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Old 03-25-2024, 11:02 PM
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Cliff Bowman Cliff Bowman is offline
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Default Part Four Of Keith Olbermann's Topps Proof Series - 1977

Board member Al R. got this from KO himself who gave his blessing to post on Net54.

In the first three parts of our history of Topps Baseball "proof variations" - cards the company preliminarily printed, then altered in some significant way before including them in the packs actually sold to the public - we have seen some dandies.

From Tom Seaver, a year out of college and his hair almost crew-cut, successfully messing with the company by posing as a left-handed pitcher (and the practical joke not being caught until after a proof sheet had been printed), to the hurried replacement of several photos a year in the early '70s due to the ever-increasing movement of players from team to team, by the mid-'70s, proofs were eminently compelling and contemptible.

And yet we had seen nothing compared to what happened in 1977.

This year alone contains the most photo variations, the most famous single proof, the only known instance of a player's name being changed from the proof to the issued card, three separate proof cards that were not issued in any form in the published set, and mass confusion over which cards are and aren't proof variations.

We begin with the premise that chaos must have ruled the Topps design department in the off-season of 1976-77. The advent of free agency on a wide scale wreaked havoc with the late autumn for getting the card fronts ready. On top of this, Topps faced the challenge of American League expansion to Seattle and Toronto. More over, another test set of "cloth" stickers was being prepared. Further, the company branched into Regional issues for the first time with a Yankees set for Burger King. And somebody decided that with a new expansion team debuting in Toronto, simply reprinting part of the American set for the Canadian market was not going to be sufficient, and an almost entirely-new set needed to be prepared for the O-Pee-Chee subsidiary.

Not even counting the proof variations, there are 1,008 different fronts bearing the Topps design, including three different photos of Tony Perez, and four different positions for the autograph on the various Thurman Munson cards. A hundred years from now, the exact sequence of the sets may be as indecipherable to future collectors as the "plan" behind the Old Judge series is to us, today.

We'll start with that most famous proof - possibly the only instance in which a proof might be the best-known card of a particular player: the Reggie Jackson card, showing him in the uniform of the Baltimore Orioles, for whom he played only in 1976, between his heroics in Oakland and New York. The grin captured by Topps' veteran man in the Bay Area Doug McWilliams is certainly the best portrait of Jackson to ever appear on one of their cards. And, because at least eight copies are known to exist, the Jackson proof proves the old maxim that a unique card is almost never as valuable as another of which there is a handful, probably because there's very little chance of prying the unique card away from its owner, and thus no "market" can develop for it.

"The" Reggie was on the cover of Baseball Cards Magazine in 1982, was included in the Renata Galasso tribute set to Jackson in 1984, and what was then the only known copy was sold by Alan Rosen - in an SCD ad, no less - in 1986. That copy of the card probably originated inside the photo archive for Jackson at Topps, to this day many examples of other cards from the '70s, hand-cut from sheets and proof sheets, are still pressed next to unused negatives and card production and detritus of all kinds.

Possibly because there were wholesale differences between the '77 Topps Proofs and the '77 Topps cards, an enormous quantity of '77 proof sheets still existed at the time of the Guernsey's auction. From the catalogue, and personal observation, we can tell that five sheets were sold bearing the Jackson/Orioles card. A seventh copy, professionally cut, was sold by the Topps Vault in 2004. There is still at least one more copy still at Topps.

That the card was ever produced, merely in print form, is something of an accident. There are 21 proof variations caused by players changing teams in November or December of 1976, but there's no chronological rule-of-thumb to explain them. Al Fitzmorris (to the Indians) and Alan Ashby (to the Blue Jays) exchanged teams on November 5th, but each can be found in proof versions with his old team. Doyle Alexander didn't leave the Yankees to sign with the Rangers until November 23rd, yet the proof and regular cards are identical and both show him with Texas. There are six other players who moved before Jackson signed with the Yankees on November 29th, and Rollie Fingers and Gene Tenace went to the Padres on December 14th - yet they do not exist in outdated form on the proof sheets.

