10 June 2016

Hobby Archaeology: 1978 Sports Photo Assoc(iates) 3-inch Pins

     Another area that is perhaps a bit neglected in the sports memorabilia hobby would be the various round, pin-backed badges produced by a variety of parties and issued though a multitude of avenues.  While some sets are very well documented, others just seem to coast along in an odd state of limbo.  One such set that is both very well known, yet very poorly documented would be the "1978" Sports Photo Associates pins.  I put 1978 in quotes because, while almost all of the pins issued feature a 1978 copyright notice along the outer edge, the set clearly extended well beyond 1978.

     In addition to the set being extended across several years, there are also multiple sets that seem to overlap in that time period.  I will try to break them down as well as I can, with the relatively limited information I have, and try to put some order to the chaos.

    In 1978, "Sports Photo Associates" began issuing two sets of numbered pins, three inches in diameter, full color, and based on uncut sheets found on eBay, they two sets were printed together for at least part of the run.  One set featured contemporary players and managers, mostly featuring the individuals name, a facsimile signature and a small number.  The other set had "Baseball Hall of Fame" arching across the top, in a sort of gothic calligraphy, and featured the players name and a number beginning with 'HF' and showed a copyright of either 1978 or 1981.  The Hall of Fame set seems to have included 40 players as follows:

HF1Babe Ruth (1978)
HF2Lou Gehrig (1978)
HF3Jackie Robinson (1978)
HF4Hank Greenberg (1978)
HF5Lou Bourdeau (1978)
HF6Al Kaline (1978)
HF7Hank Aaron (1978)
HF8Yogi Berra (1978)
HF9Ernie Banks (1978)
HF10Eddie Mathews (1978)
HF11Whitey Ford (1978)
HF12Bob Feller (1978)
HF13Monte Irvin (1978)
HF14Roy Campanella (1978)
HF15Roberto Clemente (1978)
HF16Bob Lemon (1978)
HF17Sandy Koufax (1978)
HF18Willie Mays
HF19Bob Gibson (1981)
HF20Duke Snider
HF21Robin Roberts
HF22Joe DiMaggio (1981)
HF23Ted Williams
HF24Mickey Mantle (1981)
HF25Brooks Robinson
HF26Frank Robinson
HF28Juan Marichal
HF31Jack Brickhouse
HF32Harmon Killebrew
HF33Pee Wee Reese
HF34Luis Aparicio
HF35Don Drysdale
HF37Enos Slaughter
HF38John Mize
HF40Lou Brock

     The other main set was numbered from '1' to at least '363'.  The last two pins I've seen were of Pete Rose, and the second highest numbered was '344' and featured him in his Montreal Expos uniform  (these can be seen over at 4192cards.com).  Several players were included multiple times.  In some cases, as with Dave Winfield and Pete Rose, with different teams.  In other cases, players were included on multiple pins for the same team, including Reggie Jackson, Fred Lynn, George Brett and Johnny Bench.  The Fleer Sticker Project features an interesting post about this set as the pins were available as part of a promotion on 1981 Fleer wax wrappers.  The Sports Photo Associates also seems to have beena resource for photos for Fleer for their inaugural sets.

1981 Fleer and Sports Photo Associates Buttons

     Below is the checklist I have assembled so far (which will be updated as new pins are uncovered). Thus far, it covers 230 of the known 400+ pins in the set:

