On cropping and layers

For most of baseball card history there have been two basic types of card designs. Either the photo is placed in a box* or the player is silhouetted onto a background.** Both of these designs are pretty straightforward with their image requirements in that designers only have to think about what is and isn’t shown in the photos.

*Straightforward but none more pure of an example than 1953 Bowman.

**1914 Cracker Jacks, 1949 Bowman, 1958 Topps, and many of the inserts from the 1980s to today.

There’s a third design though which took over cards in the 1990s and has made photo cropping difficult ever since. Rather than putting photos in boxes the trend toward full-bleed cards has created design after design that layers text and other graphic elements on top of the photo itself.

While it’s true that this design took over in the 1990s and was made extremely easy to do by foil stamping, it’s important to realize that its ancestry has been in cards for decades and in fact tended to surface every decade. So let’s go back to one of the first such designs.

Yup. 1957. I sometimes jokingly refer to this as proto-Stadium Club except that the photos themselves are pretty standard Topps photos that you’d expect to see until about 1991 or so. Posed shots showing a player’s upper body, headshots, and a few full-body “action” (at this point still posed) images.

The first thing to point out here is that Topps likes to put the players’ heads as high in the frame that it can. The next thing to look at—specifically in the Kluszewski and Thompson cards—is how Topps deals with the text overlapping the image. Topps likes to crop at players’ waists and at their necklines. In 1957 this is frequently where the top of the text starts but there’s another half inch of image visible under the text.

On the upper-body portraits this extra half inch can give us a little more information about the location of the photo and allow us to see the field and stadiums.

Photographically, these photos were also composed somewhat loose since the image area of the film is huge* and the photographer knew things would be cropped later. This is why in the Gomez card there’s so much grass in the foreground.

*at least 2 and a quarter inches square and quite likely more like 4 inches by 5 inches.

Now we flash forward a decade. On a lot of other sets* before this the image frame is knocking off a corner of the photo. This isn’t the same kind of design/photography issue since most of the photos are somewhat centered so there’s rarely something of import in the corners.

*eg. 1962, 1963, and 1965. Plus in 1966 there’s a layering effect in the corner.

1967 though is exactly like 1957 only there’s text at both the top and the bottom of the card now. Topps is doing the same thing as it did in 1957 too except that the players’ heads are now a little lower in the frame so that the names and positions can fit. The waist and neckline croppings though are pretty close to the 1957 croppings.

The net result here is that we get to see a lot more stadium details in many of the cards—giving the set a photographic character which differs from the other 1960s Topps offerings.

The Fuentes card though shows the dangers of this kind of design. Unlike the 1957 Gomez, Fuentes’s feet—and even his glove—are covered by the team name. This isn’t a big problem with a posed “action” photo but becomes much more of an issue when we move into the age of action photography.

I’ll jump to Japan for the 1970s since the Calbee sets of that decade deserve a mention. It’s obviously doing something very similar with extending the photo under the text. At the same time the simplicity of the text almost makes it an absence of design. In a good way.

It might be because I can’t read the text but the way it’s handled encourages me to not see it. Not because it’s not readable. Quite the opposite in fact. The way the text changes from black to white on the Sadaharu Oh card is handled masterfully in how my brain barely notices it. It’s there as information but manages to not take anything away from the photos.

It is worth noting though that the cropping on Oh and Davey Johnson is pretty similar to Topps’s standard cropping. And that third card of Hisao Niura tying his shoes has enough foreground space to give the text plenty of room to be legible.

Toppswise I skipped 1969 since it’s such a photographic nightmare that I don’t feel like it’s a fair to look at the photos. (Offhand though it’s interesting to note that it tends to crop the photos tighter at the bottom than 1967’s or 1957’s designs do.) 1980 is close, super close, to being included but it still feels like more of a corner-based design. Which brings us to 1988.

Not much to note with 1988 except for the layering of the player on top of the team name which is on top of the background. This is a wonderfully subtle bit of design that allows the photos to feel like they’re cropped similarly to the rest of Topps’s cards. Instead of getting more image area the layering doesn’t affect the image too much.

1991 brought us Stadium Club and the beginning of the full-bleed era of cards. Looking at this first set shows both that Topps was being pretty considerate with its cropping and how things would start to break.

Where earlier sets had the benefit of posed photos which could be cropped, as action photography began to be the priority for card companies the room for cropping started to decrease. For every card like Kent Anderson where there’s enough room for the graphics there’s a card like Damon Berryhill where the graphic is starting to intrude into the image.

1992 Stadium Club shows an alternative to just slapping a graphic on the bottom of the card. That Topps moves the graphic depending on where it best fits the photo is fantastic.

It’s also a lot of work since it requires each card to be designed individually. Instead of positioning an image into a template, this design requires the image and graphic to be adjusted until they work together. Find the best cropping, then adjust the graphic. This extra amount of work is probably why this approach hasn’t really been revisited since 1992.

By 1993 the standard operating procedure had been set. This design captures the way most sets ever since have been designed. A basic template, drop the picture in. Don’t worry if the graphic obscures an important part of the photo.

One of my pet peeves in the full-bleed era is when there’s a photo of a play at a base and the graphic obscures the actual play. The Bip Roberts is a textbook example of this. Great play at the plate except the focus of the play is obscured by the Stadium Club logo.

This is a shame since in 1993 Upper Deck showed how to do it right. The layering effect like 1988 Topps at the top allows the image to be cropped nice and tight at the top of the frame. Upper Deck though selected photos and cropped them to have empty space at the bottom.

You wouldn’t crop photos in general this way but as a background for the graphics it works perfectly. It forces the photos to be zoomed out enough that you can see the entire player and get a sense of what he’s doing within the game.

Most of the 1990s and 2000s however look like these. I could’ve pulled a bunch more sets—especially from Pacific and Upper Deck—here but they’re all kind of the same. Big foil graphics that cover up important parts of the photo. Some sort of foil stamping or transparency effect that cuts off the players’ feet.

Instead of cropping loosely like 1993 Upper Deck most of the cards in these decades feel like the photos were cropped before being placed in the graphics.

It’s easy to blame the card companies here but this is also a photography thing. Portrait photographers often find the crop after they take the photo. They use larger-format film and understand that the publication might need to crop to fit a yet-to-be-determined layout. Action photographers though get in tight and capture the best moment. This is great for the photos but not so great with baseball cards.

Baseball is a horizontal sport and there’s no reason to include dead foreground space. The only reason to include that space if you know that you’re shooting for a baseball card design that’s going to need it.

We’ll make a brief stop at 2008 though. This isn’t a transparency or overlay design but it’s doing something similar. Rather than the usual cropping at a corner of the image box, Topps placed its logo in a uvula at the top of the image box. Right where it would normally place the players’ heads.

The result? Very similar to 1967’s effect where the photos get zoomed out  a little and you see more background. The problem? These photos are already somewhat small and the change to mostly-action means that in most of them you’re just seeing more blurry crowds.

Fred Lewis is emblematic of the standard cropping. Small player image with lots of wasted space in the upper corners. That the posed photos like the Matt Cain are often bare skies at spring training locations instead of in Major League stadiums makes the added “information” there generally uninteresting.

All of this is a shame since the Tim Lincecum shows that when a selected photo is not impacted by the uvula, not only is the photo area not that small but the design can actually look pretty nice.

Okay. To contemporary cards and Topps’s recent dalliance with full bleed designs in flagship. I’m looking at 2017 here since it’s kind of the worst but 2016 to 2018 all do this. The transparency at the bottom of the cards is huge now. Yes it gets blurred out a bit but the photo information still needs to be there and as a result the cropping has to be even tighter.

As much as Topps was drifting toward in-your-face all-action shots, the actual designs of these cards sot of prevents any other kind of action. They also prioritize action that focuses in the top half of the frame. Any plays at a base gate stomped on by the design and even photos like the Chase Headley which don’t focus low in the frame are pretty much ruined too.

