Holy MOReilly

Mike/SPOART (@MOReilly_58) is a SABR member and operates a fun twitter feed where he tweets photos of all kinds of cool vintage sports cards from his collection. Lots of fun stuff to see and lots of fun stuff I can only dream of having. A couple weeks ago he tweeted about 1941 Play Ball, a particularly interesting set since it’s kind of the last major issue before the United States entered World War 2.

When I periodized the SABR Baseball Cards blog, I chose 1939 as the beginning of “modern” cards. Some of this is me pushing back a little on the idea that “pre-war” should be tied to the United States’s involvement, but the timeframe is 1939–1955 which is a period of first steps into cards becoming what we all recognize as cards today. Multiple brands. Multiple sizes and form factors. But all much closer in concept and feel to cards today than to the tobacco cards from a few decades earlier. The fact that Play Ball would go one to become Bowman played a big part here as well.

I commented on that tweet that of all the “flagship” sets from 1939 onwards, 1941 Play Ball was the only one which I had no cards from. Mike sort of immediately messaged me and said he’d like to rectify that.

A couple days ago I got his mailing. Inside was about exactly the kind of 1941 Play Ball card that I was expecting. Something off-grade but still extremely presentable. This looks like it was stuck in an album and sandwiched between some acidic paper. Thankfully the majority of his picture is untouched and I can see the color details on his uniform. And despite the glue spots there’s no paper loss and all the back information is visible.

I wasn’t expecting a Giant since beggars can’t be choosers but the fact that Mike sent me a Giant was extra cool. It’s a nice big image and I can see the uniform details right down to the zipper. It’s also great to see a color image of the blue and red uniform that they wore before World War 2. I saw these uniforms in the first Turn Back the Clock game the Giants did in the early 1990s and it was both very cool and very weird to see them in non-Giants colors.

Speaking of what I wasn’t expecting. I was not expecting this to come in a bubble mailer. I was expecting a single card in a plain white envelope. Maybe. I’ve had plenty of promised mailings never show up.* A bubble mailer though meant more than one card and for a while I was really confused and trying to remember what I ordered from Ebay.

*Note. If you’ve sent me something and I’ve not acknowledged it on the blog or Twitter. That means I haven’t received it.

When I saw the Play Ball card I put it all together. But my jaw kind of dropped when I saw what else was in there. I’ll start off with this 1956 Giants Team Card. This was one of the last two 1956 Topps cards I needed for my Giants team set (no surprise what the last card is) since the team cards tend to be some of the more expensive ones in the set. My guess as to why is that kids didn’t save them back in the day so they’re just harder to find now.

This is the first year Topps did team cards as part of the larger set and it’s one of the better team card designs they’ve ever done. Team picture on the front with photo identification.* A wonderful team history on the back with all-time records and I particularly love the field graphic and dimensions. That the Polo Grounds is such a distinct field makes this particular card even cooler.

*That the names go from right to left is really weird though.

Staying on the Polo Grounds topic, this postcard was also included. It’s from the linen era which dates it to between 1930–1944. The absence of any light standards suggests the photo at least predates 1940 when the first night game occurred. I don’t actively collect postcards but I definitely like grabbing ones that catch my eye. This one would definitely do that.

Besides just being a cool image of the stadium, I love that it shows the John T Brush Stairway and the surrounding neighborhood at the top of Coogan’s Bluff. It’s great to see things that I physically saw on previous trips to the site and it makes the postcard that much more special.

Wrapping up the mailer were a pair of Red Man cards. Both of these are pretty beat up but they have it where it counts. The Maglie is from 1952, the first year they released these. Hank Thompson is from 1955, the last year. Since my only Red Mans were from 1953 and 1954, it’s fantastic to have samples form the complete run now.

While the design of the set didn’t really change year-to-year, there were small changes and the 1952s show a bit of the first-set awkwardness where there’s no numbering or information about the year of issue. I always like the artwork which features stadium backgrounds and Maglie’s portrait is great with the contrast between the blue sky and the placement against the stadium background making him seem larger than life.

If there’s anything to knock about Red Mans,* it’s in how many of the cards of Black players look like they’ve been painted by someone who’s never seen a Black man in real life.* Thankfully the Hank Thompson is colored pretty nicely.

*Well besides the name of the product which I’m honestly surprised hasn’t been pressured to change.

*Campanella and Mays both make me cringe.

Very very cool Mike. This was totally unexpected and filled in a lot of holes I didn’t even know I had. I can’t thank you enough.

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at njwv.wordpress.com, and the web at vossbrink.net

4 thoughts on “Holy MOReilly”

  1. The early 50’s Red Man cards are my favorite oddball issues of the 50’s. I know the weird size bugs some collectors, but that beauty of those cards totally makes up for it.

  2. I’m not usually one to critique, or even make statements about such things, but the Willie Mays’ Red Man card might be my least favorite baseball card of all time. It is absolutely atrocious!

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