Wednesday, January 30, 2013




Take a step back in time with me for a moment. Let's drift far away from the hullabaloo of 2013 Topps Baseball and settle right before World War II, when simplicity and innocence described an era and not cheap perfumes hawked at the local mall.

In 1940, Gum Inc. out of Philadelphia issued its second Play Ball set. The 240 cards measured 2 1/2 by 3 1/8 inches. No parallel mauve-colored border versions to chase back then.

Cards from the '60s and '70s are often called vintage. 


This is real vintage, cards so old they could've been collecting Social Security the past eight years.

I've always wanted to get one of these historic pieces of cardboard and recently did from Greg Morris Cards. I've never held (blackboard smooth) or smelled (basement musty) one until now. All I can say is it's neat to own a baseball card that doesn't have seven photo variations. I'm reasonably sure it's going to outlast me, and I'm guessing it's buried a collector or two.

OK, the design and graphics (the catcher's mitt in the right corner is appropriate for this card) are a little spartan, but it is a pre-war after all. The black and white image is murky and the background is positively Grapes of Wrathian. No tabulated stats on the back, only a write-up and vitals.

Still, I love it. 

The player depicted has an interesting story, too. Catcher Mickey Owen is known for his two-out ninth-inning error in Game 4 of the '41 World Series that allowed the Yankees to rally. They went on to win the series in five games over the Dodgers. Too bad. He was a really good defensive catcher who had one bad moment at the most inopportune time.

I keep coming back to the card itself. I'd love to know the road this antique took to find me. Where did the kid live who bought the pack? From where was it purchased? Where did it go after that? Who else possessed it? The only things I'm sure of is that it wound up for sale online in 2013 and was well taken care of along the way.

Where will it go after me? In the near term, to my bedside table like a treasured first-edition classic. Then it will be granted top-shelf status. Seniority rules at The Cardboard Examiner home office.

Baseball cards have changed a bit since 1940, mostly for the better. But sometimes, you have to behold the beauty of an ageless classic.  

I now return you to 2013 Topps Baseball.


  1. His stance is bewildering. Was he in motion when the photo was taken, or doing toe ballet? I want to see that other foot....

  2. I love the prose on the back of the card, "a youth of 23", ".984, which comes close to being perfect", "stole six bases, which is something catchers rarely do."