The SSPC set: 1975 or 1976?

One thing that’s bugged me for a long time, and especially since I bought my haul of SSPC cards, is what to call the main 630-card set. Is it 1975 SSPC or 1976 SSPC? As Shawn Spencer on “Psych” would say, “I’ve heard it both ways”.

I think a lot of people use the 1975 copyright on the back as the basis for calling it “1975 SSPC”. In addition, the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards refers to it as “1975 SSPC”, and I’ve run across prominent auction houses selling the cards as “1975 SSPC”.

On the other side of the debate are COMC and BaseballCardPedia, which both list it as a 1976 set. Everything I’ve seen regarding the selling of the set indicates that it went on the market in 1976. The card backs reference the past 1975 season, the upcoming 1976 season and in some cases had been updated to reflect offseason player movement. Wouldn’t that indicate that it’s a 1976 set?

As I was sorting through my cards, my interest was further piqued when I ran across this Joe Lovitto card:

1976 SSPC #271 Joe Lovitto

I noticed that it listed him as a New York Met, something which caught my attention for two reasons…

First off, I didn’t remember him being with the Mets… and as it turns out, the Mets traded for him in December, 1975 and released him towards the end of Spring Training, so he never played in a regular season game for them.

The second reason it caught my attention was because card back included something else of interest:
1976 SSPC #271 Joe Lovitto back

It starts right off by saying he was traded on 12/12/75.  That’s a much later update than you’d see in the Topps set, but right in line with some of the 1976 Topps Traded cards.

As I kept going through my cards I tried to find later transactions, but most of what I found was from December 9th through the 12th.  Some online thingamajiggery revealed that 12/12/75 was a Friday… A bunch of transactions all at once and concluding on a Friday?  Sounds like that was the week of the Winter Meetings.

Then I had another idea; I’d go to, look up transactions starting in December, 1975 and see how far the transactions go before one fails to be acknowledged on an SSPC card back.

After December 12th, there’s a bit of a gap, which is understandable. Back to business, preparing for the Holidays and all that.

Then I found this deal…
December 22, 1975: The St. Louis Cardinals traded Mick Kelleher to the Chicago Cubs for Vic Harris.

I found that I have a Vic Harris card…
1976 SSPC #321 Vic Harris

…and this is very notable in that,  unlike the other cards, the trade is acknowledged with an O-Pee-Chee-like line at the top:
1976 SSPC #321 Vic Harris back

Verrrry interesting.  Looks pretty last-minute to me.

Finally, I ran across this deal…
January 9, 1976: The New York Mets traded Jerry Cram to the Kansas City Royals

I’d started looking for Mets as soon as I started going through my cards, so I knew I had Jerry Cram.
1976 SSPC #559 Jerry Cram

…and the back of that card doesn’t acknowledge his Kansas City Royalty.
1976 SSPC #559 Jerry Cram back

Just to review… (he said, as he looked pensively out the window) … A trade on 12/22/75 was mentioned, but a trade on 1/9/76 was not… Clearly, this set was “put to bed” very late in 1975, if not actually in 1976. The cards may have been printed in 1975, but there would’ve been very little time to ship any out before the end of 1975.

At this point what really started to bother me is why anyone would think that the people selling SSPC would have called it a 1975 set.  Calling a set “1975” and selling it in 1976 is not just poor marketing, that’s plain ol’ stupid. If I introduced a 2012 set now, would you buy it?  The only way I can see “1975” happening is if it was intended all along to be a document of the just-passed season… but if you were doing that, you wouldn’t update it for offseason trades.

At this point I’d convinced myself that it was a 1976 set… but I had to do my due diligence, I’ve been burned on things like that before.

So I kept flipping through books for this, Googling for that, when I had a small epiphany; there were several smaller sets generated before the main set came out, and one of those was a promo set. If a small set of cards were made to promote an upcoming set, wouldn’t those promos include the set year on them?

Well, DUH.

I don’t have any of the promos, but I borrowed an image from COMC.

1976 SSPC Promos #6 - Tom Seaver - Courtesy of

1976 SSPC Promos #6 – Tom Seaver – Courtesy of

…and there you go. A promotional card for the set says that it’s a 1976 set. Wish I thought of that up front.

But that’s neither here nor there. What’s important is that from this point on, this set shall be referred to on this blog as the 1976 SSPC set.


Because Everybody Loves An Embarrassing Yankee Loss (1979 Hostess Amos Otis)

1979 Hostess Amos OtisOn this day in 1978, Amos Otis was involved in a moment in Yankees history that I wish I could say I remember.