It’s easy to blame the TV graphics in Flagship but even Stadium Club—a set I love—has this same problem. On action photos the name/type often gets in the way of the image (compare Tim Anderson to the 1993 Upper Deck Lou Whitaker) but it’s the otherwise-wonderful wide-angle photos which fare the worst.

As the angle gets wider and the players get smaller, the odds that the text becomes intrusive increase tremendously. On Dexter Fowler’s card he’s the same size as the text and, as great as the photo is, the design of the card ruins it. Same goes with the Jose Berrios where the text is covering the entire mound and the ground fog Topps adds for contrast covers the whole playing field.

Which brings us to 2020 and a design that gets a lot of flak because it features sideways names.* What isn’t mentioned very frequently is how moving the transparency effect to the side of the card results in tremendously better photos and photo cropping.

*I don’t mind the sideways names except that I think they should’ve been rotated 180° so that when paged the horizontal cards don’t end up upside down.

All of a sudden we can see players’ feet again. Images aren’t all as in-your-face. We can have action images at second base where you can actually figure out what’s going on. Instead of cropping out the bottom of an image which a photographer has already framed, this design uses the space the photographers already provide for players to “move into.”*

*In action photography you’re generally trying to give the subject some room to move into the frame.

More importantly, it opens up the possibility for great photos that would never have worked in the previous full-bleed designs. For example, Omar Narvaez’s image is impossible to use in any design that puts transparency at the bottom of the card. Even Stadium Club. But 2020 Topps is flexible enough that it can use a wider variety of images.

I hope Topps learns some lessons from 2020 and that if we’re to see further full-bleed designs that they’ll be done in such a way so as to not get in the way of the images or to take advantage of the Transparency to give us more interesting photos.

Through a glass, darkly

Last year, I purchased the 1981 and 1982 Fleer sets for essentially the shipping cost.  Both sets were in binders, but the pocket pages were the old PVC type with the cards inserted two to a pocket.  I “freed” the 1981 set last year and finally did the same for 1982 recently.  This re-paging task allowed me to closely examine the 1982 cards-which left me astonished at the poor quality of photos, bad lighting and odd poses.  There are a few positive aspects, but one must dig deeply.

Since 1982 was Fleer’s second go-round, one would assume that they would strive to produce a quality product to make up for the mistake-laden inaugural 1981 set.  Instead, consistently murky images make season two a step back in quality.

1982 National League MVP Dale Murphy is an example of badly blurred image.  You would think that an in focus shot of a player posing with a bat could be executed properly.  Of course, the fuzzy images may have been the result printing issues.  But if this were the case, why didn’t Fleer fix the issue once they saw the proofs?

Both Cal Ripken and teammate Lynn Sakata are typical examples of the “Fleer fuzz,” and Jack Clark shows blurred action.

“Big Daddy” Rick Reuschel is viewed through a camera darkly.  Most of his card is black.  The low light for Gary Allenson is a typical shot of a stationary figure in the daytime that still comes out dark and out of focus.

If poor photo quality wasn’t enough, many of poses are head scratchers.  Brian Kingman is a good example of the fixation on photographing left-handed pitchers from behind.  There are way too many shots of players’ backs.

Another overused pose is to have players seated alone in the dugout. It was as if Fleer was anticipating social distancing requirements 38 years ago.

Photos taken around the batting cage were common for decades.  But Fleer takes it to a new level by photographing players in the cage.  A few players taking batting practice might work as a fresh angle, but they took this idea and ran it into the ground.

And, what is with the pose used for Jack Morris?  He is barely in the frame. Also, there may be a UFO in the background.

Now that I have ranted and raved, let’s look at some of the good aspects of the set. I like the Fernando Valenzuela shot showing him looking to the sky.  Also, you must appreciate Manny Trillo’s World Champions jacket. Steve Stone in front of the helmet rack is another excellent shot.

Two players with same name are found in this set: former Seattle Pilot Mike Marshall and the Dodger outfielder with the identical moniker.  I didn’t include this in a previous post on players with the same name, since I only looked at Topps. 

Speaking of ex-Seattle Pilots, you will find Fred “Chicken” Stanley on the A’s.  He is the last Pilot to be in a base set as a player (1983).

There are several great “hair” cards.  John Lowenstein sheds his cap to show off an impressive perm.  Danny Darwin offers up an excellent example of “helmet” hair.

Finally, Fleer provides Carlton Fisk fans with three different cards.  He is shown with the Red Sox on Rich Dauer’s card, with the White Sox on his regular card and with his namesake, Steve Carlton, on a multi-player card.

Fleer saw through a glass, darkly. The result was a most ungodly, photographic apocalypse.

1973 – Ugliest Topps Baseball Set Ever

“This is the best series I think we’ve ever done. I’m very excited about the whole thing already.” Sy Berger, Topps president, prior to 1973 cards hitting the shelves.

(Quote from the book – Baseball Card Flipping, Trading And Bubble Gum)

Rather than binge watch the Tiger King I decided to spend the last 3 nights cataloging my 1973 Topps Baseball cards to see how close I am to having a complete set. I obtained these cards after the great basement flood of 1987. The cards originally belonged to my younger brother. He had stored his baseball card collection in the basement of my parent’s then new home in Maine. Due to some faulty landscaping some water came into the basement during a downpour and damaged some his collection.

My brother no longer wanted the damaged collection and instead of throwing out the cards my mother miraculously called me to see I wanted them. I told her I would gladly take all the cards. A week or so later my parents arrived at my house with a large cardboard box stuffed with cards. My mother had dried out the cards that got wet by laying them on a dry floor and running a fan across them.

The box contained a mishmash of Topps cards that ranged from 1966 to 1980. Most of the cards were in good shape – either no water damage or only a very small water spot. There were also some cards that had seen better days.

There were a lot of cards of hall of famers from various years including this nice 1967 Mickey Mantle.

The bulk of the collection was comprised of 1973 cards. Almost all of the 1973 cards came through the ordeal in nice shape. Even before cataloging the cards I knew I almost had a complete set. I have nearly all the cards of the hall of famers, including the Mike Schmidt rookie card.

Mike Schmidt Rookie -Card Number 615

The Bad and The Ugly

It was also clear before cataloging these cards, that this was the ugliest set ever produced by Topps.

From a pure printing perspective all of the cards lack brightness and pop. The design of the ’73 cards lacks imagination and the white borders contribute to the dullness of the cards.

My biggest beef with these cards is the photography. The quality of the action images used in a significant percentage of the cards is in many cases very low. Most of the action shots were taken during afternoon games creating high contrast situations with the caps shading the faces of the players and the white uniforms reflecting too much light. In a post from 2016, Topps, according to baseball photographer extraordinaire Doug McWilliams, insisted on the use of slow ASA 100 film. This did not help matters when it came to freezing the action, resulting in fuzzy images or images that required a lot of massaging in order to make them acceptable.

I have included in the slide show below a sampling of problematic cards of future hall of famers and stars from this era. There are photos that are zoomed so far out you don’t know who the subject is (image on Bobby Bonds card would have been a better choice for the Willie Stargell card). There are photos where faces are in shadows and photos which have been airbrushed beyond all recognition. There are a few photos that have been cropped bizarrely (I still can’t find Steve Garvey). And there are photos were the composition is mind boggling (Willie McCovey and Johnny Bench checking out a foul ball. The Hit King popping up. Is that really Thurman Munson?).

Slide Show Featuring Some of Ugliest Topps Cards of Hall of Famers and Stars Ever Produced

If you are a Joe Rudi fan you are out of luck. You get another card of Gene Tenace.

The Good

There are some really nice cards in this set. Call me old school, but most of the cards in this set that work for me are the ones with the posed shots. Cards that also work for me are the action shots of Aaron and Clemente which are two of the best in this set. And it was nice that Topps brought back the cards of the playoffs and the World Series.

Slide Show of Good Cards

After cataloging the cards, I have found out that I am only 50 cards shy of having a complete set of 660 cards (not counting the variations in many of the managers / coaches cards). Only two of the missing cards are Hall of Famers.

I even have 22 of the 24 Blue Team Checklist cards that were supposedly only inserted in the last series.

