Friday, December 18, 2020

Getting vintage O-Pee-Chee cards off Sportlots

I've liked O-Pee-Chee cards for a long time. There's something that I really like about them. They're bilingual, the backs are in different colors than Topps, and they're much rarer than their Topps twins while not being any more expensive. So I decided I would get some.

Around the same time, I decided that I should get some cards off Sportlots. With Comc not shipping, eBay being too pricey for cards under $5 etc. yadda yadda yadda. I'm sure you know what I mean. 

So for my first purchase on Sportlots for a very long time, I got 25 OPC cards from the 1970s off a Canadian seller. I had a good experience. The prices were good, shipping OK, and the cards got here in alright time considering they were coming from Canada.

I mostly focused on Yankees. It looks like the first baseman holding on John Ellis is Harmon Killebrew, so that's a nice cameo.
The backs are always the fun part for vintage OPC cards, as the fronts are the same 99% of the time (1977 excepted). They have French as well as English, and it's always interesting to see baseball terms in French. A pitcher is a lanceur, an outfielder is a voltiguer, and a first baseman is a premier-but. Very fun. Oh, and the floating disembodied head of Ron Klimkowski will haunt you forever!
Mike Cueller is so miscut, you can see that the Cy Young card was above him on the sheet. 
It's always great to get cards of knuckleballers, and Wilbur Wood is one of my favorite knuckleballers.
It's odd, because I'm accustomed to the knuckleball being translated as le papillon (the butterfly) but it seems to be translated as balle jointure here. Google Translate makes it look like "joint ball," which I guess is a fairly accurate description of the knuckleball. I wonder if that was just the people at O-Pee-Chee doing something different, or whether they actually called it the "joint ball" in 1973. 
1974 was arguably Sparky's best year with the Yanks, as he posted an 1.66 ERA with 15 saves that year. It looks like he has a large chaw of tobacco in his cheek. Lindy actually pitched for the Royals in 1974. 
If you know why Sparky Lyle enjoyed birthday cakes, as the cartoon points out, then you probably know why I think it's so funny that it's mentioned on his card. If not, be warned. It is not a tale for the faint of heart.
1974 was one of the rarest of all the OPC sets, but I was able to get mine without much of a premium. It's kind of surprising to see how cheap OPC cards are for commons, considering that they're so rare. The most expensive card I got in the whole order was the 1973 Wilbur Wood, and it was 95 cents. The average price (not including shipping) was 33 cents each. 
There are 2 unsightly printing flaws by the team name, which is annoying. 1974, for both Topps and OPC, has a ton of printing flaws for some reason. It's quite irking. 
This Tommy John looks super strange, as his finger looks a foot long. It's probably his finger poking out of the hole, and then a flesh-colored bandage or something by it, but that's still pretty weird.
It was cool getting a card of Frank Tanana from when he was a young flame-thrower. All my previous cards of him were from when he was in his 30s in the 1980s, and just getting by. But he was actually super good for a while there. In 1977 he led the league in ERA, and in 1975 he led the league in strikeouts. But he was overworked at too young of an age: 269 innings at 20, 257 innings at 21, 288 at 22, etc. He got hurt in 1979, and was never the same again, though he actually wasn't very good in 1978 either.
There's a certain fascination about slick fielding infielders who can't hit a lick. Rafael Bellaird, Mario Mendoza, Bud Harrelson, and, of course, the crown prince of them all, Mark Belanger. In 1978 Phil Niekro outhit Belanger .225 to .213. Niekro also outhit Belanger in 1979, 1981, and probably some other seasons which I'm missing.
For some reason, Belanger's career stats never made it to the O-Pee-Chee card, though they were there for Topps. They had probably decided they were frightening the kids enough with his yearly batting statistics, and didn't need to divulge that his career average was .235, with 17 home runs in 1415 games.

Not a lot to say about these two, except that 1978 has a nice design and that they're the last cards in the post.
One very annoying thing about O-Pee-Chee cards is that they're very rough cut, as you can tell from this picture. You don't notice it too much in penny sleeves, so that's how I'm storing them.

Overall, I had a good experience with Sportlots. The site is rather cumbersome and quaint, but as long as I can get good cards for good prices, it's all right.


  1. Nice cards, especially the '73 Wilbur Wood. I didn't realize the 1974 set was so rare. Good thing you were able to scoop up some nice singles without paying a premium.

  2. Had to look up the Lyle and cake thing. Yeah... that's weird. OPC was one of those things I didn't truly appreciate until recently (last 13 years). Grew up thinking they were inferior to Topps (thanks to price guides in the 80's), but these days I love them.

  3. I do enjoy some of the different backs, but the rough cuts are where it's at for me when it comes to vintage OPC. I especially like how much they seem to bother modern graders, it brings me never ending joy seeing them whine and complain about the rough edges.

  4. There is one thing that I do not understand: how come you think that the thing about Lyle is funny? It is really inappropriate.

    1. I'm saying it's funny they say on the card that he enjoys birthday cakes. I'm saying the story itself is weird.

    2. Or at least that's what I was trying to say.