40 years ago at this time, the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners were sorting out the 30 players each had taken from the other American League teams in the expansion draft that had taken place on November 5th, 1976. Meanwhile, Topps airbrush artists seem to have spent the month of November frantically airbrushing photos.
To commemorate these airbrushed 1977 Topps cards, an important part of my youth, I bring the second in my series of “Expansion+40” customs.
Just under two weeks ago, the Blue Jays signed Kendrys Morales to replace Jose Bautista and/or Edwin Encarnacion, so he gets the latest “faux bad airbrushing” treatment. As with the first attempt to replicate 1977 expansion team cards, the cap logo was drawn by hand…
…And somehow the drawn logo looks better in the custom than in the original. Maybe I should try drawing with my other hand next time…
Realizing that the expansion draft took place on November 5th and that Topps in the 1970’s was doing well to include transactions which took place at the early December Winter Meetings, I went down the Baseball Reference rabbit hole to see if I could find out how long Topps had to airbrush close to 60 players and coaches into new uniforms.
The first thing I looked at was team transactions. The Jays drafted Rico Carty from the Indians on 11/5 and traded him back to Cleveland on 12/6… but Carty’s Topps card features him with the Blue Jays. That indicates that December 6th was too late for Topps to make a change as simple as changing the team name, font colors and replacing an airbrushed photo with it’s original counterpart. O-Pee-Chee, which went to press later, did reflect this change… I wrote about that airbrushing switcheroo in this post.
So I went back to bbref to see if I can find the latest 1976 transaction that resulted in a Topps airbrushing. During the last week of November, there were several transactions which resulted in airbrushing… Bobby Grich signing with the Angels, Steve Stone and Eric Soderholm signing with the White Sox and, on November 29th, Reggie Jackson signing with the Yankees.
Interestingly enough, the Yankees purchased Jim Wynn from the Braves the following day, November 30th… but 1977 Topps did not reflect that transaction, nor any transactions which came after it (Bill Melton to the Indians on December 3rd as well as a number of transactions that, like the Rico Carty deal, happened on December 6th).
Granted, this doesn’t mean the Topps airbrushings had to be done on November 29th, but it does give an idea of how little time Topps had to airbrush all those Mariners and Blue Jays… and it gives something of an appreciation of why many of those airbrush jobs were less than spectacular.