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1951 Bowman

The 1951 Bowman Baseball set consists of 324 cards measuring 2-1/16" by 3-1/8". (The initial run totaled 252 cards but late in the issue’s production run was expanded by 72 pieces.) Each simple cardfront displayed a player’s likeness, most of which were recognizable press photographs enhanced by painted color and embellished by the player’s name caption. The gallery includes future Cooperstown enshrinees Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Warren Spahn and Ted Williams, along with rookies Whitey Ford and Nellie Fox, and numerous other stars and popular players. It is the final 72 cards, the “High Numbers,” that took the set to the proverbial “next level” thanks to the iconic rookie cards of young New York stars Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. Mantle's horizontal, over-the-shoulder batting pose became an immediate sensation among collectors, and Mays followed close behind. That duo, the undisputed “keys” to the 1951 Bowman, along with all of the high-number series (#s 253-324) remain scarce.

While standing essentially alone in the 1951 baseball card marketplace, Bowman flourished during that year's campaign to dominate the candy counter.

Although a few lesser and regional trading card productions, like Berk Ross, Bread for Energy bread labels and Wheaties box-panel collectibles, as well as some strange game cards from an upstart manufacturer (not to be taken seriously) the colorful offerings from Bowman Gum served as the prevailing brand for anyone interested in Major League Baseball-themed gum cards. An archetype, the Bowman product conformed in size to its accompanying wad of chewy confection. Its cards' lovely artwork was embellished only by efficient name captions; the cards' backs exercised brevity in detail. In every respect of the standard of the time, Bowman cards delivered satisfactory levels of familiarity and comfort.

In direct contrast to Topps' upcoming, radical departures in terms of style and design, which no one could have foreseen as the established company's fourth postwar edition emerged, 1951 Bowmans were graceful and dignified pieces, even elegant in their own way. Their 2 1/16" by 3 1/8" dimensions were sufficiently restrained to avoid making the cards cumbersome when carried in a back pocket, but ample to allow uninhibited clarity in their illustrations' features. Player images (most of which were recognizable as press photographs, enhanced by the addition of painted color) had been thoughtfully selected and carefully rendered.

The set's roster couldn't be beat: Stan "The Man" Musial and Ted Williams were included, as were Yogi Berra, Pee Wee Reese, Warren Spahn, Roy Campanella and Duke Snider. Whitey Ford and Nellie Fox appeared on their rookie collectibles, with the former leading off as the series' very first card. The game's full pantheon seemed to be accounted for in this superb gallery.

But that was only the first group of 1951 Bowman cards...

Composition - Although comprehensive and impressive when judged on its initial 252 cards, the 1951 Bowman series became absolutely breathtaking when - late in the issue's production run - it expanded to a grand and final total of 324 entries. Those last 72 pieces (the "High Numbers") elevated the production at once from the satisfying level to the hobby's "all-time" stratosphere.

The final segment of 1951 Bowman holds a worthy group of stars, minor stars and managers, but two depictions, in particular, have ensured its revered status: the rookie cards of young New York stars Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays.

Mantle and Mays were up-and-coming ballplayers who had begun to captivate the game's major market, and Bowman, the savvy, veteran producer of gum cards, eventually had recognized this fact just in time. Mantle's horizontally-oriented, over-the-shoulder batting pose became an immediate sensation among collectors, and the portrayal of his Giants counterpart, Mays, followed close behind. Today, more than 50 years after they first turned up in packs during the Fall of 1951, these are two of the most beloved, in-demand mementos in the card-collecting hobby.

Key Features and Rarities - The high-number series (#s 253-324, inclusive) is naturally a bit scarce, but Mantle and Mays are in such high demand that actual production numbers become meaningless. They're the indisputable "keys" to the set. The 1951 Bowman release contains plenty of future Cooperstown enshrinees, acknowledged stars, and popular players, and with the aforementioned caveats noted, they all enjoy general availability in roughly equal measure.

Bottom Line - Its big pair of rookies alone would seem to make 1951 Bowman a keeper, but to view the issue from the perspective of just two cards unfairly ignores its significance. The production defined a period, soon to culminate, that was well-served by a single, mainstay release. The very next year, the 1951 Bowman set's maker would encounter and try to cope with a market determined to shift toward more complex, inherently exciting products. Proven favorites, such as the nicely done (and sometimes, it seems, under-appreciated) 1951 Bowman gallery, would be left to receive their deserved glory in the future as classic objects of nostalgia.

