November 29, 2011

Vintage autographs on first National Sports Collectors Convention poster

Click on poster to enlarge

The first National Sports Collectors Convention was held 31 years ago in Los Angeles, starting August 28, 1980. It was the brainchild of promoters Gavin Riley, Mike Berkus and Steve Brunner and is still the major hobby event. Berkus and John Broggi are now running the event.

At the initial National, dealers were invited to sign a poster that was used to promote the event. A copy was included in the October, 1980 issue of Baseball Hobby News and appears at the top of this page. The signatures are an interesting mixture of notable hobby people, plus many long forgotten, and several who are deceased. The bulk of those who signed were west coast dealers, since it was not yet a truly national event.

Here is a list of those who signed the poster. There were a few names we could not read and somebody signed "Jackie Robinson" and "Babe Ruth".

Jim Beckett, Frank Nagy, Bill Goepner, Patty Johnson, Jerry Johnson, William Mastro, Vivian Barning, Frank Barning, Bill Wesslund, Frank Jazzo, Clay Pasternack, Michael Jennings, Eddie Gold, Audre Gold, Tony Galovich, Bill Heitman, Miles Locke, Barrie Sullivan, Tom Reid, Robert Lifson, Arthur Magnon, Bob Wilke, Jim Sherbourne, George Callahan, Lew Lipset, Mendal Mearkle, Randy Archer.

Stanley Marks, Gervais Ford, Ray Medeiros, Ginger Lilonati, Ruth Vazquez, Jim Horne, Norman W. Shrader, Mary Shrader, Jeff Colton, Drew Skarupa, Barry E. Mathews, William W. Bossert, Elsa Holland, Damaso Vazquez, Marty Ballistreri, Carol Toerpe, Lloyd Toerpe, Joe Pagan, Wes Schleiger, Dixie Schleiger, Philip Stommen, Rosemary Brunner, Kris Herzog, Larry Gladstone, Barbra Riley.

November 25, 2011

My Topps card fantasy; after a long wait a dream comes true

Click on card enlarge


Sometime in the middle of 1951, I became a baseball fan and a card collector. I had just turned 10-years of age. It wasn't long before I started to fantasize about being on a Topps or Bowman card.

By 1956, Bowman was no longer producing baseball cards but the dream lived on. Someday, I would be on a Topps card. By my junior year in high school, the fantasy came to a crashing halt. After a solid season on the junior varsity baseball team as a sophomore, reality hit the next year when I spent the season between the JV team and the varsity.

My varsity baseball "career" at Division Avenue High School in Levittown, New York consisted of two at bats and relegation to right field in blow-out games. I had no complaints with our coach, Mr. DiMaggio, because the two guys who played my real position, first base, were way ahead of me as far as talent was concerned. So, I retired prior to my senior year.

As a result, my baseball-card dream (aka illusion) was tucked away in the attic in my fertile mind, replaced by other fantasies, one of which included the actress Natalie Wood.

In 1974, once again I began to collect baseball cards, recovering the early Topps and Bowmans of my youth, as a starting point. In 1979, Vivian and I produced the first issue of "Baseball Hobby News", the beginning of a nearly 15-year run. We conversed on a regular basis with the people at Topps and became friends with the company's Sy Berger, widely acknowledged as the "father of the modern baseball card."

In the spring of 1992, the public relations man at Topps, Norman Liss, called to invite me to appear on a card using the format of that year's issue. Other people who had some influence in the hobby, Jim Beckett of price-guide fame among them, were also to be included. Bob Costas would also have a card. Photos would be taken at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Atlanta that summer and each of us would be given something like 100 copies of the card.

So, I was finally going to have the Topps fantasy conjured up some 40 or so years before. How great was that. Sure, the card would not be part of the 1992 set, but who could complain?

In Atlanta, we were ushered into a room which was set up for a professional photo shoot, bright lights and all. There was a table with uniform shirts and caps of various sizes, all Atlanta Braves. There was no team choice, it was explained, because we were in Atlanta. Okay, so I couldn't be a Brooklyn Dodger, but who was complaining? I would finally be on a Topps baseball card.

Participants were asked to provide information for the back of the cards. There were seven questions, including your favorite Topps card. Mine is the 1954 Gil Hodges. About a month later, the cards arrived at Baseball Hobby News. They were nicely done, great color and on Topps stock. Here was my fantasy realized, finally.

In that fantasy, I would look like a power-hitting stud, in the image of a Hodges, Eddie Mathews, Ted Kluszewski, or even my friend Tom Henningsen's favorite player, Hank Sauer. But that was not the reality of the card.

