We’ll continue our tour of Cardboard Cooperstown alphabetically with this installment taking us from Commissioner Kenesaw Landis to Eddie Mathews. (Click here for the start of the series.)
Kenesaw Landis – 1961 Fleer Baseball Greats
Not surprisingly there are few vintage cards of baseball’s first Commissioner. More for the card design than anything else I’ll go with 1961 Fleer Baseball Greats.
Barry Larkin – 1989 Topps Big
Since these posts are all about looks I’m okay going peak junk wax here and taking the 1989 Topps Big set for Larkin. These cards seem to draw inspiration from one of the best vintage sets ever, 1956 Topps, while applying a modern touch.
Tony LaRussa – 1978 TCMA “The 1960s”
TCMA never fails to find outstanding photos of just about everyone. I love the stadium background and classic Kansas City A’s uniform as well as the 1953 Bowman-style design. For a nice playing career card of LaRussa, the 1964 Topps card is also worth a look.
Tommy Lasorda – 1952 Parkhurst
I’ll take this opportunity to introduce readers to a set with which many collectors are unfamiliar. Parkhurst is a name well known to collectors of vintage hockey cards, but the Canadian company’s baseball issue is also worth a look. The set included 100 cards, most notably largely complete rosters of the Montreal Royals, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Ottawa Athletics. Beyond Lasorda, other notables include Don Hoak, Dan Bankhead, Walter Alston, Jim Gilliam, and Johnny Podres. As a side note, Lasorda’s 1953 Canadian Exhibits card features the same photo, only not cropped as closely and with a blue tint.
Tony Lazzeri – 1937 Exhibits Four-in-One
This Murderers’ Row fixture deserves a solo card in Cardboard Cooperstown, but I just couldn’t pass up the star power on this one. It’s a near clone of his 1936 Four-in-One but with Red Ruffing replaced by none other than Joe DiMaggio! The bottom half of this card is just nuts.
Bob Lemon – 1952 Topps
In my mind this card is probably tied for first with several others. Despite his name, this man’s cardboard collection contains very few lemons. I really love all three Red Man cards and the 1951 Bowman just as much, but it’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to give any love to 1952 Topps, so here it is.
Buck Leonard – 1980-87 SSPC Hall of Fame
I’m not aware of any playing career cards of Buck Leonard, though many have been produced since. As Leonard is sometimes known as the “Black Lou Gehrig,” I thought this SSPC card did a great (if accidental) job making the connection through use of a similar pose to Lou Gehrig’s 1933 Goudey card. Leonard’s card in the 2001 Topps “What Could Have Been” set also evokes the Gehrig connection by prominently displaying his uniform number 4.
Freddie Lindstrom – 1932 New York Giants Schedule postcards
I tend to avoid schedules, but this one was hard to pass up. From the four decimal places in Lindstrom’s batting average (rounded off from .300330033003…) to the “Ladies Admitted Free Every Friday” note to the great photo, there is just too much to love on this card.
Pop Lloyd – 1923-24 Billiken Cigarettes
Thank goodness for Cuban issues or there would be no cards of this great player.
Ernie Lombardi – 1936 National Chicle Fine Pen Premiums
On one hand this card of Lombardi watching another (unknown to me) Chicago player score with the (unknown to me) home plate umpire in the background wouldn’t seem to rise above his other cardboard. However, a careful peak at the card’s caption makes it a winner: “Lombardi says Ugh!” There is also a second line to the caption that I’ve been unable to read other than the word “Chicago.” A higher resolution image is available here.
Al Lopez – 1960 Topps
As detailed in a separate post for the SABR Baseball Cards blog, I am a huge fan of the design Topps used for its 1960 manager cards, even as that same set’s design for player cards is one of my least favorite. An honorable mention is Lopez’s 1960 MacGregor Baseball Advisory Staff card, in which he seems to show the 52-year-old has still got it after all these years.
Ted Lyons – 1948 Swell “Babe Ruth Story”
The Hall of Fame pitcher has a number of nice cards, so I’m probably doing them (and you!) a disservice by going oddball with this one. I’ll let the card back tell the story.
Connie Mack – 1910-11 Sporting Life
For all the cards and photos of an older Connie Mack, I really enjoy this image of a younger Mack (roughly 48 years old). Overall this set provides a lot of clean portraits, more lifelike than other contemporary sets based on the same photos.
Biz Mackey – 1924-25 Aguilitas
This Cuban card is the only playing career card of the great catcher that I’m aware of. Cited by Cool Papa Bell as the greatest catcher he ever saw, Mackey also mentored younger Negro Leaguers Roy Campanella, Larry Doby, and Monte Irvin.
