Category Archives: 1976 SSPC

Card Spotlight: 1976 SSPC Top 30 Countdown Jim Colburn 226 & Charlie Williams 98 (#23)

Transformation.

When I think of baseball players from the 70’s, I see their photos from the 1975 Topps set.

And that’s the way it was… until I caught a glimpse of some SSPC cards that were unique in all sorts of ways. I got the whole set and my world view of 1975 baseball players changed.

Jim Colburn was clean shaven when his 1975 card was at my local mini-mart, but 1975 Jim really had a perm doo a twirly mustache.

Finding the SSPC set was like unearthing photographs of people you’ve known all your life and discovering their wild and crazy side.

1976 sspc 226 1975 305

Charlie Williams had straight hair and so seeing him sporting a perm doo still takes some getting used to. It took until 1978 Topps Charlie Williams to ditch the perm.

And the dusk, sunset shots… there’s a feeling when I’m at a ballpark on a warm summer night when the sun starts to set. Charlie’s card reminds me of that feeling – it’s a card that transcends being just a card.

1976 sspc 098 1975 449

I still usually think of the ’75 players Topps photos first, but now I sometimes think of their other side.

Card Spotlight: 1976 SSPC Top 30 Countdown Darrell Porter 232 (#26)

Facial Hair.

One difference between the 70’s and today is the diversity of facial hair in the public. It wasn’t like all baseball players had moustaches, but it seems like there were a lot more than today.

Darrell Porter looked like a clean cut ball player on this 1975 Topps card. And then transitioned into a handlebar moustache tough looking guy. If Topps Porter ran into SSPC Porter in a bar, I don’t think he’d want to start any trouble with himself.

1976 sspc 232 1975 052

 

Card Spotlight: 1976 SSPC Top 30 Countdown Jim Hunter 425 (#27)

Nickname appropriate.

Catfish Hunter’s SSPC card pictures him in a pose that matches his nickname.

If you bought a Topps card in 1975, his card showed him as an A but he was really a Yankee by then. If you also owned the SSPC card, you’d have all the teams represented that Hunter every played on. He didn’t play in the major leagues. Thought technically he started as a Kansas City Athletic.

Both of these cards capture the transition nicely.

1976 sspc 425  1975 230

Card Spotlight: 1976 SSPC Top 30 Countdown Rudy May 427 (#28)

Contrasts.

Some of the photographs in the 1975 Topps and the 1976 SSPC sets are so different it’s hard to tell it’s the same person. And others, like this one of Rudy May are more subtle.

The contrast between the two sets is more subtle with Rudy May. I was used to the sullen Topps Rudy May that I’ve grown accustomed to for decades. When I picked up the SSPC recently, there’s was familiar Rudy but with some differences – gold chain, Yankees jersey, and a cap that didn’t look airbrushed.

And there’s a contrast within the SSPC card. I like Rudy’s crooked glasses and his wide grin. He seems human and approachable. And yet he’s in a Yankees uniform – a professional baseball player with that big stadium full of fans in the background.

The SSPC shows us a different perspective on familiar faces from the Topps set. And that’s pretty cool.

1976 sspc 427 1975 321

Card Spotlight: 1976 SSPC Top 30 Countdown Oscar Gamble 526 (#30)

Built-in Traded Set.

This is the last card of Oscar Gamble in an Indians uniform. The back of the card highlights his trade to the New York Yankees in exchange for Pat Dobson. In his career, Gamble switched teams eight times (including two repeats: the Yankees and White Sox).

1976 sspc 526    1975 213

SSPC took full advantage of the timing of their release to include the trades after the 75 season. So the SSPC set is a base and traded set all in one. And that’s why this Oscar Gamble “Traded” card is in the Top 30: to commemorate the coolness of that idea.

1976 sspc 526b

 

Card Spotlight: 1976 SSPC

The 1976 SSPC set is one of my favorites: 630 photos that are candid and sometimes funny. It’s a great complement to my absolute favorite set (1975 Topps). This month, I’m starting a countdown of my Top 30 favorite SSPC cards.

