Tuesday, January 10, 2017

My favorite mistakes


I came across this card the other day while reorganizing some Score cards. See if you can tell me what's wrong with it.

If you aren't hindered by Mariners-Brewers blindness like me, you probably spotted it right away. But if you are, then it's been 25 years and you're just discovering this now.

It's actually a relief to me that there are other people who get the Mariners and Brewers mixed up. I thought it was only me, thanks to the similar color schemes for each team over the years, the fact that they both share Seattle histories, and that Brewers players always end up playing for the Mariners and vice versa.

This card is an error card. But it's an uncorrected error card (UER in your handy, archaic price guide), so it's not worth more than a few pennies.

I discovered this error just as the weekly #CardChat on Twitter was discussing error cards last week. If you're not familiar with CardChat, it's a fun little Q&A thrown out to collectors by Sooz of A Cardboard Problem. In fact, she had a companion piece on the blog about famous error cards.

When the topic of error cards come up, the same ones are often cited, Billy Ripken F-Face, the no-name Frank Thomas, stuff that will still cost you some cash.

But I grew up during the heyday of error cards. During the '80s, and even before that, collectors went crazy for many different error cards. Just about every card was the opportunity to discover an error (and get riiiccchhh!) thanks to an abundance of goofs, some intentional, by all of the card companies but worked into a frothing frenzy by Donruss and Fleer.

Finding errors became such a passion that collectors were scanning the text on the back, even the copyright information for crying out loud, to find a mistake.

That's why if you look at a list of known card errors, you'll see stuff like this:

Error: "Throws left"; Correct: "Throws right"

Error: "After ..."; Correct: "Traded ..."

Error: "No diamond after 89 BB in 1988"; Correct: "Diamond after 89 BB in 1988".

These are ticky-tack errors. I may have had time to try to find minor stuff like this in the past, but I certainly don't now. I copy-edit for a living. I'm not going to come home and strain my eyes some more to find something that should say "6" instead of "7" (That said, my copy-editing radar is always on, and sometimes mistakes leap out at me).

No, my favorite errors -- or favorite mistakes if you're Sheryl Crow -- are the loud and proud errors. I like the ones that seem so blatantly obvious but went unchecked for whatever reason. I like the major goofs, displayed in front of thousands upon thousands of collectors. Those are what I'm going to show today.

These are all cards from my collection, which is important, because for years it seemed like I could never get my hands on any of these error cards.

Most of these cards are also well-known, although they're no F-Face.


This card is a little less "in your face" than what I'd like. But it's one of my favorites because I had gone through countless searches for the rarer "yellow team name," "white team name," "yellow first name," "white first name," variations that dot the 1968 and 1969 Topps, only to find the more common version time after time.

Imagine my smile when I discovered that the '68 Ed Brinkman I owned displayed the rarer "yellow team name." I popped that card in a penny sleeve and there it's remained, except to scan this card, of course.



By 1988, Donruss and Fleer had infected the hobby with an abundance of errors dating back seven years. Every year a new issue, every year new errors to search. It seemed that Topps finally threw up its hands and jumped into the act with its '88 set.

There are many more errors in the '88 set than in previous '80s Topps sets and one of my favorites is the changing colors in Keith Comstock's team name. One of them is obviously wrong (pssst, it's the white one), but it got by all the proof readers, who may or may not have been looking the other way.


And speaking of Keith Comstock, you want to add another suspicion to your case that not all errors were truly mistakes? Why the seemingly concerted effort to pick on Comstock again? Three years after the blue/white team name swap, Topps declared that Comstock was a Chicago Cub on his 1991 issue. Comstock had never played for the Cubs.

Topps did correct the mistake with a proper Mariners team logo (I don't own that one). As is often the case, the correct version is cheaper.


Before leaving 1988 Topps for good, I must show probably the most discussed error from that set: the two Al Leiter cards.

Even though this is a well-known error, it still tickles me because, my gosh, what a gaffe. This is probably the reason why Topps doesn't correct errors anymore. Better off just pretending that Steve George (the guy on the left) is really Al Leiter than showcasing just how stupid you were. Of course it looks even more disastrous with time because Leiter went on to a famous, World Series-winning career and is still visible as a broadcaster.

Steve George? He never made it past Triple A. The error card is his only Topps card and really the only card of him in a major league uniform. That is one big mistake.



