Sunday, May 26, 2024

A Smorgasbord! Kahn's Wieners

From the 1970s through the 1990s, it seemed like you could find your favorite baseball stars on food product packaging everywhere you looked: supermarkets, corner stores, restaurants, and beyond. This past year, in an effort to capture a little more nostalgia, I set a goal to expand my own collection of these "food-issue" cards. In this series I'll show the specific examples I've acquired, and share a little bit of history about the food or beverage sponsor as well. 
It's springtime. Leaves are green. The air is warm. Baseball season is rolling along. By 2:10PM EST today there will be nine games underway. So what's for lunch? 
I think a hot dog is the natural answer.
1989 Kahn's Cincinnati Reds NNO Paul O'Neill

So here's Paul O'Neill, taking a big swing on his 1989 Kahn's baseball card. (Nice matching red borders.) Since there's no indication of the brand on the front, here's the card back.
At the top right you'll see Kahn's signature red rose logo and wordmark. And as I discovered, the company's history with baseball goes back a long way—much longer than I'd guessed.
Kahn's began issuing trading cards in specially marked packages of their hot dogs way back in 1955. Only six players appeared in that inaugural set, and they were all Cincinnati Redlegs. (Kahn's was based in Cincinnati, Ohio.) 
By 1957, the company had expanded the set to include some nearby Pittsburgh Pirates, including Roberto Clemente and "William" Mazeroski. With popularity booming, Kahn's would continue their trading card sets into the 1960s. By the second half of the decade, Kahn's was issuing larger sets (as many as 45 cards!), with select players from the Braves, Cubs, White Sox, Reds, Indians, Mets, Pirates, and Cardinals.  
Here's Atlanta Braves pitcher Denny LeMaster, showing us how the cards were included on hot dog packages in 1966:

Good design, overall. Those yellow and white stripes have a circus/carnival vibe, and you can't miss that Kahn's logo. I can imagine baseball-loving kids running to the refrigerated section of the supermarket and finding those packages pretty quickly.
But here's the interesting thing: After 1969, Kahn's stopped issuing trading cards in packages of hot dogs altogether. And it would remain that way until the junk wax boom of the 1980s. (1987, to be exact.) That's when the company resumed issuing trading cards, albeit only for the Reds, and not directly on the packaging. Cards would instead be available as promotional items at select Cincinnati Reds home games. Team sets could also be acquired through a mail-in offer. And guess what? Kahn's is still issuing a team set of Cincinnati Reds cards to this day!
Pretty cool story.
But hang on a second. I'm not sure if one hot dog at the ballpark is enough. So lets have another!
Yep, that's Howard Johnson on his 1990 Kahn's baseball card, fresh off his second 30-30 season in a three-year span. Based on that follow-through and his eye line, it looks like he might have connected on another homer. 
Here's the card back:

Not much else to say here. Simple design. It's interesting how they made the effort to separate HoJo's AL and NL stats at the bottom of the card. Nice touch!
If you're wondering why Mets players were being featured on Kahn's baseball cards back then, here's the explanation: From the late-1980s through the 1990s, Kahn's was not only the official hot dog of the Cincinnati Reds. It was also the official dog of the New York Mets, served proudly at Shea Stadium! (Currently, the Mets serve Nathan's Famous franks, which makes more sense from a regional point of view.)
And now that we've polished off two dogs, I think it's time to wrap up this first serving from our food-issue card smorgasbord.
I usually go with mustard and a little relish on my dog. Maybe a little sauerkraut if I'm feeling frisky.
What about you?

Share in the comment section, and thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 19, 2024

A Smorgasbord!

One of the collecting goals I set for myself last year was to get some zeal back for the hobby; to find what types of cards bring back the nostalgia for me. The first way I've decided to do that here in 2024 is by exploring the kooky, quirky little corner of the hobby known as "food-issue".
Not just the typical Hostess and Kellogg's stuff. No, food-issue goes a lot deeper than that. And wider. (That was my attempt at a snack food/weight-gain pun.)
Anyway, the first thing I had to do was find all the food-issue cards I already had in my collection. Even though they were spread out across a few different boxes and binders, I was able to find and organize them fairly quickly—thanks in large part to the records I entered a few years ago on Trading Card Database. And you know what? I didn't realize the variety of food-issue cards I already had! So with a little bit of mojo going, I excitedly did some research to see what else might be out there. 
And wow. They sure crammed trading cards into a lot of food products over the years. 
This seems especially true for the 1980s and early 1990s, which happens to line up perfectly with my childhood collecting time. The card designs, as well as the star players of the era, really resonate with me. So what have I been doing since?
Adding more examples to my collection, that's what!

As you can see from the photo above, things are going pretty well on that front so far. It's been fun to gradually reclaim some of those little morsels of nostalgia—especially because many food-issue cards don't come anywhere close to breaking the bank. Win-win.
So now I want to start sharing these cards with you.
Keep in mind, however, that the food options won't exactly be healthy, what with various snack cakes, chips, sodas, hot dogs, chocolates, and boxed mac 'n cheese on the menu. But hey, if you're getting your exercise and eating right most of the time, it's okay to treat yourself every once in a while, right?