I was 50-years old at the time, not a studly age. Attired in a sparkling white Braves home jersey, with the classic tomahawk across the front, I looked more like Atlanta manager Bobby Cox than Willie, Mickey or the Duke. Cox is 13 months older than I am. That image was not in my fantasy.

November 23, 2011

Players who have the same first or last name as U.S. cities


Daryl Boston
Reggie Cleveland
Claudell Washington
Mike Lincoln
Denver Lemaster
Dallas Green
Austin Kearns
Tyler Houston
Jeff Montgomery
Reggie Jackson
Dick Selma
Orlando Hudson
Madison Bumgarner
Reno Bertoia
Jose Mesa
Jim Scranton
Dave Philley
John Mayberry (fictional)

November 21, 2011

How did we come up with the title, "Barnstorming"? Woodstock's co-creator provided the idea in the late 1950s.

The 1958 Division Avenue High School junior varsity baseball team. Artie Kornfeld is the middle player in the back row. Frank Barning is at the right of the bottom row.

Click on photo to enlarge


Approximately 55 years ago while I was in high school, my friend and three-sport teammate Artie Kornfeld offered me a suggestion.

"Frank, someday you will be a famous sports columnist and you will need a name for your column. My suggestion is Barnstorming. It goes with your name and it has a sporty flavor." Such optimism is difficult to forget.

About two years later, I began writing a sports column for the Hofstra Chronicle (Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY). My sports editor told me that I needed a name for my column. And out of nowhere, the suggestion from Artie Kornfeld popped into my mind.

"Barnstorming" has been used in several forms over the years. After Hofstra, my wife Vivian and I opened a part-time baseball card business in the mid-1970s, which we dubbed "Barnstorming Enterprises." In 1979, the two of us began publishing "Baseball Hobby News", which was in business until 1993. My BHN column, of course, was "Barnstorming".

When I began this blog. I had searched my mind for a name and, bang, "Barnstorming with Frank Barning". Artie Kornfeld could see the future. I do not exaggerate.

According to Wikipedia; "Kornfeld is the son of a New York City policeman and his wife (Irving & Shirley). Brought up in the early 50s in Levittown, NY, Kornfeld's family constantly moved and he attended six different schools, learning the lessons of the world through the song lyrics played over the radio. Artie Kornfeld would soon live his American dream and become the guiding force to what is now known as "The Woodstock Generation".

"Co-creator and sole promoter of Woodstock 1969, Artie Kornfeld was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1942. The man who would later be deemed "The Father of Woodstock" would go on to become one of the most respected composers, publishers, producers, managers, and promoters in the history of rock and roll."
He produced The Cowsills and wrote their huge hit, "The Rain, The Park and Other Things." Artie co-wrote "Dead Man's Curve" with Brian Wilson (Beach Boys), Roger Christian and Jan Berry, which was a 1964 mega hit recorded by Berry's group, Jan & Dean.

To learn more about Artie, do a Google search. You will be amazed by the man who saw the future for himself and a friend at Division Avenue High School.

November 19, 2011


A man walks into a bar wearing a Minnesota Vikings jersey and carrying a little dog that also has a Vikings jersey on with a little Vikings helmet too. The guy says to the bartender, "Can my dog and I watch the Minnesota game here? My TV at home broke and my dog and I want to see the game."

The bartender replies, "Normally, dogs in the bar would not be allowed, but it is not terribly busy in here, so you and the dog can have a seat at the end of the bar. But, if there is any trouble with you or the dog, I'll have to ask you to leave." The guy agrees and he and his dog start watching the game.

Pretty soon the Vikings kick a field goal and the little dog jumps on the bar and walks down the bar and gives everyone a high five.

The bartender says, "Hey, that's cool! What does he do for a touchdown?" The man answers, "I don't know, I've only had him for three years."

November 16, 2011

The air-brushed action photo on the 1956 Topps Dave Pope card leads to some interesting baseball history


While putting together my 1956 Topps baseball card set in the mid-1970s, I noticed an oddity on No. 154. The card was of Baltimore Orioles outfielder Dave Pope.

The 1956 Topps typically had two images, usually a head shot and also an action or posed photo of the player. The action shot of Pope was what caught my attention. I vividly recalled the photo. It was from the 1954 World Series when he played for the Cleveland Indians against the New York Giants.

Topps, in those days, often airbrushed uniforms and caps of players who had been traded to update the information. In the action shot of Pope, the Cleveland on the front of his uniform had been removed and no team name appears. It is also of note that Pope appears to have a ball in his glove, which wasn't the reality of the play.