I would be interested on your take on the 1973 set. Let me know by way of a comment if you agree or disagree with me on the 1973 set being the ugliest set that Topps has ever produced.

The T206 photo project

Editor’s note: For the #StayHomeWithSABR video presentation of this article, click here!

The SABR Baseball Cards Research Committee is working with tobacco card enthusiast Matt Haynes of Alton, IL, to assemble the most complete
(virtual) collection of T206 source images available.

A graphic designer by trade, Matt’s inspiration in beginning this project was the simple beauty and artistry of the T206 cards themselves. Like many of our readers, Matt was an avid collector in his youth but took a long hiatus from the Hobby when “real life” took over. It was the proximity of a local card shop to a new job that lured Matt back into collecting, first focusing on top-shelf superstars of the 1950s but now exclusively on the 524-card set known as the Monster.

Starting from more than 40 images already cataloged at the T206 Resource photo gallery, adding the finds of several other hobbyists from card forums such as Net54 Baseball and Tobacco Row, and adding images from his own research, Matt was able to assemble 86 card-image pairs for this initial post, already the most available anywhere on the Web. Now we are asking you, our readers, for your help in finding more. (See contact info at end of post.)

Please excuse some wonky formatting as Jason makes updates to the table, including the addition of more unmatched T206 cards to speed up your photo hunts.

CURRENT COUNT: 213/524

240240ImagePlayerTeamSource
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Ed Abbaticchio FrontAbbaticchio, Ed
(Blue Sleeves)
PIT
undefinedAbbaticchio, Ed
(Brown Sleeves)
PIT
Abbott, FredTOL1903 Carl Horner portrait
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Bill Abstein FrontAbstein, BillPIT
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Doc Adkins FrontAdkins, DocBAL
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Whitey Alperman FrontAlperman, WhiteyBRO
Ames, Red
(Hands At Chest)
NY
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Red Ames FrontAmes, Red
(Hands Above Head)
NY
(NL)
undefinedAmes, Red
(Portrait)
NY
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO John Anderson FrontAnderson, JohnPRO
Arellanes, FrankBOS
(AL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Harry Armbruster FrontArmbruster, HermanSTP
Arndt, HarryPRO
Atz, JakeCHI
(AL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Home Run Baker FrontBaker, FrankPHI
(AL)
Ball, Neal
(CLE)
CLE
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Neal Ball FrontBall, Neal
(NY)
NY
(AL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Jap Barbeau FrontBarbeau, JapSTL
(NL)
Barger, CyROC
Barry, JackPHI
(AL)
Barry, ShadMIL
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Jack Bastian FrontBastian, JackSAT
Batch, EmilROC
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Johnny Bates FrontBates, JohnnyBOS
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Harry Bay FrontBay, HarryNAS
Beaumont, GingerBOS
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Fred Beck FrontBeck, FredBOS
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Beals Becker FrontBecker, BealsBOS
(NL)
Beckley, JakeKC
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO George Bell FrontBell, George
(Hands Above Head)
BRO
undefinedBell, George
(Follow Thru)
BRO
undefinedBender, Chief
(No Trees)
PHI
(AL)
Bender, Chief
(With Trees)
PHI
(AL)
Bender, Chief
(Portrait)
PHI
(AL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Bill Bergen FrontBergen, Bill
(Catching)
BRO
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Bill Bergen FrontBergen, Bill
(Batting)
BRO
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Heinie Berger FrontBerger, HeinieCLE
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Bill Bernhard FrontBernhard, BillNAS
Bescher, Bob
(Hands In Air)
CIN
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Bob Bescher FrontBescher, Bob
(Portrait)
CIN
undefinedBirmingham, JoeCLE
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Lena Blackburne FrontBlackburne, LenaPRO
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Jack Bliss FrontBliss, JackSTL
(NL)
Bowerman, FrankBOS
(NL)
Bradley, Bill
(Portrait)
CLE
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Bill Bradley FrontBradley, Bill
(With Bat)
CLE
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Dave Brain FrontBrain, DaveBUF
Bransfield, KittyPHI
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Roy Brashear FrontBrashear, RoyKC
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Ted Breitenstein FrontBreitenstein, TedNOLA
undefinedBresnahan, Roger
(Batting)
STL
(NL)
undefinedBresnahan, Roger
(Portrait)
STL
(NL)
Bridwell, Al
(Portrait – No Cap)
NY
(NL)
Bridwell, Al
(Portrait – With Cap)
NY
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO George Browne FrontBrown, George
(CHI)
CHI
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO George Browne FrontBrown, George
(WAS)
WAS
Brown, Mordecai
(Chi On Shirt)
CHI
(NL)
Brown, Mordecai
(Cubs On Shirt)
CHI
(NL)
Brown, Mordecai
(Portrait)
CHI
(NL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Al Burch FrontBurch, Al
(Batting)
BRO
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Al Burch FrontBurch, Al
(Fielding)
BRO
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Fred Burchell FrontBurchell, FredBUF
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Jimmy Burke FrontBurke, JimmyIND
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Bill Burns FrontBurns, BillCHI
(AL)
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Donie Bush FrontBush, DonieDET
Butler, JohnROC
1909-11 American Tobacco Company T206 White Border #NNO Bobby Byrne FrontByrne, BobbySTL
(NL)
Camnitz, Howie
(Arms Folded)
PIT
undefinedCamnitz, Howie
(Arm At Side)
PIT
Camnitz, Howie
(Hands Above Head)
PIT
Campbell, BillyCIN
Carey, ScoopsMEM
Carr, CharleyIND
Carrigan, BillBOS
(AL)
Casey, DocMON
Cassidy, PeterBAL
undefinedChance, Frank
(Batting)
CHI
(NL)
Chance, Frank
(Portrait – Red)
CHI
(NL)
Chance, Frank
(Portrait – Yellow)
CHI
(NL)
Chappelle, BillROC
Charles, ChappieSTL
(NL)
Chase, Hal
(Holding Trophy)
NY
(AL)
Chase, Hal
(Portrait – Blue)
NY
(AL)
undefinedChase, Hal
(Portrait – Pink)
NY
(AL)
Chase, Hal
(Black Cap)
NY
(AL)
Chase, Hal
(White Cap)
NY
(AL)
Chesbro, Jack NY
(AL)
Cicotte, EdBOS
(AL)
Clancy, BillBUF
Clark, JoshCOL
Clarke, Fred
(Batting)
PIT
Clarke, Fred
(Portrait)
PIT
Clarke, J.J.CLE
Clymer, BillCOL
Cobb, Ty
(Portrait – Green)
DET
Cobb, Ty
(Portrait – Red)
DET
Cobb, Ty
(Bat Off Shoulder)
DET
Cobb, Ty
(Bat On Shoulder)
DET
Coles, Cad AUG
Collins, EddiePHI
(AL)
Collins, JimmyMIN
Congalton, BunkCOL
Conroy, Wid
(Fielding)
WAS
Conroy, Wid
(With Bat)
WAS
Covaleski, HarryPHI
(NL)
undefinedCrandall, Doc
(Portrait No Cap)
NY
(NL)
Crandall, Doc
(Portrait With Cap)
NY
(NL)
Cranston, BillMEM
Cravath, GavvyMIN
Crawford, Sam
(Throwing)
DET
Crawford, Sam
(With Bat)
DET
Cree, BirdieNY
(AL)
Criger, LouSTL
(AL)
Criss, DodeSTL
(AL)
Cross, MonteIND
Dahlen, Bill
(BOS)
BOS
(NL)
Dahlen, Bill
(BRO)
BRO
Davidson, PaulIND
Davis, GeorgeCHI
(AL)
Davis, Harry
(Davis On Front)
PHI
(AL)
Davis, Harry
(H. Davis On Front)
PHI
(AL)
Delehanty, FrankLOU
Delehanty, JimWAS
Demmitt, Ray
(NY)
NY
(AL)
Demmitt, Ray
(STL, AL)
STL
(AL)
Dessau, RubeBAL
Devlin, ArtNY
(NL)
undefinedDeVore, JoshNY
(NL)
Dineen, BillSTL
(AL)
Donlin, Mike
(Fielding)
NY
(NL)
Donlin, Mike
(Seated)
NY
(NL)
Donlin, Mike
(With Bat)
NY
(NL)
Donohue, JiggsCHI
(AL)
Donovan, Wild Bill
(Portrait)
DET
Donovan, Wild Bill
(Throwing)
DET
Dooin, RedPHI
(NL)
Doolan, Mickey
(Batting)
PHI
(NL)
Doolan, Mickey
(Fielding)
PHI
(NL)
Doolin, MickeyPHI
(NL)
Dorner, GusKC
Dougherty, Patsy
(Arm In Air)
CHI
(AL)
Dougherty, Patsy
(Portrait)
CHI
(AL)
Downey, Tom
(Batting)
CIN
Downey, Tom
(Fielding)
CIN
Downs, JerryMIN
Doyle, Joe
(N.Y. Nat’l)
NY
(NL)
Doyle, Joe
(N.Y.)
NY
(AL)
Doyle, Larry
(Portrait)
NY
(NL)
Doyle, Larry
(Throwing)
NY
(NL)
Doyle, Larry
(With Bat)
NY
(NL)
Dubuc, JeanCIN
undefinedDuffy, HughCHI
(AL)
Chicago Daily News, 1910
Dunn, JackBAL
Dunn, JoeBRO
undefinedDurham, BullNY
(NL)
Dygert, JimmyPHI
(AL)
Easterly, TedCLE
Egan, DickCIN
Elberfeld, Kid
(Portrait – NY)
NY
(AL)
Elberfeld, Kid
(Portrait – WAS)
WAS
Elberfeld, Kid
(Fielding)
WAS
Ellam, RoyNAS
Engle, ClydeNY
(AL)
Evans, SteveSTL
(NL)
Evers, Johnny
(Portrait)
CHI
(NL)
Evers, Johnny
(CHI On Shirt – Yellow Sky)
CHI
(NL)
Evers, Johnny
(Cubs On Shirt – Blue Sky)
CHI
(NL)
Ewing, BobCIN
Ferguson, CecilBOS
(NL)
Ferris, HobeSTL
(AL)
Fiene, Lou
(Portrait)
CHI
(AL)
Fiene, Lou
(Throwing)
CHI
(AL)
Flanagan, SteamerBUF
Fletcher, ArtNY
(NL)
Flick, ElmerCLE
Ford, RussNY
(AL)
Foster, EdCHA
Freeman, JerryTOL
Frill, JohnNY
(AL)
Fritz, CharlieNOLA
Fromme, ArtCIN
Gandil, ChickCHI
(AL)
Ganley, BobWAS
Ganzel, JohnROC
Gasper, HarryCIN
Geyer, RubeSTL
(NL)
Gibson, GeorgePIT
Gilbert, BillySTL
(NL)
Goode, WilburCLE
Graham, BillSTL
(AL)
Graham, PeachesBOS
(NL)
Gray, DollyWAS
Greminger, EdMTGM
Griffith, Clark
(Batting)
CIN
Griffith, Clark
(Portrait)
CIN
Grimshaw, MooseTOR
Groom, BobWAS
Guiheen, TomPOR
Hahn, EdCHI
(AL)
Hall, BobBAL
Hallman, BillKC
Hannifan, JackJC
Hart, BillLR
Hart, JimmyMTGM
Hartsel, TopsyPHI
(AL)
Hayden, JackIND
Helm, J. RossCOL
Hemphill, CharlieNY
(AL)
Herzog, Buck
(BOS)
BOS
(NL)
Herzog, Buck
(NY)
NY
(NL)
Hickman, GordonMOB
Hinchman, BillCLE
Hinchman, HarryTOL
Hoblitzell, DickCIN
Hoffman, DannySTL
(AL)
Hoffman, IzzyPRO

