Card of the Week is of the Old Perfesser, Casey Stengel. I didn't realize it when I started this post, but Casey passed away on this day back in 1975. Casey was a pretty good outfielder for the Dodgers, Pirates, Giants and Braves. He's better known as the manager of the Yankees during their heyday in the 50's, and lead the team to 7 World Series Championships, including 5 straight from 1949-1953. He's best known for being a bit of a nut who ran circles around the brutal New York press with his "Stengelese" - baseball ramblings that straddled the line between genius and insane. He worked his magic with the press as manager of the Yankees and the expansion New York Mets. And oh Lord did the Stengelese come in handy as manager of the hapless '62 Mets. Casey both played for and managed the Braves, so the combination of team loyalty and my love for eccentric screwballs who mangle the language has made him one of my all time favorites. In fact, his 1940 Play Ball card where he is pictured as manager of the Braves is in my top 5 "Dream cards" list along with the '35 Goudey Ruth and '54 Topps Aaron cards. I don't have that card, but I do have this one:
There's the Perfesser in his Boston uniform! So what the heck is this, a reprint? Let's check the back:
1942 Play Ball? What the heck? Play Ball didn't release a baseball card set in '42 due to the war. But TCMA sure did in 1983... In fact between '83 and '84 they printed up sets of cards using the Play Ball design to fill in the war years of 1942 to 1946 when no major baseball card sets were released. The cards are standard sized, follow the 1940 design very closely and have different color ink for the borders on the front for each year. Like a lot of oddball issues from the '80s not a whole lot of collectors are familiar with them. You have to watch out for sellers trying to pawn them off for the same price as an original Play Ball card. The best option is just to buy a complete set, some of which can be found at Fritsch. There's also a second 1942 Play Ball set floating around out there too from independent manufacturer HRT/RES. " Independent manufacturer" being a nice way of saying a couple of card collectors in Philly who got together and printed up some of their own sets in the '70s. These aren't 'official' issues and as such are sort of on the fringe of collecting, but for pre-war enthusiasts without a whole lot of cash these kind of oddball sets along with reprint sets are a good value and a neat way to find some new cards for a team collection.
I already have a few legitimate vintage Stengel cards (although one of them I'm pretty sure is a fake, but that's a subject for another post) but none of them show him as a Brave. This one here isn't an original from the '40s, but it's from a set that was printed when I first started collecting, so it's original enough for me.