Friday, May 31, 2013


Topps' 1977 set was a great example of clean design. White borders with an italicized color-coded team name at the top along with the players name and position, which was set inside a flag at the upper right.
Coming off of the previous two years that exploded with color, the 1977 set was a nice change of pace and had some instant card classics for me that still hold up to this day.
One of these was card #420, Rusty Staub.
What an awesome looking card. The brown "Tigers" up top sat well with the action shot of Staub coming out of the batter's box. To top it all off, the "A.L. All-Star" banner that ran across the bottom evened the card design out, giving it the perfect platform.
Always one of my favorites!
The Tigers were well represented that year with All-Stars, having Ron LeFlore and Mark Fidrych joining Staub, and I'll be writing about the Fidrych card soon enough, so keep an eye out for it. Talk about a classic card!
"Le Grande Orange" in action


I "kind of" already started this idea with the Steve Garvey 1973 post earlier ("What Were They Thinking!?": Part I), but I wanted to also start a series where I finally get to re-do a bunch of cards of STAR players of the 1970's who were shafted with terrible photos.
I'll never forget how much it sucked when the new cards were out, and you pull a star card out of a pack only to look at the picture and think, "this sucks!"
That '73 Garvey was definitely one of them, and here is another one from that horribly photographed set: #255 Reggie Jackson.

"WHAT THE...?!?!"

Come on Topps!? This is Reggie Jackson and the best photo you have for him is one where he looks like he's trying to squeeze a watermelon out of his ass while doing the "funky chicken"?! Jeez...
And look at the background! I can't really make it out, but I swear it looks like the entire top part of the image is a person in shorts bending over towards the right. Am I correct? Ugh...
Anyway, please allow me to recreate this card with a better image, showing Jackson approximately around the same time. (Only so many photos I have access to). Enjoy.

"Do-Over" #1

So from here on in, I'll have the "What Were They Thinking" series for terrible cards of common players, where I won't be recreating the card, and this series, "Gimme a Do-Over" which will focus on STAR cards that I WILL recreate with better photography.


We all know there were dozens of characters donning major league uniforms throughout the 1970's. And sometimes we were lucky enough to have these players show that quirkiness on their baseball cards.
Today, I present to you Lowell Palmer, "a man of mystery". What was he hiding behind those dark shades? What genius lurked there?
Sadly, not much when it was all said and done, as Palmer's career didn't mirror that of another Palmer in the majors at the time, Jim.
Lowell managed to stretch out a five year run in the big leagues with 5 wins against 18 losses, while pitching for the Phillies, Cardinals, Indians and Padres.
Oddly, his 1972 card (and his final card), shows him as a Chicago White Sox, for whom he never pitched. But at least we finally get to see those baby blues through the amber-tinted specs he's sporting. Thanks Lowell!
On another note: here you have a good look at the progression over three years regarding design: 1970, 1971 and 1972. From grey blandness all the way to psychedelic glory.



Thursday, May 30, 2013


Throughout the 1970's Topps used airbrushing to try and quickly fix a player's photo who switched teams at the last second, before cards went to press.
Some notable star players who had this done on their cards were Nolan Ryan in 1972 and Reggie Jackson in 1977. 
Now, while we all know that airbrushing only goes so far, kind of like lipstick on a pig, the Topps team did a decent enough job most of the time, considering what technology they had on hand.
However, there WERE times where we have to stare at the final result and wonder "W.T.F.?!"
A great example of these airbrush failures is the 1975 Rudy May card shown below. Just LOOK at that "NY" on his cap!
Wow. Not even close! That "N" is actually hilarious to look at!
I plan on revisiting this topic repeatedly in the future as I come across other airbrush failures, so keep an eye out for them! Enjoy…


