Ripken in the Minors

About the 1980 Charlotte O's Police Set

The 1980 Charlotte Police set is a parallel of the WBTV team issued set that was given away at the park in the summer of 1980 with a couple of exceptions: First, the orange set contained 3 fewer cards than the blue set (28-25). Cards not included in the orange set were the header card, team picture and Marshall Hester. Second, and most significant, was how the orange set was distributed. While the blue WBTV set would be given away as a complete set at Crockett Park, the orange set, which was produced in much smaller quantities, would be given out one or two cards at a time by officers of the Charlotte Police Department. This card is similar to the WBTV set in that the cards in the set were produced on a very thin and flimsy cardstock. In fact, you can see the writing on the backs of most orange cards if you look at the bottom of the front of the cards.

While the WBTV set consisted of a blue card with an orange O's logo, the police set consisted of an orange border with a blue O's logo. There is no logo on the left side of the orange cards like the blue WBTV set. However, the fact that the card set is sponsored by the Charlotte Police Department is evident on the backs of the cards. The back of each card consists of a tip related to the baseball position of the player featured on the front of the card and a Crime Prevention Tip, with each card carrying a different tip. There is no player information whatsoever on the backs of the orange cards. The following information is included at the bottom of each card:

This tip provided by the Charlotte Police Dept.
Charlotte, N.C. 28202
For Police Emergency - DIAL 911 

When you consider the condition sensitivity of the cards, along with the fact that they were given out one card at a time to children, it should come as no surprise that this set is the rarest Minor League set containing a card of Cal Ripken, Jr. In fact, this card was referred to as the "Holy Grail" in a Huggins and Scott auction (October 2006) that brought $2,300 for an SGC 80 orange Ripken (no team set) before the 15% commission. In regards to the October Huggins and Scott auction, it is worth noting that the SGC 80 orange Ripken shared the cover of the auction catalog with such notable collectables as a PSA 4 1933 Goudy Napoloen Lajoie, SGC 20 1915 Cracker Jack Joe Jackson and 1911 Obak T212 Weaver graded SGC 60. One can only speculate as to the number of orange Ripken cards and the number of complete orange sets. Consensus from reputable collectors of Ripken memorabilia agree that a fair guess would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-100 Charlotte O's Police cards of Cal that are still in existence and 50 or fewer complete sets, but that is pure speculation. When you consider the scarcity of this card, it should come as no surprise that the 1980 Charlotte O's Police card of Cal Ripken, Jr. is extremely undervalued, even at the set value of $3,500 (Beckett Baseball Card Plus, October/November 2006). This set is currently the highest valued team set of all minor league team issues. The $3,500 book value of this set is a full $2,000 higher than the book value of its WBTV counterpart. Of all of the Ripken Minor League cards, this is a must have for your collection.


The Checklist

The checklist for the 1980 Charlotte O's Police set (25 cards):

The Pepper Girls
Larry Anderson
John Buffamoyer
Brooks Carey
Doc Cole
John Denman
Tommy Eaton
Kurt Fabrizio
Will George
Jose Gonzales
Drungo Hazewood
Dave Huppert
Minnie Mendoza
Edwin Neal
Russ Pensiero
Billy Presley
Luis Quintana
Dan Ramirez
Cal Ripken
Willie Royster
John Shelby
Tommy Smith
Don Welchel
Cat Whitfield
Jimmy Williams



1980 Charlotte O's Police Card Gallery

To see the 25 cards of the 1980 Charlotte O's Police set, visit our 1980 Charlotte O's Police Album at


"Unobtainable Sets"

The following article appeared in the April 1990 issue of Minor League Monthly:

1980 Charlotte O’s Minor League Sets 



One of the most frequent questions we are asked is “What is the most difficult minor league sets to obtain?” The answer to this question as far as we are concerned would most definitely be the 1980 Charlotte O’s orange border police set. This particular minor league set is almost impossible to find in complete set form for several reasons: 

1. The 1980 Charlotte O’s orange border cards were intended as a public service by the Charlotte, NC Police Dept. in 1980 and were given away to children at the local schools in Charlotte. The police officers would go into the schools to give a brief talk to the school children about safety tips and then handed out one or two cards each time they held a session. 

