More Vintage Bargain Bin Finds: Rookies and a GREAT comic

You know you’ve found a good card shop when you’ve been shopping there for years and can still find something you didn’t know they carried.

Such was the case recently when I make a trip to one of my shops, the one that I traditionally go to when I’ve got a case of vintage card fever. I asked the shop keeper if he had added anything new to the bargain bins and he said he hadn’t, but was preparing to within the next week or so. BUT as I nosed my way around the shop I spotted on the back wall a dozen or so boxes marked “Vintage, 75 % off high book.” Needless to say I was intrigued.

This shop is a set collectors dream. They have EVERY common in the store sorted by year and set number. Literally, there are probably 500 5,000 boxes full of cards on shelves. But up until recently, I didn’t know this included vintage! And as it turns out, this shop has a ton more vintage than I thought. For set builders, they have 50 or 60 boxes of pre 1970 stuff all sorted by year, set and number … as well as condition. The low-end is 75 percent off high book, mid-grade is 50 percent off high book and the better condition commons are 10 percent off high book.

It’s in my nature to gravitate toward the lower end stuff so I poured over three 5,000 boxes and made the best use of $20 that I could. Enjoy the finds:

The Ray Murray card above is one of two cards that I had been seeking for a few months. You see, one day I was offered this Murray card on the Topps Million Card Giveaway site and before declining the offer — they wanted my 1953 Bill Hunter rookie — I read the back and became infatuated with the comic. Now it is mine to enjoy forever.

The 1954 Topps set is one that I really like. I’ve toyed with the idea of building it seeing as how I’ve got most of the big names from the set including Jackie Robinson and Ted Williams, and rookies of Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks. After nabbing the Murray, I grabbed the Beckett Annual book and started looking for rookie cards from the set. I knew that the good rookies would be in the showcase, but I am working on an Ultimate Rookie Card Collection that entails getting the RCs of every player who had a card produced from 1933 to present. This would be the theme for the day as I was working a small budget.

You won’t believe the reaction when I saw this card. Can you figure out why I nearly busted out laughing? Hint: “I don’t like you, Mav, because you’re dangerous.” The Kazanski name is the same as the character “Iceman” from Top Gun. And for a split second, I had convinced myself that Val Kilmer’s character was named “Ted” and not “Tom,” and that the writers were inspired by this Phillies shortstop. No such luck. But Kazanski, who ultimately spent half a decade in the majors with five teams, does have the honor of being the first shortstop since 1920 to drive in four runs in his major league debut, something Cubs’ rookie Starlin Castro accomplished — and eclipsed — earlier this year. If ya didn’t know, now ya know. And now I’ve got his 1954 Topps rookie card. Score!

Meet Pedro Ramos, a Cuban-born pitcher whose career was spent with eight teams over 15 years. Ramos’ career is fascinating … he led the league in losses four seasons, but was apparently a huge hit as a Yankee reliever in 1964. And eight years before being a dominant Yankee, he gave up a ginormous home run to Yankee Legend Mickey Mantle, one that supposedly just missed leaving Yankee Stadium by inches — the ball struck a facade in the upper deck of right field.

From one Yankee player to another, here’s a 1958 Topps rookie of Jerry Lumpe, who broke into the Bigs as the New York second baseman. Lumpe played 12 seasons and collected 1,314 hits in 1,371 games. Sounds impressive but his career batting average was .260. He did, however, finish 25th in the AL MVP race as a Kansas City Athletic in 1962.

A Hall of fame rookie ca … nope, not so fast. This is Earl Averill, Jr. I knew the name sounded really familiar, and I was stoked to find this 1959 Topps rookie card for a buck. But I admittedly was thrown off when in the showcase below there was a 1934 Batter Up of Earl Averill (Sr.) Meh. I guess if I had read the comic on the back I would have known what was going on. Side note, gotta love that Topps didn’t color over the Cleveland ball cap Averill is wearing on his Cubs rookie card.

So, Red Sox manager Terry Francona is often called Tito because that is the name by which his father went by while playing in the Major Leagues. And Tito’s real name is John, which sounds nothing like Tito. For than matter, neither does Terry. Go figure. But hey, Terry and Tito, err John, surely look alike … although it might be a bit tough to tell given the condition of this 1957 Topps rookie of the elder Francona.

I gotta say, one of the first times I went digging through the vintage bargain boxes at this shop it was in direct response to something that happened on Twitter. Earlier this year, Beckett Baseball Editor Chris Olds and I were briefly stumped by an image Topps had posted — that of a retired Reds pitcher signing a Topps Heritage dual autograph card. If you’re so inclined, you can read my initial post on that topic here. Well, in April I was unaware that the shop had these boxes. As it turns out, they had SEVEN Wieand rookies; I grabbed two — one for me and one for TTM.

1960 is a fun year for rookies, I love the horizontal design for the Rookie Stars. And while there were a dozen or so rookies I could have bought during this trip — I’ll have to get them later — I opted to buy this Dick Ellsworth who is another player whom I had learned about through the Topps Million site. I’ll write about his later, but a few days ago I picked up THE Ellsworth card to own. You might know what it is, but if you don’t, check out last month’s Beckett Baseball. It is discussed there.

As noted above, there are hundreds of rookies I do not own, and I purposely left a lot of them behind because I wanted to work within a small budget. It keeps me grounded and keeps me hunting and returning to this shop for business. But there are still five other cards I bought on this trip, all of which depict hall of famers. On a side note, I am working on another project that entails owning original cards (or reasonably priced vintage) of every person in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

There’s been a trend in recent years to make cards of old, deceased or retired players to invoke some historical significance in today’s cards. For some reason, I can’t seem to embrace the idea of seeing a Mel Ott card decked out in refractor technology, gloss and gold foil. So instead of chasing such cards, I turn to the vintage sets that honor the old time players, like this 1961 Fleer card. Eventually I’ll have to pony up the cash to get Ott’s 1933 Goudey rookie, this will do for now.

While I was chatting with the shop keeper, he mentioned that he had just acquired an SGC 5 T205 card of Chief Bender. And for 10 seconds I held the card in my hands, examining the beauty of the century old cardboard. His price? $250. I liked it, but not THAT much. I settled for this 1961 Fleer Bender for $1. I consider it a place holder.

What does a 2,400 hits and a career .324 batting average get you? A place in the Hall of Fame … on his eighth term of eligibility.  This is the first Medwick card I’ve ever owned, and it will have to be the best until I find a decently priced copy of his 1933 Goudey Heads Up rookie. It will be mine. Oh yes, one day, it will be mine.

Technically, I ‘d already owned a Charles Comiskey card — but it is one of those Borden Cracker Jack reprints (like this Shoeless Joe Jackson seen here) and it is about the size of a quarter, literally. It seemed like a no brainer for me to add this Comiskey to my collection as it, too, will be a placeholder for one of his 1887 Allen & Ginter cards.

And finally, we have a card of one Cornelius McGillicuddy, better known as Connie Mack. Oddly enough I was looking the other day for his 1941 PlayBall rookie card and missed out on it for like $40.

If you’re keeping score at home, that’s 14 cards for $20.

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