The Top 5 All Star Game Programs To Collect
When you have any type of hobby there are different levels and degrees that you can carry your interests to. Sports always offer a wide variety in general, from casual follower to the beloved degenerate gambler who would put money on anything, to the collector of artifacts and memorabilia. Of the four major sports, baseball offers the deepest and widest choices for the everyday collector based on the fact that the sport itself started in the 1800’s and that memorabilia, even for current historical achievements, is often promoted heavily. It is fun to try to identify the niche to fit your interest in the game, and the budget that you have to work from, and learn about the details of what you enjoy to collect if that is the road you decide to go down beyond just taking in a game. You are limited only by your imagination, creativity and what you find interesting. Personally my interests are baseball cards and old World Series and All-Star game programs with cover illustrations that are eye catching and tell a story, or conjured up a picture in my mind of something that happened before I was even born.
The collecting part for me goes beyond price discovery and condition of the programs, which is important from an investment standpoint (though for hobbies I believe it is better to purchase for enjoyment rather than for funding an early retirement), but for what visually brings me in and what I would want to display and tell someone about. In honor of this year’s All-Star Game in Kansas City I thought I would share what I believe are the five best programs out there. Keep in mind I am not talking about the five most exciting games or most expensive programs, but the five that I would want to show in my own collection if I had the means to purchase them.
In coming up with my top five I looked at the program covers from the last 83 All-Star games to make sure I had not missed any while looking through auction catalogues and e-bay during my time of collecting and researching. For the astute fan and mathematician the first question that would be asked is – 83 All-Star Games? But the first one was played in Chicago at Comiskey Park back in 1933 which means the 2012 game should be only number 80. You would be correct, but as with all things in baseball nothing is ever as simple as it seems. Follow along with me, in 1945 the game was to be played in Boston but was cancelled due to the countries involvement in World War II and Fenway was given the game the following year. Fine, but that drops you back to 79 games then and puts you four short and not any closer to the 83 you are looking for. The Midsummer Classic was actually played twice a year at differing venues from 1959 through 1962, which if it happened today Twitter and the blogosphere would self-combust from all the fans and writers who whine about snubs and who deserves to go, and treat it like the players live and die by the honor like they once did, and not like the mini vacation that so many players embrace it as today. By adding those extra four games played from ’59 to ’62 it gets you to the magical 83rd game that will be played this year.
Let’s get started at number 5 and work backwards to what one I believe to be the best All Star game program cover of all time:
5. 1937 All-Star Game
Played at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium and drawing just under 70,000 fans which would be a record until Cleveland would break it again in 1981 by drawing over 72,000 in the place they would call “The Mistake By The Lake”. Your first reaction to the program cover is more than likely a shrug and a “are you kidding me?” look because there is an umpire on the cover. That reaction tells me you are not focusing on it properly, try it again but this time study the umpire and tell me what you see. Notice the old school wired mask the umpire is holding in his right hand and the chest protector he is holding out in front of himself with his left arm. How about his clothing? He looks like he is going to spend time in church and not about to ring up an all time great. Button down sport coat, nice white shirt and if you look close enough you see the outline of a necktie. Now that you see these little nuances it should give you a better appreciation of how umpires once looked and the dated equipment they used.
4. 1960 All Star Game (2nd)
In 1960 the first All-Star game was played in Kansas City but the program I am referring to here is the second one that was played that year at Yankee Stadium in New York. This one stands out to me first because the cover is to be held horizontal and not vertical like the majority of the programs that you have seen through the years. In the background is the famous Yankee Stadium with the legendary white frieze around the top and the red, white and blue bunting lining the stands and the American Flag on top – I mean that scene IS baseball right? Plus you get a close up glimpse of one of the most exciting plays in baseball with the play at the plate where the laws of physics crash together with the immovable object of the catcher meets the irresistible force of the player giving their bodies up over a five sided plate that one wants to protect and the other to claim.
Notice the old “M” on the base runners cap representing the Milwaukee Braves, who at that time the Yankees had lost to in 1957 but beat in 1958 for the World Series. Makes you wonder if it is more than just coincidence the symbolism behind the NL runner in this picture. The Yankee catcher is sporting the shin guards that I have not seen worn since the 80’s and the ball cap turned backwards, as catchers once did. This is different from today’s catchers who wear the batting helmets minus the ear flaps or the catcher’s masks that appear to be a derivation of the goalie mask in hockey. Yankee Stadium in the background in its splendor, a play at the plate combining a catcher in throwback mode against a runner from the Milwaukee Braves is sure to catch even the most casual fan’s eye.