There’s occasional confusion about the true year of the 1976 SSPC set. It’s copyrighted 1975, but was released in 1976. A letter from SSPC calls it the 1976 SSPC set, and that makes it so.

1976 sspc 167

You may also see this set called the SSPC Pure Card set (named because of its clean design based on Bowman’s 1953 cards). I like the design, really like the photographs, and the cards are (mostly) ordered by team, which is a bonus.

1976 sspc 506

This set also has an interesting backstory:

TCMA produced oddballs from 1972 to 1987. TCMA stood for Tom Collier and Mike Aronstein (the co-founders). But shortly after starting the company, they started calling it The Card Memorabilia Associates.

Sports Stars Publishing Co. (SSPC) was a TCMA offshoot that published a magazine called Collectors Quarterly (edited by the Keith Olbermann we all know from TV).

Olbermann writes about his experience in this blog post: “I had written the backs for the first [1976 SSPC] set, and another fellow had taken most of the photos for them, only it turned out he didn’t really have any ballpark credentials and was only on the field because he’d been a batboy and knew all of the cops at Shea Stadium and they just let him sneak in.”

1976 sspc 630b

Keith Olbermann’s contribution (writing the text on the back of every single card) is documented on the final card back.

The Winter 1975 Collector’s Quarterly had a two-page insert of 18 cards that are a precursor to this set.

It got interesting when Topps sued and blocked further production. After negotiations, SSPC was allowed to sell their existing inventory as long as they didn’t produce any more. According to Internet posts, the initial print run was 10,000 sets.

A second set was made from the negatives without permission and it’s unknown how many were printed (it contains a Nolan Ryan error card – with his name listed as Noland). So it’s unclear how many total sets made it to the public.

I’ve seen cards from both sets and it’s hard to tell which is which. And I don’t care enough to discover which one I have. And it doesn’t seem like anyone else cares because cards sold online don’t differentiate. At this point I think the inventories have mixed into the general population.

I mentioned a letter – it’s said to have been included with sets sold directly by SSPC, and it reads like this:

SSPC letterhead from 100 Ringgold St., Peekskill NY 10566

Dear Baseball Fan:

We are very happy to report that the lawsuit has been resolved. Enclosed you will find your set of 1976 SSPC cards that you have waited so long to get. These cards are being shipped to you by Renata Galasso Inc. This company is doing the sorting and mailing of the cards for us. If you wish to purchase any additional sets you may do so by consulting the enclosed flyer and ordering directly from Renata Galasso Inc. Thank you for all your support during the time it took to end the lawsuit.

Sincerely,
Michael P. Aronstein
President

I haven’t seen it personally, and I’d really like to get ahold of an original or a copy. So if you have one let me know.

Mail Call: Astros Uniforms 75 vs. 89

I’m always interested in any cards with players from the 1975 Topps set, and Bru from Remember the Astrodome delivered with a stack of cards. That motivated me to organize my cards and find some Astros he could use. It took a while (in between other projects), which explains the month long hiatus here.

I’ll break this mail call into two posts, starting with Astros uniforms. I really liked them growing up. They fit right in with clothes we wore those days (like Ocean Pacific t-shirts). Even today their iconic outfits from the mid-70s and 80s takes me back to those days.

The Astros had tame-looking uniforms in the 75 Topps cards:

1975 541

They didn’t match my reality of what the Astros wore. It’d take another year to highlight their new threads on cardboard. 1976 SSPC Roger Metzger and 1976 Topps Joe Niekro look like they’re still getting used to their new outfits:

1976 sspc 0571976 273

What started me on this path was one of the cards Bru sent. Buddy Bell was an Astro for a year but he was wearing a different outfit than I remembered. After digging into it, turns out there were four incarnations of what are dubbed Tequila Sunrise uniforms. These lasted until 1993 and the 89 Upper Deck card shows him in the third version:

1989 UD 112  1989 UD 112b

The 1975 Buddy I knew played for the Indians (so he’ll always seem out of place in an Astros uniform):

1975 038

There’s also a cool page I found on mlb.com with a slideshow of Astros uniforms throughout the years (starting with them as the Colts in 1962). I wasn’t planning a post about uniforms, so thanks for the inspiration and for sending the cards Bru!