2. Cards were not distributed in complete set form, only one or two at a time. 

3. To further complicate matters, the Charlotte O’s stadium burned down later that year and all the remaining cards as well as printing plates and any artwork for the set were destroyed in the fire. (Note from The stadium burned in 1985. There is no evidence that any police cards were ever distributed or housed at Crockett Park.) 

4. The only way for a collector to obtain the cards would be to find a local resident who had single cards and piece together a set one card at a time. 

The 1980 blue border Charlotte O’s set produced by W3TV is also difficult to obtain but it is believed that some of these cards were distributed or sold to the general public in complete set form thus making this set easier to obtain than the police set version. 

The front of the cards in both sets are exactly alike with the exception of the orange border signifying the police set and the blue border signifying the W3TV set. The card backs are completely different between the two sets. The orange border police set has safety tips on the backs of the cards and the blue border set has player information and stats on the card backs. 

There are three (3) more cards in the blue border set that were not issued in the orange border police set. To my knowledge, only three (3) complete sets of the orange border police set are known to exist in the card collecting hobby. The most recent complete set purchase was made by long-time minor league card fanatic, Dayton Ault from Salem, Oregon, who purchased the set from Smitty’s card shop in Charlotte, NC for $1,100.00. The set Dayton purchased was not a mint set, and it is estimated that the value of a truly mint set (if one exists in the hobby) would be closer to between $1,500.00 and $2,000.00. 


If readers have any more information on this extremely rare minor league set, please write us. We would love to hear from you.


Was there a mascot card?

The great thing about the 1980 Charlotte sets is that the legend that is the pair of sets grows with nearly every phone call or conversation with a fellow collector. One such conversation took place in the fall of 2006 when I spoke with a card dealer in North Carolina in search of orange police cards. He asked if I had obtained the mascot card. Long story short, a major collector of Ripken memorabilia had contacted him in pursuit of the mascot card. I was told that the card of the mascot was produced in even smaller quantities than the other cards in the set.

What we do know is that the Charlotte Orioles did in fact have an Oriole as their team mascot. However, no such card existed in the blue stadium giveaway set. The blue set did feature a card with a large Charlotte O's logo on the center of the card with the words "Baltimore Orioles AA Farm Club" across the bottom of the card. Since we do know three cards were left out of the orange set, it may not be totally out of the realm of possibility that this card could have been produced. If anything, I have learned that anything is possible with this set. However, with no hard copy to go on, this rumor seems quite a stretch.


Baseball Tips from the Police Set

The following baseball hints appear on the backs of 22 of the 25 1980 Charlotte O's Police cards:

Pitching Hints:

  • Conditioning, especially the legs, are extremely important to a pitcher. Do plenty of running.
  • Control is the most important asset of a pitcher. Learn to pitch to spots.
  • Make it a point to always back up plays from outfield to third base and home.
  • Keep the ball well hidden in your glove prior to delivering the pitch to the batter.
  • Always be in a position to field balls hit through the box or in vicinity of pitching mound.
  • Follow through on all deliveries, this is a natural move and will ease the strain on the pitching arm.
  • Effective curve balls are thrown around the knees - do not throw it high.

Catching Hints:

  • Always give a good target to your pitcher. Let him know where you want the ball thrown.

First Base Hints:

  • Field ground balls in front of you, head down and eyes on the ball.
  • Practice stretching out to receive throws; one step may mean the difference on an out or safe hit.

Second Base Hints:

  • Practice all types of throws, especially sidearm and underhand which are used most frequently in completing a double play.

