The Ten Best Topps Baseball Cards of the 1970s

Drumroll please…here are my top ten baseball cards of the 1970s. Each card is rating from 1-5 according to my “3P” criteria, and the ratings are summed to create a total score —

  • Player – Think of a 5 as a no-doubt-about-it Hall of Famer, a 3 as a guy who maybe made the All-Star team a couple times, and a 1 as a guy who mostly rode the bench.
  • Picture – Totally subjective but a 5+ would be the 1953 Bowman Pee Wee Reese, and a 1 would be 1970 Hoyt Wilhelm. Score points for a great action shot, a nice card design, or just a picture that seems to capture the essence of the player.
  • Pinnacle – Score points here for capturing a player in his prime, during a World Championship year, or at some notable career milestone. Rookie cards carry a small boost, but I don’t get too crazy over them.

I’ll be honest and acknowledge that there are several cards not listed below that even by my own scoring system would outscore some of the ones I have below. That said, I feel pretty solid about my top two. Any biggies you think I missed?

10. 1977 Mark FidrychBird

  • Player – 3
  • Picture – 3
  • Pinnacle – 5 (depicts the Bird’s historic 1976 season)
  • Total – 11
  • Notes: The Bird took the baseball world by storm with his rapid rise to the top, including an all-star appearance, a Rookie of the Year award, an E.R.A. title, and a runner-up finish in the Cy Young voting. Beyond the numbers, Fidrych was also one of baseball’s most colorful personalities and a player that perhaps epitomized 1970s America more than any other.

9. 1971136778 Thurman Munson

  • Player – 4
  • Picture – 5
  • Pinnacle – 2
  • Total – 11
  • Notes: This All-Star Rookie card of Munson has to be one of Topps’ all-time best action poses. In the picture, Munson awaits the throw as…any guesses?…Chuck Dobson of the Oakland A’s slides into home plate headfirst. While Munson had a rookie card in the 1970 set, this All-Star Rookie card is THE must-have card of the future Yankee captain who died tragically at the age of 32.

8. 1961H1stLh4eL._SX342_75 Cleveland Indians team card

  • Player – 5 (focusing on Frank Robinson)
  • Picture – 2
  • Pinnacle – 5 (major historical achievement)
  • Total – 12
  • Notes: As it the case most years, Cleveland wasn’t a particularly great team around this time. However, the team card is notable in its portrayal of Frank Robinson in the lower left corner. Robinson, like his namesake in 1947, had just made history, having become baseball’s first African American manager. Note that Robinson also has a standard player card in this same set, but its front simply identifies his position as DH rather than DH-Mgr.

7. 1976 Fred Lynn515J8JXIFpL._SY355_

  • Player – 4
  • Picture – 4
  • Pinnacle – 5 (depicts Lynn’s historic 1975 season)
  • Total – 13
  • Notes: Baseball’s MVP and Rookie of the Year, Fred Lynn, led Boston to the 1975 World Series and would go on to become one of the best all around players of the next decade. It’s a nice action shot of a hitter who might have compelled Boston fans to ask themselves, “Could this be the next Carl Yastrzemski? Or even the next Ted Williams?”

6. 1974 Nolan Ryan144510

  • Player – 5
  • Picture – 4
  • Pinnacle – 4 (depicts Ryan’s historic 1973 season)
  • Total – 13
  • Notes: One of my favorite cards as a kid. I loved the batter’s eye view of Ryan about to throw his 100 mph fastball en route to a record 383 strikeouts and the first two of his record seven no-hitters.

5. 1972 150425Roberto Clemente

  • Player – 5
  • Picture – 4
  • Pinnacle – 4 (depicts 1971 World Championship season)
  • Total – 13
  • Notes: Easy to miss at first glance, just above the “R” in Pirates, there is a baseball suspended precariously in midair as Roberto Clemente, plays a game of catch with himself. I’m no poet but there seems to be a metaphor here. What goes up must come down. Ashes to ashes. RIP Roberto Clemente.

4. 1974 Reggie JacksonReggieJackson_1974_130_Black

  • Player – 5
  • Picture – 4
  • Pinnacle – 5 (during the 1972-1974 Three-peat and depicts Reggie’s 1973 MVP season)
  • Total – 14
  • Notes: The 1974 card design was one of my least favorites of the decade. Perhaps this alone prevents this card from earning a perfect score.

1508593. 1974 Hank Aaron

  • Player – 5
  • Picture – 4
  • Pinnacle – 5 (no explanation needed for this one!)
  • Total – 14
  • Notes: When Topps released this card, Hank Aaron was not yet the Home Run King; his 713 lifetime homers put him one behind Babe Ruth. Still, Topps took a small gamble here and decided they just had to get out in front of one of the most important moments in baseball history. Probably one of the five most iconic Topps cards ever.

1405762. 1976 Johnny Bench

  • Player – 5
  • Picture – 5
  • Pinnacle – 5 (the apex of the Big Red Machine, 1975-76)
  • Total – 15
  • Notes: There may not be anyone else on the planet that loves this Bench card as much as I do. The cloud of dust at Bench’s feet and the stare-down seem to capture the essence of Johnny Bench as THE guy you didn’t want on the other team.

80-200Fr1. 1978 Reggie Jackson

  • Player – 5
  • Picture – 5
  • Pinnacle – 5 (depicts 1977 World Championship; also year of 1978 World Championship)
  • Total – 15
  • Notes: To me, this card just screams Reggie! It’s a terrific action shot that even Upper Deck would have been proud of, featuring Reggie in full follow-through, back knee practically on the ground. The colors are rich, augmented by the Topps all-star logo. And here is Mr. October in his prime, fresh off his record five home runs in the 1977 World Series and about to go win another–his fifth overall.
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Remembering 1978 Topps

PRE-RAMBLE

My baseball card collecting began at a bake sale for Brentwood’s Bonner School back in the Fall of 1977. I paid 50 cents, which was a lot back then, for a stack of 43 cards from the 1974 Topps set. Every card was a common, other than the New York Mets manager card featuring Yogi Berra, but this small stack of cards propelled me from having no baseball cards at all to suddenly having a collection. Before the season came to an end, I managed to add a couple packs of 1977 Topps to my collection, including Rod Carew, and then began the first long wait of my then young life–the six months or so it would take for 1978 Topps to hit the shelves.

OPENING DAY

shoppingStarting around March 1–maybe even earlier–I would ride my bike each day–sometimes more than once–to the 7/11 on Venice and Sepulveda, only to find that cards had not yet hit the shelves. Then one day, I think it was in April, there were boxes on the shelves. By that time I’d saved up enough to buy 4-5 packs, which I had to open right on the spot rather than wait the five minutes it would take to bike home.

