A heartwarming tale about friendship and a 60-year-old minor-league baseball card

Kevin Kaduk
Big League Stew

George Owen III never became a baseball superstar. After getting a late start to his career, the outfielder spent four seasons in the Boston Braves' minor-league organization before hanging up his equipment to pursue an accounting job.

But despite never recording a major league at-bat, Owen did leave behind a few records from his minor-league days. One is his page on Baseball-Reference. The other is a baseball card from his days with the Ventura Braves, an old Boston affiliate from California. Printed in a long-forgotten team set, the 1952 card is still the ultimate reminder that Owen, who is now 86 years old and resides in Fort Worth, Texas, was a professional ballplayer.

And that's where William Harp comes in. A family friend of Owen's for almost 50 years, Harp thought it would be cool if he could track down the Owen's card and give it to him as a gift. John Henry has the full story of Harp's search in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and it ends with Harp using the Internet to find a private collector in California who owned the card.

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Although the powers of the worldwide web brought Harp the card in just two weeks, it was a rare find. A limited run of the Ventura Braves cards were printed and Harp said he was told a flood in a warehouse several decades ago had destroyed any surplus of the sets.

From the Star-Telegram:

"Finding a card like this is like winning the lottery twice," said Harp, an Austin resident who grew up in Arlington, where his parents still reside. "After about 200 emails and about 30 phone calls, I finally had it."

The cards were used by the team and players as promotional material. Typically, players were given a set of the team and anywhere between 10 and 50 of their own cards to pass out among the masses as they went about their daily living, Harp said.

The story of Harp and Owen is a good one, not only because it's a nice tale of one friend doing something nice for another, but because a lot of us can relate to launching an extensive search for that one perfect gift for a friend or family member. A simple Internet search of "George Owen" and "Ventura Braves" shows just how many rocks Harp looked under during his pursuit of the card.

Harp estimates that there are "only about five or 10" cards still in existence and he was lucky enough to secure one of them as the perfect present in a very happy holiday.

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