Whitey Ford, Binghamton Triplets by Miller Press

This card was actually created by my Dad, Tom Miller. He loved Whitey Ford. I thought of this one when I heard yesterday that Whitey had passed away.

We printed this one at least 15 years ago.

Ford was a wily pitcher with great control and very cool under pressure. He didn’t “dominate” hitters like a Koufax or Gibson, he just beat them. He was a frustrating pitcher to face, because he never gave you what you wanted. He knew who could hit the high ones, who could hit the low ones, and who could be suckered with a low outside throw. He wasn’t the kind of man who made the same mistake twice.

Of course he is in the Hall of Fame. But in the pantheon of great Yankees, he is overshadowed by other names, the men who swung the clubs. It shouldn’t be forgotten that the historic run of great Yankee teams through the 50s and into the 60s could not have been accomplished without the steady left arm of Edward C. Ford. He appeared in 11 World Series and was an All Star 10 times. His career earned run average ERA of 2.75 is the best of all pitchers with 200 or more victories.

Hearing about how he passed away while watching the Yankees playoff game brought a tear to my eye. That’s how he wanted to go.

Rest in peace, Whitey Ford.

Frank Howard, 1970 Washington Senators, Immaculate Collection

After spending most of the last several years goofing off, I have decided to make some more Monarch Corona cards. I doubt my legacy is ever going to be about the fish I have caught or even the newspaper stories I have written over the years. The thing that becomes your legacy is more likely to be your passion – and mine is still baseball cards after all of these years. And since I am mostly retired, there is time to dabble in the cards. Plus, we do actually need some fresh print samples.

So I have decided to make a new series called the “Immaculate Collection” and start with Frank Howard:

Opposing pitchers were scared to death of Frank Howard. Among those was Sam McDowell, ace starter for the Indians. Twice during the 1970 season, with Howard at bat for the Senators, McDowell was switched temporarily to 2nd base in order to avoid facing big Frank! Sudden Sam’s averse reaction to Howard blossomed during the ’68 season (ironically the Year of the Pitcher) when Frank went 8 for 12 against McDowell with 3 HRs and 8 RBIs. Sam walked him six times that season, as Howard compiled a 1.750 slugging percentage against the Tribe’s ace.

Frank Howard was a very large guy, about 6-7. Although by all accounts he had a very kind and gentle personality, he could knock a horsehide well into the middle of next week. Originally a Dodger, Frank was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1960. He did pretty good in Los Angeles, but he was dissatisfied there and told the team he would retire from baseball in the spring of 1964. They talked him into staying another year, then swapped him to Washington for Claude Osteen after the ’64 season. As a Senator, he became a legendary slugger.

This card was printed January 12th of 2020 on the AB Dick press. I made 200 of them, and some have been added to our printing sales kits. In honor of Frank, we also donated $100 to St. Jude’s Childrens Research Hospital, a charity Frank has been active with for the past few years.

Rocky Colavito, Cleveland Indians 1955 Color TV series

It wasn’t easy for Rocky Colavito to break into the Cleveland Indians outfield. Not only did they have sluggers Ralph Kiner and Larry Doby in the lineup, they also had Al Smith, who batted .306 and led the team in stolen bases. On the bench were perennial All Star Dale Mitchell, veterans Gene Woodling, Hoot Evers, Wally Westlake, Dave Philley, and Harry Simpson. Every one of them were solid starting-lineup outfielders. In fact, that version of the Tribe arguably had the best group of outfielders ever assembled on one team. So Colavito was way down on the list.

On this card I mention that Rocky was considered for a pitching role because of his tremendous arm. After slamming 38 HRs at Indianapolis, such speculation ended. However, it is a good bet that he would have made an outstanding pitcher. During his major league career, Colavito appeared as an emergency relief pitcher twice, once for Cleveland in 1958 and then with the Yankees ten years later. In 5.2 innings he gave up just one hit and no runs, with a couple of strikeouts.

I created this card in 2011, when I made a series of 16 Color TV cards.

