I recently received a few autographed Al Bumbry baseball cards in the mail from the man himself. Interestingly, they arrived just in time for his Aardvark Attic of Appreciation induction ceremony. I figured that since I was going to go to the effort of scanning these cards for the blog, I might was well mix in scans of other cards that the “Bee” had signed for me TTM when I was a kid.
First up, Al Bumbry’s 1975 Topps baseball card (no. 358) for my binder. I love this set, and have been having a blast building and upgrading it. I still need several if you happen to have any duplicates to trade. As kool as the 1975 set is, the autographed cards easily outshine the unsigned ones. Al appears to have selected a fine-tipped black marker to answer his recent fan mail.
At some point during the winter of 1976-77, I sent duplicate cards to my favorite Orioles and asked for an autograph. Bumbry was the first to reply. In my mind, that only added to his mystique of being the fastest player in the club. I didn’t have an “extra” 1975 Topps card, so I settled on sending him his card from the 1976 Topps set (no. 307). As you can see, Al signed this card with a blue ink pen.
I remember that Bumbry also included a pocket schedule and an Orioles sticker in the envelopes when he mailed my cards back in official Orioles envelopes. I’ve collected pocket schedules ever since. I hadn’t really thought about it until right now, but I could purchase a whole pack of baseball cards for a dime in 1976, but a single first class postage stamp would have set me back 13 cents. That solves the mystery of why I didn’t write to more players back then.
I often hear and read that collectors don’t like the 1974 Topps baseball cards. Personally, I find them much more interesting than the product Topps put on the shelf in 1977. To be sure, I am glad that I have an autographed Al Bumbry 1977 Topps card (no. 626) in my collection, but this would likely be the last set from the seventies that I would ever rebuild.
If forced to name the single element that I like the most about Bumbry’s 1979 Topps card (no. 517), I would have to go with the view of the extended bat barrel. If allowed to name five elements that I enjoy about this card, I could do so without even flipping it over, in spite of the fact that the centering is as off as it can possibly be without completely ruining the card.
In 1980, Topps decided it was time to remind fans that Bumbry had been named the American League Rookie of the Year in 1973. It is completely true! You can read it yourself on the back of card no. 65 if you happen to have one in your collection. When he was elected to the American League All-Star team in 1980, the honor was actually Al’s second “star.” Bumbry had earned his first star, a bronze one, while serving as a platoon leader in Vietnam a decade before.
By 1983, the backs of Bumbry’s cards were starting to get pretty full with stats. Another season or two and the Topps typesetters were going to have to start reaching for a smaller font. If you must know, Bumbry’s card in the 1983 set is numbered 655.
I was out of collecting by the time Bumbry’s 1985 Topps card (no. 726) went to press. When I picked it up years later, I was happy to see that Al still frequented the batting cage trying to improve his swing.
Oh what a waste of paper some of these 1982 Fleer cards were! Bumbry’s card (no. 159) is simply tragic. Probably the only redeeming quality is that he took the time to sign his name on the front for a longtime fan.
One thing that impresses me about Al Bumbry more than 30 years after he granted my first TTM autograph request is the fact that he still includes an extra autographed photo or postcard when he sends your cards back. He even noticed that he had misspelled my name and made the extra effort to correct it.
Thanks a million Al!