Hofman, SollyCHI
(NL)
Hooker, BockLYN
Howard, DelCHI
(NL)
Howard, ErnieSAV
Howell, Harry
(Hand At Waist)
STL
(AL)
Howell, Harry
(Portrait)
STL
(AL)
Huggins, Miller
(Hands At Mouth)
CIN
Huggins, Miller
(Portrait)
CIN
Hulswitt, RudySTL
(NL)
Hummel, JohnBRO
Hunter, GeorgeBRO
Isbell, FrankCHI
(AL)
Jacklitsch, FredPHI
(NL)
Jackson, JimmyBAL
Jennings, Hughie
(One Hand Showing)
DET
Jennings, Hughie
(Two Hands Showing)
DET
Jennings, Hughie
(Portrait)
DET
Johnson, Walter
(Glove At Chest)
WAS
undefinedJohnson, Walter
(Portrait)
WAS
Jones, Fielder
(Hands At Hips)
CHI
(AL)
undefinedJones, Fielder
(Portrait)
CHI
(AL)
undefinedJones, DavyDET
Jones, TomSTL
(AL)
Jordan, DutchATL
Jordan, Tim
(Batting)
BRO
Jordan, Tim
(Portrait)
BRO
Joss, Addie
(Hands At Chest)
CLE
Joss, Addie
(Portrait)
CLE
Karger, EdCIN
Keeler, Willie
(Portrait)
NY
(AL)
Keeler, Willie
(With Bat)
NY
(AL)
Kelley, JoeTOR
Kiernan, J.F.COL
Killian, Ed
(Hands At Chest)
DET
Killian, Ed
(Portrait)
DET
King, FrankDAN
Kisinger, RubeBUF
Kleinow, Red
(BOS – Catching)
BOS
(AL)
Kleinow, Red
(NY – Catching)
NY
(AL)
Kleinow, Red
(NY – With Bat)
NY
(AL)
Kling, JohnnyCHI
(NL)
Knabe, OttoPHI
(NL)
Knight, Jack
(Portrait)
NY
(AL)
Knight, Jack
(With Bat)
NY
(AL)
Konetchy, Ed
(Glove Above Head)
STL
(NL)
Konetchy, Ed
(Glove Near Ground)
STL
(NL)
Krause, Harry
(Pitching)
PHI
(AL)
Krause, Harry
(Portrait)
PHI
(AL)
Kroh, RubeCHI
(NL)
Kruger, OttoCOL
Lafitte, JamesMAC
Lajoie, Nap
(Portrait)
CLE
Lajoie, Nap
(Throwing)
CLE
undefinedLajoie, Nap
(With Bat)
CLE
Lake, Joe
(NY)
NY
(AL)
Lake, Joe
(STL – Ball In Hand)
STL
(AL)
Lake, Joe
(STL – No Ball)
STL
(AL)
LaPorte, FrankNY
(AL)
Latham, ArlieNY
(NL)
Lattimore, BillTOL
Lavender, JimmyPRO
Leach, Tommy
(Bending Over)
PIT
Leach, Tommy
(Portrait)
PIT
Leifield, Lefty
(Batting)
PIT
Leifield, Lefty
(Pitching)
PIT
Lennox, EdBRO
Lentz, HarryLR
Liebhardt, GlennCLE
Lindaman, ViveBOS
(NL)
undefinedLipe, PerryRIC
Livingstone, PaddyPHI
(AL)
undefinedLobert, HansCIN
Lord, HarryBOS
(AL)
Lumley, HarryBRO
undefinedLundgren, Carl
(CHI)
CHI
(NL)
undefinedLundgren, Carl
(KC)
KC
Maddox, NickPIT
Magie, SherryPHI
(NL)
Magee, Sherry
(Portrait)
PHI
(NL)
undefinedMagee, Sherry
(With Bat)
PHI
(NL)
Malarkey, BillBUF
Maloney, BillyROC
Manion, GeorgeCOL
Manning, Rube
(Batting)
NY
(AL)
Manning, Rube
(Pitching)
NY
(AL)
Marquard, Rube
(Hands At Side)
NY
(NL)
Marquard, Rube
(Pitching)
NY
(NL)
undefinedMarquard, Rube
(Portrait)
NY
(NL)
Marshall, DocBRO
Mathewson, Christy
(Dark Cap)
NY
(NL)
undefinedMathewson, Christy
(Portrait)
NY
(NL)
Mathewson, Christy
(White Cap)
NY
(NL)
Mattern, AlBOS
(NL)
McAleese, JohnSTL
(AL)
McBride, GeorgeWAS
McCauley, PatPOR
McCormick, MooseNY
(NL)
McElveen, PryorBRO
undefinedMcGann, DanMIL
McGinley, JimTOR
McGinnity, JoeNWK
McGlynn, StoneyMIL
undefinedMcGraw, John
(Finger In Air)
NY
(NL)
undefinedMcGraw, John
(Glove At Hip)
NY
(NL)
undefinedMcGraw, John
(Portrait – No Cap)
NY
(NL)
undefinedMcGraw, John
(Portrait – With Cap)
NY
(NL)
McIntyre, Harry
(BRO)
BRO
undefinedMcIntyre, Harry
(BRO & CHI)
BRO/CHI
McIntyre, MattyDET
McLean, LarryCIN
McQuillan, George
(Ball In Hand)
PHI
(NL)
McQuillan, George
(With Bat)
PHI
(NL)
undefinedMerkle, Fred
(Portrait)
NY
(NL)
Merkle, Fred
(Throwing)
NY
(NL)
Merritt, GeorgeJC
Meyers, ChiefNY
(NL)
Milan, ClydeWAS
Miller, DotsPIT
Miller, MollyDAL
Milligan, BillJC
Mitchell, FredTOR
Mitchell, MikeCIN
Moeller, DanJC
Molesworth, CarltonBIR
Moran, HerbiePRO
Moran, PatCHI
(NL)
Moriarty, GeorgeDET
Mowrey, MikeCIN
Mullaney, DomJAX
Mullin
(UER Mullen), George
(Portrait)
DET
Mullin, George
(Throwing)
DET
undefinedMullin, George
(With Bat)
DET
Murphy, Danny
(Batting)
PHI
(AL)
Murphy, Danny
(Throwing)
PHI
(AL)
Murray, Red
(Batting)
NY
(NL)
Murray, Red
(Portrait)
NY
(NL)
Myers, Chief
(Batting)
NY
(NL)
Myers, Chief
(Fielding)
NY
(NL)
Nattress, BillyBUF
Needham, TomCHI
(NL)
Nicholls, Simon
(Hands On Knees)
PHI
(AL)
Nichols, Simon
(Batting)
PHI
(AL)
Niles, HarryBOS
(AL)
Oakes, RebelCIN
Oberlin, FrankMIN
O’Brien, PeterSTP
O’Hara, Bill
(NY)
NY
(NL)
O’Hara, Bill
(STL)
STL
(NL)
Oldring, Rube
(Batting)
PHI
(AL)
Oldring, Rube
(Fielding)
PHI
(AL)
undefinedO’Leary, Charley
(Hands On Knees)
DET
O’Leary, Charley
(Portrait)
DET
