Saturday, February 16, 2019

Joe Henry!

Further to the uncut sheet of pre-Bazooka Joe comics I dissected back at the end of January, I've taken a look at another sheet, this time the one that launched the familiar kid with the eyepatch and his gang, and found some surprises.

The sheet in question is a large one:

I usually try to trim the scans I, um, appropriate here down but the yardstick is a useful, well yardstick, in this one so I've left it.  It's so large I can't get good resolution here without making it too massive to see on a single screen  but using my traditional array method, from the first full row down there are 12 different rows, A through L as I call them.  Likewise, going across the top there are 7 columns, 1-7 (clever, no?).

The first thing that jumps out is the column (#7) of Henry comics. According to BFF o'the Archive Jeff Shepherd, this is the first concrete evidence Topps printed the Henry strips, although it's been surmised for decades.  So that's some interesting news that I will return to momentarily.

The second thing that we can see is that two columns are repeats.  Unlike the pre-Bazooka Joe sheet, which did not repeat any of its 7 columns, Topps has changed the mix here. Columns 1 and 2 are repeated as columns 5 and 6 while Henry of course, stands on his own.  This makes sense as there are 48 different comics in the original Bazooka Joe series: 40 "traditional" and 8 of the "intro" single panels featuring the main characters in the "Gang".

Henry though is vexing me. The examples on this sheet all have a 1953 copyright and, obviously, no premium offers or anything else at all is displayed.  Odd but a known fact.

I own three Henry comics.  A larger one with a 1953 copyright and a smaller one from the same year. These measure, respectively, 4 1/4" x 3 and 3 3/4" x 2 3/4".  The third is a small example with a 1954 copyright. Based upon the yardstick measurements above I believe these to be the larger sized comics.

This is not anything of note really as the smaller size is probably just due to different packaging configurations.  What is of note though, is that my large Henry does not match one of the 12 examples on this uncut sheet.  My small one is no match either.  I have to surmise then, that a "B" sheet exists that duplicates columns 3 & 4 above and has a different dozen Henry comics along one edge. Then when you think it all works out, you have to consider the 1954 Henry's! They must have been printed after these, meaning Topps was hedging their bets on Bazooka Joe, which had three distinct series issued in 1954. This sheet has the first and all the premium offers expire on June 20, 1955.  These were printed and packaged sometime between April and August of 1954

Whew!  Well I clearly need to do more research on these comics.  In the meantime, just enjoy a handful below, preferably with a big wad of Bazooka! Do note, however, the black barred rows (Save Bazooka Comics for Free Prizes) while not contiguous across each row, appear every third row, just like the Double Feature Comics that were so prominent on the pre-Bazooka Joe sheet!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

A Photograph, A Memory

Further to last week's post featuring invitations and other ephemera from some 1960's Topps Rookie Banquets, today we have some snapshots taken, presumably, by Paul Dolembo.  These photos look like they were taken behind the scenes and after the banquet ended as several players are seen holding their rookie award trophies.  There's a half dozen in all and I'll kick it off with a guy who didn't win a rookie award, namely Alva (Al) Cicotte, who was the 1960 Minor League Player of the year at age 30 following a stellar season with the Toronto Blue Jays.  Check out the trophy he got, it is MASSIVE:

If his last name seems familiar, Alva was the great-nephew of Ed Cicotte, permanently banned by MLB in 1920 as one of the Black Sox and arguably on track for eventual Hall of Fame enshrinement. Alva did not have the talent of his grand uncle unfortunately and his biggest claim to fame may have been being traded to the Cardinals for Leon Wagner (who went to the Angels then in the AL expansion draft) a couple of weeks prior to the banquet. Cicotte, would end up having his contract sold to the fledgling Houston franchise about a year after he received this award and became an original Colt 45. According to SABR, he signed with the Detroit Tigers for the final week of the 1977 season in order to qualify for his major league pension.

Next we see Cicotte flanked by Tony Curry of the Phillies and Julian Javier of the Cardinals, both rookie award winners in the outfield and second base, respectively.

