This is the first pack I bought specifically to show off on this site. Yeah, I just opened a Topps 206 pack, but I would have bought that anyway. 8 bucks a pack was unthinkable for me back in 2002. Now that $20 packs are almost mundane in hobby circles, 8 bucks for pack from a set I really, really like isn't quite as bad. Don't get me wrong, it's still pretty bad.
The pack is a promo from the Helmar Brewing company, a Michigan microbrewery who sells beer with a baseball theme. I'm not sure if they got their name from the Tobacco company who put out a few card sets themselves, including the T332 Stamps and S74 Silks sets back in the Golden age of tobacco cards. If they did it's appropriate that they put out this neat regional oddball set. These cards were put out as promos in bags of chips, three cards per pack, each card having a scratch off game on the back that could win discounts and prizes. The artwork is based on the T206 design and is quite beautiful.
The website states these are cards for collecting, not for investing or speculating on rookies. Flipping cards is ok as far as they are concerned, but flipping cards is not. To discourage this sort of thing, they've made the size of the card such that it's very difficult to find a proper holder for them. First of all they are pretty thick, but not too thick. If you put them in a standard thick toploader, they will squinch. Put 'em in a super thick loader and they flop around. Plastic sheets are useless as well because they made the card just a tiny bit larger that a standard T206 card. As a result they are too wide for a 15 pocket sheet, too tall for a 12 pocket sheet and too small for anything else. Helmar suggests rubber bands for storage, but I'll probably take an exacto knife to an unwitting 1 pocket sheet and do a custom job.
I had no idea these things even existed until I did a search on eBay for packs. Jealous of my fellow bloggers' online finds I wanted to find my own cool oddball set. I saw the listing for these packs and wondered what the heck they were. The auction listing had a massive picture of the cards, which as I said, are gorgeous. I was still skeptical about them and did a little internet research. I eventually found this review of the set from the awesome www.topps-heritage.com site. The checklist won me over. Negro leaguers! Japanese stars! Boxers! House of David players?! Awesome! I won the auction for three packs and here they are, for your viewing pleasure.
Johnny "The Crab" Evers, Chicago 2nd baseman
Nice card of a Hall of Famer. When I first scanned the checklist, this is one of the cards I really wanted. Forget Tinker and Chance, Evers led the Braves to a World Series Championship during his 1914 MVP campaign. Sure he's in a lousy Cubs jersey here, but I know in my heart he's truly a Brave and that's what counts. Johnny's nickname "The Crab" comes from the fact that he was an enormous pain in the ass. Well, the 'official' version is that it came from his incredible range covering second base, but just ask his teammates for the real story. Evers was even more ornery to the competition though, and his fierce competitive nature and amazing knowledge of the game put him square in the middle of one of the most famous incidents in baseball history. Evers was the player that alerted umpire Hank O'Day that Fred Merkle left the basepaths after Al Bridwell's game winning single and insisted he be called out. That play lost the Giants the game and the pennant, doomed Merkle to a life of infamy and sent the Cubs to their last World Series victory. Great card, but the top by "Throw 'er here!" is mooshed pretty badly.
Goto, Chunichi Dragons
I have absolutely no earthly idea who this dude is. This guy? Nah, wrong team. Maybe this guy? I hope it's this guy. It would be cool to have a Mr. Baseball themed trading card. Maybe Tom Selleck will be in series two. Why isn't there a Japanese baseball-reference.com to help out with this stuff? Still a great looking card, the detail in the crowd is outstanding.
Walter Ball, Chi. Negro League
Walter Ball was one of the Negro league's first great pitchers. He started pitching in the 1890's and pitched into the 1920's for a bunch of different teams, including several in the Chicago area. He relied on pinpoint control along with a spitball to get outs and was not an overpowering pitcher. He won games pretty much everywhere he went and is considered to be on par with the best of the early Negro League pitchers. He stayed in baseball after his playing days were over and was honored as a coach in the 1937 East-West All Star game. This card looks terrific and rivals the beauty of any T206 card. How much cooler would that set be if there were cards of Rube Foster and Smokey Joe Williams alongside Ty Cobb and Cy Young?