It’s not a great hardship in the grand scheme of things, but one irritant of collecting vintage baseball is that my team is missing. I finished the OPC sets after 1977 ages ago and at the moment I’m working on things from 1971 and earlier – sets in which the Blue Jays are not so surprisingly absent.
That’s not to say it’s not fun – if it weren’t, I’d abandon it. Still, it’s always nice to have a bit of a chase team just so that the entire process isn’t entirely an academic exercise. To that end, I try to make a bit of a point of finding guys who at some point in their careers would either play or manage here – either at the major or minor-league level. Thankfully, even though the Jays didn’t play until 1977, the Leafs had a history dating back to the 1880s. This leaves a fair number of options.
At top left is a young Roy Hartsfield. Roy’s major league career was pretty short – he played parts of three seasons as a second-baseman with the Boston Braves from 1950-52, hitting a combined .273. His baseball-reference page shows a respectable bat (albeit with limited pop) and decent range, but also a large number of errors. He was traded in 1953 to the Dodgers for Andy Pafko, but he never played for them, heading instead to Montreal and various other minor-league stops.
By 1956, he’d turned to managing. He moved about the Dodgers system through various minor leagues until 1972 and by 1976 was completing his fourth season as manager of the AAA Hawaii Islanders – not a bad gig if you can get it.
On a snowy day in April 1977, Hartsfield managed the first-ever game for the Toronto Blue Jays. He’d guide them through three painful seasons of 100-plus losses before being replaced by Bobby Mattick. Stephen Brunt described Hartsfield this way:
Peter Bavasi, the Jays’ first president, brought in Roy Hartsfield to manage the team out of the gate because he was an amiable guy who could spin a good story, because he had a southern accent that sounded suitably baseballish (a help in selling of the game in a foreign locale), because he was a minor-league lifer who would be forever grateful for the opportunity, and who could be easily discarded when the time came.
Cynical, I suppose, but none of that detracts from an absolutely gorgeous baseball card above. I love 1952 Bowman. I like all their early releases. They’re undersized and clearly influenced early Parkhurst hockey (see the 1952-53 release below).
The early Bowmans take great poses and combine them with wonderful old ballparks to make something that really stands out. I think they’re great, even if I have to cheat to find a Blue Jay.