Topps salute a Capitol idea Exhibit to open at National Sports Gallery in MCI Center

Posted: March 29, 2001

The 50th anniversary of Topps baseball cards, a milestone in America's sports and collectibles worlds, will receive another high-profile salute this year with a special exhibit in Washington.

The National Sports Gallery, adjacent to the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery and contained within the MCI Center, will honor Topps with a presentation of historic Topps material.

The material is coming from sources around the country and will include vintage cards from the Golden Age of Sports Cards, advertising, packaging, uncut sheets and test products.

The exhibit will coincide with the opening of the baseball season and the shipment of Series II of Topps 2001 Baseball.

President Bush, a former owner of the Texas Rangers, is known as having been a major baseball card collector in his youth. According to news reports, Bush not only collected cards but sent them to players for autographs. And alas, not unlike the stories of so many collectors from the '50s and '60s - his mother, Barbara Bush - might have thrown them out.

"He's still mad at me," she told Newsweek last summer. "He thinks I threw away his baseball cards. 'They'd be worth millions now.' I'm quoting him: 'Millions now!'. . .I did not throw them away!"

Here is how MCI Sports Gallery curator Frank Ceresi touts the exhibit:

"As the first, and only, all-sports museum in the country, we are thrilled to be able to showcase rare artifacts from the Topps Company to commemorate its 50th year as the sports card pioneer. Anyone who collected sports cards as a youngster has fond memories of the thrill of opening a fresh pack of Topps sports cards to see what hidden treasure might be yours! If you were not lucky enough to save your old cards, or if your mother actually did throw them out, then come and visit the National Sports Gallery, where you can relive the joy of collecting through our very special exhibit."

Founded in 1938, Topps created Bazooka Bubble Gum in 1947 and marketed its first baseball cards in 1951.

74TH TIME NOT THE CHARM

The 74th Philadelphia Baseball Card and Sports Memorabilia Show was done in by the weathermen. It was the first time that it ever happened, and I guess once every 26 years is OK.

The frightening East Coast storm that the news media hyped ad nauseum over the first weekend in March never did materialize. The ominous threats from the TV forecasters on Saturday, however, were enough to terrorize even the most resolute dealer, and when the show closed Saturday a healthy number of them headed for home.

So on Sunday when the doors opened to the public - and I paid my $6 to get in - as many as one-third of the dealer tables stood there naked as the day they were born - and remained so.

I managed to walk the entire floor, make some purchases, chat with friends and be out of there before 11 a.m. It's hard to shop at an empty table.

I encountered Rob Rosen, of Kit Young Cards, and asked him why he wasn't in Hawaii, where the annual trade show was wrapping up that day. He said, "I've been asking myself that question all weekend."

It was not a good weekend. Ron Cey, the former Dodgers third baseman who was supposed to be signing free autographs, was hospitalized and missed the show.

Here's wishing the EPSCC better luck at its May show.

2001 GREATS OF THE GAME

Fleer's Greats of the Game set was a surprise hit last year and is back for another go-round. The 2001 Greats of the Game Baseball set features a bigger and arguably better selection of autographed and game-used cards than last year's.

The 137 basic-card set features 80 Hall of Famers, including a star-studded autograph roster of 93 players, with 49 of those players already enshrined in Cooperstown. Some of the big names included in the set are Willie Mays, Mike Schmidt, Yogi Berra, Ozzie Smith, Ernie Banks, Steve Carlton, Sparky Anderson, Carlton Fisk, Tom Seaver and Reggie Jackson.

The cards are fun for fans, but several of the pictures have been used frequently in the past, and that's a bit of a down side.

Cards that caught my eye in the basic set were those of Negro League greats. A card of Sam Jethroe reads "Boston Braves" next to his name, but he is portrayed in a Cleveland Negro League uniform that is almost identical to that worn by the Indians.

Satchel Paige appears in a Kansas City Monarchs uniform, and Artie Wilson, who had a cup of coffee with the 1951 Giants, is pictured with the Birmingham Black Barons. Cool stuff for baseball buffs.

In addition to the basic set and the autographs, Greats of the Game MLB also features Feel the Game Classics, with game-worn items from 24 of the game's greatest players such as Babe Ruth, Harmon Killebrew, Schmidt, Willie Stargell, Willie McCovey, Eddie Mathews and Hank Greenberg.

Continuing the tradition started last year with Yankees Clippings, 2001 Greats of the Game salutes the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers with Dodger Blues. This set features memorabilia cards from some of the best players from the storied franchise, such as Jackie Robinson, Don Drysdale, Duke Snider and Roy Campanella.

Also included is the Retrospection Collection, which recreates the design of the 1975 Fleer Pioneers set with some of baseball's all-time best.

Two cards that I got were Jimmie Foxx in a Red Sox uniform (but designated as a member of the Philadelphia A's) and an age-old picture of Cy Young.

(As an aside, that '75 set is hard to find, yet when it's found there is little interest despite the players it portrays. One of the hobby's quirks, I suppose.)

Greats of the Game comes in five-card packs for $5.99. *

Ted Taylor has been a lifelong collector of baseball cards and sports memorabilia. He has run memorabilia shows in the area and written for various publications. Taylor is president of his own Abington, Pa.-area public relations/marketing firm.

Send e-mail to mrhmerun@aol.com

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