O’Neil, William J.MIN
Orth, AlLYN
Otey, WilliamNOR
Overall, Orval
(Hand At Face Level)
CHI
(NL)
Overall, Orval
(Hands Waist Level)
CHI
(NL)
Overall, Orval
(Portrait)
CHI
(NL)
Owen, FrankCHI
(AL)
Paige, GeorgeCHA
undefinedParent, FredCHI
(AL)
Paskert, DodeCIN
Pastorius, JimBRO
Pattee, HarryBRO
undefinedPayne, FredCHI
(AL)
Chicago Daily News, 1909
Pelty, Barney
(Horizontal)
STL
(AL)
Pelty, Barney
(Vertical)
STL
(AL)
Perdue, HubNAS
Perring, GeorgeCLE
Persons, ArchMTGM
Pfeffer, FrancisCHI
(NL)
Pfeister, Jake
(Seated)
CHI
(NL)
Pfeister, Jake
(Throwing)
CHI
(NL)
Phelan, JimmyPRO
Phelps, EddieSTL
(NL)
Phillippe, DeaconPIT
Pickering, OllieMIN
Plank, EddiePHI
(AL)
Poland, PhilBAL
Powell, JackSTL
(AL)
Powers, MikePHI
(AL)
Purtell, BillyCHI
(AL)
Puttman, AmbroseLOU
Quillen, LeeMIN
Quinn, JackNY
(AL)
Randall, NewtMIL
Raymond, BugsNY
(NL)
Reagan, EdNOLA
Reulbach, Ed
(Glove Showing)
CHI
(NL)
Reulbach, Ed
(No Glove Showing)
CHI
(NL)
Revelle, DutchRIC
Rhoades, Bob
(Hands At Chest)
CLE
Rhoades, Bob
(Right Arm Extended)
CLE
Rhodes, CharlieSTL
(NL)
Ritchey, ClaudeBOS
(NL)
Ritter, LouKC
Rockenfeld, IkeMTGM
Rossman, ClaudeDET
Rucker, Nap
(Portrait)
BRO
Rucker, Nap
(Throwing)
BRO
Rudolph, DickTOR
Ryan, RayROA
Schaefer, Germany
(DET)
DET
Schaefer, Germany
(WAS)
WAS
Schirm, GeorgeBUF
Schlafly, LarryNWK
Schlei, Admiral
(Batting)
NY
(NL)
Schlei, Admiral
(Catching)
NY
(NL)
Schlei, Admiral
(Portrait)
NY
(NL)
Schmidt, Boss
(Portrait)
DET
Schmidt, Boss
(Throwing)
DET
Schreck, OsseeCOL
undefinedSchulte, Wildfire
(Back View)
CHI
(NL)
Schulte, Wildfire
(Front View)
CHI
(NL)
Scott, JimCHI
(AL)
Seitz, CharlesNOR
Seymour, Cy
(Batting)
NY
(NL)
Seymour, Cy
(Portrait)
NY
(NL)
Seymour, Cy
(Throwing)
NY
(NL)
Shannon, SpikeKC
Sharpe, BudNWK
undefinedShaughnessy, ShagROA
Shaw, AlSTL
(NL)
Shaw, HunkyPRO
Sheckard, Jimmy
(Glove Showing)
CHI
(NL)
Sheckard, Jimmy
(No Glove Showing)
CHI
(NL)
Shipke, BillWAS
Slagle, JimmyBAL
Smith, CarlosSHRV
undefinedSmith, Frank
(F. Smith)
CHI
(AL)
Smith, Frank
(White Cap)
CHI
(AL)
Smith, Frank
(CHI & BOS)
CHI/BOS
Smith, HappyBRO
Smith, HeinieBUF
Smith, SidATL
Snodgrass, Fred
(Batting)
NY
(NL)
Snodgrass, Fred
(Catching)
NY
(NL)
Spade, BobCIN
undefinedSpeaker, TrisBOS
(AL)
Spencer, TubbyBOS
(AL)
Stahl, Jake
(Glove Shows)
BOS
(AL)
undefinedStahl, Jake
(No Glove Shows)
BOS
(AL)
Stanage, OscarDET
Stark, DollySAT
Starr, CharlieBOS
(NL)
Steinfeldt, Harry
(Portrait)
CHI
(NL)
Steinfeldt, Harry
(With Bat)
CHI
(NL)
Stephens, JimSTL
(AL)
Stone, GeorgeSTL
(AL)
Stovall, George
(Batting)
CLE
Stovall, George
(Portrait)
CLE
Strang, SamBAL
Street, Gabby
(Catching)
WAS
Street, Gabby
(Portrait)
WAS
Sullivan, BillyCHI
(AL)
Summers, EdDET
Sweeney, BillBOS
(NL)
Sweeney, JeffNY
(AL)
Tannehill, JesseWAS
Tannehill, Lee
(L. Tannehill On Front)
CHI
(AL)
Tannehill, Lee
(Tannehill On Front)
CHI
(AL)
undefinedTaylor, DummyBUF
undefinedTenney, FredNY
(NL)
Thebo, TonyWAC
Thielman, JakeLOU
Thomas, IraPHI
(AL)
Thornton, WoodieMOB
Tinker, Joe
(Bat Off Shoulder)
CHI
(NL)
Tinker, Joe
(Bat On Shoulder)
CHI
(NL)
Tinker, Joe
(Hands On Knees)
CHI
(NL)
Tinker, Joe
(Portrait)
CHI
(NL)
Titus, JohnPHI
(NL)
Turner, TerryCLE
Unglaub, BobWAS
Violat, JuanJAX
Waddell, Rube
(Portrait)
STL
(AL)
Waddell, Rube
(Throwing)
STL
(AL)
Wagner, Heinie
(Bat On Left Shoulder)
BOS
(AL)
Wagner, Heinie
(Bat On Right Shoulder)
BOS
(AL)
Wagner, HonusPIT
Wallace, BobbySTL
(AL)
Walsh, EdCHI
(AL)
Warhop, JackNY
(AL)
Weimer, JakeNY
(NL)
Westlake, JamesDAN
Wheat, ZackBRO
White, Doc
(Pitching)
CHI
(AL)
undefinedWhite, Doc
(Portrait)
CHI
(AL)
White, FoleyHOU
White, JackBUF
Wilhelm, Kaiser
(Hands At Chest)
BRO
Wilhelm, Kaiser
(With Bat)
BRO
Willett, EdDET
Willetts, Ed
(UER)
DET
Williams, JimmySTL
(AL)
Willis, Vic
(Portrait)
PIT
Willis, Vic
(Batting)
STL
(NL)
Willis, Vic
(Throwing)
STL
(NL)
Wilson, OwenPIT
undefinedWiltse, Hooks
(Pitching)
NY
(NL)
Harwell Collection (1904)
undefinedWiltse, Hooks
(Portrait – No Cap)
NY
(NL)
Wiltse, Hooks
(Portrait – With Cap)
NY
(NL)
Wright, LuckyTOL
Young, Cy
(With Glove)
CLE
Young, Cy
(Bare Hand)
CLE
Young, Cy
(Portrait)
CLE
Young, IrvMIN
Zimmerman, HeinieCHI
(NL)
Checklist based on T206Resource.com and unmatched card images from Trading Card Database