The photo was memorable because Pope's leap was at the right-field wall at the Polo Grounds as he made a desperate attempt to catch what became one of the most memorable home runs in baseball history. The batter was pinch hitter Dusty Rhodes whose 10th inning"blast" off future Hall of Famer Bob Lemon went all of 260 feet and gave the Giants a 5-2 victory in the first game of the World Series. It was referred to, at the time, as a "Chinese Home Run."

That game lives in history not only for Rhodes' game winner but also because of the most famous catch in baseball history, the one you have seen numerous times. Yes, Willie Mays' over-the-shoulder grab of a Vic Wertz blast, which was far longer than the historic pop up Rhodes hit.

Pope, who also played in the Negro League, died on August 28, 1999 in Cleveland at age 78. His career began with the Homestead Greys in 1946. He did not break into the majors until 1952 when he was 31 years old. Rhodes had pinch hit for Negro League legend Monte Irvin, who went on to become a Hall of Famer.

Incidentally, the action photo on the 1956 Topps Hank Aaron, No. 31, is really Willie Mays who had a Milwaukee Braves logo airbrushed on his cap.

November 14, 2011

Part 2 - THE MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION: A collector who relates everything to baseball memorabilia

See previous post for part 1.


Tuesday morning arrived, and I found myself sitting in Dr. Young's office, forcing myself to read the latest issue of Newsweek and trying not to stare at the Sports Illustrated with Dwight Gooden on the cover. This wasn’t going to be easy.

"Dr. Young will see you now," said a perky receptionist who was a dead ringer for the Orioles' ball girl. I strode through the door into his office.

"Come in, come in. It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Fosman. May I call you Mike?" A professorial fellow with a pipe and goatee extended his hand, and then gestured to the couch. "Have a seat. I'm sure our session will be productive. Dr. Weimeraner has told me all about you!" He picked up a pad and leaned back in his wing chair.

"I don't know where to start. It's all so confusing!"

"Mike, obsessions can be very harmful in the long run, not just to you and your health, but to those around you as well. I want you to be completely open and honest with me." I nodded somberly.

"Good. Let’s start with some simple tests. These won't take long.” He rummaged through the top drawer on his desk. “Now, where did I put that checklist?" he muttered.

I sat bolt upright. "What year, and what card series?"

"What did you say?"

"Never mind. It’s my obsession; I relate everything to baseball memorabilia.”

"Then you will probably find this test interesting. It's called a Rorschach test." He pulled out a large card, about the size of a '69 Topps Super, and held it up at arm’s length. "What do you see on the card? Describe it exactly."

I looked closely at the card. Hmmm - the corners looked sharp, and the surface had nice gloss. That inkblot was probably a printing error. No stats on the back, though. "I'd say this card was excellent to mint condition. The corners are nice, but that ink stain really hurts the value of the card. It might be a scarce printing variation, since there are no stats on the back."

Dr. Young stared at me for a few seconds, mouth agape. "I see." He placed the card back on the table and made some notes. "Let's try something else - a word association test. I’ll say a word and I want you to reply with the first word that pops into your head. Ready?" I nodded.



"Interesting. How about hot?"


"I see. Rain?"


"Hmm. Home?"



"Any near mint card in the 1961 Topps high number series, especially Roland Sheldon and Bob Cerv."

He leaned back in his chair. "Your problem is quite severe. Did your parents deprive you of these things when you were a child?"

I thought for a minute. "Not really. Actually, it's just a way to recapture the fun of my youth. You know, flipping baseball cards in the schoolyard, getting autographs at games, sending away box tops and wrappers for pennants and hats. Didn't you ever do that as a kid?"

Dr. Young leaned forward and stared out the window. "To tell the truth, when I was a kid, I used to get those cards from my friends and neighbors.” A smile came over his lips. “Actually, I had a pretty good collection, but -"

"But your mother threw it out, right?" I smiled at him in anticipation.

He gave me a wan smile. "Not really. My mother died when I was young. Pop got rid of them. He said that I had to get on with being a man and put away the things of my youth." His smile turned to a frown.

I leaned forward intently. "What a shame. You never got to do all those things I mentioned?" He slowly shook his head. "Boy, did you miss out on a lot. What kind of cards did you have?"

He mused for a moment. "I'm not sure. They had color pictures with the name on the top and a “Big League Gum” banner along the bottom. I remember a few of the players . . . Goose Goslin, Jimmie Foxx, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe Cronin. Had quite a few of them, too."

