Rethinking The Backs Of Baseball Cards

If you asked me a year ago what I thought about the backs of cards, I probably would’ve said I don’t care that much about them.  Sure, some cards like 1965 Topps Baseball have gorgeous backs that cannot be ignored, but I honestly thought I had little opinion on the backs.

…Until I started to listen to myself muttering under my breath.  “The card number is way too small!”, “They should put a note on the back of variations and parallels!”, “Why would anyone want to revive the boring 1980’s Donruss back?”  and so on.

That got me thinking of what I would like to see on the back of a card, and then when I had enough ideas gathered together, I created a back for one of my custom 2016 TSR cards.

2016-tsr-back-264-dj-lemahieu

Horizontal card backs allow for more information, but I find that vertical backs are more natural to read while holding in your hand.

Before I get into the other elements, I’d like to point out the card number. Large, black on white, and at a 45 degree angle so it’s easily read whether the card is held vertically or horizontally.  Why is it that vintage cards, which were aimed almost entirely at kids, had these big friendly card numbers, but current cards, which are often purchased by middle-aged curmudgeons like myself, have these tiny numbers that sometimes require magnifying assistance to read?  And don’t get me started on blue or dark purple numbers against a black background.  You’re killing me, Smalls!

I always liked backs that listed the player’s full name, and can always recite a few from over the years. George Thomas Seaver.  Michael Jack Schmidt.  Larry Wayne Jones.

A pronunciation guide would be very helpful, especially when I think of all the names I mangled as a kid because I didn’t know how to pronounce them.  Segui was “Sedge-wee”.  Didier was “Dih-DYE-er”.  I’m sure you’ve all got similar stories.

One of the more common bits of information I want to know about a player is how he was acquired.  I might pull a card of so-and-so and wonder “How did the Padres get him?”

I cannot stress the following enough:  I WANT THE YEAR AND NAME OF THE SET ON THE BACK!  And if it’s an insert or parallel or variation, I WANT THAT CLEARLY NOTATED!!!  I’ve got a small box of inserts and such I got from dime boxes and before I can properly log them in my database, I need to figure out what the heck they are… and that often involves going out to COMC or eBay and doing some searching.  Totally unnecessary if the card companies would only give us basic info about the set.

I have to admit; these days, I rarely look at the stats on the back. That’s what the internet is for. I’ll admit it’s cool to see someone with a long list of seasons with the same club, something that’s become cultural shorthand for longevity with one team… but that long list of stats also takes away any writeup on the player or – heavens forbid – leaves no room for a cartoon (I’m looking at you, 1965 Topps Yogi Berra!)

If there are stats on the back, I’d like the league-leading stats in bold and/or another color.

Borrowing a page (so to speak) the Bullpen pages on Baseball-reference.com, a bullet-pointed list of achievements wouldn’t be bad, when applicable.  8-time All-Star, NL MVP in 1999, 2-time Silver Slugger, etc. etc.

As someone who’s sorted through hundreds of monster boxes in my lifetime, I very much appreciate sets where you can seek out a team by color.  In the example above, I can thumb through a stack of cards and easily find the Rockies cards because they have that purple stripe down either side.  I would have that stripe change by team…  Orange and blue for the Mets, blue and red for the Cubs, navy and red for the Indians, maybe get into some other combos (blue and yellow, green and blue) for the countless teams which have blue/navy and red for their colors.  I also want to point out that the stripe is along the left *and* right margins so that both lefties and righties can tell at a quick glance which team the player is with.

You’ll notice that I don’t have a cartoon on the back… I’ll admit, that’s mainly because I didn’t have any ideas or time to draw one myself. I would like to include cartoons, but only if it’s something like this…
1970 Topps Bobby Floyd Cartoon
…individual bits of artwork based on some fun facts about the players, and not just clip art accompanied by something trite like “Brandon hits lefties well”.  I don’t see why this is so hard or expensive;  I find it hard to believe that these companies’ graphic arts departments don’t already have somebody with decent cartooning skills.

(By the way, the above cartoon comes from the 1970 Topps Bobby Floyd card.)

So that runs down my thoughts on card backs. What would you like to see? I’d love to know! And who knows, maybe someone from a card company will be taking notes…


Time is running out!  Don’t forget to vote on the design I’ll use for next Spring’s World Baseball Classic custom set!

If you haven’t voted yet, the choices are laid out below with the voting at the bottom. Thanks again!

2017-wbc-candidates

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8 thoughts on “Rethinking The Backs Of Baseball Cards

  1. Could not agree more about clearly notating the set and/or parallel name on the back. When I have to research to find out what a card I’m holding in my hand even is like you mentioned it’s one of the few times I can think of where for a few minutes this hobby feels more like a chore than fun.

  2. Career stats (if possible), card #, general bio, and a comic. You know… the stuff 80’s kids got to pull from packs. I also agree that it’d be nice to see the year, set, and name of insert/parallel on the back as well. Great idea.

  3. HOW ABOUT THIS ONE FROM DECADES AGO WHERE AT SPRING TRAINING AT DODGERTOWN A RATHER YOUNG FELLOW SAID HE WAS WAITING ON PATHWAY TO HOLMAN STADIUM FOR SKI – O – SKY- AH …

    TOOK ME A FEW SECONDS TO FIGURE OUT HE WAS SEEKING MIKE SCIOSCIA AND WHEN I TOLD HIM CORRECT PRONUNCIATION OF HIS NAME HE LAUIGHED AND RAN OFF TO HIS PARENTS WHO ALL LOOKED AT ME LIKE I SHOULD BE DRAGGED OFF …

    SIGH !!!

    ALL CARD NUMBERS SHOULD BE UPPER RIGHT, NO EXCEPTIONS, EVER !!!!!

  4. I like a paragraph about the player on the back. You’re right about stats. Back in the day it may have been our only source. I always thought Score did a nice job with the backs.

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