Third Base Hints:

  • Get rid of ball as quickly and accurately as possible to avoid sliding runner.
  • Practice fielding fround balls hit in all directions. Study and understand game situation at all times. Know the inning, score count, type and speed of hitter.

Shortstop Hints:

  • A strong, accurate arm, good hands, and ability to move fast are important qualifications of a good shortstop.

Outfield Hints:

  • If two outfielders are in a good position to catch ball, let the one with the better arm make the catch.
  • In catching a fly ball, do so in a relaxed and natural manner. Do not fight the ball.
  • Know the inning, score and hitter at all times. This will guide you in deciding where to throw the ball.
  • Unless you have a good chance of throwing the runner out, throw to the base ahead.
  • Practice throwing overhand and low - especially those hit directly over your head.

Basic Base Running Hints:

  • Take an 8 foot lead from first base on right handed pitcher; 7 feet for left hander.
  • Never run with head down. Be alert.

Batting Hints:

  • Take a natural stance - one that feels comfortable.


Crime Prevention Tips from the Police Set

The following crime prevention tips appear on the backs of 22 of the 25 1980 Charlotte O's Police cards:

  • As a bike rider, you must observe all traffic signals (red and green lights and stop signs), ride on the right side of the street, and signal when turning or stopping. It's the law!
  • If someone tries to get fresh with you - against your will - even if it's a member of your family - tell your mother, teacher or someone else you trust. Don't be afraid; you have done nothing wrong.
  • When riding the school bus, always obey the driver; he or she is responsible for your safety - and your life. Stay in your seat at all times.
  • In North Carolina, cars and bicycles are considered equal on the road. Therefore, traffic laws apply to drivers of cars and riders of bicycles alike. As a bike rider, you have an obligation to ride safely!
  • Always report crimes. Police officers can be only as helpful as you let them be.
  • When you're in the backyard playing, make sure the front door is locked. Someone could slip in and rob your home while you're not looking.
  • Have you ever thought how ugly and wasteful it is when someone damages another person's property? What if it had been done to you? Vandalism is a crime that hurts property - and people.
  • Before opening the door to your home, always make visitors identify themselves. Never let strangers in, especially if your parents aren't at home.
  • When babysitting, make sure you know how to reach the parents in case of emergency, when they're expected home, and whether they're expecting any phone calls. Don't let anyone in without their permission.
  • Never take for granted that drivers see you, whether you're walking or riding your bike. Drivers aren't looking for you, so you must look for them.
  • If you see a burglar in action, get a good description of him, his car and his tag number. Write it down and call the police immediately.
  • Never carry other riders on any part of your bike. That includes the handle bars and the frame behind you. Not only is it dangerous, it's also the law.
  • Rob a thief of his chance to commit a crime: Keep a light on in your house when you're not at home, as well as a light outside. Thieves do their best work in the dark.
  • If a stranger threatens you, run to the nearest adult woman, or a crossing guard, your teacher or parent. No matter how nice strangers may seem, you should never trust them.
  • When answering the telephone, never identify yourself until you know for sure who's calling. Never tell a stranger that you're home alone.
  • Register your bike with the Charlotte Police Department and keep a record of that number. If your bike is stolen, call the police right away, and give the officer your registration number.
  • Police officers are your friends. They protect you and your family, and they can help you if you're lost or in trouble. If you see a crime being committed, or if you are the victim of a crime, call the police immediately.
  • Taking drugs is not only illegal, it's stupid. You never know what you're taking. Drugs can cripple, and they can kill.
  • Don't hide a spare key to your home near the door, above the ledge, under a flower pot or mat. These are the first places a burglar will look.
  • Strangers can be very dangerous. They may seem friendly, but you don't know what they're up to. Never talk to strangers, and never, ever accept gifts or rides from them.
  • If something is locked up, it's much less likely to be taken. So if you have a bicycle, remember: "Out of sight, out of mind!" Leaving your bike out in the open is an invitation to thieves.
  • If you must leave your bike, even for a few minutes, lock it to something sturdy, secure and that can't be moved. Use a heavy padlock and an extra-long chain passed through the spokes of both wheels and frame.