Because the size of the cards is small, it’s hard to say some of the things that go through your mind when composing the write-up. If there had been room, I would have pointed out that Rocky had just been married. I might have mentioned that his best friend was rookie pitcher Herb Score.

Moonlight “Doc” Graham, 1906 Scranton Miners

Dr. Archie Graham was a footnote until Burt Lancaster portrayed him in the hit movie “Field Of Dreams” in 1989. The movie was based on the best selling book “Shoeless Joe” by W.P. Kinsella, which was published in 1982.

Graham played minor league baseball during the summers while he worked toward his medical degree, which he obtained in 1905 from the University of Maryland. He played baseball and football during college, and was a starting halfback on the gridiron.

Archie came from a family of high achievers. The second of ten children raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina, his brother Frank served as a US Senator and as President of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Every one of the children born to Alexander and Katherine Graham obtained a college degree, including three sisters.

I printed this card in 2011, about 8 years ago, and it is one of my personal favorites. Maybe because I loved the movie, but also because Graham was such a great man and a hero long after his baseball days were over. He was a beloved pediatrician for over 50 years in rural Minnesota.

The image I colorized is the only decent picture of Moonlight Graham as a ballplayer that was known to exist, so I didn’t have to choose which picture to use. Since then, a picture of Graham in a Scranton uniform has surfaced, but it is a little blurry:

I might someday make another card of Doc Graham. If so, the picture above will probably be the one I use.

Billy Sunday, 1887 Pittsburgh Alleghenys, Diamond Series

I created this card in 2008 and they were used as print samples to obtain printing jobs from a couple of churches. One of those churches became a regular customer and still does business with us whenever they need something printed. The other church still owes us about $550 for jobs they never paid for!

Billy Sunday, clean-cut centerfielder for Pittsburgh

Billy Sunday has an interesting story. In the summer of 1887, centerfielder Tom Brown of Pittsburgh was playing the worst baseball of his career. A solid batter for years, Tom was no longer a .300 hitter. He was no longer a .250 hitter. Brown, who was one of the fastest runners in baseball, was now getting thrown out, and he was making more fielding errors than ever. A man who had recently been a star was sinking fast.
Tom Brown didn’t have some rare illness, and he wasn’t getting too old to play the game. It was the booze. He had been drinking since arriving in Pittsburgh, and it was destroying him. On August 15th, manager Horace Phillips gave Brown some bad news: He was being dropped from the team. Phillips was going to have to find a new outfielder. One of his coaches told him about Billy Sunday, who played for Spalding’s team in Chicago.
The worst thing you could say about Billy Sunday was that he was always trying to save souls and get the other players to go to church with him. By his own admission he didn’t drink much, and seldom gambled. Manager Phillips wanted to get a man like that, someone who could stay sober most of the time and set a good example. That’s exactly what he got when he obtained Billy.
Billy had just batted .291 at Chicago, and Pittsburgh was probably hoping for something more than a .236 hitter, but that was all Sunday could muster during his first season at Pittsburgh. He did steal 71 bases, and lived an exemplary life off the field. In Billy’s second season with Pittsburgh, the team was doing horribly. Billy was again having a weak season at the plate. The team went through three managers that season. One of them, Ned Hanlon, was asked about Sunday, and what a fine young Christian man he was. Hanlon observed that he would just as soon have a heathen who could hit the ball than a Christian who couldn’t. His idea of a fine example was someone who could produce runs and win games.

More and more, Billy was being called by God to preach. It wasn’t that he was a loafer – he had received a higher calling. If Sunday had put as much heart into baseball as he did preaching, he would have been as good as anyone in the sport for a long time.
In 1890, when the Players League formed, Pittsburgh lost all of their experienced players, except Billy and the manager. The team was terrible, finishing 23-113 and of course in last place. The team was so broke by then that they sold Billy to Philadelphia in August for $100 cash and two untried rookies! Soon afterwards, Sunday left baseball to become a full-time evangelist. He couldn’t ignore the call of God, and the rest is written large on the pages of history.

