Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Spendidly Splintered

Bowman's history imprints directly on this rare and special card. Their 1954 set initially included it--normal sized, of course--as #66. Unfortunately, Topps claimed an exclusive right to the Splinter for that year. Bowman showed the better part of valor and quickly pulled it in favor of fellow Boston outfielder Jimmy Piersall. Only a few originals made it into packs and the players became inextricably linked in the marketplace. Collectors know them colloquially as #66A (Williams) and #66B (Piersall).

As beatific the expression and jaunty the cap angle, where'd the rest of Ted go? Looks about the size of a 1950 card, right? After starting small, Bowmans grew to match Topps' bigger efforts by 1954. Of course, kids are fickle and not everyone made the switch. Some laboriously trimmed their collection down to size, year after year, card after card. They'll see the light, thought one scissors-wielder just a year before noticing girls, those suckers will be back to normal in 1955.

Hey! says the card back. Didja know Williams was the last player in over a decade to hit over .400? Actually, since it's now been another several decades, I did. Hitting .406 in 1941 is his best-known achievement these days, yet something else stood out in Baseball Reference's year-by-year stats. It's not the two MVPs, since he deserved more, but that he placed in the top 30 vote-getters every full year of his career. Oddly enough, this 1954 card follows a year he played in only 37 games. The emerging Piersall, on the other hand, finished 9th in the voting on the strength of good glove work and everyday reliability. Why on earth was Jimmy was even available to swap-in? Would any set today leave out a flashy outfielder from a big-city team who only missed two games all year? I think not! With that many uniforms to swatch from, he'd be everywhere. (2008 Upper Deck "Men at Work Game Used" #MAWGU-1, Jimmy Piersall, numbered to 15000.)

Low-grade but untrimmed #66As typically go for $250 - 300. Expect to pay a good deal less for the mini-Williams, but don't expect to see one. It's still a very rare card! If you can't wait, his 1954 Topps cards (#1 and #250) show up much more frequently and should run about $50. Of the two, Bowman's design is more interesting, but I honestly don't see the card often enough to get attached. Better one Piersall in the hand than a Williams never (ever) in the bush.

No comments: