1953 Bowman Color

The 1953 Bowman set consists of 160 cards, each measuring 2-1/2" by 3-3/4”. Noted for their domineering, vivid photographic images and considered among the most beautiful modern-era set of baseball cards produced, the set offered facial details and uniform features never before seen on any predecessor. Highlights include Pee Wee Reese leaping in action; Hank Bauer, Yogi Berra, and Mickey Mantle - in one of the first multi-player shots to grace a cardfront - appear together on card #44; Billy Martin and Phil Rizzuto share a similar design (#93). Single-player depictions include Mantle (#59), Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Whitey Ford, Gil Hodges, Ed Mathews, Duke Snider and Warren Spahn. The 1953 Color card of Stan Musial, arguably one of his most prized ever, would be his last regular-card appearance until 1959. And the series' conspicuous omissions were few. Ted Williams was still away fighting for his country in Korea as a Marine pilot, while Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays were under contract to Topps. The set has little to offer in terms of Rarities, though the Color issue's "High Numbers" (#s 113-160) are somewhat challenging. So although Berra, Ford and Gil Hodges are found in the release's scarcer group, great solace can be taken from the realization that Mantle, Musial, Reese, Campanella and the two multi's are harbored in the set's easier component.

For 1953, Bowman Gum answered Topps' "Giant Size" challenge with clear and crisp pictures from life - the first of their kind seen on cards! The company's new, up-sized color release, featuring exquisite, photographic images, has been widely heralded for generations as standing among the most beautiful modern-era set of baseball cards ever made.

Lofty accolades indeed, for the product of a manufacturer who'd so recently faced a rude awakening in its merchandising strategies. The company had been content for five years to create and distribute cards that, while attractive and visually engaging, were still, well - small. Topps' inaugural effort in 1952 proved evidently, size does matter. To its credit, Bowman wasted no time pondering the situation, and fired back hard in the very next season.

Bowman's 1953 cards measured 2 ½" by 3 ¾", slightly narrower than Topps 1952 collectibles but for all practical purposes like-sized. The backs presented layouts that were doubtless inspired by Topps' prior-year model (with content to match), and they bore little resemblance to their Bowman antecedents. The cards' reverse sides, however, were merely an afterthought to the awestruck consumer: the first-time buyer of 1953 Bowman Color cards, one imagines' would have been hopelessly transfixed by their fronts.

No captions, no team logo devices, no manufacturer's legends - just fabulous pictures! An observer could easily become immersed in the sight of a favorite player, as the set allowed full expression of each athlete's facial details and uniform features. In some of the highest-quality photographs ever presented on baseball cards of any kind, before or since, 1953 Bowman brought the viewer "up close" to Mickey Mantle's graceful followthrough, Stan Musial's relaxed humor, and Allie Reynolds' resolute gaze. The renderings seem to have been selected with their subjects' personality traits in mind - as these aspects were effectively transmitted and brought to the forefront without benefit of embellishing descriptions - and they were executed with every bit of the depth and clarity enabled by the technology of the day.

Priceless images abound among Bowman's 1953 Color cards. Pee Wee Reese's leaping in action portrayal is an all-time favorite among hobbyists. Hank Bauer, Yogi Berra, and Mickey Mantle, in one of the first multi-player shots to grace a cardfront, appear together, all smiles, on card #44, in acknowledgement of the clientele's presumptive New York leanings, Billy Martin and Phil Rizzuto share the set's other card of this type (#93). Classic single-player depictions are plentiful in the release, but those of Whitey Ford, Gil Hodges, Warren Spahn and Roy Campanella are also popular on the basis of their aesthetic merits as well as the respective prowess of their subjects.

Interestingly, Bowman also put out a 1953 Black & White counterpart to its marvelous color effort. Although less than half as many ballplayers were included in the company's less flamboyant version, the Black & White series did cover a different group of athletes, and it afforded an intriguing comparison in terms of style.

Bowman clearly did its homework and came prepared to meet its competition in 1953. The company's Color issue gave the hobby yet another high point to be enjoyed in its own right, and several of its features would inevitably serve as models for the refinement of future products.

Composition - The 1953 Bowman Color issue held 160 cards, and the separate Black & White series accounted for 64 more. Although sometimes lauded more for its design than its content simply because of its extraordinary appeal in that realm, the issue delivered plenty of star power: Mantle (on his own card #59, as well as the aforementioned #44), Campy, Ed Mathews, Yogi Berra and Duke Snider are just a few of its big names. (Black & White's highlights included Casey Stengel, Bob Lemon, Hoyt Wilhelm and Johnny Mize.) Incidentally, the 1953 Color card of Stan Musial, arguably one of his most prized ever, would be his last regular-card appearance until 1959. And the series' conspicuous omissions were few. Ted Williams was still away fighting for his country in Korea as a Marine pilot, while Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays were under contract to Bowman's new nemesis, Topps.