Larry MacPhail – 1980 Perez-Steele Hall of Fame Series
I admit it. I chose this card solely out of jealousy for the baseball exec’s dope shirt and super-fly collar with dual Dodger logos. I may not need this card in my collection, but I do need everything this guy has on in my closet!
Lee MacPhail – 2004 Maryland Lottery
Lee lacked his father’s panache for picture day, but this is about as “in action” a shot of a baseball executive as you’ll find. Yes, he might just be posing, ordering pizza, or getting an earful from his wife, who’s to say he isn’t in this very picture making the first phone call of many that would ultimately bring the great Frank Robinson to Baltimore? If I had to guess from the look on his face, I’d probably go with the Mrs. MacPhail earful, but I still defy you to find me a better Lee MacPhail card. (Spoiler alert: Don’t even try unless you’re a glutton for MacPhailure.)
Greg Maddux – 1993 Ultra
I really like his 1993 Upper Deck card (there, I said it), but I’ll go with this Ultra from the same year, if for nothing else than the brand’s ball portion of the logo lining up at least reasonably well with where the ace’s 86 mph fastball might have been.
Effa Manley – NONE!
As far as cardboard goes, here is a Hall of Famer who commands very little respect. As such, I’m going with a custom card I found on the internet. Get to work, Topps!
Mickey Mantle – 1954 Dan-Dee
It’s impossible to choose anything involving the Mick without provoking disagreement and outrage. Recent Twitter polls went with his 1956 Topps as his best looking vintage card overall and his 1954 Bowman has his best of 1954. Still, I’ll buck the results of both polls and go with my personal favorite, courtesy of Dan-Dee potato chips, thanks to the card’s lush lavender background and the Mick’s million dollar smile.
Heinie Manush – 1933 Goudey #47
Mr. Manush has three different cards in the 1933 Goudey set, all with different poses. Two are rather ordinary, but his card #47 gets my vote as one of the four or five best looking cards from the 240-card set, if not the entire decade. (Click here or here to see what other nominees collectors put forth.)
Rabbit Maranville – 1914 Cracker Jack
My first really old card as a kid was a folded-in-half 1933 Goudey card of the Rabbit, in which he bore more resemblance to my grandpa than a Hall of Fame shortstop. Nothing against old guys, myself included, but I’m gonna go with Young Rabbit here.
Juan Marichal – 1972 Pro Stars Postcards
Marichal has some truly terrific early cards, but I had to pass over all of them so I could get the high leg kick. You’ll find similar but slightly lower leg kicks on the Dominican Dandy’s 1972 Topps In Action and 1974 Topps cards. As an aside, take a look at this generally overlooked Pro Stars set for great photos of several other Hall of Famers. Many collectors will thumb their noses as the postcard size and airbrushed out team logos, but the Marichal is certainly a great example of a card where you barely miss the logo at all.
Rube Marquard – 1912 Series of Champions
I had no idea there were tobacco cards about the same size as today’s baseball cards until I bumped into a Home Run Baker card from this set at a card show. These cards are just a shade smaller than modern cards, measuring 2-5/16″ by 3-3/8.” A mystery surrounding this set is that the backs advertise 25 cards in the set whereas only 24 cards are currently known, four of them baseball players (Cobb, Bender, Baker, Marquard). Read here for speculation as to who, if anyone, the 25th subject in the set may have been.
Edgar Martinez – 1992 Topps Kids
Here is a throwback to the second series of 1938 Goudey, with the expression on Edgar’s face seemingly reflecting confusion over WTF is going on around him. I’m certain readers will have other favorites, but I’m going with this guy!
Pedro Martinez – 1997 Stadium Club
Sorry, Sox fans. Pedro is a Boston pitcher in my head, but you just can’t pass up the Montreal Expos uniform when the opportunity comes. This is a GREAT looking card!
Eddie Mathews – 1953 Topps
I only had two shots to get this Boston-Milwaukee-Atlanta Brave with Boston–this card and his 1952 Topps. Nearly always an easy choice for me, particularly when 1953 includes a stadium scoreboard and outfield ads.
BONUS: Roger Maris – 1962 Topps
Roger Maris earned five cards in the 1962 Topps set, which sounds like a lot until you compare it to the ten cards of the man whose home run record Maris beat. My favorite of these is the first, which Topps honored as card #1 in the set. I owned it briefly as a kid, and it never got old to flip it over and see the 61 on the back under “HR.”
Click here for the next installment of this series, which looks at the best cards of Hall of Famers from Christy Mathewson to Hal Newhouser.