Here’s the scene:  In Royals Stadium that Friday, Ed Figueroa was pitching well for the Yankees, giving up 2 runs on 6 hits, and going into the 9th inning with a 3-2 lead.  Figueroa g0t Hal McRae and Al Cowens to pop out, but with two outs he walked catcher Darrell Porter and then went 2-0 on Amos Otis.  Billy Martin decided he’d seen enough, and brought in closer Goose Gossage.

Gossage’s first pitch to Otis was hit to right-center field, and centerfielder Paul Blair seemed to catch it for the final out, but…

…and this is the part I like…

…he collided with rightfielder Reggie Jackson, the ball and Blair’s glove went flying and a shaken Paul Blair wasn’t able to get to the ball before Otis came all the way around with a walk-off  inside-the-park home run!

Royals Win!  Thuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh Royals win!!!!

Coincidentally, the Yankees are in Kansas City this weekend.  Maybe something similar will happen today and the Royals can avoid the sweep.

Incidentally, there are sources on the web which say the collision was between Jackson and Mickey Rivers, but Blair had pinch-run for Rivers in the 7th.  I wonder if there were extenuating circumstances, because I can’t imagine why you’d need to pinch-run for “Mick The Quick”.

Series 1 Of My 2013 TSR Custom Set is LIVE!

2013 TSR #45 - Josh BeckettAs the new season begins, it’s also time to unveil my custom 2013 TSR card design.

This will be my 5th season of custom cards, my 3rd original design, and my second set shared through this blog; You can view the cards from last year’s set in the “2012 TSR CUSTOM GALLERY” tab above.

If this were a real set, it would be issued in 6 series of 132 cards each, for a total of 792 cards. Cards would be printed on grey cardboard without gloss, foil, holograms, shortprints, parallels, relics or many other “innovations” of the past 25 years. Wax packs would be 15 cards for $1, come wrapped in wax paper and include a small pink strip designed to lovingly transfer a “bubblegum” smell on to the cards. This strip could also, in a pinch, be chewed as gum.

Also, if this were a real set, I’d be filing Chapter 11 somewhere around September… if all went well.

2013 TSR #100 - Josh HamiltonThis design evolved through my staring at cards and thinking things like “I really like how 1988 Topps has the team name floating in the air behind the player’s head”… but instead of making a custom 1988 card, I’d adapt that particular idea into my own design; think of another design element that I liked and incorporate that into my design; lather, rinse, repeat until I have something that I like which is more-or-less original.

For those who might actually be interested in the thought process that went into these, here is a list of my basic criteria when designing a set:

  • The template I create needs to be easy to work with and flexible enough to adapt to Highlights, All-Stars, managers and so on.
  • While I prefer vertical sets, I like designs which also work horizontally (think of Topps in 1971, 1973, 1974 and 2007-2013).
  • Colors are limited to those which occur in the Topps palette of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.
  • Each team has an assigned color scheme, one which is not necessarily that team’s colors. Ideally I’d have a different color scheme for every team, but I don’t know if it’s possible to do that for 30 teams without getting into some fugly color combinations.

2013 TSR #90 - James ShieldsI always try to come up with something which will look good in a 9-pocket sheet, as that was the original intent behind my custom cards. That intent went out the window when my color printer crapped out, but I still try to keep that in mind, just in case I find a way of printing my lovelies without shelling out $$$ for another color printer (…any suggestions?)

…So there you go. I hope you like the design, because you’ll be seeing these for the next 6 months.

1976 Hostess Steve Busby – Name That Ballpark!

1976 Hostess Steve BusbyWho’s good at identifying ballparks?  The one in the background here looked “wrong” to me, but I’m one of those people who is not very good at spotting ballparks, not unless there’s something completely obvious in the photo.

Busby’s in his home uniform, but it doesn’t look like Kauffman Stadium to me.  It’s too big to be a Spring Training stadium.

Could it be Milwaukee County Stadium?  The 1975 All-Star Game was in Milwaukee, Busby pitched in the game and since Milwaukee was an American League city at the time, Busby would’ve been wearing his home whites…

Steve Busby was a very good pitcher for a very short time.  He pitched 8 seasons for the Royals, but missed 1977 with injuries and only had 3 seasons where he had more than 12 starts.  But from 1973 to 1975 he threw two no-hitters, was on two All-Star teams, won 16, 22 and 18 games, and struck out 532 over the span of those three years.

