Poor Minnie Miñoso, 1960 Topps

 

1960 Topps #365 Minnie Miñoso

Decay. Witness the passage of time in card stock’s weather and wear, how the years streak in creases across his weary face. Hard lines demarcate quadrants wrought by some child’s bicycle spokes or an adolescent’s Velcro wallet—reckless vestiges that make it all the easier to abandon a poor memento.

Exploit. Having traversed the smaller ballparks to eke out a living as a player in the Negro leagues, along with winter stints in Cuba, Miñoso had seen a lot by this point in life. Doubtlessly, this artifact also experienced some long, exacting seasons; unlike a bottle of wine, it gained few improvements with age. A splintered wreck, it’s a far cry away from shore—and at remove from earlier, more intimate Topps or Bowman issues. And the frame is horizontal. (Diamond kings prefer vertical portraits.) Truth or Capitalism: the body outlives its use. And after a career-high 184 hits in 1960, the next year brings a slump; then Chicago trades Miñoso to St. Louis in ’62. Subsequently, he fractures his skull and breaks his wrist in an outfield wall collision. Next he’s sold in ’63 to the Washington Senators, who let him go in October. Back to Chicago the following year for only 30 games, then the Show is done. . . . Perhaps poor 1960 Topps Miñoso could have gone unnoticed for another few decades whilst moldering away in the corrugated recesses and narrow rows of storage box obscurity with the likewise huddled undesirables of his era. Just one among many cardboard souls coffined away indefinitely. The inevitable crumbs of history.

Refuse. As with the startling longevity of Miñoso’s own career—which later included extended playing days for the Charros de Jalisco of the Mexican League as well as for Chicago with some notable but brief tribute appearances at the plate—this inglorious piece o’ cardboard seems to have an uncanny, almost preternatural desire to stay in the game. It keeps hanging tough in the batter’s box, fighting off the fouls, bruises, and dings of time until the bitter end.

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2009 Topps American Heritage #51, Martin Luther King, Jr.

2009 Topps American Heritage #51, Martin Luther King Jr.

In respectful observation of MLK day, please enjoy this tribute card to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Of course, there’s no shortage of well-researched articles, essays, and other accounts about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his national, even global legacy. Likewise, King’s far-reaching influences are also recognized in his impact on baseball. In truth, and with consideration of the historical timeline, it is probably easier to claim that baseball and its barrier-breaking players of color held far-reaching influences and recognized impact—on King and his civil rights mission. (In “Baseball’s Impact on Martin Luther King Jr.,” writer David suggests as much.) Indeed, former Dodgers pitcher Don Newcombe incredulously relayed one occasion when King himself praised the accomplishments of his predecessors in baseball in no uncertain terms:

‘Don, I don’t know what I would’ve done without you guys setting up the minds of people for change. You, Jackie and Roy Campanella will never know how easy you made it for me to do my job.’

Can you imagine that? How easy we made it for Martin Luther King!

In any case, preceding and eventually alongside King, legends like Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige, and many other important early African American ballplayers made their own special kind of civil rights contributions and advancements in sports culture and beyond.

Doubtlessly, though, King sold himself short in that exchange with Newcombe. Anyone can see as much. Look at the common thread that runs through the many histories and retrospectives: despite the context or means of communication, Martin Luther King, Jr. preached hopeful messages of freedom and equality through emphasis on brotherhood, sisterhood, and, simply, humanity. Directly or indirectly, the force of his oratory persona, rhetorical skill, and those essential principles resonated with and profoundly touched countless individuals and communities. That resonation carried (back) through the baseball world as well.

For example, St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Curt Flood certainly revered the man, and Flood made a gift of a painted portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr. to King’s widow (though there’s debate about whether Flood actually painted or merely “commissioned” such work). Then there’s the notable telegram that Martin Luther King, Jr. once sent to Jackie Robinson. It’s even as though a King-like aura would eventually transmute and metamorphose in Robinson himself in his later, more official advocacy and leadership roles like his work for the NAACP. But ultimately it is speculation as to who made more of an impression on whom over the course of King and Robinson’s face-to-face meetings and whatever other correspondence. Still, not unlike that renowned power King possessed—to inspire audiences and listeners and move them to tears with his words—Robinson seemed to have a bit of that in him, too. For example, in No No: A Dockumentary (2014), Dock Ellis shares a letter addressed to him from Jackie Robinson; Ellis audibly, almost uncontrollably weeps on the tape recording upon reading Robinson’s note. Instances such as these powerfully suggest the manifold ways in which a legacy like King’s can live on and be passed down through generations in kindred stories and artifacts.