These days you might imagine a kid quickly thumbing through to see if he drew a “rare” insert or his favorite player. Back then, I am guessing I spent about a half hour outside the 7/11. I did look for my favorite players, though I somehow got none of them! However, I also spent a good deal of time looking at every single card–front and back–reading the stats, looking for good hits on the “Play Ball – Played by Two” game, and setting aside all Dodgers, all-stars, record breakers, team cards, and otherwise notable cards.

I wish I had set aside this first buy or could even remember the details of who was in it. On the whole, I vaguely remember a Sparky Lyle record breaker, a Doug Rau (my first Dodger!), and a Tony Armas–most notable for his Play Ball outcome of “STRIKE UT.” Over the course of the season–and it really did take that long with my limited budget–I worked my way toward a complete set, minus perhaps only a dozen or so cards.

WHAT WAS FUN

80-298BkOne thing my collection did for me was get me “in” with a new bunch of friends at school, the baseball card collectors. There was nothing more fun than spending part of lunch or recess (or sometimes during class) trading with each other. Back then, the Holy Grail was a Steve Garvey card. One albeit very large notch down were Reggie Jackson, Pete Rose, George Foster, Jim Rice, and Johnny Bench. And just below those elementary school immortals were Seaver, Morgan, Yaz, Carew, Brett, Luzinski, Kingman, and others.

We typically cared very little about the condition of the cards, and it was often the case that the most precious cards were the ones we took the worst care of, keeping them in pockets or under pillows as opposed to shoe boxes or binders. I made a lot of new friends in 1978, and trading baseball cards was just about the only thing we ever did together. Still, it filled the days and months quite nicely.

Still, Cards with Friends was only half the story. For every hour I spent trading with friends, I spent two by myself in my room. There, favorite activities included sorting my growing set by number, then by team, then by number, then by team, and so on. Or holding a draft where I pretended to be four different owners. Or playing “Play Ball” against myself. Or replaying the 1977 Dodgers vs Yankees World Series. Or–not so much as its own activity but as a by-product of these others–memorizing player stats. Or making a card tower. Or learning handwriting from the cursive team names. Or practicing long division with the at-bats and hits. And those are just the things I remember almost 40 years later.

TRAGEDY

One thing I NEVER did was clean up after any of this. My carpet was so covered in cards that there was barely even a path from the door to my bed, particularly as my collection grew. It was as if I were some alien creature whose habitat was to dwell among card piles. And truly, this was how I was happiest, surrounded by my cardboard idols. My mom, on the other hand, was not thrilled with how I decorated and for the first of many times chose to solve the problem by picking everything up and throwing it away. To her, these were just disposable pieces of cardboard, and I doubt there was much feeling involved. For me, these were the faces of my heroes, real and living. It was as if my mom had just committed genocide across the baseball world. Save the occasional Dick Ruthven I might find sandwiched between my bed and the wall, I was back to having nothing.

REBIRTH

With little time left in the baseball season, there was no way I would be able to build the 726-card set fair and square. Fortunately, I knew where my mom hid her money, and just like that a good kid turned bad. It took maybe three weeks to rebuild what had taken me 4-5 months the first time, at least in terms of my 1978 set, though I suppose it took years if not decades to rebuild a strong relationship with my mom. At the time, of course, my 1978 Topps cards were much more the priority for me, not that I’d have them for long. Somewhere around Christmas, they were back in the trash, and I was back to playing cardboard pauper and counting down the days till April when the 1979 series would hit the shelves.

FAVORITES

As I look back now on what was the very first set to take over my life, nearly every card still looks familiar and brings me back so many years. It’s tough to choose my very favorites, but here is a shot at my top fifteen. The Reggie All-Star even makes my list of Ten Best Topps Cards of the 1970s, but that’s a subject for another post. Enjoy the memories!

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The Sir Isaac Newton Fan’s Guide to Vintage Trading Cards

 

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While there has long been an active market and community for trading cards of popular sports heroes, past and present, the collecting of non-sports trading cards holds a much lower profile. On the bright side, this keeps prices low; of course, it also makes it harder to know what’s out there and perhaps harder to know where to find it.

This page will focus on vintage trading cards of the Babe Ruth of Physics, Sir Isaac Newton. For current purposes, I will define vintage as older than me (1969). The organization of this page will be chronological in two sections: cards my son and I have, and cards we don’t have.

PART ONE – CARDS WE HAVE

The slideshow below highlights the vintage Newton cards in our collection so far. An inventory follows the slideshow.

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  1. 1886 Royal Farm Mower
  2. 1888 Chocolat Poulain 
  3. 1890s Romanet & Cie. 
  4. 1890s Chocolat Guerin-Boutron “Benefactors of Humanity”
  5. 1897 Suchard “Inventors”
  6. c1900 Sodex “The Astronomers (Series B) Newton with Hammerfest Column and Pulkovo Observatory
  7. c1900 Bensdorp Cacao #101 of 104 NEW
  8. 1900 Player’s Cigarettes “Famous Authors and Poets”
  9. 1900 Liepig “Inventors II”
  10. 1901 Ogden’s Guinea Gold #119
  11. c1901 Aecht Franck “Famous Scholars”
  12. 1903 Liepig “Monuments to Famous Scientists”
  13. 1906 Liebig “Astronomers I”
  14. 1908 Stollwerck Helden (Germany)
  15. 1912 Chairman Cigarettes #46
  16. 1923 Nicolas Sarony “Celebrities and Their Autographs” #29 (wide)
  17. 1923 Nicolas Sarony “Celebrities and Their Autographs” #29 (narrow) NEW
  18. 1924 Ogden’s Cigarettes “Leaders of Men” #35 of 50
  19. 1926 Carreras “Old Staffordshire Figures” #5 of 24
  20. 1933 Figures of World History #89
  21. c1930 Yramos Dresden #91
  22. 1932 Chocolat Pupier “L’Angleterre” (with William Shakespeare)
  23. 1933 Haus Bergmann
  24. 1934 Typhoo Tea “Homes of Famous Men”
  25. 1935 Carreras “Celebrities of British History” #17 of 50
  26. 1936 Godfrey Phillips “Famous Minors” #50 of 50
  27. 1937 Churchman’s Cigarettes “Howlers” (Gravity) #21
  28. 1946-1966 Stamina Trousers
  29. 1950 Carreras “Celebrities of British History” #8
  30. c1950 Editions Arnaud 
  31. 1952 Topps “Look ‘n See” #68 of 135
  32. 1960 Honigs Macaroni 
  33. 1965 Jacques Superchocolat
  34. 1965 Fine Fare Specialty Tea #4 of 25 (Series One) NEW

PART TWO – WISH LIST

This is only a partial list of other Newton cards. Please let me know if you have any additions or corrections, and especially if you are willing to sell/trade any of these cards.

PART THREE – BUYING ISAAC NEWTON CARDS

Nearly every card in our collection cost between $1-$8 via eBay. That said, I have seen some Newton cards priced in the $100 range. Because the market is largely inactive, I don’t have a good sense of whether these more expensive cards are significantly more scarce or whether I am simply seeing aberrant pricing from individual sellers. Either way, we are staying away from anything in double or triple digits.

NOTES

  • Great pictures of every Liebig card ever produced are available here, though it’s a little tricky to look for any specific set or person.
  • Some of the Newton cards I’ve listed include variations (e.g., regular vs. wide), which I haven’t always listed. One thing I recently learned is that the Liebig cards come in both German, French, and Italian varieties.
  • I haven’t shelled out the money, but the London Cigarette Card Company puts out an annual catalog that seems pretty comprehensive.
  • A fantastic site dedicated to cards of Ludwig van Beethoven is here.

The Hank Aaron Fan’s Guide to Bobbleheads

20170915_170846.jpg
The author’s personal collection of Hank Aaron bobbleheads

The bulk of my Hank Aaron collecting is confined to items from Hank’s playing days. However, I’ve made an exception for bobbleheads. What follows is what I believe to be a complete collection of Hank Aaron bobbleheads.

As a NEW feature, I’ve added a rating for how easy or difficult it is to find each bobblehead. Figures in parentheses correspond to numbers available and sold (last 90 days) on eBay as of August 25, 2017.

STADIUM GIVEAWAYS

2002 Milwaukee Brewers/Wisconsin Woodchucks

  • Issue date: July 27, 2002 (Wisconsin Woodchucks), August 11, 2002 (Milwaukee Brewers)
  • Production: 10,500 (500 with Woodchucks and 10,000 with Brewers)
  • Sponsors: Pick ‘n Save, Pepsi
  • Manufacturer: BDA
  • Uniform: Milwaukee Brewers home #44
  • Pose: Standing with bat on shoulder
  • Markings: 755 on bat, name on front of base, sponsors on back of base, various markings and stickers on bottom
  • Other notes: Also packaged with Ben Sheets and Richie Sexson as part of a mail-in offer by Pepsi.
  • Availability: Widely available (8/4)
  • Price estimate: $30-40 NIB
  • See box

2003 Greenville Braves

  • Issue date: July 5, 2003
  • Production: 1,000
  • Sponsors: Advance Auto Parts
  • Manufacturer: AGP
  • Uniform: Atlanta Braves road #44
  • Pose: End of swing
  • Markings: name on front of base, sponsor plaque atop base, Bobble Dobbles sticker on bottom
  • Availability: Extremely tough (0/3)
  • Price estimate: $60-80 NIB
  • See box
  • Search on eBay

2003 Atlanta Braves

  • Issue date: September 19, 2003
  • Production: 12,000
  • Sponsors: Publix, Coca Cola
  • Manufacturer: AGP
  • Uniform: Atlanta Braves home #44
  • Pose: End of swing
  • Markings: name on front of base, sponsors on sides
  • Availability: Widely available (10/5)
  • Price estimate: $30-60 NIB
  • See box
  • Search on eBay

2010 Milwaukee Brewers

  • Issue date: May 16, 2010
  • Production: unknown
  • Sponsors: Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board
  • Manufacturer: BDA
  • Uniform: Milwaukee Brewers home #44
  • Pose: At bat
  • Markings: name on front of base, “Wisconsin Cheese” plaque atop base, photo of Hank Aaron at bat behind bobble figure
  • Other notes: Scheduled for reissue of 500 at March 21, 2011 Cactus League game; however game was canceled due to rain
  • Availability: Widely available (19/8)
  • Price estimate: $15-20 NIB
  • See box
  • Search on eBay

2012 Eau Claire Express

  • Issue date: June 14, 2012
  • Production: unknown
  • Sponsors: Royal Credit Union
  • Manufacturer: AGP
  • Uniform: 1952 Eau Claire Bears home #6
  • Pose: End of swing
  • Markings: name on front of base, sponsor plaque atop base
  • Other notes: Mini-bobble, 60th anniversary of Aaron’s minor league debut
  • Availability: Very tough (0/0)
  • Price estimate: $70-90 NIB
  • See box
  • Search on eBay

2013 Milwaukee Brewers

  • Issue date: July 7, 2013 (regular season), March 3, 2014 (spring training)
  • Production: All fans (39,677) at regular season game plus 2000 at spring training
  • Sponsors: US Cellular
  • Manufacturer: BDA
  • Uniform: Milwaukee Braves home #44
  • Pose: Standing holding bat
  • Markings: name on front of base, 44 on bat (number of home runs), 31 on base (number of steals), sponsor on side of base
  • Other notes: 50th anniversary of Aaron’s 40/30 season
  • Availability: Widely available (10/17)
  • Price estimate: $15-25 NIB
  • See box
  • Search on eBay

2014 Atlanta Braves

  • Issue date: April 10, 2014
  • Production: unknown
  • Sponsors: Delta and Coca Cola
  • Manufacturer: unknown
  • Uniform: Atlanta Braves home #44
  • Pose: End of swing
  • Markings: “40th Anniversary #715” on front of base, sponsors on side of base, signature atop base
  • Other notes: (approximate) 40th anniversary of Aaron’s 715th home run
  • Availability: Widely available (5/17)
  • Price estimate: $30-40 NIB
  • See box
  • Search on eBay

2016 Lakeshore Chinooks

  • Issue date: June 4, 2016
  • Production: 1,000
  • Sponsors: Robert Haack Diamonds
  • Manufacturer: AGP
  • Uniform: Lakeshore Chinooks home #44
  • Pose: Standing with bat on shoulder
  • Markings: name on front of base, sponsor plaque atop base, 344 marker on outfield fence behind figure, crowned 755 on bat
  • Other notes: Part of the “Outfield Wall” series with Paul Molitor, Jim Gantner, and Robin Yount; also note that publicity photos showed the Aaron bobblehead with gray hair.
  • Availability: Moderate (7/2)
  • Price estimate: $30-40 NIB
  • See box
  • Search on eBay

2016 Gwinnett Braves

  • Issue date: July 16, 2016
  • Production: 2,500
  • Sponsors: Cool Ray
  • Manufacturer: Success Promotions
  • Uniform: Milwaukee Braves home #44
  • Pose: Standing with bat on shoulder
  • Markings: name on front of base, sponsor plaque atop base, “HOF 1982” on back of base
  • Other notes:
  • Availability: Moderate (4/0)
  • Price estimate: $40-60 NIB
  • See box
  • Search on eBay

2017 Atlanta Braves

  • Issue date: 2017 TBD
  • Production: 1
  • Sponsors: Atlanta Braves
  • Manufacturer: unknown
  • Uniform: Atlanta Braves home #44
  • Pose: Standing with bat on shoulder
  • Markings: name on front of base
  • Other notes: About six feet tall; a fan may be able to win it at the end of the season
  • Availability: Impossible (0/0)
  • Price estimate: $20K or more
  • See box

Note: There were also SGA statues distributed by the Atlanta Braves on April 12, 2007 (Turner Field) and August 18, 2017 (Sun Trust Park). Each statue matched the Hank Aaron statue at the stadium. These giveaways are sometimes included in various lists of bobbleheads.

