Friday, November 28, 2014

Checking it twice

It's officially Christmas season, I suppose. But I'm not black Friday shopping nor taking advantage of any online black Friday baseball card deals. You have to have money to do those things.

So, what am I doing instead?

Writing about checklists!

Wait! Where ya going?

This is important stuff here.

If you're a team collector, one of the more annoying facets of 1960s cards are the checklists. Between 1967 and 1969, Topps printed a head shot with its checklist cards. That head shot was a star of the period and there was a different star player on each checklist card.

The player is unnamed on the card, which often causes it to slip under the radar for team collectors. Some checklist guides don't even bother to mention the player pictured on  the card. It merely says something like "4th series checklist".

So this is what happened with the above 1969 Topps 4th Series checklist, which pictures Don Drysdale. Long after I thought I had completed my 1969 Topps Dodgers team set, I discovered that this card existed. Wow, was there ever a lot of cursing after that discovery. I think the neighbors are still talking about it.

One side benefit of those cards is that you can pick up a card of a superstar that ordinarily would be out of my price range. This 1969 checklist is the only vintage Mickey Mantle card that I own and it was easily acquired. It doesn't hurt that it's off-center.

But after 1969, Topps returned to checklists without photos as they had done in most of the previous years (with the exception of 1961, which features action photos). This was the world in which I entered collecting. Most 1970s Topps checklists feature no photo, not even a drawing of a player. It's probably why I was so surprised when I discovered photos on checklists.

Through the '70s and '80s, checklists continued in the same pattern until, I think, 1984 Fleer, which broke its checklists down by team and featured a picture of the team's manager in an inset photo.

There were several other checklists that followed in the early '90s that featured action photos on its checklists. I pretty much ignored those and still don't know if there is a Dodger on, say, one of the 1993 Donruss checklists. I really don't care.

But then maybe a couple of months ago I was opening a Fairfield repack and this card fell out:

I think I squealed like my daughter when she was 5 and saw a spider in the back seat.

What the hell is this? It was like 1969 all over again. I was both thrilled and horrified. Thrilled because I finally owned the 1991 Leaf checklist card with Darryl Strawberry on the front but horrified because I never knew it existed, that it was laughing at me for two decades, and HOW MANY MORE OF THESE THINGS ARE THERE????

So, I decided to investigate this in the most half-assed way possible.

I'm sure a lot of checklist sources mention the players on each of these checklist cards, but how about getting them together all in one place?

This is the one place.

Here are the sets that I just mentioned with the player featured on each of their checklist cards:

1967 Topps

1st series checklist - Frank Robinson - Orioles
2nd series - Mickey Mantle - Yankees
3rd series - Willie Mays - Giants
4th series - Jim Kaat - Twins
5th series - Roberto Clemente - Pirates
6th series - Juan Marichal - Giants
7th series - Brooks Robinson - Orioles

1968 Topps

1st series - Jim Kaat - Twins
2nd series - Juan Marichal - Giants
3rd series - Carl Yastrzemski - Red Sox
4th series - Orlando Cepeda, Cardinals
5th series - Ken Holtzman, Cubs
6th series  - Frank Robinson, Orioles
7th series - Clete Boyer, Braves

1969 Topps

1st series - Denny McLain, Tigers
2nd series - Bob Gibson, Cardinals
3rd series - none
4th series - Don Drysdale, Dodgers
5th series - Mickey Mantle, Yankees
6th series - Brooks Robinson, Orioles
7th series - Tony Oliva, Twins

1990 Leaf (not released in a series)

1st checklist - Rickey Henderson, A's
2nd checklist - Carlton Fisk, White Sox
3rd checklist - Nolan Ryan, Rangers
4th checklist - Ozzie Smith, Cardinals
5th checklist - Will Clark, Giants
6th checklist - Ryne Sandberg, Cubs

1991 Leaf (not released in series)

1st checklist - David Justice, Braves
2nd checklist - Roger Clemens, Red Sox
3rd checklist - George Brett, Royals
4th checklist - Barry Bonds, Pirates
5th checklist - Darryl Strawberry, Dodgers

Phew! No other unknown Dodgers.

Hopefully no one else freaked out when they spotted a player from their favorite team on a checklist like I've done.

But a bit of friendly advice: check your checklists twice.


  1. and don't forget those nasty variations... I know there are at least two different '68 Boyers.

    1. The most obvious variation is the 1968 2nd series checklist. The version released with series #1 has the coarse-grain burlap, while the version released in the 2nd series has the fine-grain burlap.

  2. Very cool. Judging from how these checklists with head shots seem to pop up ever 2-ish decades, we should've been due to get more around 2011. We got robbed.

  3. I'm glad I own half of the Pirates on this list. Even more glad it's not Clemente.

  4. There is a Sandy Alomar Jr. checklist in 1991 Leaf as well. It is number 528 and covers 449-528 and BC13-BC26.

  5. The 1969 Oliva is very often misidentified as Rod Carew

  6. Don Drysdale seems to be saying "Aw, Maaaaaaaaaaaaaan! I'm on a checklist!"

    Mantle & Strawberry don't look too thrilled either.

    Looking back at the early 1990's, it seems kind of ridiculous that the "high end" sets like Leaf and Stadium Club had checklist cards that were part of the set. They probably didn't want to break with "tradition", but it's not like anyone would use the checklists for their ostensible purpose... and in those cases where the cards had a glossy coating, I doubt that you could use them as true checklists.

  7. Back in the day we had to keep an eye on not only the checklists but World Series cards, leader cards, team cads, coaches cards.