…Another installment in the “So THAT’S Where That Was!” Series…
When I first got into baseball and baseball cards – and for me, they were simultaneous occurrences – I was the proverbial sponge. One of my favorite books at the time was a large hardcover book called “The Story Of Baseball”. It covered the sport from it’s beginnings through 1973, and I learned a lot about the sports early days from that book.
I also learned a fair amount from a card set that I now realize was my first oddball set: 1975 Fleer Pioneers Of Baseball.
Pioneers of Baseball is a small set of slightly oversized cards, each featuring a notable figure from baseball in the 19th century and early 20th century. There are 28 cards in the set, and while the cards are standard width, they’re a half-inch taller than standard… Just big enough to be a problem.
The fact that they were just slightly larger than standard was part of the reason mine were misplaced for 20-30 years… I put them in a particular box because I didn’t know what else to do with them, and over the years I forgot about that box.
My scanner makes the cards seem a little lighter than they really are… The borders look sort of bronze in the scans, but they’re closer to milk chocolate in color.
The backs of the card featured a write-up on the “Pioneer’s” career.
These cards were part of a long-running mystery for me. Being that they were in my collection from very early on, I knew I wouldn’t have gotten rid of them… And yet I had no freakin’ clue where they were. I had faith that they’d show up sooner or later, but in terms of organizing my collection, it ended up being more “later” than “sooner”.
…But with one mystery solved, another one presented itself. When I was researching the set for this post, everything I saw indicated that they came in a pack that was marketed as “Baseball Patches”, and each pack contained one team pennant cloth sticker and one Pioneers card. The thing is, while I remember having these cards, I do not remember getting these cards, nor do I remember any of my friends having any. Neither the “Baseball Patches” wrapper nor the cloth stickers look all that familiar to me. If your curious about the box, wrappers and stickers, you can see them over at The Fleer Sticker Project.
I wonder if these cards might have been sold in different packaging after the fact (i.e. several cards in a pack, without a sticker), or maybe in some sort of repackaging… it did happen sometimes with unsold cards in the 1970’s, but it wasn’t like the repacks of today… it was more like “let’s repackage the unsold stuff in our warehouse and call them Baseball Fun Packs!”.
Now that I’ve found these cards, I see that they fit pretty nicely in 6-pocket sheets, like you’d use for “Tall Boy” cards (or, in my case, 1961 Topps Sports Cars). I’m thinking I might use this opportunity to do a bit of reorganizing and create a “1970’s Oddballs” binder for this set, Kellogg’s, Hostess, Topps Supers and the like.
The funny thing about this set — for me, anyway — is that even though it was one of the earliest sets I collected, I don’t love it. It has a lot of significance for me, the photos are interesting and I like it OK… but even though I’ve got 19 of the 28 cards, I didn’t instantly think “Oh, I HAVE TO finish this set.”
…And it’s not that I wouldn’t make an effort to complete this set, more that it’s such a low priority in the grand scheme of things that the needed cards would pretty much have to fall into my lap.
I guess it all comes down to my gradually losing interest in the history of baseball prior to the Expansion Era. I suspect that a large part of that comes from the tendency among National League fans in the New York area (I grew up on Long Island) is to compartmentalize the history of the game a bit… One doesn’t like to talk about the love that left them, only about the one in their life now.
Regardless of how I feel, it’s certainly an unusual set, and it fits pretty much any definition you might have of “oddball”.
Does anybody else have any of these cards?
Does anybody remember buying these in the 1970’s?