Clearly those ten proof sheets of 66 cards each were finalized - "closed" - at different dates. Four appear to have been test-printed before the art department could create air-brushed uniform changes. Each has at least three cards which don't appear in the form issued to the public, and one of them shows not just the Jackson/Orioles card but eight other "old photos" (Don Baylor, Dave Duncan, Fingers, Wayne Garland, Gary Matthews, Steve Stone, and Tenace).

There are plenty of color variations (the lettering on the Brewers cards seemed to particularly vex the designers that year), and the 230 or so player cards on the four proof sheets in question all exist without the reproduced autograph. But, in this set, the key proof variations leap from the subtle ones, unlike in any other.

And they are:

#10 Reggie Jackson - as described above

#17 Steve Stone - the proof version is a pitching pose with the Cubs (though "White Sox" appears as the team name). The issued card shows a portrait with an airbrushed "Sox" logo on the cap.

#33 Wayne Garland - the proof version shows him, capless, looking slightly to his right, in a loose enough portrait that his Orioles uniform is clearly discernible. The issued card has a second capless portrait, shot straight ahead, with the lettering on the uniform not readable. Given the extensive reporting during 1976 of Garland's adamancy about leaving Baltimore, somebody might have thought a bareheaded shot was a way to hedge Topps' bets. More likely - given that Garland is shown without a hat in his 1976 SSPC card - the ill fated free agent simply didn't like posing with his cap on.

#112 Bill Greif - proof: set-position pitching pose in a Cardinals uniform. Issued: tightly-cropped portrait with an Expos logo painted on the cap.

#187 Dick Pole - shown in a pitching pose in a Boston uniform on his proof card, the issued card shows a tight portrait with a Mariners' cap airbrushed in.

#194 Gary Matthews - proof version: batting pose in a Giants uniform. Issued version: portrait shot in a batting helmet repainted with an Atlanta "a." Incidentally the two photos were obviously taken at the same time.

#303 Gene Tenace - game-action batting shot is used in the proof version. The issued has a portrait (photographed, incidentally, in a pre-renovation Yankees Stadium dating back to 1973 or earlier) with a San Diego logo on the cap.

#338 Dave Duncan - the proof is a portrait in an Orioles' cap, and the issued card is presumably another pose from the same photo shoot, with the heavily labored White Sox uniform painted on.

#346 Bill Singer - proof: follow-through pitching pose in a Minnesota uniform, issued: portrait with an airbrushed rendering of a Toronto cap.

#373 Bert Campaneris - proof: batting pose in an Oakland uniform. Issued: portrait, retouched to a Texas uniform.

#404 Eric Rasmussen - perhaps the most fascinating change of the genre. After the 1976 season, Cardinals' pitcher Harry Rasmussen, becoming the ultimate "Player To Be Named Later," decided he wanted to be called "Eric." And so he was. The proof version lists him as "Harry Rasmussen" - the issued card as "Eric Rasmussen."

#449 Al Fitzmorris - proof: shown in his 1976 Kansas City uniform. Issued: with an airbrushed Cleveland "C" on his cap.

#462 Don Baylor - proof: looking very dour in a portrait to the waist in an Oakland jersey (particularly noteworthy because Baylor was never shown on any issued card during his one-year stay with the A's). Issued: an airbrushed Angels' cap.

#469 Pat Kelly - proof version: batting pose in the Oakland Coliseum in a White Sox uniform. Issued version: portrait in Payne Park in Sarasota with his cap airbrushed to Orioles colors.

#498 Sal Bando - proof: a batting follow-through pose in an Oakland uniform. Issued: a tight portrait with an airbrushed Brewers' cap. As if to confuse things further, the issued O-Pee-Chee card of Bando (#145) shows the same portrait with the same airbrushing, but the negative has been reversed. Blank back versions of this third card are sometimes identified as Topps proofs when in fact they are O-Pee-Chee blank-backs or, at best, O-Pee-Chee proofs. For the record, the issued Topps card features Bando facing slightly to his right with the batting cage to the left side of the photo. The O-Pee-Chee issued card and proofs show Bando facing slightly to his left with the batting cage to the right side of the photo.