 

OTHER AUTHORIZED RELEASES

1975 Milwaukee Brewers

  • Issue date: 1975 (often listed as 1974; however, Aaron did not become a Brewer until November 2, 1974, so this seems dubious)
  • Production: unknown
  • Distribution: Milwaukee County Stadium
  • Manufacturer: Sports Specialty Corporation
  • Uniform: Milwaukee Brewers home #44
  • Pose: Standing with ball in right hand
  • Markings: signature on front of base
  • Other notes: The side of the box includes directions for ordering more “dolls” by writing to Milwaukee Brewer Promotions via Milwaukee County Stadium
  • Availability: Widely available (13/4)
  • Price estimate: $40-60 NIB
  • See box
  • Search on eBay

1994 SAM

  • Issue date: 1994
  • Production: 1,000
  • Distribution: Retail
  • Manufacturer: Sports Accessories and Memorabilia (SAM)
  • Uniform: Atlanta Braves home #44
  • Pose: Standing with bat
  • Markings: “Henry Aaron 500 Homerun Club” on front of base
  • Other notes: Issued as part of 500 HR club series; very poor resemblance to Hank Aaron, even for a bobblehead; my box shows a $69.95 price tag.
  • Availability: Moderate (2/4)
  • Price estimate: $50-80 NIB
  • See box
  • Search on eBay

2001 Alexander Global Promotions

  • Issue date: 2001
  • Production: 1,000
  • Distribution: Retail
  • Manufacturer: AGP
  • Uniform: Milwaukee Braves home #44
  • Pose: Standing with bat
  • Markings: name on front of base
  • Other notes: Distribution was mainly in the South; production is believed to be about one-third that of other “Bobble Dobbles” from that same year. A variation featuring a Hall of Fame plaque was distributed two years later by the Hank Aaron Automotive Group.
  • Availability: Moderate (3/1)
  • Price estimate: $50-70 NIB
  • Search on eBay

2003 Hank Aaron Automotive Group

  • Issue date: 2003
  • Production: 50-75 estimated
  • Distribution: Distributed at various Hank Aaron-owned car dealers in the Atlanta area. Please contact me if you have information on how these were made available to consumers.
  • Manufacturer: AGP
  • Uniform: Milwaukee Braves home #44
  • Pose: Standing with bat
  • Markings: name on front of base, National Baseball Hall of Fame plaque
  • Other notes: Only the box (plain white) and the HOF plaque distinguish this bobblehead from the more common 2001 AGP.
  • Availability: Extremely tough
  • Price estimate: N/A

2013 Forever Collectibles

  • Issue date: 2013
  • Production: 2,013
  • Distribution: Retail
  • Manufacturer: Forever Collectibles
  • Uniform: Atlanta Braves home #44
  • Pose: End of swing
  • Markings: name on front of base, “Atlanta Braves” and script lowercase “A” logo on base
  • Other notes: Retail outlets, including Turner Field; part of “Legends of the Diamond” series
  • Availability: Fairly tough (0/2)
  • Price estimate: $70-90 NIB
  • See box
  • Search on eBay

2014 Forever Collectibles

  • Issue date: 2014
  • Production: 360
  • Distribution: Retail (Turner Field)
  • Manufacturer: Forever Collectibles
  • Uniform: Atlanta Braves home #44
  • Pose: End of swing
  • Markings: “40th Anniversary,” “715,” and signature on plaque; large “715” on base
  • Other notes: April 2014 “Bobble of the Month” at Turner Field
  • Availability: Fairly tough (0/1)
  • Price estimate: $70-90 NIB
  • See box
  • Search on eBay

2017 Atlanta Braves “A-List”

  • Issue date: September 2017
  • Production: 1512 (63 cases of 24)
  • Distribution: Available to “A List” season ticket holders only, though the logistics of notification/distribution were something of a cluster
  • Manufacturer: unknown
  • Uniform: Milwaukee Braves home uniform #5
  • Pose: Standing, leaning on bat
  • Markings: Name on front of base, “1954 Rookie” on back of base
  • Other notes: Braves A-list members voted among various Braves all-time greats (Hank Aaron, Phil Niekro, Chipper Jones, Warren Spahn, Dale Murphy); A-list “memory points” used to purchase bobblehead
  • Availability: Moderate at the moment; however, I suspect availability will be short-lived.
  • Price estimate: $80-90 for NIB

CUSTOMS

In addition to the official releases above, which carry the approval of Major League Baseball, Hank Aaron, or some other authorized entity, private collectors, artists, and entrepreneurs have contributed to the Hank Aaron bobble universe by creating or customizing bobbleheads like the ones below. If you have a custom Hank Aaron you’d like to show off by adding it to this page, please send me an email along with a pic.

  • Indianapolis Clowns custom – This custom bobblehead portrays Hank Aaron on his first professional team, the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro Leagues, where he played shortstop and batted cleanup in 1952. Look closely and you’ll notice that it is made from the 2013 Atlanta Braves SGA Hank Aaron. What a great paint job!
  • Bobblehead City – This business allows you to create your own bobblehead, right down to player name, skin tone, uniform, and other variables–all for about $80 (painted) plus shipping. At one time, the site’s front page featured the Hank Aaron image above. However, it now features mainly “generic” players. UPDATE: The site appears to have been taken down.
  • Cat Man 755 HR  – Limited release of 44 by Canadian bobble maker “Cat Man.” Despite (or possibly because of) the cartoonish, South Park (or maybe Davey and Goliath) style of his bobbleheads, Cat Man has something of a cult following among the bobblehead collectors who even know his work exists. Registration/login is required, but you can learn more about Cat Man and his many bobbles at this site. As for prices, I have seen two of these “755 HR” bobbles sell on eBay, one at $90 and one at $100. NOTE: If you purchase a “Cat Man” of any player–not just Hank Aaron–note that they are VERY fragile. Anecdotal data suggest that nearly half are damaged during shipping.
  • Cat Man 1957 WS  – Limited release of unknown (to me) size. See notes above.

RELATED BOBBLEHEADS

In the early 1960s (c. 1963-1965), generic team bobbleheads were produced for each team. Additionally, “black player” bobbles were produced for each team except the Athletics, Giants, Pirates, and Twins. See this page for the best information on the Web.

