Sanzone: 1953 Topps and race relations

From SABR member Robert Sanzone at the SABR Baseball Cards blog on December 15, 2016:

I started getting interested in baseball around the age of 12. The Ken Burns Baseball series grabbed my interest and hasn’t let go since. Around the same time, my father told me that his baseball cards were in the safe deposit box at the bank. My mother took me to the bank a few days later where I pulled out four or five bundles of baseball cards. They consisted mostly of 1950 and 1951 Bowmans, 1951 Topps red backs, a LOT of 1953 Topps, and some 1955 Topps cards. As I flipped through them all I found four Jackie Robinsons, two Roy Campanellas, a Bob Feller, and a Monte Irvin, all from 1953. My father also has a Monte Irvin rookie card from 1951.

Later that night I showed my dad the cards. He looked for a Mickey Mantle card he swore he had. When I showed him pics of Mantle’s 1951 Bowman, and 1953 Topps, my father recognized them immediately. He swore he had those cards. When I asked my parents what might have happened to them, I was told that my aunt probably took them. Long story short, my aunt, who wasn’t the most progressive person, allegedly took the Mantle cards knowing they’d be worth a lot of money in years to come. When I asked why she didn’t take the Robinson too, I was told it was because those players were black. Whether it was because of my aunt’s personal feelings towards blacks, or she didn’t think they’d be worth anything, it made me think about what children across America at the time thought about those same cards as well.

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Originally published: December 15, 2016. Last Updated: December 15, 2016.