Javier makes another appearance, this time with Dick Stigman, the left-handed pitcher rookie award winner from the Indians.  Check out Javier perusing the 1960 program, which looks like so:

Stigman again, with Chuck Estrada to the far right.  I whiffed on ID'ing the fellow in the middle as he didn't match up with the notation on the back of the photo ("Jim Gentile?") but Keith Olbermann was able to figure out it was Marv Breeding, a second baseman with the Orioles, being flanked. Breeding's rookie season with the O's in '60 was pretty good and looks to have been superior but Javier got the nod at 2B. Breeding was a whiz with the leather from what I can find.

Ron Hansen, the rookie award selection with the Orioles at shortstop, relaxes with Breeding:

Think about how good the O's farm system was.  They had three guys make the all rookie team in 1960 and yet all were gone when the "Baby Birds" won the 1966 World Series with yet another crop of youngsters!

Closing things out, MC Joe Garagiola gets a laugh out of Tony Curry and his Phillies teammate Jimmie Coker, the rookie award catcher for 1960.

Unfortunately, there are no shots of the other rookie award winners for the year: the aforementioned Jim Gentile (1B, Orioles), Ron Santo (3B, Cubs--HOF 2012), Frank Howard (OF, Dodgers, or Tommy Davis (OF, Dodgers). All-in-all, the 1960 winners were pretty representative of the rookie teams over the years.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Fall Invitational

Last fall I managed to BIN a nice lot of Topps Rookie Banquet related ephemera on eBay. I've finally gotten around to scanning the items and this week will show some of the non-photographic items (as I'm still working on player ID's).

I'll start with my favorite item:

I believe Sy Berger typed this letter himself-there's no secretarial initials, a load of personal detail, a host of typos and when I googled the recipient it revealed he worked in the Auto Industry (not audio). Even if he didn't, it's a pretty neat item. It seems this little trove was Mr. Dolembo's-Sy must have invited friends as he was the guy spearheading the whole thing.

There were three Rookie Banquet invitations.  I believe these all came in the envelope for 1960's bash:

The reverse is supposed to be blank but someone noted the address of the Rookie Team Committee:

I don't think that's where Major League Baseball was headquartered, it's probably the office of one of the committee members, which counted 17 members, including Jackie Robinson!

Here's an RSVP card and envelope, note the address, which looks to have been constant since this is from 1964:

The invitations did not really change all that much, did they?  I'll spare you the 1965 version as it's almost identical.

Finally, here's a business card for Sy. I believe it's from 1960 as the Blony logo was featured on the program that year.  Not sure who wrote "Wood Gelman" but I don't think it was Sy (or Woody).

The lot I won was part of a larger archive previously auctioned by REA in 2011.  Next week, I'll share the half dozen snapshots that came in it.

Saturday, January 26, 2019


A  brace of early Topps wrapper and Bazooka comic uncut sheets popped up unexpectedly last fall, originating from the printer, although via a third party that did not know the name of the firm-drats!  They have scattered a bit to the wind, some to places unknown and some known-one even landed here at the Main Topps Archives Research Complex. As such, a review of some of the more interesting pieces can be conducted.

The most compelling ones featured uncut one cent comics, some are pre-Bazooka Joe, others have the ubiquitous, eye-patched mascot of Topps featured.  The earliest of these looks to be in the 1953-54 range and the entire collection of sheets, numbering a half dozen or so, date from this time through about 1957.  This one, alas, did not make it here and ended up somewhere I do not have access to unfortunately.

The sheets all appear to be missing the final wax coating and are a bit fragile but they are not falling apart, like I've seen some old paper items do. You can see how the outer and inner wrappers were sliced and diced from the same sheet.

Excluding the very tippy-top row, which is almost all cut off, I've started my matrix at the first full (sorta) row, which I am calling "A".  The rows with black bars atop each comic all contain Double Feature Comics and they repeat every third row, so C, F, I, and L are all Double Features. Topps also did this a half decade later with Bazooka Joe's (not Double Features but black barred comics). The pattern then picks up at A again.  There are 7 columns with edges on either side looking straight cut so there are 84 unique comics to the set.  56 singles and 28 Double Features.  I believe these date from late 1953 into early 1954 and are the last series printed without any Bazooka Joes.

