added 12/16/2010 by Glynn Ligon
(Editors Note: Glynn Ligon previously shared with us his love for Colt .45s baseball cards in this column. He returns now to tell us how he made his collection complete.)
Eighty-two players wore a Houston Colt .45s uniform in a regular season game from 1962 to 1964. Incredibly, only one player never had a baseball card immortalize his career-Don Bradey. Don was far from insignificant for the Colt .45s, considering he took the mound as the starting pitcher in their final game October 4, 1964. Then 46 years later, I tracked him down because Don Bradey was the gap in the line-up that prevented my baseball card collection from being complete. I had to have a photo of him to print that missing card before the 50th season of the Houston Colts/Astros franchise in 2011. You see, I'm the ultimate .45s baseball-card-collecting fanatic. The proof is at www.colt45scards.info. No, the actual proof is the saga you're about to read chronicling the printing of the "Bradey Card".
Who got cards?
When I completed my PSA-graded set of all the Houston Colt .45s baseball cards, I realized there were players left out. As a statistician, I was challenged. Here's the box score for the 82 players:
I had cards for all of them-all but one that is. One player, pitcher Don Bradey, had no card. Unacceptable, for him and for me.
The solution was clear, self-publish the "Bradey Card". Of course, the rest of my Colt .45s cards are graded by Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA). Their rules require a card to be listed in a recognized publication like Beckett's or Fluckinger's price guide to be eligible for grading. A card from a sandlot game like my single baseball card self-publishing venture would have no shot at being listed along with cards issued by Topps, Fleer, and Mother's Cookies. Would it?
Finding Don Bradey
I couldn't even get to first base printing the card without a picture of Bradey. I struck out when I discovered that he was one of only two Colt/Astros players out of 736 over 49 seasons without a photo on Astros Daily. In fact, there were no photos of him on the internet anyplace. After months of searching, I found a 1964 San Antonio Bullets Texas League Champions team photo in the 1964 Sporting News Official Baseball Guide. Don Bradey, Joe Morgan and other past and future Colt .45s were pictured. Bradey was the star relief pitcher - the reason Luman Harris called him up for the final six days of the season. Using that photo, I mocked up a baseball card image. That was good, a bit impersonal, not good enough. So I kept scouting.
Googling turned up the "Kentucky Baseball" blog at Kentuckybaseball.blogspot.com. The Lexington Legends are an Astros affiliate, and the blog posted a letter from Don. The blogger traded an address for a promise of a card. My pleading letter to Don got the phone call I needed and the two photos that made it onto the card. Don confirmed the incredible: no one took any shots of him during his stint with the .45s (If someone out there has a picture of Don from the 1964 .45s, contact me at email@example.com.) Don was willing to let me use the photos to try to produce a vintage-looking card for him (and to complete my collection).
Printing's got to be easy
Once I had the photos, all I had to do was print the card. How hard could that be? Ridiculously hard! I even looked into using a company that prints baseball cards for Little League teams. That was such a bad idea, an official scorer would have ruled E-1. I turned to the professional printer my Austin company uses for all our marketing materials. AlphaGraphics did a fantastic job of creating the art work for the final card. We even worked together to bleed a vintage gray/yellow background off the master so the final card when printed would look aged like the '64s.
Image done, but where was the cardboard? Weeks literally turned to months as I rejected paper sample after sample, most for being too flimsy compared to the 1964 cards. The digital printers at AlphaGraphics and the other print shops I checked out choke on thicker stock over 100 lb. I was picked off first base.
How'd they do it in the 60's?
One afternoon at a paper supply house, I ran into an employee wearing an Astros cap. Some people are experts just on paper. Well, this guy really was an expert on paper - down to the very fibers that go into it. I bet he could identify the ballpark by inspecting the splinters from a bench warmer's uniform. He told me how cardboard was laminated with thin, smooth paper on both sides for baseball cards back in the 1960's. Otherwise, ink wouldn't have been legible on the rough, dark cardboard. He assured me that stock was unavailable today. He also confirmed that I was not going to find anything thick enough that was smaller than the large sheets used for off-set printing. That was an historical beanball. Digital printing was a necessity rather than moving up to expensive off-set printing. After all, printing 50,000 cards wasn't realistic, was it?
Imagine October 4, 2014, 50th anniversary of the last Colt .45s game: final game of the season, Minute Maid Park, Astros vs Cardinals for the Central Division pennant and it's Don Bradey Baseball Card Day. All 40,950 fans get a card! Now Beckett has to list the Bradey Card in its 2015 price guide, and PSA must agree to grade it. Move over Mother's Cookies, Fluckinger's has another entry!
Think big, think Xerox
Fortunately, I come from an incredibly stubborn family. I had also recently visited the Dahill Xerox showroom in Austin and saw some impressive machines. So, I kept looking for a printing company that could handle thicker stock. Finally, I found a humongous, commercial printing company, Cerqa.
Cerqa has a Xerox Docucolor iGEN3 digital printer, about the size of the Colt Stadium dugouts. At the Cerqa office, we put a 1964 Topps #321 Bob Lillis card in a micrometer and sorted through paper samples until we found one the same thickness. Just for the record, it's 120 lbs. The small sample I held in my hands felt a lot like a PSA Gem Mint 10 1964 Topps #109 Rusty Staub All Star Rookie Card (OK, we all know I've never really held that card because the highest graded Staub rookie card is a 9).
Then I got caught in a run down between third and home. As predicted by the expert on paper, this perfect stock only comes in huge sheets for off-set printing, and the paper supplier had to be able to cut them down accurately enough to run through the printer without jamming. Maybe the Cerqa front office didn't fully appreciate that Don Bradey had started the final game for the .45s in Dodger Stadium on his 30th birthday, or maybe the iGEN3 wasn't paid off yet, but they took a long time deciding to risk feeding trimmed-down paper through their expensive printer. After some anxious weeks, this little digital print run made it onto the schedule among their global commercial accounts.
The card arrives
I got the call. The sales rep was holding a crummy cardboard box, but inside, the cards looked awesome. The color and focus were perfect. The Cerqa pros knew feeding the custom-cut paper through the printer would not be as accurate as an off-set process. Centering on a few cards was not 50/50 - just like the old 1964 cards. The cutting was laser sharp, a requirement for high-grade, collectible baseball cards. In the end, my critical eye set aside some of the final batch, but left mostly beautiful, perfect, gem mint 10 specimens. The cards were safe at home.
I sent Don a package with five plastic sheets, each holding nine cards, 45 in all. He was pleased. The few cards we have aren't for sale. They'll be given away to family, friends, and fans - and added to collections so future generations will remember all 82 Colt .45s players.
Thank you, Don
I want to end this column with the focus where it should be - on the Houston Colt .45s players. I collect exclusively .45s baseball cards because they are the link to the great memories that began when my dad took me to Opening Day on April 10, 1962, in Colt Stadium. Starting that day, 82 different names were penciled into a lineup on the wall of the .45s dugout with Don Bradey's being the last one. Now he's the last one to get his baseball card. This small "Bradey Card" is my big "Thank You" to Don and his teammates - those in the official box score with him in that final game, and all of the others who took the field at Colt Stadium before him.
(If you'd like to write a guest column about your Astros fan experience or opinion about the ball club, contact Bob Hulsey at firstname.lastname@example.org.)