Wednesday, August 31, 2011

1981 Fleer and Sports Photo Association Buttons

After reading Night Owl's great post about the Ron Cey button that he had as a kid, it reminded me of the ad for photo buttons that was on the 1981 Fleer Baseball Wrapper:

Even though it isn't listed on the order form, the Ron Cey button certain looks similar in design

to the Reggie Jackson button that is pictured on the wrapper:

Based on the names on the checklist, I decided to see if I could find some other buttons, and guess what I found. Some of the buttons have the exact same picture as the player's 1981 Fleer card:

(Note the Garvey photo appears to be taken in the same location as the Ron Cey photo and in a similar pose kneeling with a bat)

Other pictures were not exact matches, but were certainly taken at the very same time:

I also found some pictures of proof sheets, which also feature similar shots to the 1981 Fleer cards:

(Note - it also looks like they did some buttons for retired Hall of Famers)

From the proof sheets, we can see the name of the company that was producing the buttons - Sports Photo Association.

I'm guessing that since in 1980 Fleer would have needed pictures for their inaugural set that they were putting together for 1981, it would have made sense for them to work with Sports Photo Association to get images for their cards. That would explain why so many of the pictures on the buttons either match, or are almost identical to the 1981 Fleer set.

It would also help explain why there was an ad for the buttons on Fleer's wrappers. Perhaps as part of the arrangement for providing photos, Sports Photo Association wanted a way to promote their buttons and Fleer agreed to include an ad on the wrapper.

As the Ron Cey button shows, not all buttons feature photos that match or are similar to the 1981 Fleer set. For example, here is the Eddie Murray button

In looking for pictures of examples, I sometimes saw these referred to as being from 1978 and other times from 1981. It could be that SPA also made buttons back in 1978, but with so many of the pictures matching up with 1981 Fleer cards, I would have to say that their biggest set was the 1981 release.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

1968 Topps 3D Brooks Robinson Picture Research

The always amazing The Topps Archives has been doing extensive research on the ultra-rare 1968 Topps 3D prototype card of Brooks Robinson. In looking at the photo on the card

I couldn't help but think I'd seen the photo somewhere else. In digging through my files, I found this picture:

Taking a look side by side, I think I've found a match:

Lets zoom in a bit closer and compare (click to enlarge):

The red circle shows that the hands are in the same position, the yellow circle show the elbow in the same position with the exact same lettering and numbering showing behind the arm, and the green circle showing the belt in the same position.

The interesting thing about the photo on the card however, is to give it a 3D look, they've repositioned the crowd behind Brooks:

The group of people sitting together in the red circle are to the right of Brooks in the photo, but are directly above in on the card. The group of people just to the right of his face on the card are much further to his right in the photo.

It appears they took the image of Brooks and moved it to the right and down a bit relative to the background. I'm assuming this was done to create the illusion of depth for the 3D effect.

This picture is available from a few sellers on ebay as seen by the pictures below, so it appears to be a common photo:

It almost looks like a shot that might have appeared in Sport Magazine back in the early 1960's, although I have no idea if that is where it may have originated or not.

In any case, its nice to see one of the original photos used for of the rarest Topps test issues of all time.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A History of Baltimore's Memorial Stadium Scoreboards

There have recently been some great photos that have been auctioned from The Baltimore Sun's archives which show the how Memorial Stadium's scoreboards have changed over the years. Looking through these photos gave me the idea of putting together a pictorial history:

This photo shows the new scoreboard as it looked in May of 1954, as the Orioles began their first season in Baltimore. According to the information on the back of the photo

at the time, this was the largest scoreboard in the world. Gunther Beer (a Baltimore brewery) was the sponsor, which is why the information reads "Gunther presents the world's largest scoreboard to citizens of Baltimore".

This news item also indicates that the board will be the world's largest:

Here is a shot showing how the scoreboard looked out in right field during a day game

and another shot taken at night:

The scoreboard originally had a bottle cap in the top left corner (which read "Whats the Good Word"), which was replaced by a bottle by the late 1950's as seen in these photos:

1959 Orioles Team Photo:

The 1959 NFL Championship Game (from a photo taken by my father in the upper deck):

Here is a closer cropped shot of the scoreboard from that picture:

It appears that for a period of time the message to the left of the bottle read "What A Wonderful Beer", but for another period of time it read "Happiest Hit in Beer"

with the word "hit" possibly used to distinguish a hit from an error.

In 1960, Hamm's Brewing Company bought Gunther Brewing Company, and the scoreboard reflected this change.