I like to think of my favorite set, the first set I collected, as perfect. But actually, the 1975 Topps set features a couple of significant errors. One of them is that the player in this photo is not Larry Haney. It's Dave Duncan.

It also means that this photo is old, because Dave Duncan had not played for the A's since 1972. Also, Dave Duncan has his own card in the '75 Topps set, as a Cleveland Indian. So he's both an Oakland A and a Cleveland Indian in this set. That's some versatility.


Another well-known error. That's not Steve Busby. It's Fran Healy. Wow, what a major screw-up.

It's particularly major because Steve Busby was a big deal at this time. He had thrown a no-hitter in 1974, one year after throwing a no-hitter his rookie year in 1973. Topps does not look good here at all. It looks like it has no idea who this star player is.

It's really kind of a shame that Busby is missing a card of himself during this time period.


While I'm on the topic of unfortunate misidentifications, here is one that had to hurt.

Phil Roof played for 15 years in the major leagues. He has plenty of cards, from 1963 to 1977. That's when his career ended, in 1977. He doesn't need another card.

The player in the photo on the 1982 Donruss card is not Phil Roof. It's his brother Gene Roof. This is supposed to be Gene's card. Gene played only parts of three years in the majors. He has two cards of himself as a major leaguer, and on one of them, he's identified as his older brother.

Ouch.


More misidentifying (I love these things).

That is not Ed Glynn on that 1983 Fleer card. It is Bud Anderson. Granted, both Glynn and Anderson featured long blond hair and a mustache. How is a photographer supposed to get this all straight? But we '80s fans know, Anderson added the extra facial feature of mutton chops, Glynn did not.


There is Bud Anderson now. Properly identified, on his 1984 Donruss card.


And speaking of 1984 Donruss, there is Bud Anderson's Indians teammate, Richard Barnes.

Only that's not Richard Barnes. It's Neal Heaton. Heaton's a pitcher who would go on to be known as someone who refused to have his photo taken for baseball card photographers, so they would be forced to shoot only action shots of him. But here he is having his photo taken, not as Neal Heaton, but Richard Barnes.

The real Richard Barnes? You can't find a card of him in a major set. Bummer.


Of course, this card -- one of the most famous error cards of all -- is an Angels bat boy posing on Aurelio Rodriguez's rookie card. You can sort of see how a photographer wouldn't have all the rookies sorted out. And since everyone had the same haircut in those days how could you keep them all straight?

I will give the person who snapped this shot a little more credit than the one who snapped this one:


Come on now, does this kid look old enough to be playing in the big leagues? Depending on who you ask, this was either a practical joke by Pettis and his 16-year-old brother, Lynn (shown in the photo), or just an old photo of Lynn wearing Gary's uniform from a Family Day shoot that somehow made it into the set.

Either way, somebody wasn't paying attention. And it's led to one of my favorite mistakes.



There is a lot of discussion among collectors on whether card errors are mistakes or intentional. There have been so many intentional errors, particularly recently, that it's tarnished every error card.

The cynical and jaded tend to believe that every error card is intentional. I believe that some errors are intentional, but I also know, from being in the publication business, how easy it is to make mistakes and for those mistakes to appear in public. So I'm not as hard-assed about it.

However, I have a suspicion that the above reverse photo error of Phil Garner in 1982 Donruss may have been intentional.

At any rate, I was delighted and perplexed to pull each version of this card out of separate packs in 1982.



Finally, my favorite error card of all-time.

This probably wasn't the first time I had heard of an error card, but it had to be the first since I became keenly aware of baseball cards and their ability to accurately reflect the baseball world at that time.

There were no traded cards in 1979. If you were lucky enough to find some Burger King issues, they could put players in their new uniforms for you, but that was it.

I read about the Blue Jays version of the Bump Wills card, a card that became inaccurate when Wills was not traded to the Blue Jays. Topps president Sy Berger said he acted on a rumor that he heard that Wills would be traded to the Blue Jays. That seems pretty careless to me, but it did produce the mind-bending card of Wills in a Texas Rangers uniform but with a yellow-and-green Blue Jays banner below him.

I dearly wanted the Blue Jays Wills card. I saw it advertised in various publications, but all I pulled was the regular Rangers version. It wasn't until I was writing on NOC that I finally landed the Blue Jays error.

And those are examples of my favorite mistakes.

Who knows if we'll ever see an error card and its corrected version in the same set ever again. Times have changed. And card companies are as cynical as collectors. We also have many other sources to consult for accurate information than just baseball cards.

