When it came to their baseball cards, frequently traded players in the ‘50’s and ‘60s suffered the indignity of the blacked-out cap insignia or a bare head shot, when Topps or other companies affixed their images to cardboard. Of course, the ‘70s saw Topps go “over the top” with whole caps and uniforms unartfully altered by the overzealous art department. No player suffered a worse fate at the hands of the airbrush artists than the late Ken Brett, who went under the airbrush six times.
Brett had a spectacular start to his career in ‘67. A late season call up by the Red Sox, the 19-year old pitched effectively in two World Series games. After two years in the minors, Ken received his first card in ‘69 — coupled with Gerry Moses. I must draw attention to Ken’s short bio on the back. The writer was very excited by the fact that Ken was left handed.
After being featured on the Red Sox in ‘71, Brett’s vagabond odyssey begins. Traded to the Brewers in October 1971, the next spring Topps gave him a traditional traded pose, featuring an upturned bill to obfuscate the cap insignia. However, part of the Boston script is visible on his uniform. Then the fun begins. A trade to the Phillies results in an airbrushed classic cap and poorly altered jersey trim in ‘73. Ken is on the move again ‘74, resulting a true masterpiece.
His trade to the Pirates necessitates an airbrush job using a mustard yellow palate. Apparently, the “air brusher” forgot that the Pirates cap featured a black bill. The spectacular all yellow cap has a nice velour look, reminiscent of Dock Ellis’ flocked helmet in the ‘71 All-Star game.
After two unaltered cards, it’s back to the paint jobs. Ken has a “Traded” card in ‘76 with drawn on Yankee pinstripes. This is followed by an ersatz Angels cap in ‘78, Dodgers in ‘80 and Royals in ‘81.
There may be another player with six or more airbrushed cards, but I’m crowning Ken Brett “King of the Airbush Era.”