Earlier this week Topps unveiled some preview images for 2022 Heritage, which will be based on the 1973 Topps baseball design. The design of this set is pretty simple (but not in a bad way) which (hopefully) minimizes the number things they might do to irritate old school collectors like me.
The images look pretty good to me… Don’t know why the position is in italics, but I can think of worse things for them to futz with.
One of the things which makes 1973 Topps fairly unique among Topps sets is that there are pictograms (or icons, if you prefer) for each position, which in some ways make the cards more visually oriented towards those positions rather than they are towards the teams. I had only a handful of these when I was a kid, because they came out the year before I started collecting, but I know I spent a fair amount of time sorting my cards by position, something I didn’t really do with other years (BTW, this preview image is for Heritage Chrome)
I love these little guys, for me there’s just something inherently joyful about them.
Each position has its own little silhouette, and each has its own distinctly colored ball behind them. You hardly even need the text position below each one.
Thinking about these pictograms got me thinking about the limitations that come from using them, and also some of the other aspects of the 1973 design that will be interesting in terms of what Topps will do, as well as what they *could* do, what I fear they’ll do and what I wish they would do… And so, a post was born.
Wish: Topps will splurge, sign a bunch of managers to contracts and include them in the base set
… or make them short prints or inserts, I won’t be picky.
They can even leave out the coaches, just give the manager a standard vertical card and use the Manager pictogram.
I consider this to be very unlikely, though…
Speculation: Will they create a DH pictogram?
Back in 1973, the Designated Hitter was a new position, and it wasn’t certain that teams would have a player who would be exclusively used as a DH. As a result, there is no pictogram for Designated Hitters. Players like Frank Robinson and Rico Carty, who would be used primarily as a DH during the 1973 season, were listed as “OUTFIELD” on their cards.
That’s certainly not true today, though. Topps could shoehorn guys like J.D. Martinez and Yordan Alvarez into the set as “OUTFIELD”, but what about Nelson Cruz? He hasn’t played the field since 2018.
Honestly, a DH pictogram wouldn’t be hard to create… just pick a photo of a batter, make a silhouette out of it and put a colored circle behind it. I whipped one up quickly using a photo of Nelson Cruz as a basis, and using the yellow of the Manager pictogram, assuming that Topps will not be using it for managers.
The edges are jaggy, but this was whipped up in about 10 minutes, including picking out the source image. I can do better and I would hope Topps could as well.
Speculation: And what about Utility Guys?
This might be more of an issue for this set. Chris Taylor has split his time fairly equally between the outfield and 2nd base, which position would you ‘shoehorn’ him into? The Diamondback’s Josh Rojas is even more Super-Sub-y, playing at 2nd, short, left and right. Even if you labeled them as “IF/OF” or “UTILITY”, which pictogram would you use? I suppose they could create a new one, but what would the silhouette be?
I don’t have any answers for that, I’m guessing they’ll just pick one position and go with it.
Fear: Topps will either use one pictogram for all pitchers, or will screw up and use a RHP pictogram for a LHP
For those who don’t know or just hadn’t realized it, the pictograms for pitchers reflect their handedness, and even had different colors for each – red for righties, blue for lefties
I thought I remembered Topps getting this wrong when the used the 1973 design in 2014 Archives, but I misremembered, and they did use the right pictograms for lefties and righties… although I can’t swear that they *always* got it right.
Prediction: Shohei Ohtani will get two cards
Since the design of this set is so centered on position, I’m thinking that there will be one Ohtani card as a pitcher and one as… Well, that depends on whether they do have something separate for the DH.
Observation: Topps will get an easy way to start into the Cleveland Guardians era, and also get off easy for Heritage Minor League
As you probably heard by now, the baseball team in Cleveland is planning to switch from “Indians” to “Guardians” once the 2021 season has ended. I’m sure the graphic artists at Topps cursed a blue streak when they realized that there’s one more team to factor in when they are preparing for a throwback set and can’t fall back on copying “Indians” from the original cards… especially 1978.
But they get off easy this year, at least for Heritage. Modifying the team name in the 1973 design is as easy as changing the player’s name. Same goes for Minor League Heritage, they don’t have to worry about how they’re going to work “Grasshoppers”, “Mighty Mussels” or “Cannon Ballers” into the card design, they can just type it in and they’re done. I made the following custom within my lunch hour yesterday, just as an illustration of that.
Wish: Topps will ditch the All Time Home Run Leaders card this time around
Don’t let the extremely poor condition of my card detract from my point…
Back in 1973, Babe Ruth’s record was being challenged by two active players. Sure, Willie Mays hadn’t hit double-digit homers since 1971, but Aaron, of course, was coming after the record. This card was significant at the time, it’s not really significant today.
As I write this, it occurs to me that my wish might come true for legal reasons… Unless Topps has the rights to the likeness of Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth, then an updated version isn’t happening.
It occurs to me that the whole All-Time leader subset might also be endangered by the fact that Pete Rose is the Hits leader. I won’t lose sleep over that subset being excluded.
Prediction: There will be base cards with the very 1973-ish distant action shots
Maybe not as distant as 1973, but if Topps were smart they’d lean into this quirk of 1973, especially given that there are plenty of current shots which are being taken from a distance due to social distancing.
Wish: A card where the background includes parked SUVs
OK, I guess that’s enough rambling and brainstorming about 1973 and 2022 Heritage. Do you have any wishes, fears, etc. you’d like to add? I’d love to see your comments!