If you have additions to the project, please let us know in the comments. You can also use our Contact form or tag us on Twitter @sabrbbcards. Finally, for related card-photo matching projects see–

Creating Your Own Cards with the Rookies App

It is scary out there. And probably not the best time for a post, but writing helps me keep sane during these trying times. I also thought that there might be a few of you looking for a diversion as we shelter in place.

One of the posts that I read when I first came across this blog was by Nick Vossbrink about creating your own baseball cards. I thought that was a pretty cool thing to do and was very impressed by the images of the creations in the post. In the post Nick mentioned that Matt Prigge was using the Rookies App to create his cards, so I decided to give it a try.

I downloaded Rookies App from the Apple App Store (it is free) and installed it on my iPhone.

Overview of the Rookies App

The Rookies App is extremely easy to use.

To get started you click on the Create Your Own button. A template pops up, but you can change it by tapping on the 4 small squares at the bottom left of the screen. From there you can choose from 24 templates. In each template there will be a plus sign button or buttons (some templates allow you to have 2 images on a card) for uploading images. You can choose images stored in you photo library on your phone, take a photo with you camera and use that image, or choose photos from your Facebook library (you will need to sync the app with Facebook library). You can resize the image by pinching up or down on your photo.

Once you choose you image or images you can enter text in the various fields on the front of the by tapping the Aa letters at the bottom of the screen. By tapping the ink dropper icon on the bottom of the screen you can change the colors used in the template that you have selected. You can even add information on the back of the card by tapping on the icon with 2 boxes. This will allow you select one of 5 different template to add information to the card.

You will also need to enter information for a credit card if you want to order cards. You order 20 cards at a time. The price with shipping and taxes is $16.99 (will vary slightly depending on where you live). 

Once you place your order you will get your cards in about 10 days. The cards arrive in packs of 20.

The quality of the cards are excellent.

Unopened pack of 20 cards.

Using Published Photos

There are tons of possibilities for utilizing already published photos of players for your cards – magazines, picture books, scorecards, yearbooks, etc. I have found that if you have a steady hand and a smart phone with a good built-in camera that you can take photos of published pictures that are fine for your cards. A few things to keep in mind are to make sure the image is as flat as possible and that there are no shadows.

Included below are some cards from my Pittsburgh Pirates Team Set using photos from the 1979 Pirates Yearbook.

Photos copied from 1979 Pittsburg Pirates Yearbook.

Using Original Photos

I enjoy taking photos and the Rookies App allows me to merge my two hobbies – photography and baseball cards. I have included below some of my favorite cards that I have made using photos that I have taken. Under each card are some details about the picture.

Taken during Pittsburgh Pirates Fantasy Camp in Bradenton, Florida.
Taken at Pittsburgh Pirates Fantasy Camp in Bradenton, Florida.
Taken during Pittsburgh Pirates Fantasy Camp in Bradenton, Florida.
Elroy was one of the former players signing at a card show outside of Pittsburgh. Luckily I had a baseball with me and I asked him to show me how he used to grip the fork ball.
Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz warming up prior to a Spring Training in 2004 against the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field (now LECOM Park)in Bradenton, Florida.
A good friend of mine is a Red Sox season ticket holder and invited me to go with him to the pre-Duck Boat parade World Series celebration inside Fenway Park in 2013. In this photo Big Papi proudly displays his World Series Championship belt while standing on top of the Red Sox dugout. Note the Duck Boat in the background.
In a scheduling fluke that will probably never happen again in my lifetime the Red Sox opening series in 2017 was against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Captured this photo of my favorite current player from my seat near the Red Sox dugout.

Take care and be safe.

When there was nothing to do except admire 1957 Topps…

Sometimes inspiration strikes when you least expect it. With everything going on in the world, I had put almost no time into my collection and for the first time in well over a year had no new articles in progress. Then, from my home-office-bunker in the basement I looked up at my framed 1957 Topps Brooklyn team set and didn’t love one of the cards.

It wasn’t just that my “Oisk” was off-kilter. (Try saying that to a normal person and see what kind of reaction you get!) It’s more that it just didn’t pop the way some of the other cards in my display did.

I headed to the Bay on my lunch break and quickly remedied the situation. (And if you can’t tell the difference between this card and the one above it, congratulations! It just means you are a normal person. It also means collecting vintage will be a lot cheaper for you than for some of us.)

Of course you all know how collecting works. Now that I had this beaut in the shopping cart, was there anything else I needed? The Erskine seller seemed to have an extensive inventory, and there was of course the added benefit that I’d save on shipping if I found other cards to order. In fact, I didn’t end up buying anything else. (And maybe like some of you I’ve found it hard to spend real money that can be used for food and toilet paper on little squares of cardboard…even if, yes, if we get really, really, really desperate…okay, let’s not go there.)

What I did come across, however, was a reminder: 1957 Topps is a gorgeous set. Here then, in no particular order, are some of my favorite shots in the set. Other than Ted Williams, I challenged myself to avoid Hall of Famers. This kept my focus on the card rather than the player.

And as a special bonus for the Dodger fans out there, here’s my new Brooklyn team set, complete with Erskine upgrade, nearly ready to frame back up.

So that’s it. That’s the post! Stay safe, stay home, and stay sane. If you have a favorite card from the 1957 set, let me know about it in the comments.

Quick postscript

Particularly with some of the cards in the set, there seem to be two versions. Side by side, one appears a bit more dull (which sometimes works!) and the other seems more green.

Initially I dismissed the differences to fading over time or the scans themselves, but having owned “pairs” of a couple players now, I think the differences are real. If you prefer one look over the other, don’t buy the first card you see. There doesn’t seem to be any pricing premium for one over the other, so go with what looks best to you.

