In the summer of 1985, Pete Rose was inching closer by the day to breaking Ty Cobb’s all-time hit record of 4191. My friends and I made a five-dollar bet, the winner of which would be whomever among the three of us could compile the most different Pete Rose cards by the time he broke the record.
A few years earlier, Kmart issued a small boxed set that reprinted the Topps card for each player who was awarded a league MVP award from 1962 through 1981, in honor of the store’s 20th anniversary. The set was one that had collected dust on card dealers’ tables for years, eschewed by collectors (especially me) who viewed the set as a box of reprint trash.
For purposes of winning a bet, however, the Kmart set was golden (especially in the days when there were not 500 different cards of every star player printed each year). I knew that Rose would have a Kmart card for his 1973 MVP award and was pleasantly surprised to find the set also included a highlight card, which commemorated Rose having eclipsed Stan Musial’s all-time National League hit record on August 10, 1981. These two Rose cards helped push me over the top. That we were betting on Pete Rose at the same time he was betting on baseball is just a fun coincidence.
An unintended consequence of buying the Kmart set, however, was actually enjoying the remainder of the cards. One that struck me in particular was the 1972 Dick (“Rich”) Allen card because it was, quite frankly, a strange profile view so unlike the standard poses and action shots that Topps typically used. I knew this was a real card I needed to have.
The oddity of the photo used on the 1972 card was highlighted when researching the appearance of mustaches on baseball cards, which culminated in this ground-breaking SABR Baseball Cards Committee article. Allen was identified as having been the first ballplayer to appear on a Topps issue sporting a mustache in his 1971 high-number Dodgers card.
As a member of the White Sox in 1972, Allen slashed .308/.420/.603; led the American League with 37 home runs, 113 runs batted in, and 99 walks; and led all of baseball in facial hair with his trademark mustache and pork chop sideburns. Curiously, however, the 1972 Topps card depicts a youthful, clean-shaven Allen. The 1973 issue corrected the incongruity and featured Allen’s hirsute silhouette, still discernible despite his face having been obscured by shadows.
As Tim Jenkins will attest, Topps made a habit in the 1960s and 1970s of using the same photograph of a player across different issues. The 1972 Dick Allen is no exception in that the same photograph was used for his 1970 issue, while Allen was a member of the Cardinals.
Thanks to some airbrush magic, the photo was purposefully vague in its identification of a particular team, but was happily consistent with Cardinal red and the White Sox color scheme of the time.
It appears, however, that this photo was actually taken while Allen was a member of the Phillies. The clean-cut photo of Allen used in 1970 and 1972 also appears to have been used as the basis for the 1965 Topps Embossed Dick Allen card, which would date the photo to 1965, or earlier, and confirms it was used by Topps to depict Allen on three different teams across eight different seasons.
Dick Allen and Pete Rose may never have been teammates but they certainly share a sacred bond as members of the Kmart boxed set.
The 1965 Ernie Banks Topps flagship card featured a profile pose. Similarly, it appears that this same photo was used as the basis for Banks’ 1965 Topps Embossed issue and helps to document that the Topps embossing process included trimming the length of the ballcap’s bill so the image would fit more comfortably onto the more slender card.
4 thoughts on “Dick Allen and the Very, Very, Very Useful Photo”
This post is a big Blue Light Special!😁
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I may be one of the few people on the planet who likes the 1982 K-Mart set – they were essentially my first cards of Mantle, Mays, Aaron, Clemente, Gibson, Koufax, etc. And they didn’t (and still don’t) cost very much.
I’m curious as to how they chose Drysdale, Aaron, and Rose for the three highlight cards. The 44 card set makes sense (a 132 card sheet yields three full sets), and 41 of those cards were reserved for MVPs. But why those three highlights, other than they occurred during the 1962-1981 period. But they could have chosen 3 former MVPs prior to 1962 (like Aaron) or three highlights from MVPs (either prior to 1962 or, like Rose, from 1962-1982) to make the set all MVPs.
And why not use a Topps card for the three highlight cards? So many questions. Perhaps Jason will do a multi-piece investigative report akin to his work on the Goudey issue to uncover these details.
As for your betting on Rose (which is fantastic), it’s too bad the 1985 Pete Rose set put out by Topps came out after the season (at least that’s what it looks like because his 1985 stat line is complete). That set alone likely would have pushed one of you to the top.
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I loved that 1982 Kmart set when I came out–so much so that after I bought one for $2.49 (or was it $1.99?), when I went back a few months later and they were marked down to $.50 each during a blue light special (not kidding–it really was), I think I bought four more sets. It was a great way to see the designs of older sets that my 13-year-old self had probably only seen photos of in Baseball Cards Magazine to that point, and to get versions of original cards that I never could have afforded. My favorite card in there is the 1962 Maury Wills card because it may have been the first “Card That Never Was” ever printed by Topps.
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I may be one of the few people on the planet who likes the 1965 Topps Embossed set. This article is a golden nugget for me. Thank you!