Besides, we'll have a few nutritious items on the menu as well, like bread and milk.
So here's how this "Smorgasbord" series will work: Each post will focus on one type of food-issue card (e.g., 1984 Ralston Purina, 1986 Jiffy Pop, 1988 Chef Boyardee). Along with the specific card(s) that I feature, I'll also try to include a brief history of the food brand, and other little touches like that.
So get your TV tray and favorite drinking glass ready. It's going to be a fun ride!

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Another Two Transformers Cards Meet My Eye

A few years ago I came across a stack of menko for sale on eBay, all featuring characters from the Transformers animated series of the 1980s. It was a sizeable stack, and there were some duplicates as well. I was pretty new to menko at that point, and wasn't sure I needed such a big lot of them, so I went back and forth for a while on whether I should make the purchase. Thankfully, nostalgia won out, and I gave myself the green light. Here are just some of the cards:

The fantastic artwork and vivid colors were too good to pass up. 
After I received the cards and finished sorting through them, I contacted SumoMenkoMan, who had a bunch of cards from this very same set. Together we came up with a checklist and submitted it to TCDB. It was the first time I'd contributed to the database in this way, and it felt pretty good.
And you know what? That one lot of cards I purchased had gotten me fairly close to having the full set—about 75%, in fact. As time went on, I became more and more thankful that I made the purchase. The cards would rarely show up on auction sites, and when they did, it was even more rare that the cards being offered were ones I needed for my collection. A couple of years ago, I was able to pick up three more cards. And then there was a whole lot of nothing for a while.

Recently, however, that changed.

A seller on eBay listed a dozen cards from the set. I eagerly scanned the images in the listing, hoping there'd be at least one that I needed.

There were two.
Quickly I emailed the seller, asking if he'd be willing to sell me those two menko separately. To my great pleasure, he told me that he had a few extra copies of those two cards, and he'd be happy to list them separately, as long as we could agree on a price.

Well, these menko have been going for super-high prices lately, and I wasn't too excited about his first offer. I suggested a trade for some of my duplicates, but he wasn't interested. Eventually, we agreed on a fair price, and I was happy to seal the deal. (I also ended up listing and selling a few of my duplicates on eBay, which definitely lessened the blow.)

Within a week or so, the package arrived. Here are the two new guys, on full display.

Smokescreen and Thundercracker card fronts
Smokescreen and Thundercracker card backs

Smokescreen is an Autobot. Thundercracker is a Decepticon. I'm surprised they made it all the way to my mailbox without blasting each other apart. But it's a good thing they did.

Their safe arrival means I've now got 41 of the 48 menko in the set. And here's what makes it really interesting:

I'm not completely sure the other 7 menko even exist!
When SumoMenkoMan and I were compiling the checklist, we took an educated guess on some of the well-known Generation 1 characters that would almost have to be included in the set, but whose cards we'd never seen ourselves—not even in pictures on the internet.
So, although it's likely I haven't completed this set, I do currently have all 41 known cards in the set.


It's a pretty fun accomplishment for an '80s kid like me, who grew up with that original cartoon, and who still gets hit with a big dose of nostalgia whenever he hears that theme song.

How about you readers? What TV shows or films bring back the nostalgia enough to make you want to collect some of the related cards or stickers? (The A-Team, Magnum P.I., Three's Company, Indiana Jones, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc.)
Share in the comment section, and thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Baseball in French, Lesson 13: La Balle Tire-Bouchon

Welcome to Baseball in French, Lesson 13. Previous lessons can be found here.
Today's term is La balle tire-bouchon.
In English, that translates to "the corkscrew ball". Or, as we better know it, "the screwball".

There's a certain Montreal Expo who wasn't exactly known as a screwball pitcher, but had a change-up that acted like one, falling away from left-handed batters. Here he is on his 1994 O-Pee-Chee card. 


Martinez only spent 4 seasons with Montreal, from age 22 through 25, but that's when he started to show glimpses of the brilliant pitcher he'd become. In 1997, his final season in Montreal, he'd go 17–8 with a minuscule 1.90 ERA (led majors), 13 complete games (led majors), 4 shutouts, and 305 strikeouts to 67 walks. He won his first of 3 Cy Young awards that year.

His grand totals with les Expos:

55 W, 33 L, 3.06 ERA, 20 CG, 8 SHO, 248 BB, 843 SO, 797.1 IP

Then he was off to Boston, and you already know the dominance he displayed there. More Cy Young Awards, All-Star teams, a Triple Crown, a World Series championship. Total stud. I'm glad I found a way to get him into these French lessons.

And speaking of these lessons, I think I'm going to make this the final one in the series, which is fitting with "corkscrew". In other words, if you've stuck with the entire series—all 13 posts—consider congratulating yourself in the only way a French baseball player would: by taking out that corkscrew, opening a bottle of wine, and enjoying a glass. (Beer is fine, too.)

Thanks for reading!