Card of the Day: 1990 Pacific Legends Dale Long

Today is a great day for hitters in Pittsburgh Pirates history. You have Glenn Wright, an outstanding defensive and offensive shortstop during the 1920’s, who gets lost in the Pirates Hall of Fame shortstop run of coming after Honus Wagner and Rabbit Maranville, and before Arky Vaughan. You have Smoky Burgess, a key player from the 1960 club, who was an All-Star catcher and one of the greatest pinch-hitters of all-time. You have Richie Zisk, who did a little of everything for the 1970s Pirates, with power, average and on base skills. Then you have Pedro Alvarez, a home run champ one year with the Pirates, who provided power at third base. Last but not least, today’s featured player, Dale Long.

Long holds one of the more impressive home run records, connecting on homers in eight straight games. His peak in the majors was a bit short, but he was still quite a power threat. He’s also one of the last left-handed catchers in baseball history, so he has more than one claim to fame to this day.

Today’s Card of the Day selection comes from what I think is a very under-appreciated set. A trading card company named Pacific, put out a set of 110 cards that included some all-time greats. The cards have a very nice look to the front. They were overproduced, which keeps down the value, but this is a set I think everyone should consider owning, especially if you love baseball history. Here’s a look at card #92 from that set, featuring Dale Long as a member of the Pirates.

Here’s the front of the card:

It’s probably the old photos that sells the set better for me, but I’m also a fan of the gray borders, as well as the fact that they used gold here for the coloring, matching up team colors to the team depicted on the card. They did that for every team. Long played for six teams during his ten-year career in the majors. He spent more time in Pittsburgh than anywhere else (1951, 1955-57), though he played more games during his three seasons with the Chicago Cubs. He was also with the Cubs when he caught those two games, so we are a bit lucky here that they used a Pirates photo. Chicago could have been a real possibility, but he also played for two New York Yankees teams that made it to the World Series, so that’s another selling point.

Here’s the back of the card:

The backs here give you some background on why the player was included in the set. Some players like Hank Aaron or Mickey Mantle were obvious inclusions in a set titled Legends, but Long gets recognition for his home run record, which has been tied by Don Mattingly and Ken Griffey Jr. The funny thing about this 1990 card is that Mattingly did it in 1987, so it was matched by the time this card came out, even though that bio claims Long was still the only person to accomplish the feat.

As you can see, the back highlighted one season for each player, and Long’s best season is 1956, when he set the home run record. If you go by WAR, that 1956 season was his second best season on offense, third best overall, but he set career highs in homers and RBIs that year, so it still works well here.

These cards are cheap, both individually and as a set. One thing I noticed here was that is says he “lives in” Palm Coast, Florida. That stood out because I knew that he passed away in January of 1991. As a collector, my first thought was that finding one of these cards autographed by him would be next to impossible. There haven’t been any up on Ebay in the last three months, but that might be something to watch for if you collect autographs. You can get this card from multiples sellers under $2 delivered. There are nine copies on Ebay right now, two with ridiculous shipping charges.

You can buy an unopened box of these cards, with 36 packs that contain ten cards each, for $35 delivered. Seeing as a set has 110 cards, you have a lottery winner’s chance of putting together three sets from one box. That probably won’t happen, but two seems very feasible.