Tommy’s walkabout

In reaction to a post on the SABR Baseball Card Committee Facebook page, someone commented that Tommy Davis was depicted on a different team for seven years in a row starting in 1966. This is quite an “achievement,” and will be explored in detail. Tommy’s walkabout through the major leagues ran head long into the MLBPA boycott of Topps, resulting in the repeated use of the same image on his cards and inserts. But even before Tommy left the Dodgers, his image was often recycled. Let us now ogle some wonderful cardboard from a player for whom serious injury may have derailed a Hall of Fame-worthy career.

1960 marks Davis Topps debut featuring is a colorized version of Dodgers team issue from 1960 produced by concessionaire extraordinaire Danny Goodman.

Topps uses the same photo in 1961 but adds the fantastic Topps All-Star Rookie trophy image. Plus, Davis’ cropped head from the photo shows up on the 1961 Topps stamp.

But wait, there’s more! The head shot is used by Salada for the 1962 and 1963 coins.

Tommy has a spectacular 1962 season with a league leading .346 average and an amazing 153 RBI. Fittingly, the emerging star gets two cards in 1963, since Fleer burst on the scene as Topps short lived rival.

In my humble opinion, the 1964 Topps Giant is the best of all Davis’ cards. The “in action” pose, glasses, and jacket under the jersey add up to produce a beauty. Topps liked it too. Tommy’s cropped head is used on the All-Star version of the coin inserts in 1964.

In May of 1965, an awkward slide at second against the Giants resulted in Davis suffering a severely broken and dislocated ankle. His slow recovery dimmed his star status. Tommy was hobbled in field and on the base paths and his batting stroke suffered as well. Topps produces a card featuring Tommy’s profile in 1965. This unattractive shot was used again in 1966.

Tommy’s vagabond years starts in 1967 when the Dodgers decided to part ways and ship him to the Mets. This results in a classic, traded head shot. After one productive year at Shea, the Mets sent Davis packing to the White Sox for Tommy Agee and Al Weis. A different head shot graces his 1968 card but the 1967 is repurposed for the game insert (see top of article).

The odyssey continues in 1969 when the White Sox leave Tommy unprotected in the expansion draft, and he is selected by the Seattle Pilots. Tommy is arguably the Pilots’ best hitter, forever holding the RBI record with 63. As a big- name player on an expansion team, Topps offers up several Davis products. His base card uses the same picture as 1967, the stamp brings back the 1966 image and the Super test issue card recycles the 1968 image. Airbrushed Dodger photos show up on the Deckle Edge and Decal inserts.

In addition to Topps, 1969 and 1970 saw Milton Bradley produce game cards which used an image of Tommy from the 1968 White Sox team issue photos.

The Pilots dealt Tommy to Houston in August of 1969, which launches him on the next stage of his “Cook’s Tour.” The 1970 Astros card features an airbrushed cap and “nostril shot,” probably taken while with the Dodgers. His stay in Houston was short as the Astros sent Tommy on to Oakland who in turn sold him to the Cubs late in 1970. Finally, in 1971, Tommy has a photo wearing in the team’s uniform for the first time since 1966.

It goes without saying that Tommy’s windy city stint was more of a “blow over.” “The Drifter” catches a freight bound for Oakland during the 1971 season. This results in a nice base card and a classic “In Action” photo of Tommy holding Horace Clarke on first at Yankee Stadium in the 1972 set.

Though Tommy was productive in Oakland, a dispute with owner Charlie Finley results in his release in March of 1972. Tommy will re-sign with the Cubs in July and eventually be traded to the Orioles. Tommy’s release may have factored into Topps not issuing a Davis card in 1973. His streak of cards on different teams ends at seven years.

But fortune shines on Tommy in the form of the Designated Hitter being implemented in the American League in 1973. The mobility challenged Davis is inserted into the potent Orioles lineup in the DH role. Tommy will have a career renaissance, helping Baltimore to two East Division championships in 1973-74.

The Orioles part ways after 1975. Tommy latches on with the Yankees, who release him at the end of spring training. The Angels sign him in July of 1976, but the nomadic Davis shuffles off to Kansas City in September- which is the team he is depicted on in his cardboard swan song as a player in 1977.

However, there is a career-capper of sorts found in the 1982 Donruss set. Tommy received a card, while serving as the Mariners’ batting coach.
Davis’ trek results in cards on 10 different teams, one more than Ken Brett, as I chronicled in a previous post.

If you know of another player with more teams, let us know. In any event: “Tommy Davis has been everywhere, man/He’s been everywhere, man/He’s crossed Chavez Ravine, man/He’s breathed the Seattle air, man/Baltimore crab cakes he’s eaten his share, man/Tommy’s been everywhere……”

I highly encourage everyone to read the SABR Bio Project Tommy Davis biography by Mark Stewart and Paul Hirsch.

1969 Mike Andersen postcard

Out of the Shadows:  Revealing an Overlooked “Black Gold” Card

One of the most collectible genres of baseball card has been what Beckett Vintage magazine termed in the November 2002 issue as “Black Gold,” collecting cards of players involved in the 1919 Black Sox scandal.

The most collected are the obvious “eight men out.”  However, in this collector’s opinion the most captivating card within this genre belongs to former player, turned gambler, turned state’s star witness against the eventual eight men out, “Sleepy” Bill Burns

Burns was a former major league pitcher whose major league career spanned 1908-1912, played for five teams, and finished with a bland 30-52 record.  As a pitcher outside of the major leagues, mostly in the Pacific Coast League, Burns was only slightly better with only one real flash of potential early in his career.  As a pitcher for the 1907 PCL champion Los Angeles Angels, Burns turned in his best professional season going 24-17.  He ended his professional career at the age of 37 in 1917 pitching for the Oakland Oaks in the PCL collecting a 4-5 record with a 6.22 ERA in 19 appearances. 

Burns however gained eternal infamy after his career by being one of the key figures behind the scenes of baseball’s darkest moment, the fixing of the 1919 World Series.  Burns, who was a former teammate of some of the White Sox acted as a gambler and go-between for the players and other gamblers paying off the players involved.  Later in 1921 he was the state’s star witness against the players in the trial that ended in their acquittal.

Bill Burns does not have a large checklist of baseball cards.  He did make it into the famous T206 set, with a glove on the wrong hand, which is probably his most famous baseball card.  He is also in the 1910-11 Turkey Red T3 and 1911 Pinkerton T5 sets.  Often overlooked is the fact that Burns has two cards in the Zee-Nut catalog appearing in the 1915 and 1917 sets. 

Zee-Nut baseball cards were a product of the Collins-McCarthy Candy Company based in San Francisco that featured PCL players and was the longest running baseball card company prior to Topps, producing cards from 1911-1938.  There are Zee-Nut cards of four of the eight men out (Weaver, Risberg, Williams, McMullin) as well as Joe Gedeon the “ninth man out” who was also banned for knowing about the 1919 World Series fix from his friend Swede Risberg.  All are amazing cards and will command a premium price when they come to market, especially Fred McMullin’s 1915 card which sells between $5,000-$10,000 as his only mass produced baseball card.  However, Bill Burns’ two Zee-Nut cards are often overlooked by “black gold” collectors.

Of Bill Burn’s five baseball cards the one I think deserves a place at the table in the discussion of best “black gold” cards is his 1917 Zee-Nut card.

Looking at the card I have to imagine that the candy company photographer tasked with capturing the images of the Oakland Oaks players back in 1917 had to be disappointed with his picture of pitcher Bill Burns once it was developed.  By some mistake through the combination of placement and position of the pitcher, posed at the peak of his windup, the positioning of the sun in the sky, and the set up of photographer and camera, the identity of the subject was rendered impossible to discern as the pitcher’s face was completely obscured in a dark shadow.  If a photographer made such a mistake today the picture would be discarded instantly, another photo taken and ultimately used.

Nonetheless, the image of Bill Burns with his face hidden in a shadow was used, and the photographer, we can imagine, was probably disappointed in his careless error once the 1917 set of Zee-Nut cards was printed.  He had no way of knowing just how much that image of a failed, washed up, former major league pitcher in 1917 would turn out to be a poetic depiction of one of the most shadowy figures in Baseball’s darkest hour just two years later.