#523 Rollie Fingers - as with Tenace, a game-action shot appears on the proof, and an airbrushed Padres cap, on the issued-card portrait.

#527 Dan Meyer - shown in an infielder's hands-on-knees pose in a Detroit uniform in the proof version, and in a cap retouched to resemble a Mariners logo (in a portrait obviously photographed at the same time in which the fielding pose was taken) in the proof.

#557 Jerry White - the simple correction of a reversed negative, made slightly more complicated by the fact that White was a switch-hitter. In the proof card, he's lefthanded, but the Expos logo and billboard ads are backwards. The issued card shows the same photo, corrected: White batting righthanded and all writing, frontwards.

#564 Alan Ashby - in the proof, he's shown full figure "on deck" in an Indians uniform. On the issued card, he's in a batting pose with a Blue Jays uniform airbrushed on.

#606 Steve Braun - proof version: shown in a batting pose , at the Oakland Coliseum, in a Twins uniform. Issued version: tight portrait in a batting helmet with an airbrushed Mariners' logo. O-Pee-Chee and the "Cloth Stickers" set come into play for this card, as a third photo wasused in those issues. Blank-backed versions of each are sometimes misidentified as Topps Proofs, but the confusion is easily resolved: the OPC and Cloth proofs show Braun in airbrushed Mariners soft cap.

#649 Dave Cash - a game action shot of Cash in a Phillies' uniform is featured on the proof; a portrait with a painted Expos' cap, on the issued card.

More fascinating still are three 1977 Topps Proofs of cards that do not appear in any form in the issued set.

#652 Danny Thompson - that the seven-year veteran major league infielder was fighting leukemia even as he played the 1976 season, was well known. That he was so sick, and succumb on December 10th of that year, was startling and heart-breaking. A card showing Thompson with the Texas Rangers - to whom he had been traded that summer - was prepared and proofed. Research in the Topps' photo file even indicated that the card was supposed to be assigned number 652. Either just before, or just after, Thompson's passing, it was replaced by the issued number 652, Tom Walker.

Lee Richard - we don't know what number the card of the St. Louis utility infielder was supposed to be, before the Cardinals unceremoniously released him in November, 1976, putting an end to his big league career - and his 1977 card. But it exists on the same proof sheet that features the Bill Greif, Al Fitzmorris, Dan Meyer, Bill Singer, and Jerry White variations.

Jerry Grote - again, there's nothing indicating where this batting pose of the veteran Mets receiver was supposed to go, numerically, nor which player was swapped in when the decision was made not issue a card of Grote. But the decision was made, and just as the chaos of free agents and expansion draft choices swirled around Topps headquarters.

On November 18th, Mets' general manager Joe McDonald was quoted by the New York Times as saying Grote was "intent on retiring," and the catcher mused about a bad back: "I might put up with it for a couple of more years, but where's it going to leave you for the rest of your life if you have a bad back?" By late January, 1977, the Times was reporting Grote had not signed his retirement paperwork, and on February 25th, he showed up at the Mets training camp at St. Petersburg, Florida, indicating he would "probably" abandon plans to call it quits.

I can recall the existence of an unissued Grote card being rumored at the then semi-annual New York card shows in either '77 or '78. But none have ever hit the open market and only in the '80s was one finally illustrated, in the pages of the very new SCD.

While Topps sold half a dozen of the sheets bearing the unissued '77 Lee Richard at the 1989 Guernsey auction (plus many other partial-color copies), I have never heard of second copies of the Grote or Thompson cards turning up. Neither appeared on any of the sheets at the Guernsy auction - though sheets with Tom Walker (who, again, was substituted for the late Danny Thompson) were. This leads to the natural conclusion that Grote and Thompson were probably on the same proof sheet, and when the decision was made to drop both of their cards, that sheet was proofed for a second time.

It's possible that the Bando and Campaneris were on this theoretical Grote/Thompson sheet, and they too were altered. Topps - through the Guernsey auction in 1989 and through the Topps Vault earlier in the decade - has sold individual copies and sheets of most of the major and minor proof variations, from the Reggie Jackson to the Harry Rasmussen. But Bando, Campaneris, Grote, and Thompson have never been made available by the company and, if not unique, must be considered appreciably scarcer than the other proofs listed here.

