Bump Wills

May 16, 2007

I don’t have a lot of valuables. I thought maybe this 1979 card that erroneously identifies Bump Wills as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, a team for which he never played, might be worth something, but according to an article on TradingCardCentral.com the corrected card, which is rarer (and which I don’t have, naturally), is worth considerably more than this version.

In a “Card Corner” note in a 2004 column by frequent Bronx Banter contributer Bruce Markusen, Topps president Sy Berger claims the error was due to a tip he’d heard that Wills was about to be traded to the Blue Jays. I am skeptical of this explanation because Wills is identified as a Ranger in a large-font heading on the back of the card, because Wills’ name is on the 1979 Texas Rangers’ checklist, and because Topps more often than not did not switch teams for a player even after they’d been officially traded in the off-season. And when they did switch teams to reflect a trade, they doctored the photos, which has not been done here, Wills still clearly wearing the cap and away uniform of the Texas Rangers.

No, as something of an expert in such matters, I feel compelled to offer the opinion that this was just a plain, old fuckup.

I work as a proofreader and dread this kind of mistake. Proofreading is easy if you only have to do a little of it, but when you spend a whole day trying to keep an eye out for errors your mind can wander. It’s frighteningly easily easy (proofreader’s note: the preceding typo was not intentional, and was only noticed several hours after this profile of Maury Wills’ son, the Texas Rangers’ all-time leader in stolen bases, was originally posted) to glide past a can’t-see-the-forest-for-the-trees mistake such as this one. I worry that some day I’ll inadvertently let a doozy slip through and then be ritualistically dressed down by upper management in a special hastily convened exit meeting.

“Your mistake cost us millions,” I’ll be told with measured corporate scorn.

Stripped of my employee identification card, I’ll ride the bus home at an unusual hour, my wandering mind continuing as ever to pollinate fantasies and mistakes.


  1. 1.  I still have several Washington “Nat’l Lea” Padres cards from 1974, including an especially weird one picturing Glenn Beckert in a Cubs uniform — no attempt was ever made to paint away the evidence.

  2. 2.  For those who don’t know what mbtn01 is referencing, here’s a link that explains, with an example, the ’74 “Washington Padre” fiasco:


    Also, out of a vague feeling of guilt that my Bump Wills profile is somewhat lacking in entertainment value, I’m including a link to a page of some other cards that, fortunately for all of us, lacked a check by an alert proofreader before going to press:


  3. 3.  As a content editor myself, I often find myself explaining to my authors that I’m fixing everything I can with a line edit at the content stage because it will increase the odds that the copyeditors and proofreaders will catch the stragglers. The clumsy metaphors I use usually have to do with clearing brush or shaving a beard, you have to clear away a certain amound before you can tidy it up. Glad to hear confirmation of that philosophy from the other side of the equation.

  4. 4.  1 I had a couple of those cards… I think I sold them in an unwise attempt to get rich off my cards, leaving most of the rarer cards I had in the hands of someone else…

  5. 5.  2

    that’s pretty cool i never new about that.

  6. 6.  2
    I remember getting a pack and opening one up to a see a smiling photo of Nate Colbert in his mustard and mud uni with “Washington” and “Nat’l League” on it.

    That was even better than getting the pack with a Tom Timmermann card in it.

  7. 7.  From the last thread: “Oddly, in all my years in Central Vermont and also while going to college in Johnson, Vermont (farther north), I never met an Expos fan.”

    Probably the border was something of an impediment both to going to games regularly and identifying oneself with Montreal. I’m sure it operated the same way with hockey teams: did you know many people from Vermont who were Canadiens fans rather than Bruins or NY fans?

    I’m from Montreal myself. Even though most people got US TV stations from Burlington VT and Plattsburgh NY, we’d never identify with the sports teams they carried. I’m sure it worked the other way around too.

    However, I’m also old. Too old to be an Expos fan: the Expos didn’t exist when I was growing up, and I had moved away from Montreal just when they started up, in fact exactly that year (68-69). There was a lot of excitement when they began, but the Expos were so awful for such a long time, and I didn’t follow baseball much at that time, so I never became one. Then I moved to England a few years later, for a long time, and hardly knew what the Expos were up to. Whenever I checked, they were still awful.

    But I’m so old that another seed had been planted previously. My father was a Montreal Royals fan – they were the Brooklyn Dodgers’ AAA team before the Dodgers went west – and so also a Dodgers fan (all the Brooklyn greats played first for the Royals). I’m just old enough to remember the 1955 World Series – the seminal year for Dodgers fans everywhere. ( I was 7.) I’d forgotten about this for a long time, but I knew the names of many of the Dodgers players, the history of the 5 previous WS losses to the Yankees, inherited-Yankee-hate, and all the excitement of 1955 when the Dodgers finally won. I think that’s the only way you’d be a fan of a non-local team – through family loyalties and/or minor league affiliations.

    It’s funny how that works. Some 12 years ago I returned from England and landed 100 miles north of LA. I read the LA Times as my paper. I didn’t pay too much attention to baseball at first, but couldn’t help noticing major stories about the Dodgers – Piazza, O’Malley, Murdoch (an old enemy from England)/Fox, and so on. Something was stirring. I suddenly caught the bug during the 2004 playoff series when the Dodgers breathed their first whiff of hope in a long time. And now I’m caught but good.