Key Features and Rarities - Collectors of 1953 Bowman's Color or Black & White versions don't have to worry about obscure print variations or troublesome rarities, but the Color issue's "High Numbers" (113-160) are somewhat more challenging than the preceding run of 112 cards. So although Berra, Ford and Gil Hodges are found in the release's scarcer group, great solace can be taken from the realization that Mantle, Musial, Reese, Campanella and the two multi's are harbored in the set's easier component!

Bottom Line - Bowman's 1953 response to Topps, in the form of the older company's Color gallery, remains unmatched in the esteem of many enthusiasts. Upon the Bowman product's release, the series quickly earned an enduring nickname - "Pure Cards" - that would eventually come to be applied to later-issue productions, from any manufacturer, that adhered to 1953 Bowman Color's simplicity in design. A foundation piece of the 1950s-era hobby, 1953 Bowman Color is one of its period's defining gum card efforts and one of its most cherished, nostalgia-inspiring mementoes.

SET LIST

# CARD NAME
1 Davey Williams
2 Vic Wertz
3 Sam Jethroe
4 Art Houtteman
5 Sid Gordon
6 Joe Ginsberg
7 Harry Chiti
8 Al Rosen
9 Phil Rizzuto
10 Richie Ashburn
11 Bobby Shantz
12 Carl Erskine
13 Gus Zernial
14 Billy Loes
15 Jim Busby
16 Bob Friend
17 Gerry Staley
18 Nelson Fox
19 Al Dark
20 Don Lenhardt
21 Joe Garagiola
22 Bob Porterfield
23 Herman Wehmeier
24 Jackie Jensen
25 Walter Hoot Evers
26 Roy McMillan
27 Vic Raschi
28 Smoky Burgess
29 Roberto Avila
30 Phil Cavarretta
31 Jimmy Dykes
32 Stan Musial
33 Pee Wee Reese
34 Gil Coan
35 Maury McDermott
36 Minnie Minoso
37 Jim Wilson
38 Harry Byrd
39 Paul Richards
40 Larry Doby
41 Sammy White
42 Tommy Brown
43 Mike Garcia
44 Hank Bauer/Mickey Mantle/Yogi Berra
45 Walt Dropo
46 Roy Campanella
47 Ned Garver
48 Hank Sauer
49 Eddie Stanky
50 Lou Kretlow
51 Monte Irvin
52 Marty Marion
53 Del Rice
54 Chico Carrasquel
55 Leo Durocher
56 Bob Cain
57 Lou Boudreau
58 Willard Marshall
59 Mickey Mantle
60 Granny Hamner
61 George Kell
62 Ted Kluszewski
63 Gil McDougald
64 Curt Simmons
65 Robin Roberts
66 Mel Parnell
67 Mel Clark
68 Allie Reynolds
69 Charlie Grimm
70 Clint Courtney
71 Paul Minner
72 Ted Gray
73 Billy Pierce
74 Don Mueller
75 Saul Rogovin
76 Jim Hearn
77 Mickey Grasso
78 Carl Furillo
79 Ray Boone
80 Ralph Kiner
81 Enos Slaughter
82 Joe Astroth
83 Jack Daniels
84 Hank Bauer
85 Solly Hemus
86 Harry Simpson
87 Harry Perkowski
88 Joe Dobson
89 Sandalio Consuegra
90 Joe Nuxhall
91 Steve Souchock
92 Gil Hodges
93 Phil Rizzuto (Billy Martin)
94 Bob Addis
95 Wally Moses
96 Sal Maglie
97 Eddie Mathews
98 Hector Rodriquez
99 Warren Spahn
100 Bill Wight
101 Red Schoendienst
102 Jim Hegan
103 Del Ennis
104 Luke Easter
105 Eddie Joost
106 Ken Raffensberger
107 Alex Kellner
108 Bobby Adams
109 Ken Wood
110 Bob Rush
111 Jim Dyck
112 Toby Atwell
113 Karl Drews
114 Bob Feller
115 Cloyd Boyer
116 Eddie Yost
117 Duke Snider
118 Billy Martin
119 Dale Mitchell
120 Marlin Stuart
121 Yogi Berra
122 Bill Serena
123 Johnny Lipon
124 Charlie Dressen
125 Fred Hatfield
126 Al Corwin
127 Dick Kryhoski
128 Whitey Lockman
129 Russ Meyer
130 Cass Michaels
131 Connie Ryan
132 Fred Hutchinson
133 Willie Jones
134 Johnny Pesky
135 Bobby Morgan
136 Jim Brideweser
137 Sam Dente
138 Bubba Church
139 Pete Runnels
140 Alpha Brazle
141 Frank Spec Shea
142 Larry Miggins
143 Al Lopez
144 Warren Hacker
145 George Shuba
146 Early Wynn
147 Clem Koshorek
148 Billy Goodman
149 Al Corwin
150 Carl Scheib
151 Joe Adcock
152 Clyde Vollmer
153 Whitey Ford
154 Omar Turk Lown
155 Allie Clark
156 Max Surkont
157 Sherman Lollar
158 Howard Fox
159 Mickey Vernon
160 Cal Abrams