3. 1955 All Star Game
Played in Milwaukee County Stadium I find this one to be an underrated program cover. It is the pennants running down the left side of the program that draws me in. Pennants make me think back to when I was a kid and used to have them all over my room, but nowadays they still sell them but when was the last time you were at a game and saw a kid waving a pennant? Just doesn’t happen anymore and the pennant in general seems to be an item of the past. Start from the top and remember that this is 1955, so right away that tells you there are three New York teams here because this was before the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles and the Giants to San Francisco, I know I had to ponder that one for a moment at first. The Cincinnati pennant reads Redlegs and not Reds, and the Braves one represents their time in Milwaukee where the game was held, which was pre-Brewers which is probably the team you think of first when hearing of the site of the game.
Observing the last two pennants on the bottom you have the Washington Nationals, who would move onto become the Minnesota Twins after the 1960 season, and the Athletics who in 1955 would be spending their first year in Kansas City after leaving Philadelphia the previous year. Out of the sixteen teams you see represented here, five of them have new cities they call home today and the Nationals have been reincarnated again. Of course as a final history note Municipal Stadium is no longer around, and the Braves left for Atlanta after the 1965 season, yet baseball lives on in Milwaukee with the Brewers and their new ballpark. A simple picture that tells quite a detailed story of how far the game has come when you take a step back.
2. 1941 All Star Game
Forget the fact this program is from the greatest All-Star Game ever played with Ted Williams hitting a game winning jack with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to give the American League the win in Detroit. This program is the ultimate, and should be required in any baseball fans “Man Cave” for the shear toughness factor. It is great because the Tigers are one of the few teams with the name and mascot to pull this off and they did it to perfection. What is better than a roaring tiger with one paw in the iconic Briggs Stadium and another one on top looking to protect it? Only thing missing are fans running in mass hysteria and maybe a National League All Star hanging from the tiger’s mouth.
I even like at the bottom seeing “Home Of The American League Champions” written underneath Briggs Stadium. You see this and you think “of course these guys are the AL Champs”. I mean does this idea work if you have the San Diego Chicken standing on top of Jack Murphy Stadium or Mr. Met tripping over Shea? Exactly. This is the perfect combination of team emblem, famous stadium that is gone, having the name of said stadium written on the cover and rightful bragging on winning the pennant.
1. 1943 All Star Game
East Coast bias, home town bias or whatever you want to call it – guilty as charged. Played at the late Shibe Park in Philadelphia, you could argue this was one of the All-Star games that possibly lacked the most star power of any played with Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Johnny Mize all not playing because of the war. With that being said, I grew up outside of Philadelphia and I view this program as a time in Philly baseball history that is now gone. Front and center you have the Philadelphia Athletics’ symbolic white elephant on his hind legs balancing on a huge baseball while holding the American flag up high for a country at war.
Next to him William Penn in full Quaker attire holding a baseball bat while looking up at the white elephant. Though not pictured, the acknowledgement of Shibe Park at the bottom where the game was held, and where so many of the older generation of baseball fans in the area grew up watching games. A nod to Patriotism, the franchise that gave Philadelphia its most World Series Championships even though it left in 1954, and acknowledgement of the stadium that is still talked about today with much sentiment was an easy choice for me.
Got your own top five or think I missed one from my list? Leave a comment below or Tweet me @MLBOutsider and let me know what you think.
– If you get a chance to catch former pitcher Jim Abbott on his book tour do it. I saw him at Citizen’s Bank Park in June and he was fantastic. Forget about him being an amazing player, he is a terrific human being with a great message. Never played a game in Philly yet sold out all 1,000 tickets to see him. Need I say more?
– Visited Coca-Cola Park in Lehigh Valley for the first time in July and I highly recommend it. Great sight lines, and not a bad seat in the house, including a grass outfield berm that you can sit on and watch the game.
– Next year’s SABR convention is coming to Philly – baseball nerds unite. Very much looking forward to it and the city has a rich baseball history which I hope shows through.
– August 1-5 in Baltimore is the National Sports Card Convention. If you collect anything sports related it is the place to be, and even if you don’t and are curious about the hobby, hit it up. Best though is if you are a single woman because the ratio is about 15,000 men for each girl. Women, set your bar low for the men and then lower it again so you won’t be disappointed.
Matt Aber is a baseball enthusiast, who despite collecting baseball cards and memorabilia, does not live in his mom’s basement and has a beautiful wife. Matt is an advocate of the national organization called The Miracle League which allows special needs children to play baseball. He encourages you to support this worthy cause and learn more at www.miracleleague.com. Follow Matt on Twitter @MLBOutsider.