As mentioned, adding to the confusion are card-stock proofs of Topps "Cloth Sticker" test set, which have been erroneously sold as Proofs from the regular-issue '77 set. That most of these "proofs" are updates on the issued cards (Richie Zisk with his new team, the White Sox, instead of his old one, the Pirates, for example), defies logic.

And there is the further factor of proofs done for the O-Pee-Chee set, which is resplendent with photos of the Blue Jays and Expos taken at spring training in 1977, and which was apparently proofed in early April of that year. Thus we have a card that confused even Topps as it sold via eBay, a proof version of Marty Perez, showing him in portrait form with the Giants, who dealt him to the Yankees in mid-March. The Topps card of Perez (#438) shows him with the Giants, in what appears to be an in-game photo.

The Topps proof is identical. The O-Pee-Chee card of Perez (#183) shows him with the Yankees, in a tight-cropped portrait with an airbrushed "NY" on the cap. The O-Pee-Chee proof shows him with the Giants, in the same portrait, without the airbrushing and with the framing loosened up sufficiently to read the top of the "Giants" lettering on his shirt.

Another OPC proof - of Bob Grich - is also often mistakenly identified as a Topps proof still showing him in a Baltimore uniform. In fact, the Canadian card (#28) has been airbrushed just like its American counterpart (#521). The two simply use different photographs. Grich is bare-headed in the Topps set, and wearing a blacked-out cap in the O-Pee-Chee set.

Lastly, there is a mystery of sorts with one other proof card, of Manny Sanguillen. His unusual trade on November 11, 1976, from Pittsburgh to Oakland in exchange for the rights to A's manager Chuck Tanner, happened early enough that he shows up in gaudy, glowing green A's colors painted onto the batting helmet, cap, and uniform in a portrait, profile right. For the O-Pee-Chee card (#231) the photo has been slightly improved to a head-on portrait, with the Oakland colors again airbrushed on.

Yet there is another card showing Sanguillen, identified with the Pirates, in the same pose as used on the O-Pee-Chee regular issue card, cropped significantly more loosely, with no airbrushing. If the unique card were not trouble enough, it also has a printed back, identifying it as #77 "504 Station Wagon" - a card in a set Topps had issued in the summer of 1976 called "Autos of 1977."

Talk about your "wrong-backs."

Obviously this was a proofing - for something - done using old card sheets on which the backs of the 1976 auto set had already been printed. But what else was on the sheet? Additional copies of the unissued Grote or Thompson? Or, more tantalizingly, other 1977 proofs as yet unreported?

There would be other great Topps Proofs - 1977 had its three withdrawn cards, but a later series in calmer times, would have two more.

Still, even as Topps got the hang of recording free agency, an unexpected factor would mean the golden era of proofs would be over by the middle of the next decade.

While you wait for our return with the conclusion of this series, check your albums for a 1980 Andy Messersmith or a 1980 Donnie Moore.
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Last edited by Cliff Bowman; 03-27-2024 at 06:28 AM. Reason: Fixing my grammatical errors
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  #2  
Old 03-26-2024, 06:21 AM
Zach Wheat Zach Wheat is offline
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Interesting, thanks for posting. Keith also has some interesting info on YouTube on proofs including the 1967 Topps proof of Tom "Tommie" Reynolds @ the 4:38 mark.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmKoquCorgs
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  #3  
Old 03-26-2024, 10:20 AM
mikemb mikemb is offline
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Great information!!

Thanks to KO and Cliff!