Popular Cards

1 Whitey Ford
2 Yogi Berra
3 Robin Roberts
4 Del Ennis
5 Dale Mitchell
6 Don Newcombe
7 Gil Hodges
8 Paul Lehner
9 Sam Chapman
10 Red Schoendienst
11 George Red Munger
12 Hank Majeski
13 Ed Stanky
14 Alvin Dark
15 Johnny Pesky
16 Maurice McDermott
17 Pete Castiglione
18 Gil Coan
19 Sid Gordon
20 Del Crandell
21 George Stirnweiss
22 Hank Sauer
23 Walter Evers
24 Ewell Blackwell
25 Vic Raschi
26 Phil Rizzuto
27 Jim Konstanty
28 Eddie Waitkus
29 Allie Clark
30 Bob Feller
31 Roy Campanella
32 Duke Snider
33 Bob Hooper
34 Marty Marion
35 Al Zarilla
36 Joe Dobson
37 Whitey Lockman
38 Al Evans
39 Ray Scarborough
40 Dave Gus Bell
41 Eddie Yost
42 Vern Bickford
43 Billy DeMars
44 Roy Smalley
45 Art Houtteman
46 George Kell
47 Grady Hatton
48 Ken Raffensberger
49 Jerry Coleman
50 Johnny Mize
51 Andy Seminick
52 Dick Sisler
53 Bob Lemon
54 Ray Boone
55 Gene Hermanski
56 Ralph Branca
57 Alex Kellner
58 Enos Slaughter
59 Randy Gumpert
60 Alfonso Carrasquel
61 Jim Hearn
62 Lou Boudreau
63 Bob Dillinger
64 Bill Werle
65 Mickey Vernon
66 Bob Elliott
67 Roy Sievers
68 Dick Kokos
69 Johnny Schmitz
70 Ron Northey
71 Jerry Priddy
72 Lloyd Merriman
73 Tommy Byrne
74 Billy Johnson
75 Russ Meyer
76 Stan Lopata
77 Mike Goliat
78 Early Wynn
79 Jim Hegan
80 Pee Wee Reese
81 Carl Furillo
82 Joe Tipton
83 Carl Scheib
84 Barney McCosky
85 Eddie Kazak
86 Harry Brecheen
87 Floyd Baker
88 Eddie Robinson
89 Henry Thompson
90 Dave Koslo
91 Clyde Vollmer
92 Vern Stephens
93 Danny O'Connell
94 Clyde McCullough
95 Sherry Robertson
96 Sandalio Consuegra
97 Bob Kuzava
98 Willard Marshall
99 Earl Torgeson
100 Sherman Lollar
101 Owen Friend
102 Emil Leonard
103 Andy Pafko
104 Virgil Trucks
105 Don Kolloway
106 Pat Mullin
107 Johnny Wyrostek
108 Virgil Stallcup
109 Allie Reynolds
110 Bobby Brown
111 Curt Simmons
112 Willie Jones
113 Bill Nicholson
114 Sam Zoldak
115 Steve Gromek
116 Bruce Edwards
117 Eddie Miksis
118 Preacher Roe
119 Eddie Joost
120 Joe Coleman
121 Gerry Staley
122 Joe Garagiola
123 Howie Judson
124 Gus Niarhos
125 Bill Rigney
126 Bobby Thomson
127 Sal Maglie
128 Ellis Kinder
129 Matt Batts
130 Tom Saffell
131 Cliff Chambers
132 Cass Michaels
133 Sam Dente
134 Warren Spahn
135 Walker Cooper
136 Ray Coleman
137 Dick Starr
138 Phil Cavarretta
139 Doyle Lade
140 Eddie Lake
141 Fred Hutchinson
142 Aaron Robinson
143 Ted Kluszewski
144 Herman Wehmeier
145 Fred Sanford
146 Johnny Hopp
147 Ken Heintzelman
148 Granny Hamner
149 Emory Church
150 Mike Garcia
151 Larry Doby
152 Cal Abrams
153 Rex Barney
154 Pete Suder
155 Lou Brissie
156 Del Rice
157 Al Brazle
158 Chuck Diering
159 Eddie Stewart
160 Phil Masi
161 Wes Westrum
162 Larry Jansen
163 Monte Kennedy
164 Bill Wight