I've always considered the 1979 Topps set one of the more boring, uninspired sets of the decade. The design was flat, it lacked any kind of color or excitement, most of the "important" players had lame photos, and I swear it seemed like Topps used a different kind of card stock, which felt less "slick" (I'm probably imagining this one, but I STILL insist). 
Even their good idea of having an "All-Time Record Holders" sub-set fell flat on its face with horrible design choice (see below. Ugh).
Funny enough however, the set did include what ended up being two of my favorite cards of the decade: George Brett (#330) and Rod Carew (#300). For some reason, the way the photos interacted with the rest of the card design ended up working well together. The blue tones of the Brett card image play well off the brown, yellow and red of the card design, while the overall blue and red tones on the Carew card work well with the Twins design color scheme.
Two classic cards depicting two classic players. I'm sure what help's even more is the fact that both cards show "action" shots, instead of some lame photos like Mike Schmidt and Reggie Jackson, or sadly Thurman Munson's last card and Ozzie Smith's first card.
As a side note, many baseball fans will point out that Carew was actually an Angel for the 1979 season, and there are some out there who went ahead and designed a "card that never was" with Carew as an Angel. I've also drawn one up and included it here to add to the virtual "collection.

Topps regular issue card as a Twin

My own "corrected" update as an Angel

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Today's post is the first in what I hope will be a recurring series called "What Were They Thinking?!", which will highlight random cards from the 1970's that used awful photographs, or were inexplicably cropped, etc.
The reason I even thought of doing this was because I was recently reminded of that awful photo Topps used for Steve Garvey's 1973 card #213.
Seriously, who on earth looked at this photo and thought, "PERFECT. That's what we'll use!"??? Was this really the best photo they had on file for Garvey?
You know, I have a theory: perhaps Wes Parker had some relative working for Topps, and THEY were the one to slip this shot in there. What else would explain how Parker is actually the player prominently displayed on the card?
Sure, there's a bit of karma here in that Garvey ended up taking Parkers job over at first base that very season, but come on. Why didn't the photographer wait the extra couple seconds until Garvey was in the shot unobstructed?
Actually, the 1973 set will garner a ton of attention for this on-going series since it is littered with terrible photography, especially for many of the horizontal cards used that year. (I already have "Part II written, and it depicts one of the all-time hilarious classics from the '73 set).
As I was perusing the "Topps Baseball Cards" book last night, I was reminded of how bad many of those cards really were, especially some pictures that seemed like they were taken from the ballpark parking lot or through a telescope!
OK, but that will be for a different day. Today, we celebrate the folly that was THIS card:

"Is that Garvey peeking over Parker's shoulder?"

A revised "quickie" with a better photo


It seems incredible to believe, but there was a time in the not too distant past that men wearing mustaches was NOT appropriate for "appropriate" society. As a matter of fact, for professional baseball, we were already a couple of years into the 1970's before a player showed up to Spring training wearing one. Problem is, baseball has what is becoming one of those legends that is actually NOT true, so let's set the record straight and give credit where credit is due.
As you know, legend has it that in 1972 Reggie Jackson showed up to Spring training wearing a "scraggly" mustache (as Rollie Fingers would state years later), and it lead to a challenge for all players to grow one of their own, all in the name of publicity for the eternal showman owner Charlie Finley. Of course, as we all know by now, this team of rebellious ball players with nicknames like "Catfish" Hunter and  "Blue Moon" Odom were on their way to three consecutive championships, and were as colorful a bunch as any in baseball history.
Problem is, though they are credited as the players (specifically Reggie) to usher in the hairy decade that was the 1970's, it was another, even MORE rebellious player who sported the first "soup strainer" to be seen on a baseball card in the modern era: Richie Allen and his 1971 regular issue Topps card (#650).
Allen, who some would say re-defined the term "head case", played his only season as a Dodger in 1971. But since Topps issued him as part of their last series of the set, they were able to have him in the correct uniform, and as history would have it, sporting his 'stache for all to see and admire.
As a short-print card in a later series on an already above-average valued set (because of the sensitive black borders and card condition), the card carries a decent price tag. But for all you quirky sub-set collectors out there, this may be the easiest "1st" out there: the very first Topps baseball card to show a mustachioed player.
Richie Allen with his groundbreaking 'stache

