As it stands today, the known checklist is comprised of 14 full two-card panels featuring 28 players. For reasons I will get into below, I do not believe this to be a complete checklist, although it may be close. Here is the latest, in alpahabetical order by the name of the NL player shown on the card (each has one NL and one AL player).
|NL Player||AL Player||NL Pos||AL Pos||NL Team||AL Team|
As you can see, the distribution of teams is not even and some are missing. Five teams remain unaccounted for: one from the NL (Astros) and four junior circuit teams (Angels, Athletics, Indians & Senators). The Twins, participants in the 1965 World Series along with the Dodgers, have four players in the set while the Giants, Red Sox and Yankees have three apiece. The Dodgers, Cubs, White Sox and Pirates net two players and the remaining known teams have a sole member represented.
If you want to speculate (and I do) then there should be at least four full cards to add as that is the minimum to make sure all teams are included. That would bring the total to 18 full cards, with 36 players on them, a number that is not implausible. However there is another wrinkle that throws a spanner in the works, namely the distribution of positions:
A definite pattern emerges here. The six "infield" positions each are represented by no more than two players per league, while the outfield slots top out at five. If we were to add two NL second baseman to the mix, we would need at least an extra card beyond 18 (assuming one of them was on one of the four theoretical cards added to round out the team distributions). 19 is a very unwieldy number for a small Topps set (although not impossible as the 1968 Plaks have shown) but there is yet another clue, which is the uncut sheet configuration.
As will be made reasonably clear in the visual checklist, there are nubs on one, two, or three sides of each full card as they were attached to each other at some point. I made a jigsaw puzzle from the scans and while it required a couple of educated guesses on "nub positioning" I believe the known cards were oriented as shown in the schematic below but cannot determine how many middle columns there were (I ciphered with the NL players at top and each number indicates how many cards have that position on the "sheet"):
Now, if the cards were oriented differently then the distribution could change as a bottom right corner could become an upper left, etc. and I also do not know if more then one middle column was printed. Another complicating factor is that two to four copies of each card may exist as our mystery man has two copies of some and I have identified a couple myself from other sources. In addition, Topps would usually keep one or two reference copies, two of which have been known for a while (Marichal/Rollins and Roseboro/Richardson). It's enough to drive you batty! What is clear though is that no card has four sides with nubs so two rows high looks to be as tall as a sheet can get.
What does this tell us then, other than the fact I am clinically insane? Well, it might mean there are 30 cards in the set (5 sheets of 6 cards each) or that maybe there are only three sheets of either six or eight cards apiece (if there were two middle columns). A yield of 18 works if you eliminate one of the missing NL 2B positions and add four cards as discussed above but I don't like the missing NL 2B position if you do that, as I have to believe the 2 players per league per position for the infielders is a set figure. You can get a nice distribution with 24 cards/48 players though if you assume there could be 8 pitchers, 10 infielders (excluding pitchers) and 6 outfielders per league which would also allow for common multiples of 4, 6 and 8 but that is adding a lot of cards and my source thinks he has most of them.
But what if there three middle columns giving us 10 cards on a sheet and there were two sheets? Two more pitchers (balancing lefties and righties at two each per league), two infielders per non-pitching position (10 total) and six outfielders per league would certainly fit the pattern (even moreso if you assume 2 each of LF, CF & RF) and give us 20 full cards (4 pitchers, 10 infielders and 6 outfielders) while filling in all the positions and teams. But then there are too many corner pieces (at least three bottom rights or top lefts depending upon orientation). Aaaargh!
Adding up those puzzled out permutations gives a possible 36 cards/72 players at a minimum, which seems excessive to me. Given all this, I am going with the 20/40 count for now as it jibes nicely with the two-per-position theory and necessarily assume there were some double prints created, but this is not iron clad.
Anyway, enough speculation. On with the visual checklist:
Some of the nubs and edges have been trimmed off since I cleaned up the scans a little. I can assure you no nubs were harmed in the production of this post.
You will note Frank Robinson's airbrushed cap, no doubt a result of his trade from the Reds to the Orioles on December 9, 1965. Since he is shown as an AL player, the cards had to be produced after that date. It is also worth noting Joe Torre is depicted in a Milwaukee Braves hat as the team moved to Atlanta for the 1966 season. I would guess therefore it was a late December '65/early January '66 production cycle for these cards.
Now, given that a box flat was produced, these cards very nearly made it to the retail test level, although I don't think they actually hit the streets given how few surviving examples there are. Instead, I think the game proved unwieldy and was reconfigured for release in 1967. A look at the instructions on the back probably shows why:
The problem was you needed nine cards each to play the game, which is way too many cards to obtain a dime at a time before you could even start properly poking holes in the cards! The re-jiggered set as issued at retail in 1967 allowed you to use a single card each with a lineup of players on it, a much more realistic scenario for game-playing purposes. Still, these '66 Punchboards were almost finished products, with the possible exception of a score line to separate the two halves. I would love to see a wrapper proof someday; Rob Lifson believes he once had one from Woody Gelman's archives that featured Mantle on it, much like the box flat. I do expect some more players to be uncovered though; time will tell if my prediction of 20 full cards proves right.