Friday, December 31, 2010

Willie, Mickey, Harmon & "The Marv": How Marvin Miller Altered The 1968 Topps Set

Mays & Mantle were past their peak / ready to retire,
but Harmon's finest hours were yet to come, post '68.
Chico couldn't pinch himself hard enough: "How'd I get in a
picture with these guys?" Latin rhythms, indeed...

Ah, the serendipitous, weird and woolly circumstances of the origins of certain Topps baseball cards.  Cards #480 and #490 from that wild and historic summer could also be titled "Chico and The Men," or "Three Stars En Fuego," respectively (to mirror the incendiary, messy themes in matters political and cultural).

The latter, as any All-Star game buff should know, alludes to the near-Death Valley conditions at roasty, toasty Busch Stadium in St. Louis at the 1966 Game, where these two portraits originated.  In the tilt that saw the last AS Game appearance of Sandy Koufax, spectators were being transported out on stretchers owing to heat exhaustion. It may be apocryphal, but it's said that Joe Torre melted into the turf that day, not to be unearthed until 1969, during which time he had been traded to St. Louis from the Atlanta Braves.

Twin's catcher Earl Battey picks up gear, disconsolately
leaves field after Maury Wills' hit drives home 
Tim McCarver with the 1966 game winner.
Why the use of two-year old shots, like the above All-Star game shots of Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva with other stars of the game? Marvin Miller, the newly appointed head of the Major League Baseball Players Association, had urged the players to reject having their pictures taken anew in 1967, as a means of gaining leverage against the Topps company.  Topps had signed players as minor leaguers for the extravagant fee of $5, which locked them into binding contracts paying only $125 a year once they became major leaguers.

Those gravy-sucking pigs!

Marvin Miller: a cool cucumber - even while being told by
Joel Shorin what he could do with his proposal.

 But beyond that, Miller mostly wanted the union to get a lucrative slice of the profits from Topps, with an eye to increasing pensions, etc. Upon hearing Miller's pitch, Topps President Joel Shorin simply responded "I do not see the muscle in your position." How power and monopolies corrupt even the best of us! But after the players banded together, Miller's ploy worked. As described at Dean's Baseball Cards:

 "Shorin eventually caved to Miller’s demands.  The newly negotiated contract required Topps to pay each player $250 (double the previous $125) per year and, more importantly, Topps would pay the Players’ Association 8% of sales up to $4 million and another 10% after that.  The way that Topps compensated the players had changed forever..."


No, this wasn't an attempt to showcase
new Twin Ron Perranoski's 'do. Topps
just didn't have any thing else to offer,
following the relievers trade from the
Dodgers in exchange for Zoilo Versalles
and Mudcat Grant. At least it was better
than all those putrid black cap shots...

...such as that used for Manager
Cal Ermer and scores of players.
Topps had to scramble with this

one that seems to picture him in his
former employ (from the late '50's
no less) of the Detroit Tigers.


(Special thanks to Twinscards.com for letting me plunder and pillage their vintage Perranoski & Ermer stock. And to myself for taking the time and extraordinary human effort to scan and display featured cards #480 & #490 from my own arsenal)So, say what you want about Miller increasing greed, avarice, his later disruption of team rosters with the movement of free agents, causing the downfall of the Soviet Union, or creating mass halitosis through the availability of more Red Man Chewing tobacco in locker rooms - the 1968 Topps set owes him some credit for indirectly creating some monuments to a couple of classic Minnesota Twins players.

Happy New Years - May 2011 See Your Taters Fly Far! - TT


3 comments:

bad breath said...

When I notice a client has halitosis/bad breath or complains of post nasal drip and tonsil stones despite having healthy teeth & gums, my advice is they visit the site of Oraltech Labs. I can report clients return visits have undetectable Halitosis/bad breath. So if all else fails try them. USA & UK. Association of Dental Health

TWINS TWINKLER! (so named as "TT" was title of player features in Minn. Twins game programs of 1960's) said...

Great advice! We all need a little help, at times. Good luck to you and your family in 2011, orally & otherwise.

Alan Weiers said...

this is so good. Read it three times in a row. Bravo!