Thursday, March 17, 2011

Unable to do my prize justice

A couple of weeks ago, I won a prize on The Brooklyn Met's Clear Cut Cards blog. He was giving away a set of cards created by Gary Cieradkowski, who illustrated and designed the set. Cieradkowski also runs the Infinite Baseball Card Set blog, which you should all know about by now.

The set I received is Series 1 (and I don't think I'm alone in saying that there had better be a Series 2).

The cards have sat patiently for two weeks waiting for me to sing their praises.

But I'm afraid I've lost my voice.

I really have no time to do this set justice. I'm writing when I really should be sleeping because another ridiculously early work day (and I just got off of work at 2 a.m.) is scant hours away. But I feel that I must show the cards now. I could wait until I had more time, but the people who gave away the prize and created the prize deserve something a bit more prompt.

So, here's what I've got. I hope I don't form any "words" that suddenly look like I'm writing in Czechoslovakian.

That is the back of the wrapper, which looks very cool and old-school in a '60s sort of way. Not that I was really aware of what the '60s was like. Also, you can see I have set No. 213. Lucky me.

Gary thanks me for "purchasing" the set. I thank Gary for making it.

Here is an example of one of Gary's cards. This card isn't part of Series 1. I think it was created as sort of an advertisement for the set, going by what the back looks like:

The ad at the bottom is not on the backs of the other cards. But, otherwise, it looks like any other card in the set. From the write-up on the back you get an idea of the wonderful subject matter and research that goes into these cards.

Frankie Zak was actually sent independently of the rest of the set, which the Brooklyn Met (a.k.a. Jason) sent to me. Gary shipped the Zak separately, along with a new version of a card already in Series 1:

I never thought I would ever come across a baseball card of Fidel Castro in my collecting life. But there it is. This was a new card devised by Gary. I wish I had time to figure out why he did a second one, but I'm sorry that I don't.

Before I show the cards in the set, I should describe their look and feel. They have a slick finish very similar to your average 2011 Topps card. They're the same thickness, too. But the dimensions, obviously, are different. They're 3 1/2 inches deep, but not even 2 1/4 inches wide.

OK, on with the cards in the set. A very scatter-shot description for each card, I'm afraid:

"Chief" Johnson: A persecuted Native American who won 32 of 38 games for a barnstorming team and played in the Federal League. Murdered in a dispute over alcohol.

There's the back of the card. They all pretty much look like that. They're also some of the most interesting card backs I have ever read.

Eddie Cicotte: The former Black Sox pitcher. This card recognizes his barnstorming days with his fellow Black Sox in the 1920s as they all desperately waited for a chance to return to the majors that never came.

Overton Tremper: The first former Brooklyn Dodger in the set. He left the bigs for a teaching career, but stayed in baseball, playing for a semipro team called the Bushwicks.

Sig Jakucki: A popular player in Hawaii, who later played in the majors. Between bouts with alcohol, he landed on a St. Louis team that won the 1944 pennant. Then booze won out for good.

Turkey Stearnes: I wrote about Stearnes briefly when "Bid" McPhee was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame (please make a McPhee card, Gary!). They were inducted in the same class. Stearns was a speedy Negro League standout, who, no surprise, ran like a turkey.

Willard Brown: A star of the Kansas City Monarchs, Brown became the first African-American to hit a home run in the American League.

This is one of a couple of cards in the set that offers player stats.

Otto Rettig: A star pitcher of the famed Silk Sox semi-pro team of the early 20th century.

Fidel Castro: The original Castro card. The back says Castro wasn't as good as the Cuban propaganda machine made him out to be.

Jimmy Claxton: Claxton was signed by Oakland of the Pacific Coast League only after they were assured that he was of Native American descent and not African. The game Claxton pitched was the only one played by a black man in a white man's league until Jackie Robinson came along.

Victor Starffin: A son of Russian refugees, Starffin won 300 games in Japan. Japanese authorities imprisoned him and his family during World War II.

Leon Day: The Negro League star was simply one of the greatest pitchers ever and resides in the Hall of Fame.

Jud Wilson: No, that's not the Black Sox you know. Wilson played for the Baltimore Black Sox of the 1920s. He was a noisy kind of guy. He hit the ball hard and had a temper.

Lefty Brown: Brown supposedly joined the Chicago American Giants straight from a Texas chain gang. He later was accused of murder and died under mysterious circumstances.

"Bullet" Rogan: He once won 52 games in a season for his regiment on the Arizona-Mexico border in 1918. He later was a key component in the formation of the Kansas City Monarchs.

Eiji Sawamura: Sawamura is credited with striking out Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig and Charlie Gehringer in succession during an exhibition game. He was 17. Sawamura turned down offers by American teams and played in Japan. He later entered the military for Japan and died during World War II when his ship was sunk in 1944.

Bill Sayles: Another former Brooklyn Dodger, who also played for the Red Sox and Giants. Sayles pitched for the 1936 U.S. Olympic baseball team in Berlin.

Josh Gibson: "The Black Babe Ruth" is regarded by many as one of the greatest hitters of all-time. He played on the same team as Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, Judy Johnson and Oscar Charleston.

Satchel Paige: Sure, Paige played for the Browns and Indians. But he also played for a team he organized in the Dominican Republic at the request of the country's dictator.

Pea Ridge Day: Day also played for the Dodgers, was a champion hog caller and considered himself the strongest man in the game. He met a gruesome end when he cut his throat with a hunting knife while drinking. That's an awful thing to happen to a guy who got to wear grasshoppers on his jersey.

Martin Dihigo: Known for his versatility, Dihigo would often play all nine positions in a single game. He is a member of the Hall of Fame and was known for his warm personality.

That is Series 1. For much more detailed, interesting write-ups on all of these cards and many others, check out Gary's blog. You can also order your own set.

Jason also threw in a few Dodgers as part of my prize:

In my haste, I scanned three. But, trust me, there were more.

A heartfelt thanks to both gentlemen for such a great prize. I wish I could spend more time on the wonderfulness of the set, but I've really got to hit the sack so I can go back to work and discuss naming conventions and layout geometries at a godawful hour tomorrow (sound fun?).

But it's the last 12-hour day ... until next week.

See you later.


  1. Hey, glad that you enjoyed the prize! I hope your getting some rest.

  2. I agree about this set needing a Bid McPhee--one of the last players to start wearing a glove. Salt-soaked hands of leather. Bid is a legend.

  3. Would you trade some of those cards?? I'll hook you up with a nice relic for the 3 i want.

  4. That is a great looking set. I love the history told about these players. Many of these players, I have never heard of and they seem to have some cool stories behind them. Great post!

  5. Wicked ~

    I'm only willing to let go of one of the Castro cards. I want to keep the set intact.

  6. I read that blog all the time. Beautiful cards. I clearly need to start entering contests.