I realized while looking over the previous Card of the Day articles (all linked below) that I’ve neglected some majors stars so far. So it’s time to make it up to one of them today by looking at the 1948 Bowman card of Ralph Kiner.
This is an interesting card to look at to get into the mind of baseball card collectors. This card is referred to as one of Kiner’s rookie cards. It’s also one of his most popular cards. The term “rookie” card usually refers to a player’s first Major League card, eliminating minor league team sets from being considered rookie cards of a player. For older cards, this card is a different example of the first card not being called a rookie card.
Kiner first appeared in the 1947 Bond Bread set and the 1947 Tip Top Bread set. Those cards were distributed regionally instead of nationally like Bowman cards. The difference here is that the 1948 Bowman card was readily available in packs for collectors, while the two 1947 sets weren’t distributed the same way. If you’re going for value, the 1948 Bowman card is your choice, though some collectors still prefer the earlier examples.
Here’s the front of the card:
The batting stance/follow-through swing was a very popular pose for Kiner cards back in his day. If you’re looking to purchase an old card of Kiner with a bat in his hands, you have plenty of options. Trying to find a fielding pose is almost impossible (1955 Bowman). That isn’t odd, considering the fact that he was known for his bat, in particular his home run power. That point leads us to the back of the card.
Here’s the back of the card:
Just two years into his career, Kiner was being called another “Babe Ruth”, at least on this card. Seeing as he tied Johnny Mize with 51 homers, maybe calling him another Johnny Mize would have been more appropriate at this time in his career. Kiner did lead the league in homers in 1946, as this card states, but he did it while hitting a total of 23 homers. During the 1948 season, Kiner once again tied with Johnny Mize for the league lead, this time hitting 40 homers.
Kiner would go on to lead the NL in homers in each of his first seven seasons in the majors, all spent with the Pittsburgh Pirates. No other Pirates player has led the league in homers in back-to-back years. In fact, Kiner has all but four of their home run titles over the years. Willie Stargell won twice, Tommy Leach once and Pedro Alvarez once.
Here are the previous Card of the Day articles. Eventually we will have a better way to organize them, as opposed to just a continuously growing list at the bottom of each article:
2020 Topps Living Set Josh Bell
2020 Roberto Clemente Topps Throwback
1887 N172 Old Judge Art Whitney and Dog
1981 Topps Pirates Future Stars
1936 R312 Honus Wagner and Arky Vaughan
2005 Bowman Heritage Andrew McCutchen
1961 Topps Gino Cimoli World Series Highlights
1969 Topps Richie Hebner/Al Oliver
1887 N172 Sam Barkley (guest submission)
2020 Topps 206 Roberto Clemente
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.