I got a kick out of seeing some of the original artwork that surfaced recently from the Sy Berger Collection and will be auctioned next spring by Robert Edward Auctions. They are almost uniformly stunning, especially in light of the fact that the original paintings are so tiny – virtually identical in size to the issued cards themselves.
One that really grabbed me was Richie Ashburn, one of a couple of them that turned out to have been unissued, meaning that no card was ever produced from the artwork. I assume it was because of the contract wrangling between Topps and Philadelphia-based Bowman. Ashburn had Topps cards in 1951, 1952, 1954 and 1956; he showed up on Bowman pasteboards in 1950-1955.
If anybody has any other information about why Richie didn’t get Topps cards in 1953 and 1955, I’d love to have it.
Ashburn was one of the great storytellers in all of baseball, so I’ll end this with a story he told me more than 20 years ago.
Ashburn: “A guy recognized me the other day and said, ‘I know you. You’re the guy who used to hit all the foul balls.’
“I don’t know, but I’d like to be remembered for more than hitting foul balls. When I was playing for the Cubs toward the end of my career, Jim Brewer, the pitcher, was a teammate.
“Now Jim Brewer hated his wife; I don’t know why. One day, he came up to me and said, ‘Big Patty and I just had a fight.’ And he pointed to the section of the stands where the players’ families normally sat, and he said that’s where Big Patty sits. ‘Take a shot at her,’ he told me, meaning I should try to hit her with a foul ball.
“I laughed and forgot all about it. Then a while later when got up to the plate, I hit a couple of foul balls in that area, and when I stepped out of the batter’s box, I looked into the dugout. There was Brewer waving a towel and yelling, ‘Two seats over and one row back.’ ”