Billy Sunday was the most important man in America for over a decade. More than anyone else, it was Billy Sunday who convinced the average American to support Prohibition of alcohol sales. Carrie Nation and her hatchet act were just a sideshow – it was Reverend Billy Sunday who preached the sermons which convinced an entire nation.
Billy also addressed other social issues of the day. He supported women’s suffrage, he called for an end to child labor, and he included blacks in his revivals, even when he toured the deep South.

And Tom Brown, who lost his job due to boozing it up? What happened with him? Well, he ended up in Boston, where there were far fewer opportunities to drink. He regained his form and became a star player once again. He isn’t in the Hall Of Fame, but he does hold a record that will probably stand forever: Most errors committed by an outfielder, career: A whopping 490!

Nolan Ryan, 1981 Houston Astros Classic Series

I made this card about 5 years ago, in 2014 when I did the Classic series. The fronts are obviously 1970 Topps style. The backs are ’56 Topps style. I wasn’t trying to make anyone’s head explode, I just really like both of those designs. And I don’t care much for the backs of the ’70 Topps, the yellow and blue backs. They seem garish to me. If I ever create a similar design, the colors will be changed or toned down some, maybe navy & tan instead of blue & yellow.

Nolan Ryan grew up about 15 miles away from me, and he is a hometown hero. I’ve actually net him twice over the years, and he comes across as a good ol’ country boy.

Nolan Ryan as a 1981 Houston Astro

The 1981 baseball season was a train wreck. Over two full months were lost due to a players strike. The NL West team with the most wins, Cincinnati, was not even in the playoffs. Neither was the NL East team with the best record, St. Louis. In the AL West, the Royals finished 4th with a losing record, yet made the playoffs. In the AL East, the Yankees finished in 3rd place and made the playoffs.

But 1981 was a big year for Nolan Ryan. He had finally come “home” to pitch for Houston the year before. He had also become the first million dollar per year player. He had reached 3,000 career strikeouts, then added his 5th no-hitter and his first ERA crown.

During his career Ryan pitched for all 4 of the original expansion teams: Mets, Astros (Colt 45s), Angels, and Rangers (Senators). Among the many records he holds is giving up the most grand slams during his career – 10 of them. Another is that over his entire 27 year career, opponents batted a measly .204 against him – the lowest in MLB history!

Bart Starr, 1972 Green Bay Packers. Gold Star Series

From what I can tell, Bart’s father was an asshole. He wanted to make Bart “tough” so he was mean to him. Growing up in hardscrabble Alabama was bad enough, but having an overbearing dad made it worse.

At age 12, Bart’s younger brother Bubba cut his foot after stepping on a dog bone. Within 2 days he was dead of tetanus. Bart may have felt that his dad was partly responsible, for not taking Bubba to a doctor. For whatever reason, after Bubba died, Bart never felt close to his father.

Bart Starr the year he retired from playing football

A guy like Bart Starr would never get near a training camp in the NFL today. He spent most of his college career healing from back troubles, and presided over the worst season in Crimson Tide history, a 1-10 season in 1955. As it was, he barely got drafted. He was the 200th player picked, in the 17th round of the draft. It was Vince Lombardi who made Bart into a quarterback. Ironically, Lombardi was the same kind of tough guy that Bart’s dad had been. He didn’t listen to excuses.

This was the 3rd card I made in the Gold Star Series in 2009

Starr certainly didn’t have gaudy stats. He never threw more than 16 TD passes in a season. But he was able to win the big games, and will always be remembered for winning the first two Super Bowl games.

Frank Robinson, 1966 Baltimore Orioles, Classic Series

I was a Cincinnati Reds fan during the time I was growing up, and Frank Robinson was one of my favorite players. When I heard that the Reds had traded him to the Orioles for Milt Pappas, I was very upset.