165 Ted Williams
166 Stan Rojek
167 Murry Dickson
168 Sam Mele
169 Sid Hudson
170 Sibby Sisti
171 Buddy Kerr
172 Ned Garver
173 Hank Arft
174 Mickey Owen
175 Wayne Terwilliger
176 Vic Wertz
177 Charlie Keller
178 Ted Gray
179 Danny Litwhiler
180 Howie Fox
181 Casey Stengel
182 Tom Ferrick
183 Hank Bauer
184 Eddie Sawyer
185 Jimmy Bloodworth
186 Richie Ashburn
187 Al Rosen
188 Roberto Avila
189 Erv Palica
190 Joe Hatten
191 Billy Hitchcock
192 Hank Wyse
193 Ted Wilks
194 Harry Lowrey
195 Paul Richards
196 Bill Pierce
197 Bob Cain
198 Monte Irvin
199 Sheldon Jones
200 Jack Kramer
201 Steve O'Neill
202 Mike Guerra
203 Vernon Law
204 Vic Lombardi
205 Mickey Grasso
206 Conrado Marrero
207 Billy Southworth
208 Blix Donnelly
209 Ken Wood
210 Les Moss
211 Hal Jeffcoat
212 Bob Rush
213 Neil Berry
214 Bob Swift
215 Kent Peterson
216 Connie Ryan
217 Joe Page
218 Ed Lopat
219 Gene Woodling
220 Bob Miller
221 Dick Whitman
222 Thurman Tucker
223 Johnny Vander Meer
224 Billy Cox
225 Dan Bankhead
226 Jimmy Dykes
227 Bobby Shantz
228 Cloyd Boyer
229 Bill Howerton
230 Max Lanier
231 Luis Aloma
232 Nelson Fox
233 Leo Durocher
234 Clint Hartung
235 Jack Lohrke
236 Warren Rosar
237 Billy Goodman
238 Pete Reiser
239 Bill MacDonald
240 Joe Haynes
241 Irv Noren
242 Sam Jethroe
243 John Antonelli
244 Cliff Fannin
245 John Berardino
246 Bill Serena
247 Bob Ramazotti
248 Johnny Klippstein
249 Johnny Groth
250 Hank Borowy
251 Willard Ramsdell
252 Homer Howell
253 Mickey Mantle
254 Jackie Jensen
255 Milo Candini
256 Ken Silvestri
257 Birdie Tebbetts
258 Luke Easter
259 Charlie Dressen
260 Carl Erskine
261 Wally Moses
262 Gus Zernial
263 Howie Pollet
264 Don Richmond
265 Steve Bilko
266 Harry Dorish
267 Ken Holcombe
268 Don Mueller
269 Ray Noble
270 Willard Nixon
271 Tommy Wright
272 Billy Meyer
273 Danny Murtaugh
274 George Metkovich
275 Bucky Harris
276 Frank Quinn
277 Roy Hartsfield
278 Norman Roy
279 Jim Delsing
280 Frank Overmire
281 Al Widmar
282 Frank Frisch
283 Walt Dubiel
284 Gene Bearden
285 Johnny Lipon
286 Bob Usher
287 Jim Blackburn
288 Bobby Adams
289 Cliff Mapes
290 Bill Dickey
291 Tommy Henrich
292 Eddie Pellagrini
293 Ken Johnson
294 Jocko Thompson
295 Al Lopez
296 Bob Kennedy
297 Dave Philley
298 Joe Astroth
299 Clyde King
300 Hal Rice
301 Tommy Glaviano
302 Jim Busby
303 Marv Rotblatt
304 Allen Gettel
305 Willie Mays
306 Jim Piersall
307 Walt Masterson
308 Ted Beard
309 Mel Queen
310 Erv Dusak
311 Mickey Harris
312 Gene Mauch
313 Ray Mueller
314 Johnny Sain
315 Zack Taylor
316 Duane Pillette
317 Forrest Burgess
318 Warren Hacker
319 Red Rolfe
320 Hal White
321 Earl Johnson
322 Luke Sewell
323 Joe Adcock
324 Johnny Pramesa
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