Making Up for Bad Blogging, Part IV
May 7th, 2012 by slangon

Today, we’re getting into some of the less mainstream cards that I got in my last batch of cheapies, namely cards that weren’t issued by Topps. I was able to pick up a couple of cards from a set that I’ve long admired – the 1961 Fleer All-Time Greats set.

According to the Holy Book (aka The Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards):

In 1961, Fleer Issued another set utilizing the Baseball Greats theme. The 154-card set was issued in two series and features a color (or colorized) player portrait against a colored background. The player’s name is located in a pennant at bottom. Card backs feature orange and black on white stock and contain player biographical and statistical information. The cards measure 2-1/2″ x 3-1/2″ in size. Five-cent wax packs included five cards plus a team logo decal and sticker.

From what I can gather, once Fleer decided to stick their toe in the baseball card pool, they needed to find a way to work around the virtual monopoly that Topps created through their aggressive signing of players to exclusive contracts. They took a novel approach in 1959 by creating an entire set based around one player. Even though that one player happened to be Teddy Ballgame, it didn’t seem like the cards were much of a hit outside of Boston perhaps. In 1960, they came up with the idea of creating a set dedicated to great players of the past, thus avoiding the need to get contracts from current (or current as of 1960) players. The design was pretty sparse, but to me the idea was pretty awesome. I love me some baseball history and old-timey players. It seems that the children of 1960 would disagree however, since by all accounts the set didn’t sell so well.

Not to be discouraged, Fleer continued with the Baseball Greats theme in 1961, this time employing a better art director and a bigger set size. Although this set is usually referred to as a 1961 issue, there is speculation that the release of the set ran into 1962 as well, which would explain why there is no 1962 Fleer issue. The set was split into 2 series: cards 1-88, and cards 89-176. Perhaps the first series was actually issued in 1961 and the second series was 1962. The second series is considered more scarce.

This was their last stab at trying to circumvent modern players. In an attempt to break into the baseball card market, they packaged their cards with a terrible tasting cookie rather than gum. Predictably, Topps cried foul, won their lawsuit and outside of the occasional oddball issue, knocked Fleer out of the baseball card business until 1981, when an antitrust suit against Topps was finally settled. This granted Fleer (and other companies) the right to produce baseball cards. Oddly enough, Fleer also won $1 in damages. Like most lawsuits, we haven’t heard the last of Topps and their lawyers. After the initial ruling, Topps got the judge to at least let them keep the distinction of being the only card company to sell their cards with gum. That’s why both Fleer and Donruss were sold with gum in 1981, but after that Fleer packaged their cards with stickers and Donruss was stuck with puzzle pieces.

Okay. Enough with the history lesson already. Let’s see some cardboard.

Nowadays, when you mention stolen bases, most people probably think of Rickey Henderson. Maybe Lou Brock if you’re an old timer. Maybe Jose Reyes or Michael Bourn or Jacoby Ellsbury if you have a particularly short memory. Maybe even Tyrus R. Cobb if you’re a student of history. Well, let me tell you about Max Carey. He led the National League in steals 10 times in his career. Only Rickey Henderson has led the league more times. He stole home 33 times. Only Ty Cobb pulled it off more times. In 1922, he stole 51 bases in 53 tries, which is good for a 96% rate. Which would put him about 14th or 15th on the all-time list. That might not sound so impressive until you notice that all the guys in front of him have 20-30 something steals. The list on Baseball-Reference only includes stats from 1954 on, so he’s not on that list. I guess things like that are what get you in the Hall of Fame with a .285/.361/.386 slash line.

Kiki Cuyler also made it into the Hall, but with a bit more Hall-worthy .321/.386/.474 slash line. He also won a World Series with the Pirates and played in 2 others with the Cubbies. He’s also apparently Ward Cleaver’s favorite baseball player.

Jesse Haines is a Hall of Famer who played his entire career with the Cardinals, with the exception of 5 innings played during his rookie year with the Reds. He was part of the Cardinals famed “Gashouse Gang” and played in 4 World Series’ with the team, winning 2 of them. According to Yahoo! Sports, he is apparently the “worst player in the Hall of Fame”.

Art Nehf is the only non-HOF-er in this group. He is also one of 58 guys in this set that aren’t in the Hall of Fame. Bonus fact: Art is the only Major Leaguer whose middle name is Neukom. That’s his mommy’s maiden name.

Lastly, we have “Gorgeous George” Sisler, who some said was “the nearest thing to a perfect ballplayer.” And by some I mean Ty Cobb.

There we have it. Five cards from one of the cooler looking non-Topps sets ever. And for those of you out there counting, that’s 3 posts in 3 days. Let’s see how long I can keep up that pace.

One Response to “Making Up for Bad Blogging, Part IV”

  1. cool pick ups ! i’m chasing this set myself, a card at a time. good luck !

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