I jumped up as if I had sat on a cactus. "1933 Goudey Gum cards! That's what they were, right?"

He leaned forward, startled. "Yes, I guess so. How did you know?"

I grinned slyly. "I bet you'd like to see some of those old cards, wouldn't you?" He nodded, eagerly. "Well, it just so happens that I have a couple dozen ’33 Goudeys in fair-to-good condition that I'd be willing to sell, or trade. That is, if you're seriously interested.”

He jumped up from his chair, excited. "When can I see them? What do you want for them?"

"Calm down. We can go over to my place right now. Got anything to trade?"

He looked confused. "Trade? Why, I - I haven't anything to trade. Not a thing” he said, slumping back into his chair.

"Tell you what, Doc." I was on a roll now. "Ask your patients and associates if they have any baseball cards they don’t want. Especially 1961 Topps. I'll trade you my 1933 Goudeys for their 1961 Topps. How's that for a deal?”

He seemed genuinely excited, and banged the button on his intercom. "Karen! Cancel all of my remaining appointments. I'm going with Mr. Fosman for some field observation and won't be back till later this afternoon." He smiled at me with a big foolish grin. I probably looked the same way when I traded a 1969 Topps set for 10 Mark Fidrych rookie cards.
• • •
Well, here it is, three weeks later and I must say that Dr. Young did very well for himself. Turns out, his father hadn't throw away those ’33 Goudeys after all. There were hundreds of them packed in an old shoebox that the good doctor had stumbled across while cleaning up his father’s old house to sell it.

In fact, I had the collection appraised at about $50,000. Last I heard, he was talking about retiring early and taking a long cruise around South America with his windfall.

Things are much calmer at my house these days, although my kids eventually got tired of eating hot dogs and popcorn for dinner. As for my wife, her thinking turned around 180 degrees after she read an article in Forbes about investing in baseball cards. In fact, she’s at a collectibles show this weekend, scouring dealer tables for the few cards I need to rebuild that 1968 set that she once tried to make into a cardboard Caprese salad.

All I have to do now is figure out how to get rid of 300 rolls of paper towels with the Atlanta Braves tomahawk on them. Interested?
• • •
Copyright ©2007 Peter H. Putman. All mechanical and electronic print rights are reserved. This story originally appeared in Baseball Hobby News. He wrote for BHN in the mid to late 1980s.

November 12, 2011

Part 1 - THE MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION: A collector who relates everything to baseball memorabilia


"That's it! I've had enough; you hear me? Enough!" My wife's hand slammed down onto the kitchen table and with one quick motion managed to completely reshuffle the 1968 Topps set I had spent the last three hours sorting.

"You spend more time with those pieces of cardboard than you do with me!" Uh-oh. She was really hot now.

"They're not just pieces of cardboard," I muttered, uneasily.

"Aack!" Here came the battle cry. "I'm sick of it. Sick, do you hear? I've been baseballed to death! Cards! Books! Programs! Pete Rose placemats! Those smelly old uniforms you keep in the attic!" She glared at me with venom in her eyes.

“But – but that’s Mickey Lolich's 1968 World Series uniform!" I sputtered.

"I don't care if it’s Mickey Mouse's uniform! You've gone overboard. Too much junk!" I could hear the martyr routine coming a mile away: "I slave away trying to make a nice home for you and the kids. Make your beds each morning. Cook nice meals every night. Clean up around the house, and for what? So you can have more room for all that junk, all those smelly uniforms, and posters, and books, and those dumb baseball cards!"

She had me on the defensive. "Now, just a minute. I collect football cards, too!"

Next thing I knew, I was running for the kitchen door with a six-quart saucepan in hot pursuit. Behind me, I could hear the sounds of impending doom. I could hear her insane cackling as she started stuffing 1968 Topps cards into the food processor and began chopping them up. "Take that, No. 500! How about a nice Brooks Robinson salad for dinner!" Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned in favor of baseball cards.

"Number 500 isn’t Brooks Robinson, it’s Frank Robinson!" I shouted, momentarily forgetting the situation. Another saucepan emerged from the kitchen at 75 miles per hour and crashed through the glass in spectacular fashion.

I glanced out the resulting hole and spotted two pairs of legs retreating down the driveway at top speed. "Hey, kids! It's okay! Come back! Your mom is just a little bit upset, that's all! She'll calm down."

"That’s what you said last time!" my older son yelled back, shedding his baseball glove, schoolbooks and, lunchbox in rapid order. "We'll eat over at Tommy's place tonight! I’ll call you later!" The two boys turned the corner and retreated behind the relative safety of our neighbor's garage.

