Remember the days when you’d flip over a baseball card to learn all the information you could about the player on the front of your piece of cardboard? Maybe you wanted to memorize their stats or you liked the little factoids and cartoons that would bring you a little closer to the players you pulled out of the wax. Or maybe you flipped it over and realized that the bubblegum stain just ruined your otherwise pristine Rickey Henderson rookie, eliciting an audible string of foul language that subsequently got you grounded. Well, the Card Vault is like that but without the stains. Mostly. Here you’ll learn some of the lesser known facts not on the backs of your cards and a whole lot of funky observations about the fellas on the front.

  • Wait, Hank Aaron Was a Switch Hitter?

    The 1957 Topps set - often overlooked due to its simple design - is noteworthy for a number of reasons. It was the first Topps set to feature full color player photographs; a fascinating mix of portrait and action-style shots. Each image is surrounded by a simple white border, with the player’s name, team and position printed in a basic font on the bottom of the card. It was the first time that Topps printed players’ multiple-year statistics on the back of its cards, having only provided previous season’s statistics and career totals in the past. Baseball card collectors now had access to the most comprehensive player statistics available, 12 years before the first Baseball Encyclopedia was published in 1969. The size of the cards was also reduced from 2 5/8” by 3 5/8” to the familiar 2 ½” by 3 ½” size we know today.

  • Yogi Doesn't Shower for Picture Day

    By the time 1963 rolled around, Yogi Berra had accumulated two sets of brass knuckles made of World Series rings, thumbs included. In the eighth inning of Game 4 of the 1963 World Series, Berra lined out to right as a pinch hitter against Don Drysdale and five outs later, his Yankee career was over. The Yankees were swept by the Dodgers and Yogi transitioned to become the next manager of the Yankees. This allowed Yogi a way around a Topps loophole. Typically, if a player retired after the season, he wasn’t issued a baseball card the following year. The general thought was that Topps wanted to feature players who were active that coming spring to better separate kids from their nickels as they ripped packs to chase their favorite current stars. However, Topps included managers in their sets at the time, so Yogi found his way onto 1964 cardboard after all.

  • Who the Hell is John Wagner?

    During World War II, production of baseball cards from major companies ground to a halt along with many non-essential businesses of the period. When it was time to return in 1948, Leaf threw down a spellbinding set to announce their grand return with authority. The 98-card set looks like top-drawer, high school art class paint-by-number portraits of the game’s legends on a rainbow of different color solid backgrounds. It’s glorious. There’s a portrait of Satchel Paige sheepishly looking down against a bright yellow background, his blue and red Indians cap printed with little regard to staying in the lines. There’s a forlorn Babe Ruth staring out at collectors against a sky consisting of tomato soup; his deep blue Yankee hat rests atop his head, but his trademark smile absent from his moon face. It’s a somber card, appropriate to the fact that the Babe subsequently died in August of that same year. One of the set’s great mysteries is that although there are only 98 cards, the set is numbered to 168. Skeptics believe that Leaf wanted kids to believe they were missing cards so they would be roped into buying more packs.

  • The Creepiest Crespi

    The late 1930s and ‘40s were a barren wasteland for baseball cards. Goudey and Play Ball put out some sets, but it really wasn’t until 1948 when Leaf got the major distributors back on the map. The dearth of baseball cards between 1939 and 1942 was an adverse situation for the Cardinals Frank Crespi, but that wasn’t where his bad news would end.

  • Gibby Scares the Shit Out of Me

    Standing in the batter’s box in a Major League Baseball game must be terrifying. Even for the most experienced hitter, there has to be some level of concern that any pitch from any pitcher at any time can ride up and in and do some real serious damage. I get that all hitters are professional and have seen thousands upon thousands of pitches in their careers, but I have to think there’s some sliver of doubt that you can end up like Tony Conigliaro, Dickie Thon, or even worse - Ray Chapman. While the fear level may be slim for most hitters throughout history, there had to be a significant uptick for those poor slobs who had to face Bob Gibson.

  • The Curious Case of Crazy Clint Costanza

    Baseball history is strewn with tough guys, legends you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley. Or a well-lit alley, for that matter. Guys like Ty Cobb, Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale, who would leave you bloodied to win a game and send you back to the dugout with brown stains on your road greys… and not from sliding either. Their stories of high-and-tight fastballs, menacing quotes and amputee hecklers left bloodied are part of the fabric of baseball lore. There are some under-the-radar roughnecks as well, and that leads us to Clint Courtney.