The 1948 Leaf Baseball set consists of 98 cards, each 2-3/8" by 2-7/8". Key athletes include Joe DiMaggio (#1), Babe Ruth (#3), and Stan Musial (#4). The set is also anchored by diamond heroes Luke Appling, Larry Doby, Bobby Doerr, Bob Feller, George Kell, Ted Kluszewski, Hal Newhouser, Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige, Phil Rizzuto, Enos Slaughter, Warren Spahn and Ted Williams, as well an evocative tribute to Honus Wagner (#70). Although only 98 entries were produced for the Leaf set, its cards actual numbers spanned between 1 and 168. The Leaf baseball production was the first major issue of its type to use skip-numbering, wherein the cards' consecutively numbered entries when fully assembled and complete failed to yield a correspondingly complete run of card numbers. Forty-nine cards are considered "Short Prints," including such lesser players as Johnny Wyrostek and Eddie Joost. Among the most desirable pieces is an error card - #102 Gene Hermanski – that exists without the letter "i" in his last name. This card is among the famous and sought-after of all postwar error cards, as are the Full Sleeve (standard) and Short Sleeve (error) versions of Cliff Aberson's card, #136.
By 1948, Rosie the Riveter was back in her kitchen, and Major League rosters had returned to the talent-filled glory of the prewar years. Naturally, baseball cards returned, and again were embraced by America's culture. The first new product was a matter-of- fact effort by Bowman, which offered a straightforward array of rather small, completely unembellished black and white photo cards. The second, right on the heels of that no-frills product, was the comparatively flamboyant 1948-49 issue created by Chicago's Leaf Gum Company.
Leaf's card designs reflected gaiety, almost palpably illustrating relief at the war's passing and subsequent fading into memory. The set's bright colors, laid out in dramatic background swaths and vibrant caption blocks, nearly overwhelmed the photographic likenesses of the subjects, and the cards' dimensions (2 3/8" by 2 7/8") were reminiscent of their Goudey and Play Ball predecessors. The Leaf cards emerged as unabashed attention-grabbers, and their introduction was met with delight on the part of anxious collectors.
Not unexpectedly, Leaf's issue benefited from a fantastic group of newly anointed star players who, since the gum card market had gone seven years without a serious baseballthemed product, were ripe for portrayal. This staggering lineup of debut collectibles included Stan Musial, Satchel Paige, Phil Rizzuto, Warren Spahn, Ted Kluszewski, Jackie Robinson, Hal Newhouser, George Kell, Enos Slaughter and Larry Doby. Lesser rookies were also present, as well as a number of worthy holdovers from prior seasons, including Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Bob Feller, Bobby Doerr and Luke Appling. Finally, deference to past greatness was shown in Leaf's card #3, which was essentially a memorial piece for Babe Ruth, and #70, an evocative tribute to Honus Wagner.
Composition - The Leaf production consisted of 96 cards, which again displayed a remarkably high proportion of important figures among their content. The release was advantageously front-loaded with key athletes (such as the #1 card, picturing Joe DiMaggio, followed by #3 Ruth, #4 Musial and so on). Buyers would see these first and become addicted to building the set! As would be discovered, 1948-49 Leaf proposed a relatively short series of numbers, so completing the entire group shouldn't be too terribly difficult ... right?
Key Features and Rarities - Although only 96 entries were produced for the 1948-49 Leaf set, its cards actual numbers spanned between 1 and 168. Explanations for this discrepancy reveal - depending upon one's point of view - the effort on the part of the manufacturer to infuse a bit of extra entertainment, or the conduct of deliberate trickery.
The Leaf baseball production was the first major issue of its type to indulge in skip-numbering, wherein the cards' consecutively numbered entries when fully assembled and complete failed to yield a correspondingly complete run of card numbers. Collectors of the day doubtless purchased many extra packs, determined to find card numbers 2, 6, 7, 9, 12 ... And 67 others that were never made!
A benign interpretation of this circumstance allows that Leaf might have planned to issue the missing numbers later as its release expanded upon demand. In fairness, this may indeed have been the case, but just as probable is the notion that clever marketing (simply defined as, "promoting additional sales by any means necessary") yielded a shocking breach of faith between the maker and its consumers.
Furthermore, 48 of the cards distributed fall into a category that would become better-known in later years by a single, dreaded term - the "Short Print." Short Printing or SPs, in the most fundamental sense, means that for whatever reason, certain cards exist in smaller quantities than other ones in the same set. Often, SPs result when some designs appear more often than others on a press sheet, or when certain pieces are withdrawn, revised or replaced. In Leaf's case, however, given natural skepticism of its motives in view of the skip-numbering affair, it could probably be conceded that the company's manipulation of its clientele was taking place with the SPs too.
The 1948-49 Leaf set, for the reason just described, is filled with truly difficult cards. Its SPs are so challenging, in fact, that genuinely perplexing anomalies result: where else would Johnny Wyrostek's card be much harder to find (and "worth" more) than Phil Rizzuto's rookie, or why else would a collector pass on a Honus Wagner piece in order to seize an opportunity to acquire a more valuable collectible, like Eddie Joost? It's a frustrating predicament for an enthusiast, when a full one-half of a top quality set is demonstrably rare.
Add to this a heavy dose of condition scarcity - as Leaf cards are printed on coarse cardstock that quickly reveals wear - and demand scarcity affecting its many superstars, and the result is a series that represents a bonafide mark of distinction for the hobbyist who completes it successfully.
Not to be left out in the error realm, either, 1948-49 Leaf accounts for a very tough variation - 102 Hermansk, where haphazard printing infrequently resulted in that player's surname losing its concluding vowel - as well as the interesting but more often seen Full Sleeve (standard) and Short Sleeve (error) versions of Cliff Aberson's card, #136.
Bottom Line - Leaf's 1948-49 release had run its course by the end of the latter year, but it left consumers with tantalizing hints about what they could expect in the future. Cards of satisfying size, with colorful portrayals and star-packed player selection were on the horizon once again. Fans of the time who recalled the early Goudey cards (and the last Play Balls) certainly took heart at Leaf's creativity, built-in collecting obstacles notwithstanding, and certainly, while moving along quickly from the concerns of the past few years, reveled in the prospect of more new cards to come.
|1||Joe Di Maggio|
|42||Kent Peterson (Red Cap)|
|53||John Vandermeer (Vander Meer)|
|102||Gene Hermansk (Incorrect Spelling)|
|102||Gene Hermanski (Correct Spelling)|
|136||Cliff Aberson (Full Sleeves)|
|136||Cliff Aberson (Short Sleeve)|