I get looks whenever I tell people I don’t like Mexican food… and yes, I’ll concede that east coast Mexican food very likely pales in comparison to Mexican food in states like Texas or Arizona… or in Mexico, for that matter.
I get the same looks when I tell other collectors I don’t really care for 1960 Topps. Being an overly-analytical person, I had to give it a bit of thought as to WHY I don’t have the same reaction as many other collections, and I figured I’d run through my conclusions while sharing a few 1960 cards I got at a show earlier this year… because while they may not be a favorite, I still have wants.
The best way to summarize my thoughts about 1960 Topps is that it puts form over function… it makes artistic choices which work against the general purpose of a baseball card.
For starters, the design is horizontal.
Now I generally don’t have an issue with horizontal sets, but there’s a reason most sets are vertical. If you hold a small stack of cards in one hand, the most natural way to hold them is with the long sides going against your fingertips and thumb. Holding a small stack of horizontal cards in one hand and looking at them in the proper perspective involves turning your hand in a less comfortable way.
OK, let’s move on to the color portrait, and for this example I’ll use this card of Roger Craig.
…or more specifically, just the color photo as it appears on the card:
Now if you ran across just this photo, what would you think? You’d think “somebody was impaired when they cropped this”. For starters, it’s a portrait of Roger Craig, but the image is cropped as a landscape. For now, let’s forget that Roger is way over to the left in this image for reasons unknown… what would you rather see in a portrait of a ballplayer? Would you rather see blurry stands and blue skies next to him, or would you rather see the script on his jersey? I’m a uniform nerd myself, so show me the jersey.
But I also like seeing context, I like to have the player surrounded by something… a recognizable scoreboard in the background, players taking warmup tosses, or even just enough of the field that you can tell that the pitcher is going into his windup while standing just outside of the dugout.
This Bobby Shantz card, at the very least, shows a decent-enough amount of the frieze at Yankee Stadium to appease me… but you can barely tell he’s on the Yankees from the photos. The color portrait gives just a hint of cap logo and pinstripes. (Hm, maybe Panini should do a set similar to 1960 Topps…)
On this particular card, I like how it appears that the black and white shot of Shantz makes it look like he’s playing leapfrog with the Yankees logo.
One last thing that bugs me is the colors. I think a lot of people like this set because it’s a colorful set, and I will admit it works well on the Bobby Shantz card… the red background on the left nicely contrasts with the black and white photo, and the red and black letters in “BOBBY SHANTZ” stand out nicely from the yellow backround on the bottom.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case… and as a perfect example of what I’m talking about, I’m going to feature a card which I purchased last year.. this card of Milt Pappas
The black and white shot which would otherwise work quite nicely instead gets lost in the light blue background. Also, the eye is drawn to the black letters in MILT PAPPAS: “M L P P A”, while the white ” I T A P S” gets a little lost in the background. It’s not illegible by any means, but damned if it doesn’t annoy me.
…And because the portrait is cropped landscape, we don’t see Milt’s jersey, but we do see one of New York’s Finest off to the right, giving deep thought to some of the choices he’d made in life.
But you know what I *do* love about 1960 Topps? The Jack Davis cartoons on the back.
So that I don’t leave orphan scans lying around my computer, here are the two cards those photos go with… Two guys I knew as a coach and a manager when I was a kid.