Ten different strips are represented, two of which are only found on the Double Features.  I'm not able to provide a full subject list yet--working on that--but the counts are as follows:

Buzzy - 8
Cousin Juniper - 5
Crax & Jax - 10
Double Feature - 28 (more on these below)
Gerald - 11
Honey Bun - 14
J.B. - 4
Little Brother Hugo - 4

The Double Features (DF) break down like so:

Cousin Juniper - 10
Crax & Jax - 7
Gerald - 1
Jinglet - 15 (DF only)
J.B.  - 4
Odd But True - 19 (DF only)

All comics were provided by the N.Y. News Syndicate Inc. Here are examples of each (sorry for the bad scans on Buzzy and Cousin Juniper):

Some of the jokes would have "worked" no matter what strip they were in, don't you think? And isn't it interesting how long those felt baseball patches have been around?

Next time out we'll take a peek at a very interesting sheet of Bazooka Joe and his Gang!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

A Dicey Situation

I was starting my research for this post, which covers the "1961" Topps Dice Game set, when I discovered-very much to my surprise-that I had not posted anything in depth on this subject.  Given the near mythic status these have attained and the stratospheric prices even low grade examples have been bringing, the time is indeed here to dive in.

The cards don't have any indication they were made by Topps but the photography and especially the typography undoubtedly peg them as one of theirs. Long attributed to 1961, apparently for their alleged resemblance to the regular issue cards from that august year and possibly due to (an irrelevant) set count, the 18 black and white cards that make up this unissued set were designed to allow a game of baseball to be played by two youthful enthusiasts.  No doubt influenced by two dice based baseball games, namely ABPA, founded in 1951) and (probably more-to-the-point) Strat-O-Matic, which debuted in 1961, Topps developed and possibly tested Dice Game in the early 60's. If there was a test, my guess it was in a research lab setting and not at retail. Len Brown however, seems to indicate in an old interview that the set was retail tested but given how the surviving examples present and the general lack of cards, I just don't think that's accurate.

That's essentially the organized hobby knowledge of the set!  There is a little bit more that can be added though. In a Sports Market Report for PSA, Kevin Glew interviewed (via email) a couple of us hobby types (including moi) trying to pin down, among other things, exactly when the set was produced. My own thoughts were the cards resembled those being designed for internal use by Topps starting around 1965 while noted collector (and Friend o'the Archive) Bob Fisk opined that the set was probably intended for issue in 1962 or '63 due to a player selection that included 16 1962 All Stars and two other players (Tony Kubek and Bill White) who put together campaigns that should have landed them in the Midsummer Classic.

I have previously posted here my thoughts that the Dice Game could have been intended for sale in set form with a pair of dice and and possibly a scoresheet but that has never been confirmed.  Two later examples make the possibility of complete set marketing a 50/50 proposition I think.  The 1966 Baseball Punchouts, which are even rarer than the Dice Game cards, seem like they were intended to be sold piecemeal while the 1968 Batter Up box set took the baseball game inserts from the 1968 Baseball packs and packaged them all up at once, with box-back instructions on how to play a nine inning contest. The Punchouts were also an 18 card set, although designed as panels that each featured an AL and NL player and could be split apart and seem to me to be the next logical step in the Topps quest to issue a standalone game product.  In fact, it's possible the Dice Game cards were a kind of prototype for the Punchouts but there are a couple of key differences as the latter were printed in color (except for the small player photos on each) and there is a wrapper proof or two known.

Right now there are 15 documentable subjects of 1961 Dice Game out there, while the checklist definitively stands at 18; no packaging has ever been seen to my knowledge.  I'm sure these missing three cards exist as the checklist is derived from an 18 card uncut sheet owned by Fritsch Cards and which was in their possession as of April 2018 (and likely still is). Examples not on this sheet can be found with staple holes (from internal Topps memoranda no doubt) or not, and some are hand cut.  I'm pretty sure an example or two once resided in a Woody Gelman "Idea Book" but have now been liberated from whatever page they resided upon. I doubt there's more than four of any one card in existence and some subjects are known as multiples.

