1986 Fleer Wax Box:

Also following Donruss' lead, Fleer expanded the box bottom card idea to another product that year as well - their 1986 Star Sticker Wax Box:

All Star Sticker boxes have the same panel, which has 3 cards which use the 1986 Fleer Star Sticker design along with a logo card for the 1985 NL West Champion Dodgers:

Fleer used a different numbering system for the Star Sticker box cards, as they are numbered S1 - S4

In this case, the Dodgers logo card IS considered one of the Limited Edition cards since the checklist reads "4 Card Limited Edition". Nice job of inconsistency!

UPDATE 2/2012:

It looks like Fleer also included cards on the bottom of the 1986 Fleer Baseball's Best Sluggers vs. Pitchers display box:

Here is a slightly larger shot of the panel:

This box would have contained 24 of the Sluggers vs. Pitchers sets:

Monday, June 7, 2010

1986 Donruss Box Bottom Panels

Getting back to our look at the trend that Donruss started in 1985 with putting cards on the bottom of their wax boxes, Donruss continued the practice in 1986:

Once again Donruss created a card of the completed puzzle that was used as the insert in 1986 Donruss packs with this year's puzzle featuring Hank Aaron.

The numbering on the cards actually picks up from where the 1985 set left off (PC1 - PC3) as the 1986 box features cards PC4 - PC6

with the puzzle card being unnumbered (because Donruss wanted kids to "carefully cut along the lines to form your special Hank Aaron puzzle").

Apparently Donruss thought Kirk Gibson and Doug DeCinces were the key stars of the day since not only were they on the box bottom, they were also on the box top:

All Donruss Baseball boxes featured the same 4 cards.

However.... not being content to just put cards on the bottom of their base brand, Donruss extended the box bottom card idea to their other major offering that year - the 1986 Donruss All Stars / Pop Up set:

These boxes feature a different set of cards on the bottom (although they once again feature the Hank Aaron puzzle)

and they continue the numbering system with cards PC7 - PC9:

One thing I find interesting about these panels is the player selection. You would think that either Don Mattingly or Daryl Strawberry would have shown up on one of the panels as those were two of the players that were driving the card market around this time (until everyone starting going crazy looking for 1986 Donruss Jose Canseco rookies shortly after these cards were issued).