Mike
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  #4  
Old 03-26-2024, 12:08 PM
ALBB ALBB is offline
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Default 1977 t

Its interesting and they are scarce cards.....but I just cant get excited about 1977 Topps cards
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Old 03-26-2024, 08:28 PM
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Here are the 1977 proof variations I could find on the web, if anyone has scans or pics of Baylor, Fingers, Singer, Fitzmorris, Cash, Bando, Greif, Pole, Meyer, Braun, Campaneris, or White please show them. ETA: I found progressive proofs of Meyer and Singer.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 77 proof reggie.jpg (112.9 KB, 440 views)
File Type: jpg 77 proof grote.jpg (114.1 KB, 437 views)
File Type: jpg 77 proof thompson.jpg (114.0 KB, 439 views)
File Type: jpg 77 proof richard.jpg (33.6 KB, 440 views)
File Type: jpg 77 proof stone.jpg (83.4 KB, 445 views)
File Type: jpg 77 proof duncan.jpg (71.0 KB, 437 views)
File Type: jpg 77 proof matthews.jpg (27.0 KB, 438 views)
File Type: jpg 77 proof garland.jpg (91.6 KB, 446 views)
File Type: jpg 77 proof tenace.jpg (56.2 KB, 440 views)
File Type: jpg 77 proof ashby.jpg (81.4 KB, 446 views)
File Type: jpg 77 proof rasmussen.jpg (48.5 KB, 439 views)
File Type: jpg 77 proof meyer.jpg (186.1 KB, 438 views)
File Type: jpg 77 proof singer.jpg (101.5 KB, 433 views)
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Last edited by Cliff Bowman; 03-26-2024 at 10:51 PM. Reason: Missed a name
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Old 03-26-2024, 08:43 PM
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Lee Richards is the only one I have
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Old 03-27-2024, 05:07 AM
roarfrom34 roarfrom34 is offline
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I'm curious if that Gene Tenace card is actually a photo of him (doesn't appear to be)? Thoughts?
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Old 03-27-2024, 08:44 AM
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I have one of the misidentified Dave Cash cards from that auction, this is the issued OPC -

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Old 03-27-2024, 12:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ALBB View Post
Its interesting and they are scarce cards.....but I just cant get excited about 1977 Topps cards
Al R. also got Part 5 from Mr. Olbermann, it covers 1978 to 1984. I will try to start on it in the next couple of days.
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Old 03-27-2024, 12:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roarfrom34 View Post
I'm curious if that Gene Tenace card is actually a photo of him (doesn't appear to be)? Thoughts?
You may be right, I looked for pics of Tenace with a beard and couldn’t find any. A lifelong A’s fan would probably know if it is Tenace or not.
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Old 03-27-2024, 12:31 PM
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The only thing I will add to Mr. Obermann’s Part 4 Topps Proofs - 1977 is that I believe Lee Richard was replaced by #253 John Hale, a perfect fringe player candidate for a last second replacement. I can’t find one now but there used to be a pic of the 66 card proof sheet that Lee Richard was on, on the 132 card sheet that the other 65 players on that 66 card proof sheet are on John Hale is in place of Richard and the other 65 cards are the same.
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Old 03-27-2024, 01:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cliff Bowman View Post
You may be right, I looked for pics of Tenace with a beard and couldn’t find any. A lifelong A’s fan would probably know if it is Tenace or not.
He had a beard during the fall of 76'. -



The reason of this -

"On Sunday, October 3rd, after losing a 1-0 game to Nolan Ryan, their season was over. The unsigned members of the Oakland A’s were free to seek their fortunes elsewhere. An October TSN piece titled “Liberated A’s Give Champagne Party” detailed the scene in the Oakland clubhouse that involved over 30 bottles of bubbly.

These guys had become accustomed to season-ending celebrations and this one would be their last as teammates. Bill North, who actually had been signed and would be returning to Oakland in 1977 said, “This is to celebrate the liberation of the Oakland Seven”. Rollie Fingers’ parting comments included, “I feel sorry for anyone who has to play for this club next year.”

Fingers and Gene Tenace would move on to San Diego for the 1977 season. In 1981, Rollie would win the AL Cy Young and MVP award for the Brewers. Tenace would continue to amaze with his near .400 on base percentages coupled with his near .220 batting averages."
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Old 03-27-2024, 02:44 PM
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That is surreal, teammates whom most have been together six years or more not even including the minors are celebrating the last game of the season so they can go join other teams as free agents.
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Old 03-27-2024, 02:59 PM
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Thanks for sharing guys, this is great material.
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Old 03-29-2024, 09:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cliff Bowman View Post
That is surreal, teammates whom most have been together six years or more not even including the minors are celebrating the last game of the season so they can go join other teams as free agents.
Quite the testimony to Charlie O's ownership.