The checklist is a doozy (an asterisk indicates examples without a scan or picture known):

Earl Battey - Minnesota Twins
Del Crandall - Milwaukee Braves
Jim Davenport  - San Francisco Giants
Don Drysdale - Los Angeles Dodgers
Dick Groat * - Pittsburgh Pirates
Al Kaline -Detroit Tigers
Tony Kubek - New York Yankees
Mickey Mantle - New York Yankees
Willie Mays - San Francisco Giants
Bill Mazeroski - Pittsburgh Pirates
Stan Musial - St. Louis Cardinals
Camilo Pascual - Minnesota Twins
Bobby Richardson - New York Yankees
Brooks Robinson - Baltimore Orioles
Frank Robinson - Cincinnati Reds
Norm Siebern * - Kansas City Athletics
Leon Wagner - Los Angeles Angels
Bill White * - St. Louis Cardinals

Groat, Siebern and White all have their teams inferred.  Groat was a Pirate in 1962 and a Cardinal in 1963, Norm Siebern was a member of the Athletics through 1963 and Bill White was a Cardinal through 1965 so I'm pretty comfortable with those assignments. There are nine players from each league in case you were wondering but only a dozen teams of the 18 in existence as of 1961 are represented. Missing: The Cubs and Phillies from the National League and the Indians, Red Sox, Senators and White Sox from the junior circuit. Scans of the "known" 15 are below.

The Mazeroski and Davenport examples just surfaced and are quite interesting as both look like a kid updated a result on the back of each. Compare to the Mays reverse:

Hopefully the missing three scans turn up soon.  If they do, I'll post 'em here to complete the visual checklist.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Nye On Impossible

Further to last year's lengthy post on the 1970 Cloth Baseball proofs, Friend o' the Archive Keith Olbermann sent along a shot of the elusive Rich Nye example, one of three subjects to appear in a different pose in issued form than on the proof sheet used to create these rare birds.  Topps got the correct team on the card following his trade from the Cubs to the Cardinals but he's still shown in his Cubs togs on the proof.  He would get a capless head shot in the regular issue:

See the difference:

Nye is one interesting cat.  He finished his civil engineering degree after being drafted by the Cubs in 1966 and then after pitching his last (for the Expos) in 1970, traded commodities on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and later became a veterinarian using his profits from that endeavor, specializing in exotic birds.  Frankly, he sounds like a polymath.   

Another tidbit: there are at least three different examples of the Lemaster known, including one without a backing where the color proof bars at the bottom of the sheet are folded up against the reverse. 

The known universe of cloth stickers is small but these are not one-of-ones. The multiple examples should not be surprising, Topps would run very small batches for their in-house tests at the time.

There are 11 "lost" stickers (they exist on checklists but I don't have scans) :

NL Playoff #1 (Seaver)

The Padres Rookies is the lostest of the lost as it has not even made it onto a checklist I can find (and obviously not on the Trader Speaks checklist I detailed last time out), and while Tom Hall is also MIA from TTS he does appear on extant checklists.

I will gladly accept scans of the above MIA stickers if any of you out there have them in your own archives!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Fit To Be Tied

Well gang, the parade of Topps product keeps rolling in to the ol' research complex, populating my type checklist at a fairly steady pace, although I'm at the point I am hauling in mostly tougher or oddball items that don't appear all that often.  Today's entry is 1968's Wise Ties.

I've discussed them here previously, and shown the pack version of the checklist here but this is the first time I've had one in hand that's not in a pack still. It's quite colorful in person:

I was wrong years ago when I wrote they might be made of thin plastic.  They are made of a kind of crepe-like felt or, more likely pressed cloth, and measure 9 1/2" from top to tip.  The band is elastic and still quite pliable on my example.  I suspect, now that I have seen it, that the elastic band is what caused them to be pulled from the market, 12 shy of the planned 24 ties. The retail box holds 12 ties and much of the unopened material in the hobby of the set must come from overstock and returns.

The material used is very thin and light, call it semi-transparent:

Here's a closeup of the reverse of the "knot", I know you can get nice suits made cheaply in Hong Kong but crepe-like ties?

Topps had zillions of similar style sets in the 60's and early 70's, likely the result of so many Mad Magazine and underground comix artists working there. I would love to see what the twelve  unissued ties look like.  In fact, I am trying to come up with the most efficient way to get images of all the really weird and odd sized Topps NS sets of the classic era documented as so many are practically unknown and/or hard to scan.  Stay tuned...