Ripken in the Minors

1980 WBTV Charlotte O's Cal Ripken, Jr.

Although the 1980 WBTV Charlotte O's set was not the first Minor League team issued set produced, it still stands as one of the greatest. The 1980 WBTV set followed the 1979 TCMA Ogden A's issue (AAA Rickey Henderson) and was one of three team sets produced in 1980. The October 2006 Huggins and Scott auction may have said it best when they stated, "If the1980 Charlotte O’s Cal Ripken Orange is the 'King of Minor League Cards' then the offered 1980 Charlotte O’s WBTV Blue #16 Cal Ripken is definitely the 'Prince.'"

The 1980 WBTV card of Cal was included in the 28 card set sponsored by WBTV in Charlotte, North Carolina, and is the second toughest Minor League issue to find of Cal to the 1980 Charlotte O's Police card. According to a 1980 Charlotte O's promotional schedule, "every child 14 & under who enters with a paying adult gets a free set of cards.". 1,400 WBTV Charlotte O's sets were produced. 

When you see an authenticated copy of this card, you will see that the card has been given the designation of #16 in the set. In all reality, there is no official checklist to the set and the #16 is not in reference to the card number. We know this for two reasons: 1) 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 and #32 Edwin Neal). So where did the #16 come from? According to the 1980 Charlotte O's program, Cal wore jersey #16. However, at least one program insert (which would have been updated regularly) has Cal listed as #12. Something interesting about this card is the fact that Cal's name is spelled correctly on the front of the card, but spelled incorrectly twice on the back of the card ("Ripkin"). The information on the back of the card reads as follows:

INFIELDER                                       RIPKIN

Cal Ripkin Jr

Born: Aug. 24, 1960; 6'4''; 195; Bats, R; Throws, R

Born: Havre De Grace, MD; Lives, Aberdeen, MD. Son of Cal Ripken, Sr., Orioles third base coach. Selected as shortstop on Topps National Association Class A All-Star Team last season.

No. 16

A fascinating irony of this set can be found in the day that the set was given out. The WBTV Charlotte O's set was given out on May 30, 1980, exactly two years before Cal's consecutive game streak began. Counterfeit copies of this card are all over the secondary market. For more information on how to guard against purchasing a counterfeit copy of this card, be sure to visit our "Spotting Counterfeits" Link.

In the July 2007 issue of Beckett Baseball Card Monthly, Kevin Haake, Associate Editor of the publication, interviewed Cal Ripken, Jr. In the interview, Cal commented on his 1980 WBTV Charlotte O's card when asked "Did you ever actively collect your own Rookie Card?". Cal's response was as follows: "No, I never went looking for them, but I've got them all. The card I have the most quantity of is my 1980 Charlotte WBTV minor league card. This was my first baseball card ever, so I was pretty excited. Somewhere, I've got a box full of those sets."


The Checklist

The checklist for the 1980 WBTV Charlotte O's set (28 cards):

Charlotte O's Logo Header Card
1980 Charlotte O's Team Card
The Pepper Girls
Larry Anderson
John Buffamoyer
Brooks Carey
Doc Cole
John Denman
Tommy Eaton
Kurt Fabrizio
Will George
Jose Gonzales
Drungo Hazewood
Marshall Hester
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 WBTV Charlotte O's Card Gallery

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


The 1980 Charlotte O's Program Speaks

This site would not have been possible without the gracious contributions from Bill Haelig. Bill has been more than willing to share his knowledge and insight from his years of collecting Ripken memorabilia. Bill has also been gracious to share some of the items from his extensive collection with fellow collectors and fans from around the world. In the image below, you will see an insert in the 1980 Charlotte O's program, which announces the WBTV set giveaway. A very special thank you to Bill for his help in making this site what it is today!

(Image Courtesy of the Bill Haelig Collection)


How many sets survived?

1,400 WBTV Charlotte O's sets were produced. However, did 1,400 sets leave Crockett Park on May 30, 1980? Here is a clip from our November 2006 interview with Marshall Hester, Traveling Secretary for the 1980 Charlotte O's:

"The night the cards were given out either we had a sparse crowd or there was a distribution SNAFU because after the game there were hundreds and hundreds of unopened packs left around the concourse. The GM wanted everything cleaned up that night before we left and that included these cards. I assume it was the GM because the souvenir manager had orders from higher up to get rid of the leftover cards. A grocery cart was always tucked in a storage room on the concourse. My kid brother, age 13 and my clubhouse rat, got the cart and we went up and down the concourse chunking the cards into the cart. It filled the entire cart I know because it was tough trying to push it to the dumpster. Into the dumpster the cards went and that was that. My brother may have stuck a set or two in his pocket but I didn't take any. It was no big deal."

To read the complete interview, visit


"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.


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.