None of these bobbles included names or uniform numbers; however, the two produced for the Braves (Milwaukee and Atlanta) could arguably be considered as part of a complete Hank Aaron bobblehead collection. A handful of notes on the topic–

  1. The Atlanta version (c. 1965) is identical to the Milwaukee version, except that the “M” hat decal the word “Milwaukee” on the base have been colored over.
  2. Both bobbles are very scarce, but the Milwaukee one is more so. In good condition, expect to pay around $500 for Atlanta and $1000 for Milwaukee.
  3. The “black player” bobbles are known to come in two variations: “realistic face” (includes eyebrows) and “traditional face” (smiling). Traditional is more rare. (I don’t know whether both variations exist for both Braves bobbles.

The Hank Aaron Fan’s Guide to Magazine Collecting

One of the nicest ways to enhance your office walls or man cave is with period magazines (i.e., during playing career) of your favorite sports heroes. This article focuses on baseball’s Home Run King, the great Henry Aaron, whose National League career ran from 1954-1976 and included an MVP award, a World Series ring, and a record 755 home runs. My five personal favorites are highlighted in red.

PART ONE – THE MAINSTREAM SPORTS PRESS

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED

Strangely, Aaron was completely ignored by Sports Illustrated (or was he?–see footnote!) until he had more than 500 home runs and had already established himself as a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer. Here are the only three Sports Illustrated covers during Hank Aaron’s 23-year career. All are typically available in the $8-15 range, depending on condition.

  1. August 18, 1969 – Hank Aaron leads Atlanta into its first ever pennant race.
  2. May 25, 1970 – Hank Aaron becomes the ninth member of baseball’s exclusive 3000 hit club.
  3. April 15, 1974 – The most iconic SI cover of all time. The Hammer makes history with home run 715.

SPORT MAGAZINE

The premier sports magazine for much of Aaron’s career, Sport noticed Hammerin’ Hank much earlier than SI. Aaron appeared on the cover of Sport a total of five times, the earliest coming as a cameo in 1958. Hank finally took center stage on the cover of Sport in 1962, five years removed from his MVP and World Series ring. As with the SI issues, each of these magazines is generally available in the $8-15 range, depending on condition.

  1. October 1958 – Bob Turley main cover with Hank Aaron cameo
  2. July 1962 – Hank Aaron reveals his hitting secrets
  3. May 1968 – “What It’s Like to be a Neglected Superstar”
  4. August 1970 – “The Finest Hours of a Quiet Legend”
  5. May 1974 – Hank Aaron breaks Babe Ruth’s career home run record.

THE SPORTING NEWS 1957_04_17_MLB_OPENING_DAY_EXTR

In terms of great sports reporting, I give the Sporting News high marks. However, the newspaper style format leaves it off my list of Hank Aaron magazines. While I haven’t done an exhaustive search, I believe these are the issues that feature Hank Aaron on the cover. The April 17, 1957, cover is a particularly fun one if you can find it!

  • April 17, 1957 – Opening day, including a dream outfield of Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, and Hank Aaron
  • September 24, 1958 – NL batting title contenders
  • July 1, 1959 – All-Star voting
  • July 20, 1963 – With Sandy Koufax, Whitey Ford, and Leon Wagner
  • October 12, 1963 – With Sandy Koufax, Whitey Ford, and Al Kaline
  • April 25, 1964 – With Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn
  • July 3, 1965 – Henry “Hank” Aaron
  • July 1, 1967 – At bat against Jim Lonborg
  • May 23, 1970 – 3000 Hit Club
  • July 29, 1972 – All-Star Game issue
  • April 20, 1974 – 715 Home Runs

PART TWO – THE BLACK PRESS

JET MAGAZINE Aaron appeared on the cover of Jet magazine ten times during his career, more than on any other magazine. A particularly collectible (but hard to find!) Jet issue is from June 18, 1959, and features “Red Hot Hank.” Perhaps due to lower circulation or due to crossover interest from aficionados of African American history and culture, Aaron’s Jet covers typically sell for slightly more than his SI and Sport covers. With the exception of the hard-to-find 1959 covers, most issues run in the $10-15 range. Meanwhile, the 1959 covers run for about double that.

  1. April 16, 1959 – A focus on African American stars expected to make an impact on baseball’s pennant races
  2. June 18, 1959 – “Red Hot Hank” and the possibility of his hitting .400
  3. September 5, 1968 – “Hank Aaron Blasts Racism in Baseball”
  4. April 13, 1972 – “Aaron Aims His Bat to Break Ruth’s Record”
  5. April 19, 1973 – “Baseball Underway for Record-Breaking Season” (with Dick Allen, Willie Mays, Bob Gibson, and Billy Williams)
  6. July 19, 1973 – “Hank Aaron Discusses Racism and His Race for Ruth’s Record”
  7. August 30, 1973 – “Hammerin’ Hank Aaron’s Human Side” (with wife Billye)
  8. December 13, 1973 – “Hank Aaron: His Honeymoon and His Home Life Today” (with wife Billye)
  9. April 25, 1974 – “715!”
  10. August 15, 1974 – “Are Baseball’s Owners Too Racist to Hire a Black Manager?” (with Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Ernie Banks, Maury Wills, Elston Howard, and Larry Doby)

EBONY MAGAZINE

With its first issue in 1945, Ebony mimicked the size and format of LIFE magazine but focused on topics of particular interest to the African American community. Unlike LIFE, which never featured Aaron during his playing career, Ebony included Aaron on the cover five times, one by himself and four alongside other personalities. Perhaps due to their larger size and higher cover price, Hank Aaron issues of Ebony typically sell from $15-40, depending on condition.

  1. June 1970 – “Baseball’s  $100,000 a Year Superstars”
  2. June 1971 – “The Last of the Big Bats” (with Willie Mays)
  3. September 1973 – “Catching Up with the Babe”
  4. July 1974 – “The Hank Aaron Nobody Knows” (with wife Billye)
  5. May 1975 – Highest paid black athletes (with Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and O.J. Simpson)

BLACK SPORTS

Black Sports did not begin publication until 1971 but still managed as many Hank Aaron covers as SI did through Aaron’s retirement. While low circulation makes each of these issues a tough find, the first two are generally found in the $15-25 range while the third runs from $25-40.

  1. May/June 1972 – “Baseball’s All & Everything” (shown dodging a brushback pitch)
  2. September 1973 – “En Route to Immortality”
  3. June 1974 – “Henry the Great”

HEP MAGAZINE

Hep Magazine was published from the late 1950s through 1977, tended to focus on racy or risque topics, and was often found in barber shops or beauty parlors–anywhere but in a respectable home. The Hank Aaron feature shown below (“Does Hank Aaron Have a Secret About Sex Pills?”) should give you the basic idea!

