One of the few cool parts of Twitter is the ability to connect with the very highest echelons of baseball and collecting.
I'm not referring to stalking current baseball players online, although you certainly can do that if you wish. The cool part for me is seeing old-timers on Twitter and especially some of the card-collecting big wigs from back when I was a teen.
Andrew Aronstein is frequently on Twitter. He's not an old-timer. But he is the son of Mike Aronstein, the man, who along with Tom Collier, devised the world-famous TCMA brand and created some of the greatest card sets of legendary ballplayers during the 1970s and 1980s.
TCMA is responsible for solidifying my love for the history of the sport. Had TCMA not been around, I'd probably be chasing the latest and greatest prospect in an endless circle, with little regard for baseball cards' true calling, which is creating a colorful history of the best game in the world.
Each month, in the pages of Baseball Digest, or in TCMA's own catalog that came to my door, I'd see TCMA and Renata Galasso sets for sale. All kinds of sets: tributes to the 1950s and 1960s, tributes to great teams of the past like the Gas House Gang and the Boys of Summer. I really wanted all of those sets, but I couldn't afford any of them. Think of that. The larger sets were maybe $9.99? I couldn't afford that.
Those sets have never left my consciousness. Now that they're not advertised each month in a baseball periodical, they're sometimes not as easy to find. But I've pieced together TCMA cards here and there, with the goal one day to finish as many sets as I can.
Right now, they're all in various states of incompleteness. And I just added another one to the pile.
Andrew Aronstein recently announced that he had several old TCMA items, partial sets and uncut sheets and such, and offered them up for sale.
One of those items was a good chunk of the TCMA "The 1960s" set that was first issued in 1978 and I distinctly remember being advertised in periodicals. I think TCMA's tribute to the '50s was issued first -- or at least I saw it first -- followed by the '60s set.
I jumped on the offer. In short order, 245 of the 293 cards in the set arrived at my nest.
As an added bonus, Andrew mentioned that he came into possession of the set when it was sold to his shop by the family of baseball artist John Anderson. Anderson, who passed away four years ago, created some art for Mike Aronstein back in the 1970s and the '60s set that I received used to be Mr. Anderson's!
Andrew showed me this is postcard of a drawing of Mickey Cochrane that John Anderson drew. Pretty cool, huh?
I'm quite excited that back story is attached to what are now my cards. I may have to make reference to that when I track down a binder for this set.
I'm guessing that many of you have seen these cards already but for those who haven't, this is a very inclusive set of almost anyone who played a notable amount of time in the 1960s.
The cards are modeled after the 1953 Bowman set, as are several of TCMA's larger sets (Mike Aronstein has a great affinity for '53 Bowman and excellent taste). There are no words on the front but the backs feature complete bios.
For those who may not know, the above notables are Norm Cash, Orlando Cepeda, Bill Mazeroski, Dean Chance, Tony Oliva, Boog Powell, Tommy Davis, Sam McDowell and Jim Perry.
Yup, those are '60s names.
Excuse my inability to keep these straight on the scanner. The cards curl slightly and I'm convinced that even though they measure 2 1/2-by-3 1/2, they're not all cut the same.
The above dudes are: Dick Groat, Earl Wilson, Vada Pinson, Ron Hansen, Gary Peters, Pete Ward, Bob Veale, Bobby Richardson and Bill Monbouquette.
I was a mere toddler during the latter stages of the '60s so I have never seen any of these players except for old footage (or maybe if their career lasted into the mid-1970s), but I do know many of the names because, you know, I'm not looking at prospects who may never make the majors.
Just terrific-looking cards. One more go-round of '60s notables: Jim Fregosi, Mud Cat Grant, Tony Conigliaro, Denny McLain, Joey Jay, Frank Howard, Elston Howard, Donn Clendenon and Curt Flood. Those names just scream the '60s.
But this set is so complete that it includes almost all of the cult favorites, too.
A young Blue Moon Odom.
Jim Bouton, before Ball Four.
And Tony Horton! The man who famously avoided appearing on Topps cards.
Those first three cards are future managers, Dallas Green (he always looked like a manager, didn't he?), Tony La Russa and Bob "Buck" Rodgers. The last card is one of the few non-Dodgers from this set that I owned already.
The set is so detailed that for many of the players included, it was my first card of that player. Guys like Jim Duffalo, Bud Daley, Jerry Kindall, Charley James, Dave Eilers and Earl Francis. Welcome to my collection!
One of the interesting aspects of the set is several of the players appear twice, but each time they appear, they're with different teams. I love that.
But you can see that the write-ups are different for each card. That's the case with all of them.
Here are a few more:
Those are Leon Wagner, Lee Maye, Joe Adcock, Wes Stock, Don Larsen, Al Spangler, Larry Jackson and Chuck Hinton. If you told me that Don Larsen was featured in this set twice but he isn't with the Yankees or Orioles, I would have bought it on the spot.
The set numbers 293 cards but some numbers aren't used, which can throw you off. But Andrew warned me about it and the Trading Card Database confirmed it.
For the most part, this is an accurate set with relatively few errors. Just one obvious one that I found:
Somebody forgot to write Mack Jones' bio.
If you like baseball history, this set is packed with it, from interesting figures like Masanori Murakami, the first Japanese player in the majors, to interesting pictures like Bubba Phillips, who looks like he just stepped out of a fireplace.
Predictably, the missing cards in this set are mostly the biggest stars. So I have a little bit of work to do (especially since this isn't the only TCMA/SSPC set I'm trying to complete). This is my want list, which is also already up in the usual spot:
1-Burgess, 2-Marichal, 3-Drysdale, 4-Gentile, 5-Face, 6-Pepitone, 7-Christopher, 8-Causey, 9-Bolling, 10-Maloney, 11-Maris, 12-B.White, 13-Clemente, 14-Saverine, 15-Schultz, 16-Pearson, 17-Lemaster, 18-Broglio, 19-Klaus, 20-Cloninger, 21-Ford, 22-Santo, 23-Duckworth, 39-Bressoud, 40-Kaline, 60-Gibson, 70-M.Wills, 90-Killebrew, 100-Wilhelm, 121-Drabowsky, 122-Gonder, 127-Kroll, 130-Koufax, 131-Davenport, 138-T.Wills, 140-F.Robinson, 149-Cline, 155-M.White, 157-Crawford, 185-Roseboro, 190-B.Robinson, 202-Farrell, 246-DeBusschere, 250-Aparicio, 255-Banks, 260-Williams, 262-Mantle, 263-LeFebvre, 273-Osteen, 280-Mays, 284-Held, 289-Smith, 290-Aaron
I'm also dedicating the above Dodgers to my team collection. So I'm going to need another version of each of them.
My only regret is that TCMA never created a set like this for the 1970s. Goodness, I wouldn't be able to contain myself (the '76 SSPC is as close as they got but that was for just one year in the '70s).
This set purchase was a no-brainer. As long as there are opportunities to obtain the cards that I wanted as a young collector in the '70s and '80s, I will still be acquiring.
And after that?
Well, then maybe I'll look up the latest guy with no major league at-bats that's supposed to get all my money.