I paused to consider the situation. My own children, my flesh and blood, were driven away from their home and the delicious meal I had planned of ballpark franks, peanuts, and popcorn. We were even going to watch the Mets game on cable later.

My reverie came to an abrupt halt as another pan buzzed by my ear like an angry hornet. "I'm not done with you yet!" My wife clutched my beloved Mickey Lolich jersey in one hand and a Bernz-o-matic torch in the other.

"Now, honey, let's act like grown adults here.”

“Grown adults. You’re a fine one to talk about grown adults!" She fumbled with the gas nozzle on the torch.

I had to do something, fast. "Wait! Years of deodorant use have left a harmful build-up of flammable chemicals in the armpits of that jersey!" I shouted. What a bluff. "If you light that torch, you'll blow us all to kingdom come!"

It worked. She dropped the jersey and backed away slowly, her eyes open wide in fear.

"That's better. Now, let's sit down and talk this out rationally." I turned to close what was left of the kitchen door, and once again my quick reflexes saved me as the torch came flying over my left shoulder.

"You? Rational? Don't make me laugh." My wife stormed back into the kitchen, slamming the door behind her and breaking what was left of the window, and resumed making her 1968 Topps' salad. Wonder what I could get for a 1968 set in poor to fair condition? I thought.

It was so unfair. Just because a man wants to collect a few hundred thousand cards or so and decorate his house in official American League wallpaper isn't any reason for his wife to go off her rocker.

Perhaps I shouldn't have bought those 1985 All-Star Game souvenir bed sheets. Come to think of it, painting the house Oakland A's green-and-gold probably wasn't too smart, either. I decided to see my family doctor for advice.
• • •
"Hello, Mike. It's been a long time. Did you sprain your ankle sliding into second base again? You really should give up those company picnics at your age." Dr. Wiemeraner grinned at me with a wrinkled old face that resembled Casey Stengel.

"Not exactly, Doc" I muttered as I sat down. "My wife thinks I need psychiatric help. She insists I'm obsessed with baseball and baseball memorabilia to the exclusion of everything else."

"Hmm." He jotted down a few notes while I pondered the wallpaper in his office. It had an interesting blue and red tile pattern that looked just like the Chicago Cubs logo - Yikes! This was really getting out of hand!

"What makes you think you need such help?" he asked intently.

I told him about the paint job on the house and the ashtrays, and books, pennants, wallpaper, and cards. "You know, it's gotten so bad that the first thing I asked my kids when they come home from school is if they made any good trades today."

He stroked his chin. "If I had to guess, I’d say you are suffering from acute mental distress and fatigue caused by this obsession. Professional help would seem appropriate. I can give you a referral." He rummaged through his card file. "Yes, here he is. Dr. Young. Carl Young. Let me give you his card."

My ears perked up. "What team did he play for?"

"Say again?"

"Sorry, Doc. There I go again. I can’t help it." I pocketed the business card.

"I'll call Dr. Young for you and schedule your appointment. When's a good time for you?"

I whipped out my official Tigers schedule and appointment book. Tuesday morning looked okay. "How's about Tuesday, any time after nine o'clock?"

Dr. Wiemeraner chuckled. "You'd better start putting that baseball stuff away, Mike. Looks like it's worse than I thought!" I dejectedly tossed the schedule into the trashcan and left.
• • •
Copyright ©2007 Peter H. Putman. All mechanical and electronic print rights are reserved. This story originally appeared in Baseball Hobby News. He wrote for BHN in the mid to late 1980s. Part 2 will be posted in two days.

November 10, 2011


Two rabid baseball fans, who had been condemned for eternity to reside in Hell, were taking a walk one day when it started to snow.

One sinner said to the other, "I guess the Cubs just won the World Series."

November 8, 2011

A language problem impacts selling Darryl Strawberry cards


In around 1975, we set up at our first baseball card shows. Mostly they were on Long Island, where we were living at the time. One of the other dealers we got to know was a younger guy, Dave Goett.

Goett was in the military but seemed to have time to sell cards on weekends. At a show he reported that he had been assigned to a post in Germany and being a career officer, had no idea when we would again see each other.

At least 10 years later, we were selling at a show in Southern California where we had relocated in 1982. And lo and behold, Goett, strolled over to our table and said, "Do you remember me?" Well, of course Vivian and I remembered our homeboy and we caught up on what we had been doing in the intervening years. He concluded the conversation with, "There is someone I would like you to meet."