To me, the story that never ceases to amaze is that in late May of '78, with the train-wreck A's enjoying an improbable hold on first manager Bobby Winkles up and resigned because of Finley's ways.
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Old 03-29-2024, 11:59 AM
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1977 stuff
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File Type: jpg Document_2024-03-29_124900.jpg (141.9 KB, 330 views)
File Type: jpg 2024-03-29_124250.jpg (192.1 KB, 340 views)
File Type: jpg 2024-03-29_125345.jpg (188.1 KB, 335 views)
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Old 03-29-2024, 12:14 PM
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Quote:
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1977 stuff
Awesome!
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Old 03-29-2024, 06:18 PM
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Found a '77 Fitzmorris, albeit poor quality.
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File Type: jpg 77 proof fitsmorris.jpg (101.3 KB, 318 views)
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Old 03-29-2024, 06:25 PM
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This is why I think John Hale was a last minute replacement for Lee Richard, he replaced Richard between Willie Davis and Jason Thompson on the released sheet.
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File Type: jpg 77 richard - hale.jpg (141.9 KB, 313 views)
File Type: jpg 77 hale - richard.jpg (69.9 KB, 318 views)
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Old 04-03-2024, 11:48 AM
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Gary Matthews proof-



And the the issued -



Edit - Sorry, I just noticed this was in the group above.

I'll add Pat Kelly instead, because I don't think I see him yet, lol.

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Last edited by JustinD; 04-03-2024 at 11:55 AM.
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Old 04-03-2024, 12:16 PM
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You’re right, I missed Pat Kelly, I had the scan but failed to post it. I remember seeing Fingers, Greif, and Baylor from Auction Houses years ago but I can’t find them now.
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Old 04-03-2024, 01:54 PM
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Rollie was in REA Summer 2020 -






Baylor was in the REA Spring 2019



Dick Pole -

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Last edited by JustinD; 04-03-2024 at 02:22 PM.
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  #23  
Old 04-03-2024, 02:58 PM
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Awesome! I don’t think I have seen the Pole before, and I remembered that Fingers was a game action shot in an A’s uniform.
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Old 04-05-2024, 08:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zach Wheat View Post
Interesting, thanks for posting. Keith also has some interesting info on YouTube on proofs including the 1967 Topps proof of Tom "Tommie" Reynolds @ the 4:38 mark.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmKoquCorgs
For those who have the "Tommy" (with "MY" mostly obscured) version of this card, will some copies of this version be more apparent than other copies? Also, any opinions of the ratio of mostly obscured to completely obscured?
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Old 04-09-2024, 04:58 PM
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Wow that Fingers card is cool. I have seen pictures of most of these but never the Fingers. Great thread.
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Old 04-10-2024, 11:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by savedfrommyspokes View Post
For those who have the "Tommy" (with "MY" mostly obscured) version of this card, will some copies of this version be more apparent than other copies? Also, any opinions of the ratio of mostly obscured to completely obscured?
For a time I looked for more prominent remnants on the Reynolds card but the one I ended up is hard to see in scans, just two black points, presumably from the M and Y . The proof version Keith Olbermann mentioned had Tommy on the front and Tommie which he preferred on back, so they apparently scrubbed it on the front
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Old 04-12-2024, 10:15 AM
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Thank you Al....some of the "sold" copies I saw on ebay appear to have varying levels of the "MY" missing. While my copy is obvious in hand, it is not as obvious in a scan/image.
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Old 04-30-2024, 04:23 PM
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While searching for something else I stumbled across a 1977 Topps proof sheet with some of the unissued proof photos including Bill Greif, unfortunately it's a small scan and loses quality when blown up.
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File Type: jpg 77 proos sheet.jpg (199.1 KB, 88 views)
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Old 04-30-2024, 08:35 PM
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The Steve Brauns are bananas!

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