Sy Berger

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Seymour Perry "Sy" Berger (July 12, 1923 – December 14, 2014) was an employee of the Topps company for over 50 years. He is credited as being the co-designer of the 1952 Topps baseball series.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Berger, who was Jewish,[2][3] was born on July 12, 1923, in the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan, to Louis (a furrier) and Rebecca Berger.[4] As a boy, he collected baseball cards, traded them and won some from friends by flipping for them. He served in the Army Air Forces in World War II and later graduated from Bucknell University with an accounting degree. While in college, Berger met Joel Shorin, son of Philip Shorin, one of the founders of Topps.[1]

Berger died on December 14, 2014, aged 91, at home in Rockville Centre, New York. He is survived by his wife of 69 years (Gloria Karpf Berger), three children, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.[5][6]

Topps[edit]

Berger's first day at Topps was also the first day that Topps began to produce Bazooka Gum.[7] In the autumn of 1951, Berger, then aged 28, designed the 1952 Topps baseball card set with Woody Gelman on the kitchen table of his apartment on Alabama Avenue in Brooklyn.[8] The card design included a player's name, photo, facsimile autograph, team name and logo on the front; and the player's height, weight, bats, throws, birthplace, birthday, stats and a short biography on the back. The basic design is still in use today. Berger would work for Topps for 50 years (1947–97), achieve the position of vice-president of sports & licensing,[3] and serve as a consultant for another five, becoming a well-known figure on the baseball scene and the face of Topps to major league baseball players, whom he signed up annually[9] and paid in merchandise, like refrigerators and carpeting.[10]

In 1960, because "nobody wanted the stuff" and Topps needed the storage space, Berger had the equivalent of three garbage trucks full of 1952 Topps baseball cards loaded onto a barge. The barge was tugged a few miles, and the cards were dumped into the Atlantic Ocean.[11][12]

At 81, Berger was still busy in various activities, including advising Topps, representing his old friend Willie Mays, playing with his grandchildren and an occasional round of golf.[13]

Legacy[edit]

Since 1978, Berger was a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).[13]

In 1988, he was honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame.[6]

He also earned his own baseball card, #137 in the 2004 Topps series called All-Time Fan Favorites.[6][1]

Berger was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame on April 29, 2012, and acknowledged by the New York Senate for this attainment of success and personal achievement.[10][3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Goldstein, Richard (December 14, 2014). "Sy Berger, Who Turned Baseball Heroes Into Brilliant Rectangles, Dies at 91". New York Times. Retrieved December 14, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Wait ’til next year!". New Jersey Jewish News – NJJN. 
  3. ^ a b c "Sy Berger". National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. The Suffolk Y JCC. 29 April 2012. Retrieved 8 January 2015. 
  4. ^ "How Sy Berger Invented the Baseball Card". The Jewish Daily Forward. December 16, 2014. 
  5. ^ "Sy Berger, father of modern baseball card, dies". ESPN.com. Associated Press. December 14, 2014. Retrieved December 20, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c Barnes, Bart (15 December 2014). "Sy Berger, Topps baseball card designer, dies at 91". The Washington Post. Retrieved 8 January 2015. His wife, Gloria Berger, said he suffered respiratory distress at home after having been released from a hospital for treatment of pneumonia. 
  7. ^ Mint Condition: How Baseball Cards Became an American Obsession, p. 94, Dave Jamieson, 2010, Atlantic Monthly Press, imprint of Grove/Atlantic Inc., New York, NY, ISBN 978-0-8021-1939-1
  8. ^ Mint Condition: How Baseball Cards Became an American Obsession, p. 90, Dave Jamieson, 2010, Atlantic Monthly Press, imprint of Grove/Atlantic Inc., New York, NY, ISBN 978-0-8021-1939-1
  9. ^ Lidz, Franz (May 25, 1981). "In Bubble-gum Cards, Topps Is Still Tops, But No Longer Unchallenged". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on June 6, 2010. Retrieved December 14, 2014. 
  10. ^ a b "Honoring Sy Berger on his induction into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame on April 29, 2012". Resolution J3425-2011. New York Senate. 1 March 2012. Retrieved December 16, 2014. 
  11. ^ Greene, Jamal (December 25, 2000). "Card Game". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on August 25, 2009. Retrieved December 14, 2014. 
  12. ^ Narz, Alan. "Sy Berger: Father of Modern Baseball Cards". YouTube (Video; segment begins at 6:09). Topps. Retrieved 8 January 2015. 
  13. ^ a b Chamberlain, Ryan (14 December 2014) [First published July-August 2004]. "SABR Nine: Sy Berger". Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved 8 January 2015. 

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