    I wonder what would have happened if I’d ended up anywhere else in the US – if I’d even notice baseball at all. It was the pull back to my father’s team that got me going. (My father had died just a few years earlier, in 2001.) One thing I can tell you (in a very tenuous attempt to make this ever so slightly on topic) – I sure wouldn’t have have caught any spark from the Blue Jays, had I landed up in Toronto. Montreal/Toronto rivalry can match anything Yankee/Red Sox or Dodger/Giants people can come up with.

  8. 8.  7: That’s a nice story about your roundabout, enduring Dodger fandom, berkowit28. Your dad must have had a blast following the Montreal Royals in those days. I wonder if he went to see Jackie Robinson play.

    “did you know many people from Vermont who were Canadiens fans rather than Bruins or NY fans?”

    I actually don’t remember anybody being a hockey fan at all in the town I grew up in (my high school couldn’t afford a hockey team), but when I went to college I knew some hockey-playing types who’d grown up in the Burlington area, and they were mostly Canadiens fans–it was a pretty quick trip up to the Forum from some of those northeastern Vermont towns, and those guys had all been impressionable youths during the Guy Lefleur era.

  9. 9.  I remember opening way too many packs looking for the elusive “All” Hrabosky card. I think I did find one, but like Bump, the corrected version might be worth more.

  10. 10.  I remember my youngest brother, twelve at the time, opening a Topps pack and discovering this card, which we had not yet heard about. I don’t remember who noticed first, but we immediately recognized the error in the card and potential monetary value. Lacking the fancy card protectors of today, we carefully stored the card as we could best manage, inside the frame of some random family photo sitting on his dresser. We also discovered later that the error card was, sadly, the less valuable.

    He may still have that card, in the same picture frame, in a dusty box in the corner of his garage. I’ll have to ask.

    By the way Josh, the article you linked concludes that “Today [May 2004] either version of the [Wills] card has a high value of $3 in mint condition”, so they seem to have settled into roughly equal value. I don’t remember what packs cost in ’79, probably 25 or 30 cents, so maybe 1000% return over 28 years. (28 years!? Holy smoke!)

  11. 11.  Yes, my father did see Jackie Robinson play, in 1946 it must have been. Jackie Robinson was a very big deal in Montreal, as you probably know – I’ve read about huge crowds who went to meet his train, and so on. And even more so for my father, who was left wing politically at that time and a strong supporter of all things progressive, as they called it then. Jackie was a hero. I remember hearing about Pee Wee Reese, too. (I’d never heard of Tommy Lasorda, however…)

  12. 12.  That card – in either version – is almost certainly more valuable than anything bump Wills ever did in his career.

    Loved the Billy Ripken link. I remember his card very well, and some of the others he shows are excellent. I’m surprised he didn’t include the famous Csonka-Kiick SI cover.

  13. 13.  11 LOL – you answered the question before I asked it in Dodger Thoughts.

    Thanks for the great story.

  14. 14.  12 I don’t know, I think ol’ Bump had his moments. In addition to setting the mark that still stands for most career stolen bases by a Ranger, he also was on the Topps All-Rookie team; combined with Toby Harrah to hit back-to-back inside the park home runs; inadvertently caused teammate Lenny Randle to punch their manager, Frank Lucchesi (who was planning on benching Randle in favor of Wills); and was almost certainly the only man ever to beat out Ryne Sandberg for a second baseman job (the rookie Sandberg played third during Wills’ one and only year with the Cubs).

    10 Thanks for clarifying my erroneous estimation of the relative value of the two versions of this card, El Lay Dave. Chalk it up to my mistake-makin’ ways. And on that note, not that anyone could possibly care, but in 8 I meant to say “northwestern Vermont” and not “northeastern Vermont”. Whew, I’m glad I set that straight. Now I must return to less important matters…

  15. 15.  14 I managed not to state that I wasn’t so much trying to make an extremely minro correction as to express a strange sort of satisfaction that we no longer hold the less valuable card. Somehow we always felt a little cheated that we happened onto an interesting error card – feeling lucky – but found out it was worth less – feeling disappointed – than the mundane, but somewhat scarcer, correction.

  16. 16.  15 Well put, El Lay.

    All this talk about keeping a keen eye out for rare mistake-filled objects makes me recall a common comic book ad from my youth that featured two Lincoln pennies with the message that one of the pennies contained a flaw that could earn the owner of said penny “MILLIONS!” I could never figure out the difference between the two pennies but began checking my change for lucrative deformities, which I never found.

  17. 17.  I remember noticing things like “Topps had his ERA at .346, when it should be 3.46!” and waiting for the value to skyrocket. A friend of mine got the Billy Ripken fuckface card and turned down something like $100 for it. The best error card I ever had was a Keith Comstock that had “Padres” in the wrong color.

  18. 18.  The Bill Ripken is classic, but the Aurelio Rodriguez error card is still the best one of all time.

  19. If you had been a hockey fan, you’d have known that in 1974 Topps listened to trade rumours and put Jacques Lemaire on the Buffalo Sabres and altered his uniform to Sabres colours. He spent his entire career with Montreal.
    Maybe that’s what the Topps exec was mistakenly recalling.

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