PART THREE – OTHER AMERICAN SPORTS MAGAZINES

My focus in this section is on two Hank Aaron covers that pre-date even the April 1959 Jet issue and one that followed shortly after.  The first two feature Aaron alongside future Hall of Famers, including one of Hank’s diamond heroes, Stan Musial. The third, for no particular reason, features the Hammer–with a ball about to hit his head–on the cover of a 1963 World Series preview. (The Braves finished sixth in the National League that year, 15 games out of first.)

Each of these magazines can be found in the $15-30 range. Note that Aaron would go on to appear on several other “season preview” or “baseball record book” covers, particularly as he neared or had just surpassed Babe Ruth’s home run record. In general, I consider these titles less collectible and do not detail them here.

  1. 1958 Baseball Heroes – “Core of a New Dynasty” (with Red Schoendienst)
  2. 1959 Sports Review – Baseball (with Stan Musial)
  3. 1963 World Series Illustrated Review

If interested, here is a partial list of other Hank Aaron covers–

  • 1960 Baseball’s Best
  • June 1960 Baseball Stars
  • August 1966 Baseball Digest (cover story but not pictured)
  • September 1967 Pro Sports
  • August 1968 Sport World
  • August 1969 Sport World
  • October 1969 Sport World
  • June 1970 All-Star Sports
  • October 1970 Super Sports
  • October 1970 Sport World
  • 1971 Super Sports
  • 1971 Cord Sportfacts Baseball Report
  • May 1971 All-Star Sports
  • May 1971 Pro Sports
  • July 1971 Baseball Digest
  • October 1971 Sport World
  • 1972 Action Sports Yearbook – Baseball
  • 1972 All-Time Baseball Greats
  • June 1972 Sports Today
  • Summer 1972 Baseball Extra
  • August 1972 Sport World
  • September 1972 Super Sports
  • 1973 Team Magazine
  • 1973 Hall of Fame Baseball
  • 1973 Sporting News Baseball Dope Book
  • 1973 Cord Sportfacts Baseball Report
  • 1974 Dell Baseball
  • 1974 Street and Smith’s Baseball Yearbook
  • 1974 Famous Slugger Yearbook
  • 1974 Cord Sportfacts Baseball News
  • 1974 Popular Sports Grand Slam
  • Spring 1974 Sports Quarterly – Baseball
  • April 1974 Baseball Digest
  • July 1974 Pro Sports
  • 1975 Great Moments in Sports

PART FOUR – OTHER AMERICAN NON-SPORTS MAGAZINES

These three magazines venture far into the realm of Hank Aaron ephemera, all featuring Aaron on the way to home run immortality. All are relatively easy finds and tend to sell in the $6-$15 range.

  1. March 1972 – Boys’ Life – official publication of the Boy Scouts of America
  2. August 13, 1973 – Newsweek – “Chasing the Babe”
  3. September 1973 – Guideposts – “I Can’t Do It Alone” (magazine with a Christian focus on successful living)

PART FIVE – NON U.S. MAGAZINES

A handful of Spanish language magazines featured Hank Aaron on the cover in the early and mid-1970s. I have generally seen the Mexican magazines (Deporte Color) listed but not sold in the $10 range and the Venezuelan magazines (Sport Grafico) listed but not sold in the $40 range.

PART SIX – AARON’S FIRST SOLO COVER

As I built up my own Hank Aaron collection, I wondered what his very first solo cover was. Initially, I presumed it was the July 1962 issue of Sport before ultimately running across the 1959 “Red Hot Hank” issue of Jet. Close but wrong. Fittingly, Aaron’s first solo cover came during the absolute pinnacle of his greatness, the Fall of 1957. Just 23 years old, Aaron would lead the National League in runs, home runs, total bases, and runs batted in, send Milwaukee to its first World Series with a 12th inning walk-off home run against the Cardinals, bat .393 in seven games to lead the Braves to victory against the Yankees in the World Series, and take home the league’s Most Valuable Player award. But just what magazine was it that recognized the Hammer was worthy of a cover? Probably not one you would have guessed…or even heard of. But perhaps it makes sense when you think of what Aaron was able to do with a bit of lumber in his hands!

Aaron 1957 Forests
October 1957 American Forests

FOOTNOTE – HANK AARON’S MYSTERIOUS ABSENCE FROM SPORTS ILLUSTRATED

I think most sports fans, and certainly Hank Aaron magazine buffs, are surprised when they learn that Hank Aaron’s first appearance on an SI cover was not until 1969. My first reaction when I learned this was that one of two factors must have been at play–

  1. The small market Hank Aaron played in
  2. Racism

The first of these is almost immediately discounted when one notes the disproportionate number of Milwaukee Braves who netted covers from 1954-1960 alone.

  • August 16, 1954 – Eddie Mathews (first ever issue of SI!)
  • August 15, 1955 – Eddie Mathews
  • June 25, 1956 – Warren Spahn
  • July 30, 1956 – Joe Adcock
  • April 21, 1958 – Del Crandall
  • June 2, 1958 – Eddie Mathews
  • July 7, 1958 – Del Crandall
  • June 6, 1960 – Red Shoendienst

And as for racism, while all of the above Milwaukee Braves were white, here are the various black athletes featured on SI covers in 1957 alone–about one issue in every ten.

  • February 25, 1957 – Johnny Saxton
  • April 29, 1957 – Sugar Ray Robinson
  • July 29, 1957 – Floyd Patterson
  • September 2, 1957 – Althea Gibson
  • October 7, 1957 – Ollie Matson

One thing I learned while perusing the SI Cover archive is that yesterday’s SI was quite a bit different from today’s SI. For example, here are four “athletes” we’d never see on a modern cover.

I guess it’s hard to know today what the thinking was 50+ years ago. Were I running the mag, I would have at least made Aaron’s remarkable 1957 season the focus of my 1958 baseball preview issue–maybe something along the lines of “Are the Braves on Top to Stay?” Well, what do you know! They did do that–they just took a picture of the Yankees instead. But hold on…zoom in real close now…and who’s that standing on third base? Could it be? braves 58

The Sports Fan’s Guide to Collecting JET Magazines

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Finally!! Thanks, Black History Hut!

Jet Magazine (Johnson Publications, Chicago, IL) was founded in 1951 as “The Weekly Negro News Magazine” and remained in print through 2014, when it assumed a digital-only format. Over the years, a large number of prominent African American athletes graced its covers, and its sports coverage often highlighted issues of racism and civil rights issues.