1Ron Guidry (Yankees)
1Ron Guidry (ASCCA advertisement)
2Jim "Catfish" Hunter (Yankees)
3Rich Gossage (Yankees)
4Thurman Munson (Yankees)
5Ed Figueroa (Yankees)
6Willie Randolph (Yankees)
8Billy Martin (Yankees)
9Reggie Jackson (Yankees)
10Lou Piniella (Yankees)
11Graig Nettles (Yankees)
16Bucky Dent (Yankees)
18Greg Luzinski (Phillies)
21Larry Christianson (Phillies)
22Larry Bowa (Phillies)
24Ron Reed (Phillies)
25Steve Carlton (Phillies)
26Tug McGraw (Phillies)
31Mike Schmidt (Phillies)
36Jim Rice (Red Sox)
39Carlton Fisk (Red Sox)
44Roy Smalley (Orioles)
45Fred Lynn (Red Sox)
47Carl Yastrzemski (Red Sox)
69Dave Parker (Pirates)
71Willie Stargell (Pirates)
81Rich Gossage (Yankees)
83George Brett (Royals)
84Bob Lemon (Yankees)
85Mike Flanagan (Orioles)
86Jim Palmer (Orioles)
87Eddie Murray (Orioles)
88Ken Singleton (Orioles)
89Frank Robinson (Orioles)
90Andre Thornton (Indians)
92Rick Manning (Indians)
93Rick Waits (Indians)
94Duane Kuiper (Indians)
96Dennis Leonard (Royals)
97Paul Splittorff (UER, Last Name Misspelled)
98Darrell Porter (Royals)
99Fred Patek (Royals)
100Amos Otis (Royals)
102Al Hrabosky (Royals)
103Clint Hurdle (Royals)
104Sparky Lyle (Rangers)
105Jim Sundberg (Rangers)
106Bert Campaneris (Rangers)
107Richie Zisk (Rangers)
108Al Oliver (Rangers)
109Jim Kern (Rangers)
110Buddy Bell (Rangers)
111Chet Lemon (White Sox)
112Don Kessinger (White Sox)
113Lamar Johnson (White Sox)
114Jorge Orta (White Sox)
116Dwight Evans (Red Sox)
117Dennis Eckersley (Red Sox)
118Larry Hisle (Brewers)
119Mike Caldwell (Brewers)
120Robin Yount (Brewers)
121Gorman Thomas (Brewers)
122Sixto Lezcano (Brewers)
123Ron LeFlore (Tigers)
124Mark Fidrych (Tigers)
125Jason Thompson (Tigers)
126Dave Rozema (Tigers)
127Rusty Staub (Tigers)
130Rick Cerone (Blue Jays)
132Nolan Ryan (Angels)
133Frank Tanana (Angels)
134Bobby Grich (Angels)
135Don Baylor (Angels)
136Joe Rudi (Angels)
137Rod Carew (Angels)
138Matt Keough (Athletics)
140Dave Revering (Athletics)
141John Henry Johnson (Athletics)
142Butch Wynegar (Twins)
143Dave Goltz (Twins)
144Roy Smalley (Twins)
145Ruppert Jones UER (misspelled Ryppert, Mariners)
146Leon Roberts (Mariners)
147Bruce Bochte (Mariners)
148Dan Meyer (Mariners)
149Pete Rose (Phillies)
150Dave Kingman (Cubs)
151Bobby Murcer (Cubs)
153Bruce Sutter (Cubs)
154Ivan DeJesus (Cubs)
155Ted Simmons (Cardinals)
156Gary Templeton (Cardinals, no signature)
157Lou Brock (Cardinals)
158Bob Forsch (Cardinals)
159Ron Cey (Dodgers)
160Tom Lasorda (Dodgers)
161Davey Lopes (Dodgers)
162Reggie Smith (Dodgers)
163Don Sutton (Dodgers)
164Tom Seaver (Reds)
165Johnny Bench (Reds)
166Joe Morgan (Reds)
167Dave Concepcion (Reds)
168George Foster (Reds)
169Ken Griffey (Reds)
170Phil Niekro (Braves)
171Jeff Burroughs (Braves)
172Gary Matthews (Braves)
173Biff Pocoroba (Braves)
174Bob Horner (Braves)
175Ross Grimsley (Expos)
176Gary Carter (Expos)
178Ellis Valentine (Expos)
179Tony Perez (Expos)
180Vida Blue (Giants)
181Willie McCovey (Giants)
182Jack Clark (Giants)
183Gary Lavelle (Giants)
184Bill Madlock (Giants)
185Dave Winfield (Padres)
186Gaylord Perry (Padres)
187Rollie Fingers (Padres)
189J.R. Richard (Astros)
190Cesar Cedeno (Astros)
191Bob Watson (Astros)
192Enos Cabell (Astros)
193Yogi Berra (Yankees)
194Bill Buckner (Cubs)
196Doug DeCinces (Orioles)
197Tommy John (Yankees)
198Steve Kemp (Tigers)
199Darrell Evans (Giants)
200Thurman Munson (Yankees)
200Thurman Munson (Yankees)
"The Captain 1947-1979"
201Craig Reynolds (Astros)
202Joe Niekro (Astros)
203Paul Molitor (Brewers)
204Scott Thompson
205Jerry Martin (Cubs)
206Ray Knight (Reds)
209Keith Hernandez (Cardinals)
210Earl Weaver (Orioles)
211Brian Downing (Angels)
212Alan Bannister (White Sox)
213Ken Kravec (White Sox)
214Lance Parrish (Tigers)
215Willie Wilson (Royals)
217Jerry Koosman (Twins)
218Rick Bosetti (Blue Jays)
221Lee Mazzilli (Mets)
222Fred Lynn (Red Sox)
223Carl Yastrzemski (Red Sox)
224Bucky Dent (Yankees)
225Rick Cerone (Yankees)
226Bobby Murcer (Yankees)
227Oscar Gamble (Yankees)
229Dale Berra (Pirates)
229Phil Garner (Pirates)
230Bill Madlock (Pirates)
231Omar Moreno (Pirates)
232Dave Collins (Reds)
233Johnny Bench (Reds)
234Junior Kennedy (Reds)
235Billy Martin (Athletics)
236Nolan Ryan (Astros)
238Cecil Cooper Brewers)
239Ben Oglivie (Brewers)
240George Brett (Royals)
241Joe Lefebvre (Yankees)
242Ruppert Jones (Yankees)
243Bobby Brown (Yankees)
244Jim Spencer (Yankees)
245Bob Watson (Yankees)
246Rudy May (Yankees)
247Steve Stone (Orioles)
249Al Bumbry (Orioles)
250Rick Dempsey (Orioles)
251Maury Wills (Mariners)
253Mike Norris (A's)
254Rickey Henderson (A's)
257Jose Cruz (Astros)
258Jeff Reardon (Mets)
259Neil Allen (Mets)
260Alex Trevino (Mets)
261Len Barker (Indians)
262Lonnie Smith (Phillies)
263Joe Charboneau (Indians)?
265Bob Stanley (Red Sox)
266Dennis Eckersley (Red Sox)
267Jim Rice (Red Sox)
269Carlton Fisk (Red Sox)
270Manny Trillo (Phillies)
271Tug McGraw (Phillies)
273Bob Boone (Phillies)
274Larry Bowa (Phillies)
275Bake McBride (Phillies)
276Garry Maddox (Phillies)
277Dave Winfield (Yankees)
278Jerry Mumphrey (Yankees)
279Dave Kingman (Mets)
280Rusty Staub (Mets)
281Mookie Wilson (Mets)
282Hubie Brooks (Mets)
285Joel Youngblood (Mets)
287Reggie Jackson (Yankees)
289Dale Murphy (Braves)
291Reggie Jackson (Angels)
292Steve Sax (Dodgers)
295Fernando Valenzuela (Dodgers)
295Dave Righetti (Yankees)
296Dave Winfield (Yankees)
297Steve Kemp (Yankees)?
301Charlie Moore (Brewers)
304Cal Ripken Jr. (Orioles)
306Darryl Strawberry (Mets)
307Jody Davis (Cubs)
307Leon Durham (Cubs)
307Wade Boggs (Wade Boggs)
308Mel Hall (Cubs)
309Ryne Sandberg (Cubs)
310Fergie Jenkins (Cubs)
311Ron Kittle (White Sox)
312Ted Simmons (Brewers)
314Greg Luzinski (White Sox)
315Keith Moreland (Cubs)
316Don Sutton (Brewers)
324Bo Diaz (Phillies)
327Gary Matthews (Phillies)
330John Denny (Phillies)
335Don Mattingly (Yankees)
344Pete Rose (Expos)
345Tom Seaver (White Sox)
347Julio Cruz (White Sox)
355Bob Dernier (Cub)
356Scott Sanderson (Cubs)
357Gary Matthews (Cubs)
359Jack Morris (Tigers)
360Alan Trammell (Tigers)
361Kirk Gibson (Tigers)
362Lee Smith (Cubs)
363Pete Rose (Reds)
400Ron Cey (Cubs)
818Davey Lopws (Cubs)
824Dennis Eckersley (Cubs)

