Question: As an avid baseball card collector, I've heard that a new set of cards focusing on umpires has been published. What can you tell me about them?--P.C.
Answer: A San Diego construction company executive, Tom Nielsen, got the brainstorm to publish a set of cards devoted to major league umpires. They're just now being distributed.
The first set of 64 cards--60 individual cards, plus one card each of the 1987 All-Star Game and World Series crews, a checklist card and a card of one of the most famous umpires of all time, Jocko Conlan--is retailing for $12 to $15.
Nielsen, 39, said in a telephone interview that the cards were shipped to retail outlets the last week of May. So far, he said, "the response has been tremendous. Everybody's liked them."
As a result, he added, he's planning a new set for next year, featuring famous umpires of past years and some in baseball's Hall of Fame. The project, he said, has the official backing of the Major League Umpires Assn. and of major league baseball.
Although the idea of publishing baseball cards featuring umpires is not new, it's been several years since umpire cards have been published, one card collector said.
The Nielsen set is like the popular player cards that have been published for decades in that they feature a color picture of the umpire on the front and biographical and career statistics on the back.
Naturally, recent incidents involving managers, players and umpires--such as the much-publicized Pete Rose-Dave Pallone set-to that resulted in a one-month suspension for the Cincinnati Reds manager--ought to help sales.
If readers have any difficulty locating the cards, Nielsen said to write his distribution office: 9950 Campo Road, Suite 203, Spring Valley, Calif. 92077.
A recent note in Sports Illustrated about misprinted baseball cards made a good point: When you spot a printing mix-up, hang onto the card because its value could soar.
SI recalled, for example, that in 1957, Topps, the big New York-based baseball card manufacturer, flopped a picture of Hall of Fame slugger Henry Aaron, making him a left-handed hitter when, as all the world knows, he batted from the right side. This Aaron card, according to SI, now sells for $50.
Veteran collectors say, however, that misprints of lesser players would not come near the value of the sought-after Aaron card.