SSPC 1976 – A Challenger Appears!

What have we here? When I picked up this interest again in December 2017, it didn’t take long to get some of the same feelings I had 25+ years prior. Baseball card shops and shows in the Lehigh Valley were basically a known commodity in terms of which Carlton Fisk cards were available. Eventually, I had all of cards which existed in the area (except his pricey rookie card). BUT, every now and then, a vendor at a show would have something new, and that was amazing. It was easy to know which I was missing (for the main companies, cards are yearly), but any oddballs were unknown to me. With the internet, this feeling can still happen. Above is the SSPC 1976 Carlton Fisk card. It shouldn’t exist.

Literally, it shouldn’t exist. Topps had an MLB-blessed monopoly on the market. What did SSPC (Sports Stars Publishing Company) do? They simply made a set of cards unlicensed by the MLB and the MLBPA. Topps sued them, and the result of the lawsuit was that they’d stop making cards. Read more about SSPC and their parent company, TCMA, on the Baseball Card Pedia.

For the card itself, it looks like a Spring Training photoshoot, similar to the 1975 Topps. If the link above is to be trusted, the design goal was to copy the Bowman 1953. Mission accomplished. Interestingly, it’s printed on white paper instead of cardboard. Because the card doesn’t have tabular statistics, there’s more room for copy (written by Keith Olbermann while he was in high school, nonetheless), where we learn that his 1975 season was short due to a Spring Training hit-by-pitch. “BR-TR” left me scratching my head longer than I’d like to admit. It’s “Bats Right – Throws Right.” I’d go so far to say that there’s enough room on the card to not abbreviate it, but, hey, I’m no card designer.

Here’s some more nuts and bolts info about the 1976 SSPC set.