This photo from The Baltimore Sun from August 1964 shows the Hamm's advertisement on the scoreboard

which also made it on to this 1965 Topps ERA Leaders card in the background behind Dean Chance:

Thanks to Kevin from Orioles Card "O" the Day for pointing out that the scoreboard also appeared on Russ Synder's 1962 card in his post about the card which includes some great memories of Baltimore.

Here is the original negative for the 1962 card:

Hamm's then sold the Gunther brewery to Schaefer Beer, and the scoreboard advertising changed again in late 1964 as this October 1964 picture from a Colts game against the Packers shows:

Schaefer remained the sponsor on the scoreboard for the remainder of the 1960's

which means Schaefer was the sponsor for the 1966

and 1969 World Series

The Schaefer ad even made a sneaky appearance on Dave McNally's 1967 Topps card:

By 1970, the scoreboard needed to be replaced, and work started in 1970 for a new scoreboard in left field

As the information on the back of the photo indicates, the scoreboard was to make its debut on August 21, 1970.

While work was being done on the new board, the Schaefer ad was covered up with a message reading "Watch for completion of your new scoreboard now under construction in left field" as seen in this photo of Paul Blair from what appears to be Picture Day:

Fortunately, we have another shot from that same day of Merv Rettenmund which shows the new scoreboard:

Here is the one shot I've been able to find of both boards where the new board is still under construction:

With the change in the scoreboard, there came a change in sponsor, as National Beer took over.

An interesting side note is that the Orioles were owned by the President of the National Brewing Company Jerry Hoffberger starting in 1965 when he gained a controlling interest in the team, but another company's beer was prominently advertised on the scoreboard until 1970. I'm guessing that is because Schaefer owned Gunther who sponsored the original scoreboard, and since the city owned the stadium, and not the Orioles, perhaps there was nothing Hoffberger could do until a new scoreboard was built.

This is the scoreboard that would have been seen in the 1970 and 1971 World Series broadcasts from Baltimore:

as well as during Johnny Unitas' last few seasons on the Colts:

The new scoreboard was smaller than the original, and did not have room for things like out of town scores. It was a very bare bones scoreboard, which was mainly the result of cost concerns.

At the time, even though the Orioles had been in 2 World Series in a 4 year period, the club was still struggling to draw fans, so there wasn't a lot of money available for a fancy state of the art scoreboard.

However, in spite of that fact, it is the scoreboard I remember seeing every time I'd go to Memorial Stadium as a kid, and as such, still remains one of my favorite scoreboards as seeing pictures of it instantly takes me back to 33rd Street.

Fortunately, the entire scoreboard made an appearance on the 1973 Topps card of Tom Matchick:

As the 1970's went on, the National Beer sign on the top of the scoreboard changed to National Bohemian (Natty Boh)

This version of the scoreboard snuck into Mark Belanger's 1978 Topps card:

As the 1980's rolled around, Jerry Hoffberger no longer owned the team, and National Bohemian was replaced by Busch Beer:

One bit of interesting irony is that fact that the only Topps card I have found that has a shot of the Busch scoreboard is John Elway's 1984 Topps rookie card:

The irony, as any Baltimore Colts fan will tell you, is that Elway refused to play for the Colts who are the team that drafted him, but were forced to trade him as he threatened to play baseball for the Yankees rather than play for the Colts. Colt fans still wonder what might have been had Elway not maneuvered his way out of Baltimore. Even though he never played for the Colts, his rookie card shows him in Memorial Stadium.

Fortunately, Fleer produced a great shot of the scoreboard in their 1981 Football Team Action set:

In 1985, Memorial Stadium added a Diamond Vision board in right field where the original scoreboard used to be. This allowed fans to see video highlights.

Also interesting to note is that the scoreboard no longer had a beer sponsor, as Toyota now had its name at the top of the scoreboard. Budweiser was a beer sponsor on the Diamond Vision board.

1991 was the last season the Orioles played in Memorial Stadium before moving to Camden Yards,

and in 1992, the Diamond Vision board was removed from the stadium.

When the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore to become the Ravens, they played at Memorial Stadium for 2 seasons (1996 - 1997) and Budweiser was the sponsor on top of the scoreboard:

After the Ravens moved to their new stadium, Memorial Stadium was no longer being used, and fell into disrepair.

Unfortunately, the scoreboard, along with the rest of Memorial Stadium was eventually demolished in 2001.

Even though the scoreboard and the stadium are gone, seeing pictures of the various scoreboards takes me back to a time when the Colts still played in Baltimore, and the Orioles were one of the class organizations in baseball.