As I mentioned yesterday, I decided that Warren Spahn was the first card I wanted to get for my 1949 Bowman team set, and that I did. It’s a beautiful card and I’m excited about acquiring the other Braves in the set.
For my 1948 Bowman Braves team set, I went in a different direction. The Spahn was simply more expensive that I wanted to go, even though I was actively searching for one in poor condition. For my first card for this team set, I decided to go after another of my old-time favorites from the Boston Braves era, Johnny Sain.
Johnny Sain is a guy for which I’e always had an enormous amount of affection. The stories of the Spahn and Sain then Pray for rain Boston Braves are among my favorites. I also remember him well from his short, very short, time as the Braves pitching coach in the 1980s. Perhaps the biggest reason I love Johnny Sain though is Ball Four. I’ve spent most of my life infatuated with the book. At this point, I have three dog eared copes of the book. I’ve also purchased the Kindle version and the audio version from Audible. I read it almost every year. Jim Bouton’s descriptions of Johnny Sain as a pitcher’s pitching coach, rather than a manager’s drinking buddy, always struck home with me. He’s one of the all-time greats and I’m glad I have this card.
While I love the contrast of the black and white photographs backed and streaked with color in the 1949 Bowman set, I actually prefer the 1948 Bowman design. It’s hard to beat the simple black and white photography. The 1948 Bowman set is a short one featuring only 48 different cards which means, as a Braves team collector, there are only three cards that I need. Once I had the Sain, it was easy enough to pick up a cheap Bob Elliott.
Over the years, I’ve picked up the occasional cheap Braves cards from the 1950s, and it was the same names over and over again. There was Walker Cooper. There was Earl Torgeson. Then, there was Bob Elliott. If I had gone for his 1940s cards earlier, it would have been safe to say that I was a defacto Bob Elliott player collector.
It might be hard to imagine, but I’m betting this card was every bit as big a deal as the Spahn and Sain to collectors in 1948. Elliott, in his first year with Boston, would win the Most Valuable Player award. He was the premier offensive player on the 1948 Braves squad that would play in the World Series. These days, he’s practically a common. Everyone might not remember him as a great player, but that’s one of the joys of collecting the cards of my favorite team. I know that Elliott touched greatness for a few years.
So, with Sain and Elliott in the bag, I kept my eye open for a Spahn within my price range. I placed every example that showed up on eBay on my watch list. The majority were listed as Buy it Now and were more than I wanted to spend. Condition was not an issue for me. Truth is, I don’t like older cards in mint condition. It isn’t simply a price thing, but a visual thing. If the card doesn’t look old, if it doesn’t feel old, if it doesn’t look loved, it’s not the card for me.
Even though I was fine with a poor condition card, every Buy it Now listing for a 48 Spahn was high. I thought my best chance would be an auction and that turned out to be the case. This card is more creased than I prefer, but I have no desire to replace it. It’s a 67 year old Warren Spahn baseball card. That’s a reason to be excited and just like the 49 Spahn was the perfect card to start that team set, it was the perfect card to end this one.