A few minutes later he came back with his recent bride. He had met Farida while stationed in Germany where she was a college student. Farida was from Iraq and didn't speak much English. Despite the language barrier, they seemed to be getting along quite well and she was assisting him at his table.

Late in the afternoon as the crowd at the show thinned out, he told Vivian and me that he wanted to walk around the room to see if he could find anything for his World War II collection "Please keep an eye on my table. Farida doesn't know much about baseball cards and as you are aware, there is a language problem."

A few minutes later, a collector was at the Goetts' table and he seemed to be having some difficulty. So I walked over and inquired, "What's the problem?" With a big smile on his face, he said, "I asked if she had any Strawberrys?" Farida had replied, "Vee dunt zell froops, only bezball cards."

When Dave came back to the table he got a big laugh out of the story and was quite understanding. Within a few years, he was a civilian and she spoke perfect English.

November 7, 2011

Not your father’s card show; memories of the hobby in 1988


Through the years, I had been a frequent attendee at baseball card shows. However, due to work commitments, selling and buying a new home and a great deal of business travel in 1987, it became almost impossible to free up a weekend for such pursuits. Consequently, I missed every show for nearly 12 months.

Eventually things quieted down and I found myself in the car one weekend on my way to a nearby show at a prestigious hotel. Just how prestigious I didn't know, until as I pulled up to the parking lot and a tuxedo-clad gentleman offered to park my car. Upon mentioning that I was bound for the memorabilia show inside, he handed me a complimentary parking stub, 1988 National League schedule, official show program and a ball autographed by the Minnesota Twins.

"Not bad!" Whoever was promoting this show sure knew how to make a collector happy! A perky young woman relieved me of my coat and baseball cap, both to be safely checked until I departed for home.

A bellhop guided me to the main entrance of the hotel's grand ballroom. Here, a snappy-looking gent in black tie and tails was collecting admission - a paltry $50. "Fifty dollars?" I exclaimed. "Why, that's more than reasonable," he replied, "considering you get this autographed Dwight Gooden blazer, a magnum of champagne and an authentic 65-pound bronze replica of the famous 1952 Topps Mantle card. Don't you agree?"

He quickly shoveled the items into my hands. "Here's your stub. Don't lose it, as the grand prize drawing will be a solid crystal copy of the World Series trophy!"

I staggered into the grand ballroom and stood there speechless until an enterprising young man in an official-looking jacket offered to wrap my prizes and ship them UPS Blue Label for a paltry $30. Not wanting to lug the stuff around, I quickly agreed and forked over the cash.

To the right of me, a couple of individuals were in the midst of a spirited argument about the condition of some 1969 Topps cards. "Well!" I thought. "Some things never change, do they?" Whereupon the two participants drew pistols stood back to back, counted off 10 paces, turned and fired, both scoring direct hits. Two tuxedo-clad strongmen quickly hustled the bodies out a side exit.

I was momentarily distracted from this commotion by a strange-looking apparatus to my right. Upon closer inspection, it appeared to be a gas spectrograph. With it, a man in a white lab coat was busy analyzing several 1984 Donruss Mattingly cards.

"Hey - what's that machine for?" I asked.

Mr. Lab Coat looked up, rather irritated. "Quiet! I'm in the midst of grading these cards!"

"You use that stuff nowadays for grading?" I replied, rather astonished.

"Sure! Where've you been the last year? How else could anyone know if these are actually Excellent-to-Mint, Ex-Mint Plus, Near-Near Mint, Near-Mint Plus, Mint,' Gem-Mint or Platinum-Mint?"

Boy! Card grading sure had gotten critical while I'd been away. "Just what will that gadget show you, anyway?"

"Well, depending on the amount of oxidation of the card's surface and the impurities within, the grade could vary significantly. Now leave me alone - I'm a busy man!" he harrumphed. I shrugged my shoulders and walked off.

Immediately ahead, a large group of people were busy watching what appeared to be a stock price ticker, with combinations of letters and numbers streaking by in rapid sequence. "What's that?" I asked a bystander.

"The latest prices on Mickey Mantle cards. They're updated every 15 minutes.'

"You've got to be kidding!"

He turned and pointed to a nearby dealer. "Don't believe me? Find out for yourself!" sauntered over to a glass display case which was loaded with tiny hermetically sealed card holders.

A nattily-dressed older man came over to the case. "And what can I do for you, sir?" he inquired, somewhat haughtily.

I studied the case for a minute. "May I see that 1959 Mantle, please?"

"An excellent choice, sir." He put on a pair of linen gloves and removed the '59 Mantle, placing it atop the case and handing me a pearl-inlaid loop. "One of the best we've had in years. Beautiful colors; nicely centered. And those corners are spectacular, if I do say so myself." He smiled politely.

