Monday, March 11, 2019

1960 Fleer Baseball Greats

Fleer Corporation's first foray into baseball cards was way back in 1923, when they put their advertising stamp on the back of W515 strip cards. They had blank backs and were a perfect way to advertise its "Bobs and Fruit Hearts" candy line. Fleer's next dip into baseball cards was in 1959, when they signed Ted Williams and made a set of cards all about him, mostly because Topps had a monopoly on most current ballplayers. They had signed exclusive rights to Topps.

In 1960, Fleer decided to expand on their 1959 set, by adding additional players, but mostly retired. The result was interesting. Mistakes were made. Lots of questionable choices were made. In the end, another alternative to Topps dominance was released. Let's dive in.

The design was pretty basic. A frame that was reminiscent of photo corners that held photographs in albums was available in four colors throughout the set. Blue, yellow, green, and red. It was simple, but served its purpose. It stood out from Topps and Leaf in 1960. While Topps had a more complicated, elegant design, Leaf had basically no design to speak of. Leaf looked like a photograph, with name, position and team designation all in black and white.

Standing out from the others was both good and bad. Fleer definitely got noticed, but the set did look a bit amateurish compared to its competition. It was not without its charms though. Players that hadn't been on cardboard in years found a place to shine again, sort of.

While the intention was good, the execution lacked quality control. Subjects ranged from players to managers to executives. They all had connections with baseball. It was a unique set for the time and that is truly what makes it stand out.

The White Sox have four cards in the set.

19 - Marty Marion
27 - Luke Appling
49 - Ed Walsh
56 - Ray Schalk

I mentioned earlier that mistakes were made. Yes, they were. Interesting choices were also made. The backs of the cards listed the teams that each player played for. They also mentioned if that player went on to have any affiliation with baseball after their playing days.

The Marty Marion card should be him in a St. Louis Cardinals uniform or possibly in a St. Louis Browns uniform. Those are the only two teams he was with as a player. Instead, Fleer shows him in a White Sox uniform. He only managed the White Sox, after two managing stints with the Cardinals and Browns. It's a weird choice, but a welcome one for a Sox fan.

The Ed Walsh card is not "Big" Ed Walsh. Sure his statistics were on the back, but the picture is actually Ed Walsh Jr., who also played for the White Sox, but about two decades later.

It's not just the White Sox that are affected by these choices. The entire set is littered with interesting choices similar to these highlighted. Some players are shown in a uniform as an elderly gentleman. Others are shown in uniforms that one would not expect. It's baffling, yet refreshing to see.

The 1960 Fleer set is a nice oddity, where you can find a slew of mostly older players, mostly retired. It helped pave a long path to the 1981, when the Topps monopoly was officially broken for three decades before being reinstated.

This is a fun set to collect and not terribly expensive. If you expand past the White Sox, there are tons of Hall of Fame players, like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Mordecai Brown and Honus Wagner. There's even a Branch Rickey card. Ford Frick, Ed Barrow and Kenesaw Landis have cards too. It's a nice history lesson wrapped up in a vintage card set.

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