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


As I mentioned earlier, I was always a fan designating an All-Star on the player's regular issue card, which was in practice by Topps between 1975 and 1981.
For all except that last year (1981), Topps simply picked the starting nine for each league of the previous year's All-Star game. Yet for some reason, they inexplicably forgot to slap the "All-Star" on the following three cards, 1975 Reggie Jackson, 1978 Richie Zisk and 1979 Freddie Patek, and to this day I have no idea why.
If anyone has any idea why this was done please let me know. It would put to rest a mystery that has been bouncing around in my head ever since. As a matter of fact, I remember back when the 1979 set came out, it had what seemed to be my entire elementary school searching for that ever elusive American League All-Star card! Every boy in that school was on a mission for that card, not knowing that it never existed.
Since many of you out there enjoy the practice of designing or making up your own cards, I took the liberty of "fixing" these mistakes myself and present them here. The left side represents what was actually issued, while the right side shows "what should have been."
It's especially sad for Patek since this would have been the only All-Star card of his career. For Zisk, it would have marked a two-year run on All-Star cards since he was correctly designated as an All-Star the following year, which was his only A.S. card to this point.
For some of us this actually matters, as sad as it may seem. ;)


Saturday, May 25, 2013


Topps 1976 #300 Johnny Bench.
Where do I even begin with what is my all-time favorite baseball card? First off, can a man actually be "in love" with a piece of cardboard? Ever since I pulled one of these our of a wax pack when I was seven years old, I was mesmerized.
What a bad-ass look on his face, standing there with an inexplicable dust-cloud hovering around him at home plate. This was a time when the Big Red Machine was terrorizing everyone on their way to two straight championships, including a sweep in the World Series that very year of my beloved Yankees.
Yeah Pete Rose may have been the hard-nosed leader of this juggernaut, but looking at this card always made me this Bench was one dude not to mess with!
The photograph, the cropping, the overall coloration in the card's design, and of course the "All-Star" designation screaming out to you on the lower left, this card has it all, and it's held up in my eyes all these years later.
Simply a classic baseball card.

A Brief Introduction to Someone's Obsession with 1970's Topps Baseball Cards...

As a sports card collector for some 35 years, as well as a Graphic Designer for over 20, I've always had my "favorites" as far as card designs go, whether it was a set or even an individual player. Who can argue with the fact that the 1952 Topps baseball set, or 1953 Bowman baseball set were simply sublime in design? Or what about those Allen & Ginter or Mayo Plug masterpieces from 100+ years ago? Little rectangular pieces of art!
However, as a "child of the 1970's", I must admit I have always had a warm spot in my heart for those Topps baseball sets of the decade. We were given psychedelic, eye-gouging designs like 1972 and 1975, while also having bland, almost inexplicably boring set designs in 1970 and 1973. And who can forget that frustrating (for a condition-sensitive collector today) 1971 set with the black borders?! Topps seemed to be trying to catch up with the "go-go" '70's, exploding with color, design, and sometimes even photography after pumping out "middle of the road" offerings ever since Bowman bailed out of the baseball card game in 1956. I mean, besides the "clean" 1967 design, which was really just an updated version of the 1957 design, Topps really just kind of phoned-it-in between 1960-1970 in my opinion.
Then, out of nowhere, they hit us with that aforementioned 1971 set, black and bold with some horizontal cards thrown in for extra "kick", only to visually rape us with that acid-trip of a 1972 set! As a matter of fact that set was so visually explosive that it seems to have made Topps take a step back for a couple of years in 1973 and 1974 to have some time to reload before they jumped into the color pool again with their 1975 edition!
Personally, the apex of Topps baseball was indeed the run between 1975 and 1978. Those four sets were, and still are, just magic to me. The colors of 1975 and 1976, along with the clean designs from 1977 and 1978 made these sets my favorites to this very day. On top of it all, I was always a sucker for the All-Star cards being the players' regular issue card. I'm sure many would disagree with me here, but I never liked separate All-Star cards for players. I always felt that when you pulled a player's card from a pack, and saw that "All-Star" designation on the card, it was awesome to turn to the back to see the very stats that made them an "All-Star" to begin with. That run of regular issue All-Star cards from 1975-1981 will be examined further in the near future, sort of a sub-set of articles actually. But for the near future, allow me to jump right into the cards of that crazy decade that burned themselves into my brain and have stuck with me all these years…


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