PSA Changes Slabs on 1980 Charlotte Minor League Issues

In a hobby that tends to have more questions than answers, PSA pledged today to do its part in clearing the air on 1980 Charlotte O’s minor league trading cards. 

Up until January 21, 2008,, the PSA flips contained two inaccuracies, one on each of the WBTV and Charlotte Police slabs. The inaccuracy involving the 1980 WBTV blue bordered set involved the slab posting card numbers. In all reality, there is no official checklist. We know this for two reasons: First, seven cards in the set do not have a number on the back of the card (O's Logo Header, Team Card, The Pepper Girls, Marshall Hester, Doc Cole, Minnie Mendoza and Jimmy Williams). Second, there are three cards in the 28 card set that have numbers higher than 28 (#30 Don Welchel, #31 Will George, & #32 Edwin Neal). 

The inaccuracy on the Charlotte Police slabs could be found in the words, TEAM ISSUE. According to an insert from the 1980 Charlotte O’s program, "every child 14 & under who enters with a paying adult gets a free set of cards" on the night of May 30, 1980. This insert also confirms that the set given out that night was the WBTV set. The 1980 Charlotte Police set is a parallel of the WBTV team issued set that was given away at the park in the summer of 1980 with a couple of exceptions: First, the orange set contained 3 fewer cards than the blue set (28-25). Second, and most significant, was how the orange set was distributed. While the blue WBTV set would be given away as a complete set at Crockett Park, the orange set, which was produced in much smaller quantities, would be given out one or two cards at a time by officers of the Charlotte Police Department. It is worth noting that sources inside the Charlotte O’s organization have gone on record as saying that the Charlotte Police cards were never distributed inside Crockett Park.

Instrumental in the changes taking place was Susan Blanco of the PSA Research Department, who was given the assignment from PSA President Joe Orlando. In a message that contained the new labels for the 1980 Charlotte issues, Susan reiterated that PSA "understands the importance of this" and that PSA wants "to give you the best service that we can provide". The attention to detail will be welcomed. With this change, PSA will be the only third party grading service of the "big three" (SGC, BGS) that currently contains accurate information on the slabs of both 1980 issues.


November 2017: First Bulk Appearance of Reprints

Leading up to the fall of 2017, my stance on the possibilities of counterfeit/reprinted copies of Cal's 1980 Charlotte O's Police issue were well documented. While recognizing the legitimate possibility of counterfeit/reprinted copies being out there, I felt the likelihood was small for two reasons:

1. Card Population

2. Card value

Buyer protection was assisted by the facts that someone wanting to reproduce the card would have a hard time purchasing a copy due the supply/demand as well as the cost to obtain a copy. The only way around this would be if an owner was willing to share a high resolution copy of the card. Even without proof of counterfeits/reproductions on the market, this site has always taken the stance of buying authenticated copies of Cal's minor league cards from a reputable third party authenticator. 

In November of 2017, the first batch of "Reprints" hit the secondary market. The lots were posted on eBay in lots of 100. The listings clearly identified the cards as reprints. However, there was no marking on the cards to identify them as reprints. Copies of the card featured the full front as well as the back with the Third Base Hints and Crime Prevention tips from the Charlotte Police Department. The listing noted that the cards were the standard size of a trading card (2.5 x 3.5) and had a standard card thickness. The seller noted that the cards had a glossy finish on both sides of the card. 

For anyone that has researched the 1980 Charlotte O's Police cards, the thickness and gloss of the cards would be red flags to anyone questioning the authenticity of the cards. However, as printing technology continues to evolve, it could be possible that counterfeit/reprinted copies of Cal's "Holy Grail" are out there that better mimic the stock and feel of a true 1980 Charlotte O's Police issue. For these reasons, RITM urges collectors interested in adding any of Cal's minor league issues to do their homework before making any purchase.