Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Rare Find for a Friend

1952 Ventura Braves George Owen

When one thinks of baseball cards from the year 1952, I doubt that a minor-league card produced by Globe Printing Company of  Fresno, California would come to mind. For Bill Harp of Austin, Tx., that was exactly the case.

Mr. Harp is a long time family friend of former Braves minor-leaguer George Owen, who played in the Braves system from 1950-1952. And so when the time came to begin looking for a birthday gift for the 86 year-old Owen, Harp wanted to get his friend a piece of history- a link to his past- and it proved to be a labor intensive project. You can read the Fort-Worth Star Telegram article here. It's a great read, and I encourage you to do so.

Although he only played four professional seasons, none of which were spent in the majors, Owen did have a card produced featuring him with the class C Ventura Braves of the California league, where he spent the 1950 and 1952 seasons.

Measuring 2-1/4" x 3-3/8", the cards feature black and white photos, are unnumbered, and have blank backs. According to the SCD Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards (2010 edition), the minor league cards were usually given away at the ballpark, either one-per-week or on a one-per-homestand basis-which accounts for the rarity of complete sets. This is quite common, obviously, but the Star Telegram piece also reveals that players had been given a team set and 10 to 50 of their own cards to hand out to family, friends, or anyone else they may encounter.

Thanks to Bob Lemke, former editor and publisher for Krause Publications, we have an idea of the print run for the Ventura set. As posted on his blog in 2009, Lemke mentioned a six-card sheet of the 1952 Ventura Braves owned by former California League statistician and (unofficial) league historian Bill Weiss. This sheet contains marginal notes stating that 3,000 sheets were to be delivered before April 14. With Globe having printed their cards six to a sheet, and with fourteen Ventura Braves cards cataloged, we are left with four other unknown Braves players cards that were issued.

1952 Ventura Braves Team Issue:

  • Al Aguilar
  • Bud Belardi
  • Frank Followell
  • Glenn Hittner
  • Lee Kast
  • Richie Morse
  • Frank Nubin
  • George Owen
  • Manny Perez
  • Jose Perez
  • Harley Resh
  • Jack Schlarb
  • Bob Sturgeon
  • Billy Wells

Unfortunately, a flood in the basement of Globe's San Jose plant years ago destroyed boxes of cards and other materials.

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