When I finished the post last weekend on Mother's Cookies cards, it felt undone. I had not truly done justice to the dozens of sets that Mother's Cookies issued. So, I thought I would dig in deeper and highlight each of the Mother's Cookies sets. Since I covered all the sets from 1952 to 1998, I am going to do the same here as best I can.
In talking about these sets and in particular the first two sets, a bit of background for those unfamiliar with the PCL is in order.
Pretty much from the beginning of U.S. History, population in America has been shifting westward. By 1940, both Los Angeles and San Francisco had over 500,000 people (per the U.S. Census), putting them on par with the big cities back east.
Despite this, it took until 1958 for major league baseball to come to the West Coast -- with the St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Browns in 1952 being the furthest westward teams through 1953, when the Browns moved to Baltimore. The PCL even voted itself as the third major league in 1945, though the AL and NL did not think that the PCL's declaring itself a major league was enough. But, in 1952, the PCL was categorized as being an "Open" league -- a step up from Triple-A even.
Had two events or factors not taken place, the PCL very well might have become a third major league by the end of the 1950s. The first is obvious: when the Dodgers and Giants decided to usurp on the PCL's territory and pull up stakes from New York to take over in Los Angeles and San Francisco. This forced three major PCL teams -- the Los Angeles Angels, the Hollywood Stars, and the San Francisco Seals -- to leave their territory in the large cities and relocate to smaller markets (the Oakland Oaks had moved to Canada in 1956 already).
The second less obvious factor is that attendance in ballparks across the country was down due to the ability to watch games on television. While TV caused a decline for everyone, it especially hit the PCL since Californians displaced from other parts of the country could now stay home (or go to a bar) and watch their hometown team instead of supporting their local nine.
Who knows what might have happened had the PCL been able to stay together as an open, third major league. Many SABR publications concern the PCL, so if you have interest in knowing more, you should join SABR too. Remember kids: SABR is not just for stat geeks. It's a history organization first and foremost.
1952 Pacific Coast League
1953 Pacific Coast League
1983 San Francisco Giants
1984 Oakland Athletics
1984 Houston Astros
1984 Seattle Mariners
1984 San Diego Padres
Let's talk a little bit more about each of these sets. Much of the information in this post comes from the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards, 2011 edition (the last one that I own in paper form). Other information comes from Nick Vossbrink's SABR blog post, Nick's personal blog post on his first complete project relating to the Mother's Cookies set, and general recollections from Twitter from Nick, Steve Cornell, Tim Jenkins, and Bru. Finally, I also got some information from The Oddball Card Collector blog.
The 1952 and 1953 sets tell us both on the backs that they were distributed solely through the purchase of any Mother's Cookie product that cost over 5 cents. Turning to the Standard Catalog, we learn that these two sets are amongst the most popular regional minor league sets ever produced. The cards are slightly larger (2-13/16" x 3-1/2") than today's standard size (2.5" x 3.5"). The 1952 set has 64 cards in it, and the 1953 set has 63.
Even though the 1952 set has two members of the Hall of Fame in it in Joe Gordon and Mel Ott and despite the fact that five cards were scarce, the most popular card in the set is none other than one of the cards pictured above -- The Rifleman himself, Kevin Joseph Aloysius "Chuck" Connors, who also played in the NBA (he was 6'5" tall) for the Rochester Royals and Boston Celtics before playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers (1 game in 1949) and the Chicago Cubs (66 games in 1951). The 1953 set is far more mundane and has very few cards which carry any premium at all -- the most valuable in the set is probably that Lefty O'Doul card.
Fast forward to 1982. Mother's teams up with the Astros, the Dodgers, the Mariners, the A's, and the Giants for the first time. The Oddball Card Collector has some great promo sheets for retailers showing how Mother's was teaming up with each of these teams to give away team posters at games where fans could get into the game for half-price. These posters were all over the place. The Astros poster looks like someone dropped acid watching one of the "The More You Know" PSAs, showing a psychedelic Astro star rainbow with a random sliding Astro under it being called safe before reaching the bag. The Mariners had a poster showing a player posing with some huge pink mascot thing. The Dodgers poster is one Night Owl would love -- it's the celebration photo of Steve Howe jumping into Steve Yeager's arms after the final out of the 1981 World Series. Check out this video for the incredibly understated call of the final out by Keith Jackson. Finally, Giants and A's fans had to content themselves with getting team photos.
So, then comes 1983. Mother's dipped its corporate toe into the baseball card water by distributing a twenty-card set of San Francisco Giants. As the Standard Catalog notes, these cards were standard sized (2.5"x3.5") with rounded corners -- the format followed for the rest of the time the sets existed. The cards were given out at the Sunday, August 7, 1983 game between the Giants and the Astros (a game the Giants lost 2-1 to the Nolan Ryan-led Houston Astros in a brisk 2:04 game). Mother's hired on hobbyist and photographer Barry Colla to provide the photos. Notice that the cards do not appear to be licensed at all on the back -- I'm not even sure if they had any agreements with either MLB or the MLBPA for these cards, though I'm guessing the Giants signed off. As was the practice for the first years of the promotion, Mother's wanted kids to buy cookies. So, they gave out packs of 15 cards with a coupon good for five more cards that may or may not be the one that were needed.
This 1983 promotion must have been successful, because it lead to the expansion of the card sets both in size (expanding to 28 cards) and in the teams covered (adding the A's, the Astros, the Mariners, and the Padres). For each of the new teams, Mother's issued the current rosters for each team along with a card for the manager, the coaches, and a logo or stadium card and checklist. But, since the Giants were the hosts for the 1984 All-Star Game, Mother's issued a special 28-card set that featured drawings of former Giants all-stars. Fans were treated to cards of Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, and Orlando Cepeda alongside other less notable names like Chris Speier and Gary Lavelle.
For each of these sets in 1984, the teams held a stadium giveaway where attendees of all ages received twenty of the twenty-eight cards in the set along with a coupon to receive eight more cards by mail. As I mentioned in my initial post, Baseball Cards Magazine put the number of sets given out at the SGAs at 30,000 for San Francisco and Oakland, 25,000 in San Diego, and the first 20,000 in Seattle (without mentioning numbers for Houston).
Barry Colla took the photos for the Astros, Padres, and A's sets, while Mariners team photographer Corky Trewin was responsible for photographs in that set. Finally, the Director of Graphics and Photography for the Giants, Dennis Desprois, put together the Giants set by color-tinting black and white photos of the Giants players. A nice touch on these cards noted by Nick Vossbrink is that the team names are printed in the fonts used by the teams (except for the Giants, of course).
My next post will have less text and more photos, as much of the information regarding how the sets were distributed does not change for a few years.