Frank Robinson, Classic Series #7

But it got worse. Pappas didn’t exactly set the league on fire. He won 12 and lost 11 as the Reds fell from 89 wins in ’65 down to 7th place in ’66. Meanwhile, Frank was winning the Triple Crown at Baltimore. But wait, it gets even worser.

Four years later, Pappas was long gone from the Big Red Machine. But big Frank was still slugging his way into the Hall Of Fame, and the Reds faced the Orioles in the World Series. In that series, Frank scored 5 times in 5 games, slammed a pair of homers, and the Orioles crushed the Reds 4 games to 1. Ouch.

I printed this card in 2014 after reading an article about how Frank nearly drowned in a swimming pool at a team gathering near the end of the 1966 season. Someone playfully pushed him in, and he couldn’t swim. Rookie Davey Johnson and catcher Andy Etchebarren jumped in and saved him.

Robinson was an all-around athlete. If he had decided to play pro football or basketball, it is likely he would have become a star player in either sport.

Jack Dempsey, Heavyweight Champ 1924, Sports Heroes of the 20th Century series

Here’s one of my favorite boxers, Jack Dempsey.

Jack Dempsey 20th Century Sports Heroes #61

I made this series of cards in 2010 after I found some really nice pasteboard stock with a manila back, the same pasteboard that was used to make the old Post cereal boxes. They are the only “blank back” cards I have ever made. I was tempted to put something on the backs, but it just didn’t seem right, so I left them in their natural state, like the original Post cards were.

In those days, you would cut the cards out of the box. The back of the box had 7 cards on it, taking up most of the back panel.

There were 3 problems with this method of distributing cards:

First, impatient kids would cut up the box before the cereal was eaten. So you’d have this box filled with cereal, with most of the back completely gone, sitting in the middle of the breakfast table. The cereal would fall out of the gaping wound, and mom would gripe about it.

Second, you’ve got kids playing with sharp objects to remove the cards from the box, and kids don’t cut straight. They are likely to cut themselves, maybe even opening up an artery. Even if they avoid injury, kids tend to do a poor job, especially when they are using a steak knife or pocketknife. All you have to do to see how this turns out is look at some of the miscut Post baseball cards on eBay.

Third, and of greater importance to the cereal company, you could look at the box and see which players were on it. So kids who accompanied mom to the grocery store would pull every single box off the shelf, looking for Mantle, Koufax, Maris, or Musial. Nobody wanted Hal Smith or Al Spangler. So the boxes with mostly “commons” piled up on supermarket shelves. Post had about 200 players in each series. They probably should have just picked a few dozen players, or two from each team.

I have to admit that I toyed with the idea of making a die-cut for these cards, to intentionally make it look like a hand cut card, the way most of these cards actually appear. I only gave up on that idea because I don’t like artificial “damage” to cards, and I felt like it was nearly the same thing.

Roberto Clemente & Bill Mazeroski, 1955 Pittsburgh Pirates, Pastime Series

I printed this card in 2009. In fact, I printed it three times. The first time, the image used for Mazeroski didn’t print the way I wanted it to, so I tossed the whole batch and tried again later. The second version was fine, except there was a typo. The word “native” was capitalized in the Clemente writeup. “Native Puerto Rico” should have been “native Puerto Rico”. Once more the whole batch had to go.

Roberto Clemente & Bill Mazeroski – Pastime Series #19

The third time, they finally came out the way I wanted them to.

1955 was a dreadful season for the Pirates. They finished dead last, in 8th place. It ended up being Clemente’s rookie season, and he had a decent year. The team looked a lot better on paper than they did on the field. They had some decent bats: Dick Groat, Dale Long, and Frank Thomas. They had some good arms: Vern Law, Bob Friend, and Roy Face. They had Branch Rickey as General Manager and Fred Haney as their field general. But they couldn’t win.

Maz would have to wait another year before he would be playing at Forbes Field. The Pirates were at the beginning of a slow climb that would take them to the World Championship in the 1960 World Series. It would be Mazeroski who would hit the walk-off homer that beat the Yanks in game 7.