Saturday, August 20, 2011

1955 Bowman Lot: Stump the Umps

What's the best part of 1955 Bowman? Of course it would have to be the umpire cards. When I get a scout autograph in modern Bowman, I'm infuriated, but my opinion on non-player cards completely changes when we're talking vintage umps wearing goofy hats. I'd been wanting to snag some of these for a long time, and that was the main draw of this lot.

Goofy hat, check. Goofy smile, check. A snazzy suit and tie, check. Bill Engeln has it all. Not a whole lot to say about Bill's career, though. Five years calling shots in the majors. The internets are surprisingly quiet about Bill's history, which leads me to believe Bill was actually Don Knotts in hiding, secretly researching a role to play a zany umpire.

Let's see what the back of the card has to say:

Of German descent...married in 1935, no children. No children seems worth mentioning in 1955, I guess. Besides the highlighting the peculiar nature of the non-nuclear family in 1955, what's with all the ellipsis? Bowman still does a ton of this on the backs of their cards. It's my least favorite punctuation, and I love punctuation. But I just can't get behind dots telling us there's nothing to say here so we stuttered and skipped ahead. Don't worry, Engeln. I'm not holding the ellipsis against you.

Here's the other ump from the lot:

Here's a fella that looks less like Don Knotts. It's Jocko Conlan, and he's a hall of fame umpire. He spent some time actually playing with the White Sox, which makes me wonder how many umpires actually have major league experience, if that's even a common background for an ump anymore. He spent over 20 years serving as an umpire in the majors and officiated 5 World Series. Perhaps the best story about Jocko was when Leo Durocher accidentally kicked him, and instead of Jocko just ejecting him, he kicked Leo right back. Here's a great link, pictures worth seeing.

And if you returned, here's the back of the card:

So, you see there's some sticker residue gunk on the back, but it's still a great card and one of the better umps from the set. You have to love the ridiculously random blurb Bowman throws in at the end here, that Jocko owns his own flower shop.

Something I can't quite understand is the book value of these ump cards. Now, I could give a flying crap about book values, but it's interesting that Engeln books for $30 and Jocko for $80. Were the ump cards short-printed? Are they just that desirable for their oddness? I'm just glad I was able to score a few on the cheap. The whole lot, from the last three posts, cost me under $8 shipped. A pretty sweet deal for some beat-up vintage.


  1. The umpire cards are all in the high-numbered series, which you probably know ends up being the most short-printed series. Apparently lots of kids didn't even buy the last series, since it has lots of coaches and umpires, and those cards were probably tossed in the trash pretty quickly. So they're really tough to find. Plus, as you mentioned, there is a desirability factor. I'm not sure I've ever seen a '55 umpire card in person, not that I've looked. I put together the 2004 Bowman Heritage umpires set, which was much easier.

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