It is this very reason why I consider it my favorite card within the realm of the Black Sox scandal.  A photographer’s mistake that cast a shadow on the face of a man who would himself help cast a shadow on the national pastime.

The Whites of Their Eyes

Topps changed the face of baseball card collecting in the early 1950s and became the standard bearer for the hobby.  By the early 1960s, they had expanded the size of the “base set” to more than 500 cards to include nearly all the players, and not just the stars. 

Before the proliferation of baseball magazines in the later 1970s, cable television in the 1980s, and the internet explosion in the 1990s, these cards became the primary window for a young fan falling in love with the game to tie a player’s name to a recognizable face, and maybe even get a glimpse into their personality.

The reason it worked so well was in large part due the photography style.  The photos looked so personal, so intimate, as though they were taken for your own family album.  Each spring into summer, you got a fresh take (or maybe two or three, for stars and league leaders) on what a player looked like, adding dimension to your perception of that player.  With time you got to see a player mature, from baby-faced rookie all the way to aging veteran.

My interest in cards was resurrected in 1985 as a re-capturing of my baseball fandom youth as it has done with countless others.  For a whole new generation of players, even unrecognizable ones, I was provided with a recognizable face.  I jumped back into the hobby with great enthusiasm. Four years earlier, Fleer and Donruss had broken up the Topps stranglehold, which ultimately led to a flood of manufacturer and set options that would follow for more than two decades. But I remained loyal to the Topps base set as the stable rock of the hobby, with its rich history and continuity.

Within a few years, something changed in the nature of the Topps base set, the cornerstone of the hobby.  For many of the players, the intimate photo where I could see into a player’s eyes (and his soul?) was replaced by a photo of him turning a double play, or straining to throw a fastball.  These “in game action” photos actually appeared on some cards as far back as the early 1970s, but they were the rare exception.  During the 1980s they became commonplace.  By the early 1990s they became the rule.  In 2020, they’re essentially all you get in the Topps base set.

I did a little research to gain some insight into this evolution.  I turned to my Red Sox card collection to get a sample of cards over several decades and classified the photos into a five different categories based on photo style:

Game Action:  As described above, a photo taken during an actual game, usually with the player in motion swinging, pitching, fielding, etc., most often from a distance where the player’s entire body is in the photo

Candid Portrait:  A photo of a player from the shoulders up that is not taken during a formal photo shoot, often taken when the player is in the dugout or on the field outside of actual game action.

Candid Action:  A photo of a player “doing something”, but not in-game action.  Maybe swinging a warmup bat or playing long toss.  The photo is usually taken close enough to see expression in the player’s face.

Posed Portrait:  A photo in the style of what you’d see in a high school yearbook, usually from the shoulders up, or just a “head shot”.  You get the sense the player knows he’s being photographed, even if he’s not looking into the camera.

Posed Action:  A posed photo of player “pretending” to be in action, in a batting stance, mid-swing, winding up to pitch, in a fielding stance, etc.  The player knows his picture is being taken.  It’s usually taken from close enough to see the player’s expression.

My collection starts in 1965, so I used a sample that ran from then until 1999.  Binning it into five-year chunks, the distribution of cards falling into each of the five categories yields the distribution shown below. Even with this relatively small and not-so-random sample, the trend from posed shots to in-game action shots is unmistakable.

I realize many people like action cards.  I understand it’s a matter of taste.  Me?  I get to see action when I watch the games.   When it comes to cards, I’m looking for the personal charm.

Take another look at the three Don Sutton cards above, from 1967, to 1976, to 1985.  You can see an actual person there.  Now let’s take a look back to see how David Ortiz changed over a 10-year span of his illustrious career:

Ugh. David Ortiz is a beloved local hero in Red Sox Nation and loaded with charm. You certainly can’t see it here.

I often hear the retort that Topps provides all this in their Heritage and Archives products.  For that, we’ll need a whole other discussion.  For now, please Topps, put these classic photo styles back in your signature base set, so that the cards won’t get thrown away as mere nuisances in the lottery chase for rare inserts. Bring the base set back to its rightful prominence.  It’s even okay if you include some action cards to keep everybody happy.

Ten Tidbits about 1953 Bowman Color

The 1953 Bowman Color baseball card set is one of the most beautiful issues ever produced. The issue was the first major set to use actual color photographs. 

The cards, which measure 2-½” × 3-¾”, feature vivid four-color photographs unspoiled by facsimile autographs, logos, positions, and even player names. As such, the release has been celebrated by collectors by its uncluttered design. However, that’s not all the 1953 Bowman Color set represents. Did you know the following? 

10. The return of dual-player combo cards 

Did you know that #93 Billy Martin/Phil Rizzuto and #44 Hank Bauer/Yogi Berra/Mickey Mantle marked the return of multi-player cards, which hadn’t been part of a major release since the Old Judge cards of the 19th century (unless you count 1948 Swell Sport Thrills cards or the 1912 Hassan Triple Folders, which had one player on each end and an action scene, often multiplayer, in the middle.

Another notable exception was an extension of the 1934-36 National Chicle Diamond Stars in 1937. Although that set was never completed, one of the cards included would have been a multiplayer card featuring Rogers Hornsby and Jim Bottomley.

9. No expense spared

The Bowman Card company went to great lengths to put out a great looking product. In fact, the company nearly went bankrupt from production expenses. Using top-notch photographers from the New York Times, Life and other big-time New York media outlets, no expenses were spared. Although the finished product sizzled, the financial impacts of using color photography put a strain on the company. 

8. New York state of mind

Hiring New York-based shutterflies only made more sense when you consider that most of the ballplayers were photographed in the two area ballparks: The Polo Grounds, located in Manhattan, and Yankee Stadium, located across the Harlem River, in Bronx.

As both venues no longer exist, the set represents an enduring window to a bygone era of flannel uniforms, sharp spikes and bulky gloves. The best examples being card #7 Harry Chiti and #96 Sal Maglie at the Polo Grounds and card #105 Eddie Joost at Yankee Stadium. [Fun Fact: Like the Statue of Liberty, the Yankee Stadium frieze was made of copper, and when exposed to the elements the metal turns green.]

7. Spring fling

Not all the player photos in the set were taken at Polo Grounds or Yankee Stadium, however. Some were taken during Spring Training, including the Dodgers ballpark in Vero Beach. Card #114 of Bob Feller is emblematic of the rush to get the cards ready for release.

6. Pee Wee

One of the spring training photos, #33 Pee Wee Reese, is one of the most famous cards of all-time.

The photo depicts Reese, suspended in air, trying to complete a double play. A subject of great debate among collectors is the identity of the player sliding underneath. Was it a coach, Bobby Morgan, or Gil Hodges? Whoever the baserunner, the debate lives on.

5. Small-ish set

 At 160 cards, the 1953 Bowman set is smaller than many of Bowman’s issues of the era. However, a 90-card black and white set was issued the same year. Therefore, when taken together, Bowman issued 250 cards during 1953, a standard sized offering for the time. 

4. Defending champs

Look closely at Billy Martin, card #118, and Allie Reynolds, card #68.

The patch adorning their sleeve celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the legendary team. The set also celebrates the dynastic Yankees at the height of their powers. Alas, in 1953, the Yankees were nearing the end of their five-year reign as defending World Series champions. 

3. Stars, but not everyone

With Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Warren Spahn and Bob Feller, 1953 Bowman Color does not lack star power. However, 1953 Bowman is missing Ted Williams, who was off flying combat missions in Korea, and Willie Mays, who was under contract with Topps. 

2. Stats

The set was also Bowman’s first issues with player statistics on card backs. It is widely speculated that Bowman (left) copied the idea from Topps (right), which had put statistics in its debut issue. 

1. Bowman’s answer

Nearly 65 years later, it can get lost that the iconic 1953 set was the company’s response to Topps’ equally iconic release the year before. Both sets are remarkable in their own right – plenty of innovation and star power in each of these releases. It’s not often that two iconic sets come off production lines within such a short time. However, that’s precisely what happened in the early 1950s.