To add to those stories and artifacts, this poignant, colorful photograph of Martin Luther King, Jr. playing baseball with his son may also be worth a look. The photo resides at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History in the Flip Schulke Photographic Archive. The photo presents a different, more intimate side of this noted historical figure—perhaps a more human side than the one with which we have grown accustomed. (Note: another copy of this image, sans watermarks, appears in this photo slideshow, also found in the center’s archive.)

Japanese Baseball Cards—Fun with Menko!

Japanese Menko Card, 1949 JRM, Makoto Kozuru

Japanese Menko Card, 1949 JRM, Makoto Kozuru

I don’t know much about Japanese baseball. I don’t know much about Japanese baseball cards. I *really* don’t know much Japanese.

Apparently, Japanese baseball is relatively similar to American baseball. Of course there are some differences, especially cultural ones where crowds and players are concerned. But they share all of the basics: bats & balls, pitchers, bases on a field, etc. By most accounts, baseball was introduced to Japan in the 1870s, roughly twenty to twenty-five years after Americans started to professionally organize the game. . . .

Old Japanese Baseball Card of Catcher

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Really, though, that’s about all I know—or all I can recall—about that. Other folks like Dr. Fitts or Robert Whiting (coincidentally both named Robert) know quite a bit more about Japanese baseball.

Japanese Menko Card, Tetsuharu Kawakami

Japanese Menko Card, Tetsuharu Kawakami

Old Japanese Baseball Card of Hitter

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

When it comes to Japanese baseball cards, my knowledge is equally limited. Some Japanese baseball cards were made for a popular game called menko. (While menko cards do not account for all Japanese baseball cards, they do appear to be the earliest.) In this game, players throw their cards down upon a flat playing surface in an attempt to flip the other cards belonging to opponents. Yeah, it’s like pogs. Unlike baseball, though, Japan’s menko came well before the American pogs of the 1990s.

Japanese Menko Card, 1948 Masayasu Kaneda

Japanese Menko Card, 1948 Masayasu Kaneda

Again, there are others with plenty of more expertise in this realm. For example: Dr. Fitts (once more), who runs an additional site just for blogging about Japanese baseball cards; Gary Engel, co-author of Sayonara Home Run!: The Art of the Japanese Baseball Card; and, of course, the Japanese Baseball Cards blog.

Japanese Menko Card, 1948 Hideo Fujimoto

Japanese Menko Card, 1948 Hideo Fujimoto

As for Japanese, the language—well, I got nothin’. But I found these Japanese baseball cards that sure do look pretty cool.

Old Japanese Baseball Card of Pitcher 4

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Old Japanese Baseball Card of Pitcher 2

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Old Japanese Baseball Card of Pitcher 2, back

Japanese Menko Card (back), player name?

Oh, there’s more alright. . . .

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card (back), player name?

Japanese Menko Card (back), player name?

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card (back), player name?

Japanese Menko Card (back), player name?

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card (back), player name?

Japanese Menko Card (back), player name?

Japanese Menko Card, 1948 Tokuji Iida

Japanese Menko Card, 1948 Tokuji Iida

Japanese Menko Card, 1948 Tokuji Iida (back)

Japanese Menko Card, 1948 Tokuji Iida (back)

Japanese Menko Card, 1960 Takagi

Japanese Menko Card, 1960 Takagi

Japanese Menko Card, 1948-1949, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, 1948-1949, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, 1948-1949, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, 1948-1949, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, 1948-1949, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, 1948-1949, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, 1947 JCM, Ted Williams back, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, 1947 JCM, Ted Williams back, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, 1947 JCM, Ted Williams back (back), player name

Japanese Menko Card, 1947 JCM, Ted Williams back (back), player name?

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, 1948 Hideo Fujimoto

Japanese Menko Card, 1948 Hideo Fujimoto

Japanese Menko Card, circa 1960s Sadaharu Oh

Japanese Menko Card, circa 1960s Sadaharu Oh

Japanese Menko Card, circa 1960s Sadaharu Oh (back)

Japanese Menko Card, circa 1960s Sadaharu Oh (back)

And last but not least. . . .

Japanese Menko Card, 1950 Babe Ruth

Japanese Menko Card, 1950 Babe Ruth