My enthusiasm for collecting these magazines stems from two factors. For one thing, mainstream (i.e., white target market) magazines often took a condescending and racist approach in their profiling of black athletes. For another, these same magazines (e.g., Sports Illustrated and Sports) were slow to include black athletes on their covers, at least relative to the incredible on-field influence and achievement of these athletes. For example, Hank Aaron’s first Sports Illustrated cover was not until 1969 (!), despite SI’s enthusiasm for featuring the Hammer’s white Milwaukee Braves teammates:

  • August 16, 1954 – Eddie Mathews
  • August 15, 1955 – Eddie Mathews
  • June 25, 1956 – Warren Spahn
  • July 30, 1956 – Joe Adcock
  • April 21, 1958 – Del Crandall
  • June 2, 1958 – Eddie Mathews
  • July 7, 1958 – Del Crandall
  • June 6, 1960 – Red Shoendienst

In my experience of seemingly circling the Earth in a (finally successful!) attempt to find the June 18, 1959, Hank Aaron issue, I managed to acquire a knowledge of Jet that I thought could prove useful to other collectors. Since a good first step in any collection is having a checklist of what’s out there, here is what I believe to be a complete catalog of Jet magazines featuring athletes on the cover. My work is currently complete only through December 31, 1989, but I will plan to finish all the way to 2014 soon. Please send me any comments or corrections.

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BASEBALL COVERS (THRU 12/31/89)

Date Athlete(s) Sport(s)
19-Jun-1952 Larry Doby, Luke Easter (without photos) Baseball
9-Oct-1952 Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella Baseball
1-Sep-1955 Don Newcombe Baseball
26-Apr-1956 Ernie Banks Baseball
3-Jul-1958 Willie Mays Baseball
16-Apr-1959 Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Larry Doby, Minnie Minoso, Elston Howard Baseball
18-Jun-1959 Hank Aaron Baseball
26-Apr-1962 Willie Mays, Elston Howard, Minnie Minoso, Jim Gilliam, Billy Williams Baseball
13-Jun-1963 Walter Alston, Maury Wills, Jim Gilliam, Willie Davis, Tommie Davis, Nate Oliver, John Roseboro Baseball
30-Apr-1964 Rutledge Pearson Baseball
11-Jun-1964 Willie Mays Baseball
15-Jul-1965 Houston Astros ballplayer (Walt Bond? Lee Maye?) Baseball
23-Sep-1965 Willie Mays Baseball
5-May-1966 Willie Mays Baseball
11-May-1967 John Roseboro, Willie Davis, Lou Johnson Baseball
7-Sep-1967 Willie Mays Baseball
14-Mar-1968 Satchel Paige, Dizzy Dean Baseball
5-Sep-1968 Hank Aaron Baseball
19-Jun-1969 Ernie Banks Baseball
7-Aug-1969 Reggie Jackson Baseball
12-Feb-1970 Curt Flood Baseball
16-Jul-1970 Dick Allen Baseball
13-Aug-1970 Willie Mays Baseball
10-Sep-1970 Jackie Robinson Baseball
15-Jul-1971 Vida Blue Baseball
14-Oct-1971 Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Vida Blue Baseball
13-Apr-1972 Hank Aaron Baseball
22-Jun-1972 Willie Mays Baseball
3-Aug-1972 Dick Allen Baseball
12-Oct-1972 Jackie Robinson Baseball
16-Nov-1972 Jackie Robsinson Baseball
19-Apr-1973 Hank Aaron, Dick Allen, Willie Mays, Bob Gibson, Billy Williams Baseball
19-Jul-1973 Hank Aaron Baseball
30-Aug-1973 Hank Aaron Baseball
11-Oct-1973 Willie Mays Baseball
13-Dec-1973 Hank Aaron Baseball
25-Apr-1974 Hank Aaron Baseball
15-Aug-1974 Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Ernie Banks, Maury Wills, Elston Howard, Larry Doby Baseball
24-Oct-1974 Frank Robinson Baseball
4-May-1978 Reggie Jackson Baseball
18-Sep-1980 Dave Parker Baseball
17-Jan-1983 Reggie Jackson Baseball

ALL SPORTS (THRU 12/31/89)

