Even though I have been to hundreds of games since my early childhood (in many different ballparks, some of which are now closed), it amazes me how vivid the memories of my first MLB ballgames. Growing up in Detroit my first exposure to live action was at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, the yard known as Briggs Stadium and later, best, Tiger Stadium.
It does not take much for me to recall the sounds, the sights, even the smells (cigars, beer, boiled hot dogs) of those few, wonderful exposures to watching the games from the stands rather than hearing them on the pocket radio. And it was not just the game, but the whole “going to the ballpark” experience. Parking on people’s lawns (they charged, of course). Walking into the massive structure with the sun bouncing off the walls. Walking through the concourse dotted with souvenir stands. And, of course, seeing the field.
For a kid already hooked on collecting baseball cards, the multiple self-contained souvenir carts were amazing to me. My Dad referred to them as “junk stands,” but I did not care. The treasures they contained made my pre-teen heart race, and even though I knew I would not be leaving with anything from those stands, it was a thrill just to see what they contained.
One of the most exciting and iconic items in those carts for me was the “Picture Packs” that always appeared to me as super-sized baseball cards. This was, of course, before the over-sized offerings from Topps in 1964 or even in the early 1970’s. The pictures were housed in brown or white envelopes with a clear window so you could see the player on top. Sometimes a list of the players within was also printed on the pack, which only whet the adolescent appetite for the cards.
Of course, as I grew and later become professionally involved with the hobby, I understood that the picture packs that I coveted in those days were produced by Jay Publishing Company. That family-owned and operated business issued 12-card picture packs of various major league teams over the course of about eight seasons. The cards measured 5”x7”, and were printed in black and white on a fairly heavy paper stock. My memories are of the packs being distributed in the brown or white envelopes mentioned earlier. However, sets were also offered in clear plastic bags in different places, and were for sale by mail.
The style of the pictures did not change greatly over the years (which, in my opinion, adds to their charm). Indeed, a difference in the font used for the player’s name and team is the only real distinction between the cards produced from 1958-1961, and those printed from 1962-1965. The earlier, Type 1 cards, used a sans-serif typeface, while Type 2 cards (1962-1965) used a serif font. That font was used only on the card fronts to feature the player/manager name, city and team along the bottom border.
For many collectors these items do not really fit the usual definition of a baseball “card.” This is due to their size, the lack of player biographical data or statistics, the more or less paper stock, and manner of distribution. Because of this, many collectors don’t have much interest in them. But, for many of us who remember the excitement of association of these packs to baseball in the 50’s and 60’s, they are a powerful memory inducer.
We recently picked up a collection of many pictures from these packs. They are not sets in envelopes (sadly), but they are in pretty nice shape and are of a wide team variety. They will be available in our eBay store (click HERE to see what is currently available). Below is a small gallery of some of the Hall of Fame citizens we found in the collection. Enjoy.