Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bob Lemke's Cool Custom Cards: October 2009

The 1977 Topps Reggie Jackson: Reggie as a Baltimore Oriole!

Despite leading the Oakland A’s to three straight World Series Championships (1972-1974) and a fourth straight appearance in the Fall Classic in 1975, Reggie Jackson and a couple of no name scrubs were Imagetraded to the Baltimore Orioles for Don Baylor, Mike Torrez, and Paul Mitchell, just prior to the start of the 1976 season. A’s owner Charles Finley decided to pull the trigger on the trade because he was unwilling to pay the enormous salary Reggie was sure to command after the 1976 season when he would be a free agent. Jackson played one year for the Birds before Boss Steinbrenner signed him to a $3 million contract, ensuring that Mr. October would take aim at Yankee Stadium’s famous short right field porch for the ensuing five summers and, if everything went as planned, autumns.

This 1977 Topps Reggie Jackson custom card created by Bob Lemke (at right above) depicts every late 1970s Bronx Zoo fan’s nightmare – without #44 in their lineup during the 1977 and 1978 seasons, the Bronx Bombers would not have won back-to-back World Series titles. Seriously, how ridiculous does Reggie look in that absurd Orioles batting helmet?

The card pictured at left below is an example of the actual 1977 Reggie Jackson card released by Topps. You will notice that it is in pretty bad shape – an SGC 50. It is the exact card that I have owned in my personal collection for the past 32 years and the first Reggie Jackson card I ever pulled from a pack. Take a look at the edges – you can easily see that I kept this card on top of my Yankees pile, which I kept together with a rubber band.

As a seven-year-old kid who lived in North Jersey at the time, I spent all of my 50 cent weekly allowance on baseball cards (football cards in the fall). Reggie was my favorite player. One Sunday afternoon, my grandmother gave my cousin Mark and I one dollar to spend as we wished at Bill’s Deli, the neighborhood deli/five & dime, located one block from her house. While my older sister had to remind me of the name of the establishment, I can still, however, picture vividly the glass case in which all packs of cards (e.g., baseball cards, Grease movie cards, Kojak television series cards) and candy were housed. On that particular day, my cousin and I each bought a cello pack (25 cents each) -- what we did with the remaining 47 cents (after paying New Jersey’s 6% sales tax on the packs) I can no longer recall. As we walked out of the deli, we ripped open our packs and started to thumb through our cards as we walked back to my grandmother’s house. Midway through the pack, there it was! “REGGIE JACKSON,” I screamed, at the exact instant that I walked, top of my head first, into a telephone pole – remember, I was looking down at the cards as I walked. My cousin nearly fell over from hysterical laughter as I began to stumble from the shock of my head’s crash into the telephone pole.

Regardless of how funny my cousin thought the moment was, I recall that he laughed much harder the next week, when my eleven-year-old sister accompanied us to Bill's Deli to pick out some cards and candy with our grandmother’s money – as my sister was momentarily stumped at what to spend some of the money on, she then blurted, “I’ll have a pack of the Kojak cards.”

If my sister’s card purchase wasn’t funny enough, she then opened the pack to find that all of the cards therein were identical – a type of Kojak portrait photo, over and over again. If that pack break wasn’t humorous enough, when we showed my grandmother what we bought with her money (i.e., 10-12 copies of the same Kojak card), her reply was, “Isn’t that a sin. At least he’s so good lookin’, God bless him.”


Bob Lemke is a collector of bubblegum cards in the 1950s-1960s, Bob Lemke's hobby today is creating cards of current and former “players” in those "golden age" styles. He currently edits the vintage sections of the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards and maintains a hobby blog at

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