Date Athlete(s) Sport(s)
6-Mar-1952 Jersey Joe Wolcott Boxing
19-Jun-1952 Larry Doby, Luke Easter (without photos) Baseball
9-Oct-1952 Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella Baseball
18-Feb-1954 Joe Louis Boxing
1-Sep-1955 Don Newcombe Baseball
26-Apr-1956 Ernie Banks Baseball
3-Jul-1958 Willie Mays Baseball
16-Apr-1959 Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Larry Doby, Minnie Minoso, Elston Howard Baseball
18-Jun-1959 Hank Aaron Baseball
4-Jan-1962 Sandy Stephens Football
26-Apr-1962 Willie Mays, Elston Howard, Minnie Minoso, Jim Gilliam, Billy Williams Baseball
27-Sep-1962 Sonny Liston, Ingemar Johansson, Joe Louis, Floyd Patterson, Rocky Marciano, Ray Robinson, Archie Moore Boxing
13-Jun-1963 Walter Alston, Maury Wills, Jim Gilliam, Willie Davis, Tommie Davis, Nate Oliver, John Roseboro Baseball
16-Apr-1964 Bob Hayes Track and Field
30-Apr-1964 Rutledge Pearson Baseball
11-Jun-1964 Willie Mays Baseball
5-Nov-1964 Earline Brown Olympics
15-Jul-1965 Houston Astros ballplayer (Walt Bond? Lee Maye?) Baseball
23-Sep-1965 Willie Mays Baseball
5-May-1966 Willie Mays Baseball
11-Aug-1966 Jim Brown Football
13-Apr-1967 Jim Brown Football
11-May-1967 John Roseboro, Willie Davis, Lou Johnson Baseball
6-Jul-1967 Charlie Greene Track and Field
7-Sep-1967 Willie Mays Baseball
18-Jan-1968 Wilt Chamberlain Basketball
14-Mar-1968 Satchel Paige, Dizzy Dean Baseball
5-Sep-1968 Hank Aaron Baseball
12-Sep-1968 Floyd Patterson Boxing
17-Apr-1969 Muhammad Ali Boxing
19-Jun-1969 Ernie Banks Baseball
7-Aug-1969 Reggie Jackson Baseball
18-Dec-1969 Muhammad Ali Boxing
12-Feb-1970 Curt Flood Baseball
28-May-1970 Joe Louis Boxing
16-Jul-1970 Dick Allen Baseball
13-Aug-1970 Willie Mays Baseball
3-Sep-1970 Muhammad Ali Boxing
10-Sep-1970 Jackie Robinson Baseball
22-Oct-1970 Eddie McAshan Football
19-Nov-1970 Muhammad Ali Boxing
25-Mar-1971 Joe Frazier Boxing
15-Apr-1971 Muhammad Ali Boxing
15-Jul-1971 Vida Blue Baseball
22-Jul-1971 Muhammad Ali Boxing
28-Jul-1971 Cheryl White Horseracing
14-Oct-1971 Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Vida Blue Baseball
30-Mar-1972 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain Basketball
13-Apr-1972 Hank Aaron Baseball
22-Jun-1972 Willie Mays Baseball
3-Aug-1972 Dick Allen Baseball
21-Sep-1972 American Olympian Track and Field
12-Oct-1972 Jackie Robinson Baseball
16-Nov-1972 Jackie Robsinson Baseball
4-Jan-1973 Johnny Rodgers, Greg Pruitt, Condredge Holloway Football
16-Jan-1973 Joe Frazier Boxing
15-Feb-1973 George Foreman Boxing
19-Apr-1973 Hank Aaron, Dick Allen, Willie Mays, Bob Gibson, Billy Williams Baseball
19-Jul-1973 Hank Aaron Baseball
30-Aug-1973 Hank Aaron Baseball
11-Oct-1973 Willie Mays Baseball
13-Dec-1973 Hank Aaron Baseball
17-Jan-1974 O.J. Simpson Football
31-Jan-1974 Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier Boxing
14-Feb-1974 Jim Brown Football
4-Apr-1974 Walt Frazier Basketball
25-Apr-1974 Hank Aaron Baseball
15-Aug-1974 Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Ernie Banks, Maury Wills, Elston Howard, Larry Doby Baseball
26-Sep-1974 Muhammad Ali, George Foreman Boxing
24-Oct-1974 Frank Robinson Baseball
21-Nov-1974 Muhammad Ali Boxing
16-Mar-1975 Muhammad Ali Boxing
5-Jun-1975 Arthur Ashe Tennis
16-Oct-1975 Muhammad Ali Boxing
11-Dec-1975 O.J. Simpson Football
22-Apr-1976 Muhammad Ali Boxing
23-Sep-1976 Muhammad Ali, Ken Norton Boxing
17-Feb-1977 Muhammad Ali Boxing
21-Apr-1977 O.J. Simpson Football
1-Dec-1977 O.J. Simpson Football
15-Dec-1977 Ken Norton Boxing
4-May-1978 Reggie Jackson Baseball
8-Jun-1978 Leon Spinks Boxing
22-Jun-1978 Joe Louis Boxing
27-Jul-1968 Muhammad Ali Boxing
14-Sep-1978 Muhammad Ali, Leon Spinks Boxing
16-Nov-1978 O.J. Simpson Football
10-May-1979 O.J. Simpson Football
17-May-1979 Muhammad Ali Boxing
27-Sep-1979 Muhammad Ali Boxing
1-Nov-1979 Larry Holmes Boxing
20-Dec-1979 Sugar Ray Leonard Boxing
17-Apr-1980 Muhammad Ali Boxing
18-Sep-1980 Dave Parker Baseball
9-Oct-1980 Sugar Ray Leonard Boxing
19-Mar-1981 Joe Frazier, Marvis Frazier Boxing
9-Apr-1981 Larry Holmes Boxing
30-Apr-1981 Joe Louis Boxing
7-May-1981 Paula McGee, Pam McGee Basketball
4-Jun-1981 Tony Dorsett Football
24-Sep-1981 Muhammad Ali Boxing
29-Oct-1981 Sugar Ray Leonard Boxing
7-Jan-1982 Tony Dorsett Football
10-May-1982 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Basketball
7-Jun-1982 Sugar Ray Leonard Boxing
17-Jan-1983 Reggie Jackson Baseball
14-Mar-1983 Dwight Braxton, Michael Spinks Boxing
4-Apr-1983 Herschel Walker Football
30-Apr-1984 Muhammad Ali Boxing
13-May-1985 Muhammad Ali Boxing
22-Jul-1985 Muhammad Ali Boxing
18-Nov-1985 Walter Payton Football
22-Dec-1986 Muhammad Ali Boxing
28-Dec-1987 Mike Tyson Boxing
12-Sep-1988 Florence Griffith Joyner Track and Field
3-Oct-1988 Mike Tyson Boxing
14-Nov-1988 Mike Tyson Boxing
5-Dec-1988 Sugar Ray Leonard Boxing
12-Jun-1989 Michael Jordan Basketball
24-Jul-1989 Mike Tyson Boxing
9-Oct-1989 Michael Jordan Basketball
11-Dec-1989 Isaiah Thomas Basketball

Tribute to Ernie Banks, 1931-2015

January 23, 2015, marked the passing of Ernie Banks, a man whose contributions to the sport, the city of Chicago, and baseball fans everywhere were truly priceless. When I learned of the sad news, my Banks collection consisted only of three cards:

M20150128_131006uch like contemporaries Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, Ernie Banks began his career in the Negro Leagues shortly after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Montreal Royals and Brooklyn Dodgers. In the early 1950s, Major League teams either chose not to integrate or looked to the Negro Leagues as their farm system for black talent. In the case of the Chicago Cubs, it was Ernie Banks himself who broke the color barrier, having been recommended to the Cubs by Kansas City Monarchs manager Buck O’Neil. On that recommendation, Banks jumped straight to the Cubs without playing a single game in the minors. His Chicago Cubs career would include back-to-back MVP awards (1958, 1959), 14 All-Star games, two home run crowns, and famously zero trips to the Fall Classic. He was only the seventh member of baseball’s then elite 500 home run club, and he still holds the National League record for most home runs in a season by a shortstop (47 HR in 1958).

All this week, the statue of Ernie Banks that normally lives at Wrigley Field (and had been in Wisconsin for repairs) is instead on display at Daley Plaza. I am fortunate to work only a block away, which has given me numerous opportunities to visit and witness firsthand just how beloved and admired this man was. During one of my quick trips there, a man left a Kansas City Monarchs ballcap, and this got me thinking about whether there might be something I could offer. In an odd coincidence, a package came in the mail for me that afternoon that included a rare 1956 Jet magazine with Ernie and his first wife on the cover.

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Click to enlarge
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Banks statue with my collage at base

Several hours and a trip to the craft store later, I spread a ton of stuff out on my small dining room table: my Ernie Banks baseball cards, a watercolor of Banks taken from the book “Heroes of the Negro Leagues,” my Jet magazine, and various decorative items. Shortly after midnight, I finished my collage, and once the snow let up this morning, I was able to add it to the shrine.

While I will miss my 1969 Banks and may never be able to replace the Jet magazine, it was gratifying to see a number of Banks fans enjoying the piece and even taking a few pictures. Ernie Banks once said that the riches of the game are in the thrills, not the money. And in the same way, I saw today for myself that the richness of collecting is in the reliving and sharing of memories, not in the having.

Banks_1964Still, as luck would have it, another package arrived in the mail for me today. It was the 1964 Topps card I purchased online the night Ernie Banks passed away. I’m back up to three Ernie Banks cards again, and I hope someday to add a few more. While Banks clearly had a hundred times the talent I did on the diamond, I think we both shared the same transcendent love of the game. In the person of Ernie Banks, I see a true American hero, and I know his memory will always be a blessing to all he touched through his joyous approach to baseball and to life.