So last December jimmybunchanumbers (@haymay67) put out a tweet asking who he should send a Sport Magazine with Willie Mays on the front cover to. This was part of a pre-move purge where he was looking to clear out stuff that would be better placed in other people’s collection. A bunch of people nominated me so I said I’d be happy to take it.
*I mostly kid here. Even as the USPS has gotten worse it’s been more reliable than Fed Ex, UPS, and Amazon.
It took a while to get to me. USPS is gonna USPS*. But it eventually arrived in January and looks even better in person. A great photo of Mays at the peak of his powers. June 1965 is right in the middle of his second MVP season. That he finished the year with 52 homers and a 1.043 OPS (and 11.2 WAR) means he has a lot to smile about.
I also need to quickly mention the back. I’m not sure when gun advertisements stopped showing up in sports magazines but hey were long gone by the time I was a kid. Really really weird for me to see them. It’s just not a world I’m used to at all.
Anyway, while this is in the collection because of the cover, the best thing about these vintage magazines is the articles inside. The Mays article by Monte Irvin is a lot of fun. Nice to see Monte’s memories of Mays as a rookie and compare those to the observations of him as veteran leader who’s the best player in the game.
The “What Willie Mays Really Wants” framing though is both great and sad. Turns out that in 1965 Mays really wanted to coach/manage and thought that he could bring a lot to a club that way. I hadn’t ever read about that side of Mays before and I’m a little sad that he never got the chance to try. I’m also sad that it took so long for MLB to even hire Black managers.*
*Pretty much only Frank Robinson until the late 1990s.
The article that ended up being even more interesting though is Len Koppett’s piece about what players want in a new commissioner. This is especially interesting to read with the currently going on but it’s also a great glimpse into how little the player’s understood about their power back in 1965.
What the players wanted? A strong commissioner who would reinforce scheduling rules like not having day games after doubleheaders. No real sense of contracts and compensation issues. Instead they got Bowie Kuhn who proceeded to lose labor case after labor case over the next couple decades as the players got more power than they ever dreamed of.
There was a nice story about the 1948 Indians and their season with little snippets about each player as well as highlights from the pennant race. Fun vignettes about Bill Veeck and Satchell Paige. A bit about Don Black and the way the club supported him after his stroke. But the most interesting parts was how open it was about Emil Bossard’s groundskeeping shenanigans in sloping the foul line and soaking the infield as well as Ernie Groth stealing signs via binocular with Marshall Bossard relaying them to the batter by crossing or uncrossing his legs.
Other articles in the issue were about Tim McCarver as the resident comedian on the 1960s Cardinals (beating out Bob Uecker even), how Bo Belinsky and Dick Stuart would take the Phillies over the hump after their 1964 choke job (the Phillies finished 6th in the League in 1965), whether Eddie Mathews would rebound in 1965 after his injury in 1962 and “no excuse” 1963–64 seasons (it’s worth noting he had a 132 OPS+ and averaged over 6 WAR in those down years), and a couple profiles of Wally Bunker and Dick Radatz.
And finally there were a couple fun baseball card advertisements in the back. Interesting to see complete sets being sold but the prices are definitely eye-opening. $13 in 1965 translates to around $116 today (making each $2.15 series equate to almost $20).
I’m especially curious about the catalog as well as the hobby card album. It’s been my understanding that 9-pocket pages didn’t come into being until the late 70s. Ultra Pro’s patent* doesn’t list any pocket-pages prior art but does list some flexible plastic card holders from the 1960s so we know something existed.
*I did do a post about this.
Anyway very cool. I took my time getting this post up because I wanted to enjoy reading it. Plus I had to treat it pretty carefully since the spine isn’t in the best shape.