I took a close look with the loop. "How much?"

"Just a moment, sir, whilst I call the brokerage." He quickly dialed a cordless phone with gold trim. "Yes, this is Benchley. Can you quote me a price on a Premium Grade 1959 Topps Mantle?. . Hmmm…Yes, I see...Very good."

He placed the phone on the case. "That card will go for $300 plus commission of 10 percent, bringing the total of"...he pushed some buttons on a calculator..."Three hundred thirty dollars. This quote is good for 15 minutes. Shall I wrap it for you sir... hmmm?"

I gagged momentarily. "Three hundred dol-no, uh, that won't be necessary. Thank you very much!"

Darting quickly around the corner, I was immediately accosted by a dealer looking to take futures contracts on 1989 and 1990 wax and cello cases.

"You won't find a better deal anywhere. I can call your broker right now and get you in the market. Of course, this sales pitch does not constitute an offering, which may only be made as part of a formal prospectus."

I dodged him and crawled under several tables, only to emerge at a large display of new Donruss Highlights sets. Let's see, here was a 1987 Umpires Highlight set. And over here, a 1987-88 Free Agency/ Salary Arbitration set. . . A 1988 Product Endorsement Highlight set...And a 1987 Highlights Highlight set. Imagine that! A set highlighting the year's best highlight cards. Clever.

I felt a tap on my shoulder. "Can I interest you in something?" The dealer waved his hand across the table. "I've got every Highlight set imaginable, in every special edition ever made. Gold, Silver, Rhodium, Platinum, Unobtanium - you name it, I've got it here. Look at this." He opened a large felt-lined case and extracted what appeared to be a sheet of crystal.

"It's a first - the complete Wade Boggs Sparkling Highlight set, with scenes from his early childhood right up to this year's season. Over 175 cards, etched in the finest crystal by Swedish craftsmen. And I'll let you have it for just $1,395!"

"Uh, er, well, that's awfully generous of you, but I think I'll pass. Never was big on crystal anyway." I forced a weak smile.

"How about this Extended Updated Traded Highlight set? Or perhaps you'd like this Rhinestone-inlaid Rated Coaches set?" I bolted for the door, knocking to the floor several standing racks with magazines and uniforms and creating a tremendous mess. Several heavy-set men set off in pursuit as I ran down the hallway for the hotel lobby.

"Give me my coat!" I shouted to the coat-clerk girl. She quickly retrieved it and handed me a large box with several leather-bound volumes in it. "Here you are sir, and here's your complimentary copy of today's Sporting Collectible Digest."

I turned to see my two pursuers closing fast, and hurled the box at them. They tried to dodge the flying volumes, but crashed into the bell captain's station, knocking themselves unconscious as the bell rang.

"Your car, sir?" A small man in a Cardinals' warm-up jacket grabbed my keys and followed me outside. "You won't be staying for the baseball supper? I've been told the Salmon Foie Natural Gras with Boulliabaseball Sauce is sensational. And the Surf 'and Artificial Turf is just delicious!"

I leaped into my car. "Here's 10 bucks. Thanks, and get lost!" I shouted. As my car pulled out, the Highlights dealer jumped on my hood.

"Wait! I've got just the set for you! It's the 1988 Topps Edible World Series Highlights set! Each, card is made from 100 percent Swiss milk chocolate, so you can have your cards and eat them too."

He was sideswiped by a passing car, and the ensuing impact showered the parking lot with thousands of chocolate fragments as I made my getaway.

Things weren't a total loss. I did win the grand prize Series trophy after all, which turned out to be a water fountain and aquatic garden. And the 65-pound bronze 1952 Mantle replica makes a great conversation piece, not to mention a door stopper!
• • •
Copyright ©2007 Peter H. Putman. All mechanical and electronic print rights are reserved. This story originally appeared in Baseball Hobby News in the late 1980s.

November 5, 2011


Walter O'Malley was the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers and after the 1957 season, he moved the team to Los Angeles. This broke the hearts of millions.

A few years later, a Brooklyn fan was asked this question:

If you had a gun with only two bullets, and Hitler, Mussolini and Walter O'Malley were standing in front of you, who would you shoot?

"I'd shoot O'Malley twice," was the response.

• • •
If you have a favorite baseball joke, please submit it to

November 3, 2011

Errors, variations, and other obscurities; a 1980s dealer gone wild


Articles and letters in Baseball Hobby News in the 1980s reflected significant interest in errors, variations and other mistakes made by major card manufacturers. At the time, that became apparent to me as a result of inquiries I made at dealer tables.