But it was a fun period when the error was king.

16 comments:

  1. As you know, Steve Busby does have a card in the '75 set with a correct photo on it. It's the no-hitter card he shares with Nolan Ryan and Dick Bosman. He's so cheesed about the error on the card you showed that he will not sign the front of it even to this day. He did sign the back for me though. It looks odd displayed that way in the binder. Larry Haney signs his '75 without a problem.

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  2. I have that Bump Wills error card.. It is an interesting piece of the collection

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    1. I have the error too. My recollection is that in that case the corrected version is actually harder to find. Surprised Night Owl had a hard time getting it. Perhaps it's a regional thing.

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  3. I'm sure my dupes boxes are full of error cards, and my set builds too. Which reminds me of the one I found last year. Greg sending you an email right now.

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  4. The Bump Wills card is my favorite error card as well.

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  5. I pulled that Cubbie Comstock from a repack a few years back, completely unaware of it's existence. It completely threw me off. "All these years of memorizing the all-time roster and I missed Comstock?!"

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  6. Fun stuff Greg. I recall the Error Era very well. It was a crazy time for set collectors. The 1990 UD Ben McDonald "error" is what caused me to stop collecting Orioles teams sets. No way was I going to pay $75 for what was rumoured to be an intentional 'error'.

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  7. This is the biggest mistake I've ever seen on a card. I know you aren't a NASCAR guy but they blundered it badly, mixing up the names of two series and not bothering to even finish the last sentence. http://www.tradingcarddb.com/ViewCard.cfm/sid/6247/cid/1832085/2000-Upper-Deck-MVP-94-Boris-Said?PageIndex=1. In 2014-15 Panini also listed Charlotte NC as being in the Western Conference. Just in a set from this year they left off the stats from one player on a card also.

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  8. Love that Phil Garner reversed image - I'm still looking for a reversed one, by the by. Speaking of which, two of my favorites come from the 90 Donruss set: the reversed image Juan Gonzalez rookie card, and the John Smoltz Bonus MVP card that features a photo of Tom Glavine. Both were later fixed, but given the status of the players involved it's pretty fun in retrospect.

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  9. The only one of those I ever had both versions of was is the Al Leiter.

    As bad as Donruss, Fleer, and Topps were at errors they are nothing compared to ProSet. (football) Each year there would seemingly be dozens of errors in ProSet.

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  10. I love all the errors, especially from the early 80's and ProSet. I didn't discover some of them until later, so I would go back to my LCS for them so much I could have been called the "King of Junk Wax". My friend and I spent a whole day squinting at the backs of Pro Set football a few years ago from monster boxes of the stuff at a shop near him. 1990 has an error about every six to ten cards (out of 800+).
    I don't count UERs, so I don't know about most of those (even some you mention here), but I try for the majority of the err/corr pairs in most of the major sets. They're fun to find, usually plentiful, and cheap!

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  11. Look closely at the Ed Glynn card. See #48 behind Anderson? #48 on the 1982 Indians was . . . Ed Glynn! So it's not really an error card, he's right there on the card! Fleer was just anticipating mid-2010s Topps filling the picture with multiple players so you can't tell which one is the player who is supposed to be featured.

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  12. I like error cards, but go nutty trying to figure out if I have one or not with some of them. It is hard enough trying to complete sets from centuries ago, let alone all the damn error cards that go with them. I'll collect the obvious ones with the color changes, or wrong team (player) name correct team (player) name. But some of those text ones "star next to copyright" "no star next to copyright" I don't. I tend to be a completest but not to that extreme, well in some cases with some sets.

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    1. Oh with the cases of the player pictured not being the player named. For the most part I hardly pay attention to those. I do discover them from time to time or see them in the checklists, but most of the time those go as UERs so no need to try hunting down the "variants". D'oh that is another thing the card makers going overboard on the variants of cards. Its just as bad as the "junk wax" years in many ways.

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  13. I pulled the 88 Comstock error card as a kid and recognized the mistake right away - I was so proud of myself. It wasn't even listed in Beckett yet.

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  14. I'm always surprised at how often the 1989 UD Dale Murphy is omitted from these list. Probably just an age thing, but that was far and error that generated the biggest frenzy in my circle of collecting friends. '89 Fleer Ripken was big, but we all had at least one version of that, the Murphy was something we used to drive across the city just to look at, at the one shop that actually had one.

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