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".


Johngy said...

Fascinating! Thanks!

PunkRockPaint said...


Troy Kirk said...

Nice to see that video! I noticed that Frank Slocum was the writer for the show. He's the same guy who wrote the great book "Classic Baseball Cards." That book showed color pictures of thousands of vintage baseball cards.

gcrl said...

sweet. rick rhoden looks like he had some skills.

toppcat said...

Great post-I have circle linked from my side as well so hopefully a few more folks can enjoy this.

Jim from Downingtown said...

Glad to see that Johnny Oates found something to do with himself during 1976, since he didn't play much.