Taking My Hacks

Fantasy Cards – What Cards Are on Your List?

Joe Orlando


In this year's National Sports Collectors Convention edition of SMR, I thought it would be fun to revisit a topic we have covered before. Throughout history, there have been many trading cards that were not made or issued for one reason or another. Some "missing" cards were not included as a result of contractual exclusivity or military service, while others were simply left out without a specific explanation. These are the cards that never were.

Over the past couple of years, I had the privilege of working with Tom and Ellen Zappala on another book. After assisting with their first book, The T206 Collection: The Players and Their Stories, the Zappalas turned their sights to the classic Cracker Jack issues of 1914 and 1915. Their new book, The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players, has just been released. It was while working on this book that I started to think about the subject of fantasy cards once again.

In my opinion, of all the "missing" cards throughout hobby history, there is none of greater significance than the 1915 Cracker Jack Babe Ruth rookie card that never was. Despite making his debut in 1914 as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, Ruth never made it into the beautiful Cracker Jack set. Of course, the era was nothing like today, a time when the entire world is made aware of sports prospects while they are still very young. See Bryce Harper.

Who knows? During that time, it is very possible that the baseball world didn't yet know how good this young lefthander was. They didn't even realize how incredible he was at the plate until a few years later, even after he made his big league debut. As good as Ruth was on the mound (Ruth became one of the premier pitchers in the game), it took some time before the decision makers recognized the potential he had as a hitter.

So, in the end, it's probably unfair to be too critical of the people who were responsible for leaving Ruth on the bench for the Cracker Jack release. That said, it is hard to imagine a more important card that was noticeably absent from inclusion in a popular set. On the cover of SMR, we included an image of what a Babe Ruth rookie might have looked like. With the help of renowned artist Arthur K. Miller, this fantasy card was brought to life.

Beyond the 1915 Cracker Jack Ruth rookie, what other top fantasy cards would make your list?

There are many fantasy cards to consider like a 1952 Topps Ted Williams or a 1955 Topps Mickey Mantle to name a couple. Bowman had both superstars locked up, so Topps had to go without them for a few years. You might find yourself wishing for many fantasy cards from the 1950s as there are many to choose from, but these top "missing" cards can be found in several different decades.

Yes, we do have the extremely rare 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth Minor League card and the tough 1916 M101-4 and M101-5 Sporting News Ruth cards to fill some of the void, but collectors are left without a truly mainstream rookie of, arguably, the greatest baseball player to ever set foot on the field. The Cracker Jack issue is already one of the most visually appealing and important card sets of all time, but just imagine the impact a Ruth rookie could have made at card #177.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
Editor In Chief