If you are a real fan of the vintage cards issued by Topps from 1953 to 1981, you know that a little cartoon appeared on the backs of most of the cards during that time span. (If you have spent as much time studying these cards as I have, God bless you because we are part of a small group truly obsessed with this hobby.) The Heritage and Archives sets recently issued by Topps often use the designs of those earlier years, including many of the original cartoon drawings. I often have thought about trying to match up the original drawings with a current version or determining whether someone else has already done this and made the information available on the web. I also suspect that Topps owns the rights to all of these drawings because under current copyright law they are “works for hire.”
My fascination with the reuse of these images was piqued again this year when I started buying packs of Topps Archives with the first hundred cards using the 1960 format. I was certain I recognized the image on David Price’s card number 31, as well as a few others which carried the same image. I pulled out my notebook with 1960s Reds cards and, sure enough, there was the same image on Bob Purkey’s 1960 card number 4.
The illustrator placed a “C” on the cap of the right-handed pitcher in the cartoon, just like the actual cap you see the righty Purkey wearing in the picture on the front of card number 4. My earlier post on “My Favorite Card” noted that the cartoon on the back of Charley Rabe’s 1958 card did not match the lefty pitcher’s throwing arm. Well, the same thing is true for the reuse of the righty cartoon figure from Purkey’s card number 4 on the 2017 Price card number 31—as we all know, the 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner is a southpaw.
Topps could have used a different cartoon from the 1960 set so that the illustration on the back of Price’s card matched his lefty throwing motion. For instance, the cartoon on the back of Larry Sherry’s 1960 card number 105 is that of a left-handed pitcher like Price. The observant among you will immediately point out that Sherry threw right-handed, not left-handed, but enough is enough. Anyway, by now, I am sure you have concluded that I have, indeed, spent too much of my life examining the front and backs of baseball cards instead of engaging in activities far more useful to society. While there may be some truth in that suggestion, I do hope that a complete examination of my life’s work will show evidence of some efforts that help to balance the ledger.