1997 Topps Gets Whacked

I did something last weekend that I thought I’d never do… but I have to admit, I feel better for having done it. After much deliberating and a bit of impulse – imagine a tiny little Bluto Blutarsky in my head yelling “LET’S DO IT!!!!! Go! Go! Go!” – I’ve officially abandoned any intentions of completing 1997 Topps baseball. The significance isn’t so much that I’m giving up on 1997 as much as I’m giving up on a Topps set that I’d started.

1997 Topps Bip Roberts

I felt like I should keep the Bip just for the meme-iness of it all.

When I was a kid, my goal was to collect every baseball card ever made. As I got a little older and realized that it wasn’t a realistic goal, I scaled it back to every Topps card ever made, and then to every Topps base set from 1970 on… that last goal has been in place for at least 30 years. For me to finally abandon the “Prime Directive” that I’ve had longer than some of you have… well, been… that wasn’t something that was easily decided.

This actually started back when Topps’ Diamond Giveaway was in full swing and I had people offering to trade me cards from 1997. I’d looked at my checklists and was dismayed to find that I needed 60% of the 1997 Topps set.  Sixty Percent!  That’s damn near starting from scratch.

1997 Topps Jose Valentin

Special Guest Star: Cal Ripken, Jr.

Then I looked at the 1997 cards I already have in my collection, and the 4-year-old part of my brain started whining “I don’t WANNA collect that set! It’s POOPY!!!!” Sure enough, when I took a step back and looked at the set with some objectiveness, I had to agree with 4-year-old Joe. The 1990’s was not a good decade for Topps, and 1997 is the nadir… small, bland, dull. It’s such an uninteresting and useless set that I passionately hate it for being uninteresting and useless.

Truth be told, I’ve always liked 1997 Collector’s Choice better.

…And 1997 Fleer.

…And 1997 Score.

I think the only reason I’d bought more than a pack of 1997 Topps was because it was Topps. One simply must buy Topps, mustn’t one?

So then I started thinking about cutting back my wantlist to those cards that I truly want. It’s at that point that I started thinking “Well, if I’m not going to get the Paul Shueys and Tom Pagnozzis that I would need for a set, then do I really need to keep the Tim Crabtrees and Orlando Millers that I don’t care about but already have?”

1997 Topps Butch Huskey
So I finally pulled the trigger and purged the unwanted cards from my binder and storage box, and in addition to Tim Crabtree I also purged Barry Bonds and Ivan Rodriguez and other cards that didn’t have any significance for me. I kept the Mets, Orioles and a handful of other cards, and the ‘casualties’ ended up being just over 100 cards… but it’s not about how many cards got purged. It’s more about setting a precedent, pushing the envelopes, killing the sacred cows and other hackneyed phrases.

Seriously, though, this was a mindshift for me, and has me questioning the general idea of completing sets… but I’ll get into that another time.

Are We Not Stars…? 1972 Royals Rookie Stars

…Answering the age-old question, “Who are these guys?”
1972 Topps Rookie Stars Royals
…and before we get started, I’ll mention that this is the rookie card for both players.

Lance Clemons:  played in three different seasons for three different teams. He pitched in 10 games for the Royals in 1971, starting 3, finishing 2, going 1-0, 4.13 in 24 innings. He appeared in 5.1 innings for the Cardinals in 1972 (0-1, 10.13) and 6.1 innings in 1974 with the Red Sox (1-0, 9.95). After the 1971 season, he was traded with Jim York to the Astros for John Mayberry (a big mistake on the Astros part), and then on 4/15/72 he was traded with Scipio Spinks to the Cardinals for Jerry Reuss.

Monty Montgomery: I fully expected that “Monty” would be a nickname based on his last name, but his given name is Monty Bryson Montgomery. He also appeared in 1973 set on his own card. His career consisted of 12 games (10 starts) spread over 1971 (3-0, 2.11) and 1972 (3-3, 3.04). He pitched in the minors until 1974, spending the whole time with the Royals.

Closest To A Star: Neither pitcher had anything resembling a long career, but I’ve got to go with Monty Montgomery’s 6-3, 2.78 career record.

1990 Topps Magazine Cards And A Familiar-Looking Image

Earlier this week I was idly sorting through a box of oversized “I don’t know how to properly store this” stuff, and I ran across my Topps Magazine cards, still in sheet form but long since divorced from the magazines they came in.

I think I subscribed to the first 4 issues of Topps Magazine, but decided that it wasn’t exciting enough for me to re-up… Despite the inclusion of special cards which manage the difficult feat of being uglier than the 1990 Topps design.
1990 Topps Magazine TM9 - 12

While I was looking at this particular set of cards, I couldn’t help but notice that the Jim Palmer photo looked familiar…
1990 Topps Magazine TM13 - 16
…and that’s when I realized it might be from the same photo shoot as this past Sunday’s Hostess Card Of The Week:
1979 Hostess Jim Palmer
Although the Topps Magazine card is a bit washed out, both photos were taken in Yankee Stadium on a partly sunny day, both have the Brut cologne ad on the left, and in both photos Jim Palmer’s hair has an unintended flip on his right.