     To help confuse matters, unnumbered pins were issued for the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Pirates and Phillies.  These often feature the same photograph, but merely lack the small number on the front.  There were also a set of 4-inch pins issued for teams featuring multiple players.

SPA-1New York Yankees (1979)
SPA-2Los Angeles Dodgers (1979)
SPA-3Philadelphia Phillies (1979)
SPA-4Boston Red Sox (1979)
SPA-12Philadelphia Phillies (1982)
SPA-20Chicago White Sox (1983)
SPA-22Philadelphia Phillies (1983)
SPA-23Chicago Cubs (1984)

 Thanks to Cliff Bowman, from the Net54Baseball.com forum for the addition of the most recent 25 pins.


  1. Oh man... I need to add the Rickey Henderson button to my wantlist.

  2. "Sports Photo Association" likely means TCMA. These were sold in their ads and "Baseball Quarterly" publications. The Fleer tie-in is stronger because I believe TCMA provided most of the pictures for Fleer in 1981. Interestingly enough they provided the hobby distribution for 1981 Donruss IIRC. I'll have to find an add for these in one of my old hobby publications. I remember they were advertised in places like Baseball Digest also. As a child I also bought them at retail, it probably was at Kay Bee or some sporting goods retailer.

    1. The name of the company is Sports Photo Associates (not Association)and they had nothing to do with TCMA. The player photos taken for the 1978 copyright buttons were eventually used for the 1981 Fleer baseball cards. In 1980 Fleer won a lawsuit in Federal District Court, to begin distributing baseball cards again.

      The courts decision was made on June 30, 1980, and caused Fleer to rush production to be ready for the 1981 season. Sports Photo Associates had licensed photos in stock, that they had taken for the buttons, and made a deal with Fleer.

    2. Thanks for that, I've revised the post and now I'm finding some better information with my web searches.

  3. Hello Jason, I have more info on my website but I don't want to spam this blog, so I posted as Anonymous. I'm in touch with the son of the owner of Sports Photo Associates. He even took some of the photos that were used for the buttons and Fleer cards. The problem is he doesn't have too much information in the way of a checklist. Everything he knows is by memory.

    I included the URL from my website for the buttons in the "Comment as" drop box. I'm trying to put together a checklist for the team buttons and ran into this page. So far I only have one more than you have listed. - Steven KeyMan

  4. I can add to the HOF pin list. HF27 Hank Aaron, HF29 George Kell, HF30 Walter Alston, and HF39 Hoyt Wilhelm.