One dealer I approached had some very interesting material in his display case. Our conversation went something like this:

"That looks like a 1957 Ted Williams. How much are you asking for it?"

“For you, just $99.95."

I examined the card. "Say, there's a big crease through the center. This card should be VG at best, more like $20."

He took the card back and examined it. "Well, to tell you the truth, this is the very rare Topps crease variation, and the only one I've seen like it!"

"Crease variation?" That was a new one on me.

"Sure! Topps had a cutting machine that actually folded about 20 to 30 of these by mistake. Of course, Topps pulled all the defective cards before they found their way into wax packs - or at least thought they had!"

Something else in his case caught my eye. "How about that 1967 Yaz with the clipped corners?"

"Ah yes. That's the obscure 1967 Topps clipped corners variation, making the card appear to be octagonal in shape, rather than rectangular. It's yours for only $50."

"You sure someone didn't take scissors to that card?"

"Nahhh. Another Topps cutting error. You'll not see another one like it again, I'm sure!"

I picked up what appeared to be half a 1983 Topps Boggs rookie card. "Hey, what happened here?"

"Oh, that," The dealer chuckled. "Topps was fooling around with the mini set idea, but they just cut the cards in half instead of shrinking them. A real rarity, yours for just $25."

"And this?" I indicated a 1969 Rose cut diagonally in half. "A poor attempt at a doubleheader, perhaps?" I snickered.

"I see you know your cards! Excellent!" replied the dealer. "I'm sure we can work out an exceptional deal on that scarce item!"

"Well, I don't know…”

"Or perhaps you prefer to collect printing variations? Check these out. Nice, aren’t they?”

"Gee, that's a shame. There's a big pen mark on the face of that beautiful 1953 Bowman Mantle."

The dealer grinned. "Nope, that's an extremely rare printer's proof with the color tests okayed in ink. See the initials?

"Looks to me like some kid wrote on it."

"Not at all, not at all. I've several more from that sheet marked with the RK. I'll let you have them for a very good price. Now, let's see my Beckett guide…”

"Uh, look, I really don't see anything here that catches my fancy, so if you don't mind, I'll just move on, and …”

The dealer dropped his voice and leaned across the table. "Sir, I can see that you and only you can appreciate what I am about to bring out." He reached under the table and revealed what appeared to be a completely blank piece of white cardboard in a two-piece screw-down Lucite holder.

"Okay, what is it?" I asked, preparing myself for the worst.

"It's the very, very, very rare blank card variation of the 1969 Reggie Jackson rookie card. You'll never see another one like it anywhere. Look at those corners. That gloss. Gem Mint, and yours for only $100."

I examined the card. It was blank on both sides, all right. The corners were nice. If what he said were true - this would be the scarcest variation of all time. But a disturbing thought crossed my mind.

"Hey, how do I know that this is really a Jackson rookie variation, and not a common card? Huh?"

The dealer looked crafty. "I have my sources.” He refused to elaborate further.

I had had enough. "Okay, bud, you might fool some people with that, but you won't fool me. I've wasted enough time here!" I started to turn away when he grabbed my arm.

"Don't go yet!" he pleaded. "I've got the ultimate printing variation. You've got to see it - you've got to!" Well, he might have something there. I guess I could wait another minute.

He pulled out a binder full of 1961, 1962 and 1963 Post Cereal cards. Sure, they looked nice, solid Ex-Mt. But there didn't appear to be anything wrong with the printing, at least as far as I could tell.

"Okay, I give up. Where are the printing flaws?"

"Can't you tell?" he exulted. "They're all blank backs!"
• • •
Copyright ©2007 Peter H. Putman. All mechanical and electronic print rights are reserved. This story originally appeared in Baseball Hobby News. Putman wrote for BHN in the mid to late 1980s.

November 1, 2011

Baseball lists: Players with names or nicknames that are countries or nationalities


Frenchy Bordagaray
Larry French
Dane Iorg
Charles "Swede" Risberg
Hugh Poland
Mark Portugal
Derek Holland
Emil "Dutch" Leonard
Emil "Irish" Meusel
German Berroa
Germany Schaefer
Woody English
Chris Welsh
Mike Scott
Bobby Thomson: The Flying Scot and The Staten Island Scot
Omar "Turk" Lown
"Turkey Mike" Donlin
Brian Jordan
Lou Novikoff - The Mad Russian
Al Hrabosky - The Mad Hungarian
Chad Mottola