I don’t have a real point to this, other than “Heyyyyyyyy, lookathis!”  Having two similar Jim Palmer photos in the same week was nothing I’d planned, I’m nowhere near that organized… it’s just a serendipitous occurrence (and 25 cents goes in the “Big Word” jar).

Getting back to the 1990 Topps Magazine cards, these are pretty much what you’d expect from 1990 baseball cards.  On the first half of the sheet, we’ve got four ubiquitous-for-1990 faces in Bo (Overhyped 2-sport player) Jackson, Nolan Ryan (who had just reached 5000 K’s), Will “The Thrill” Clark and Robin Yount, the AL MVP of the previous season.

The second half of the sheet features the two 1990 Hall Of Fame inductees in Joe Morgan and Jim Palmer, as well as two players who’d been drafted in 1989 and made their Major League debuts that September.  Ben McDonald was the first overall draft pick, and went on to have a decent career with the Orioles and Brewers.

John Olerud played for 17 years for a number of teams and had a couple of exceptional seasons where he batted .363 and .354.  He’s also notable in that he’s one of those players who went straight to the Major Leagues without making any minor league stops.  In fact, he didn’t play in the minors until he did a brief stint with AAA Pawtucket at the end of his career, in what seems to have been an audition for the Red Sox.

Olerud’s card is interesting in that it lists him as both a first baseman and a pitcher, even though I can’t find any evidence of him having pitched in the pros… although he did pitch in college

Hostess Of The Week (1976 George Brett) And A Follow-Up On Halloween

I believe you’re all familiar with George Brett?
George, Readers. Readers, George.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I thought I’d share how Halloween went with us. We didn’t seem to have quite as many kids as usual, but many of the kids that did show up were excited about the cards, and a few children told us that they remembered us from prior years, which is always a good feeling (We don’t have kids of our own, so many of the kids in the neighborhood don’t know us from a hole in the wall).  One girl admitted that she didn’t want the cards themselves, but last year she was able to trade them for some good candy.  I laughed, and told her that was fine.

In the process, I managed to purge approximately 714 cards from the house: 570 baseball, 100 football, 14 basketball and 24 hockey.  Not bad for an evening’s work.


As long as I’m going over numbers, I’m way overdue for Weigh-In #42.

Numbers for this week month:

Cards coming into the house: 182 (mostly Topps Update)

Cards leaving the house: 717 (Halloween, plus three junk wax cards tossed into the recycling)

Cards entering the collection: 15

Cards leaving the collection: 50 (Removed some unwanted oddballs and hockey cards)

Cards moving from inbound to outbound without entering the collection: 89

To date:

Net change in the collection: 0 (I’ve been doing this for nearly a year, and the best I can do is zero-growth.  Eh, I’ll take it).

Net change to the # of cards in the house: -9,624

Total # of cards which have left the house: 13,535

Number of cards tracked in my Access database: 1,795

…And All The Rest Are Here On Gilligan’s Island!

Fine, I’ll admit this has nothing to do with Gilligan’s Island, but is instead about “all the rest” of the top rookies of 1973

Steve Busby tied for third in the AL Rookie Of The Year voting, and was one of those promising guys who were derailed by injuries. Check out this timeline:
– 1973: Went 16-15 with a 4.23 ERA, 174 K’s and 105 BB’s. He no-hit the Tigers on 4/27
– 1974: 22-14, 3.39, no-hit the Brewers and was an All-Star
– 1975: 18-12, 3.08; All-Star
– 1976: 3-3 in only 13 games
– 1977: Missed the entire season due to injuries
– 1978 – 1980: 9-12 in 41 games over three seasons. He retired after 1980.

Elias Sosa got some votes in the NL ROY (10-4, 3.28); He ranked third in the N.L. in games (71) and 5th in saves (18). This is his rookie card.

Richie Zisk was 9th in NL ROY; going into the 1973 season, a spot in the Pirates outfield had opened up with the untimely death of Roberto Clemente, and Zisk did his best to show that he was worthy of a starting job by hitting .324 with 10 homers and 54 RBI.

…and that wraps it up for the 1973 rookies. Hope you weren’t too disappointed that this wasn’t about Gilligan’s Isle.

Gilligan, toss me that coconut!