When I was a kid, my aunt worked for RCA in a nearby city, and she would occasionally get her hands on some company swag.
A stuffed Nipper dog.
A small wall calendar.
A recipe book.
These were the types of baubles she would give me for birthdays and Christmas. I loved them and felt pretty special — what other kid had an inside line to that sort of merch?
None that I knew of.
And then, one birthday, auntie brought me a little paperback book, an RCA Collector’s Edition, in fact. The title?
Baseball’s All-Time Greats: The Top 50 Players — PLUS — All-Star Game Book
This was 1983, and I was just beginning to get into baseball in a hardcore way.
I devoured this book cover to cover, and over and over, but there were several pages in the middle of the book that showed old-time players with exotic names and who looked ancient.
Guys like Pie Traynor, Walter Johnson, Honus Wagner, Wee Willie Keeler.
Such great names!
Oh, and Rabbit Maranville. I *think* he was in there, too, and even if he wasn’t I saw him somewhere along the way around the same time.
Find 2002 Panini Cooperstown on eBay (affiliate link)
And Maranville looked rough and tough and mean to me — not much like a rabbit at all. Maybe the name came with a healthy dose of irony?
Whatever the case, his name burrowed itself into my brain to the extent that his image and moniker always come to mind — still — whenever dead ball baseball comes up (even though Rabbit played most of his career during the live ball era).
For most of my fandom, Maranville has been a mythical figure — a tiny (5’5”, 155 pounds) middle infielder who nevertheless stood toe-to-toe with baseball’s greats and became a legend in his own right.
Of course, you can look at his stats now and see that Rabbit is sort of a borderline Hall of Famer from a statistical standpoint, but he’s still one of “The Top 50 Players” to me.
And the mystique remains.
Part of that, for sure, is that there were just a few Maranville cards issued during his career, and I’ve never even sniffed owning one of those.
Like many of the great early players, though, Rabbit got a second cardboard life as the hobby started to heat up in the second half of the twentieth century, and the Cooperstown denizen appeared in sets like 1961 Fleer Baseball Greats and the 1980 TCMA 1914 Miracle Braves sets.
Still, those weren’t exactly wax-pack buys when I was a kid (or an adult).
Luckily, Rabbit got yet another run in 2012, when Panini issued their “Cooperstown Baseball” cards. The base set features 150 Hall of famers, including Maranville at #62 (which happens to be his age when he died in 1954 — here’s hoping that means Cal Ripken, Jr., will live to be 131).
As with any proper 2010s set, there are all sorts of parallels and inserts and whiz-bangs, but bringing a bona fide myth-legend to cardboard life 100 years after his prime makes 2012 Panini Cooperstown Baseball a winner in my book.
And, considering you can find ol’ Rabbit Maranville for about a buck most days on eBay, maybe this thing should have a book of its own.
A binder with plastic sheets seems just about right.
Hobby Holiday Hots
I really wish I had held onto that old RCA All-Time Greats book — where did it go??
The good news is, you can still find it on Amazon and on eBay, like this offering:
Check out the full listing right here (affiliate link).