Why I Don’t Like 1960 Topps

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.

Vintage Team Review: 1960 Topps Baltimore Orioles, Part 2

For those of you who missed Part 1 and don’t want to read it… I recently completed a vintage team set of the 1960 Baltimore Orioles, a young team which remained in the Pennant Race for much of the season and would finish in 2nd behind the Yankees.

The first post was supposed to be the ONLY post, but the more I learned about the team, the more I wrote and the more cards I featured, and I just gave up and broke it into two halves (and, as these things always turn out, ended up writing even more than originally planned for Part 2).

And so, we continue…


1960 Topps was one of the few sets where coaches got featured on cards.  There’s a part of me that thinks “It sucks that they got coaches in 1960 and we don’t even get managers in 2019!”  I’m confident, however, that anyone who collected back then will tell us that coaches cards were generally subjected to bicycle spokes.

The three coaches featured on this card are Eddie Robinson, Harry Brecheen and Lum Harris.

A few years ago Eddie Robinson wrote an autobiography called “Lucky Me:  My Sixty-Five Years In Baseball” which tells you a lot about Eddie right there.  The four-time All-Star as a player would serve in a lot of roles in baseball, including GM with the Rangers.

Harry Brecheen was the O’s pitching coach from 1954 to 1967. As a pitcher with the Cardinals in 1948 he went 20-7, lead the league in ERA (2.24), strikeouts (149) and shutouts (7).

Lum Harris pitched for the Athletics and Senators, and would  serve as the Orioles’ interim manager at the end of the 1961 season. He would also manage the Colt .45’s and Braves.


Here’s a combo card featuring Milt Pappas, Jack Fisher and Jerry Walker, all of whom were 21 at the time and were the youngest pitchers on the team (although Chuck Estrada and Steve Barber were both 22).

Milt Pappas was a “Bonus Baby” who went from high school to the Majors. He’d hurl three shutouts in 1960, and several years later would be traded to the Reds for Frank Robinson.

“Fat Jack” Fisher went 12-11 and tied for the team lead with three shutouts.

Fisher had a tendency to give up historic home runs; Ted Williams hit a home run off of Fisher in the Splendid Spinter’s final career at bat. Fisher also gave up Roger Maris’ 60th homer, the one which tied Babe Ruth. Finally, as a Mets pitcher, he gave up the first home run at Shea Stadium.

In 1959, Jerry Walker at 20 years old became the youngest pitcher ever to start an All-Star Game. Walker won 11 games that year, but took a step back in 1960.


Like a couple of players mentioned in Part 1, Gus Triandos was another player who came to the Orioles after being blocked at his position by a star player; in his case, it was the Yankees and he was blocked by Yogi Berra.  He came to the O’s in a November 1954 16-player trade.

An All-Star from 1957 to 1959, Triandos caught no-hitters for Hoyt Wilhelm and Jim Bunning (while both were with the Phillies)


Hal “Skinny” Brown would pitch 8 years for the O’s with an overall 62-48 record. In 1960 he went 12-5, 3.06 and had a lead-leading 1.113 WHIP.

…Not that anyone paid much attention to WHIP in 1960.  For the record, only Don Drysdale (1.063) had a better WHIP in the Majors that year.


Usually when I do these vintage team reviews, I have a number of categories that I pick cards for. I didn’t do much of that this time, but Arnie Portocarrero gets the “Best Name” award. He pitched for the Athletics and Orioles, mainly as a starter, and pitched his last Major League game in 1960.


A late November, 1959 trade saw the Orioles send Billy Loes and Billy O’Dell to the Giants for Jackie Brandt, Gordon Jones and another player. The two players named Billy show up on their 1960 cards as hatless SF Giants, but interestingly enough the two Baltimore-bound players showed up on their Orioles cards with Giants caps.  Maybe the Q/A people saw black caps with orange logos and figured it was close enough?

Jackie Brandt would be the starting center fielder for much of the season.

Gordon Jones would pitch exclusively out of the bullpen in 1960.


MORE EXPANSION FUN

In the previous post, I featured players who would go on to play for the 1962 Mets. In this post, I’m going to feature players who would be selected off of the Orioles roster after the season in the expansion draft which populated the rosters of the Los Angeles Angels and the “New” Washington Senators (to replace the Senators team which was moving to Minneapolis to become the Minnesota Twins).

Billy Klaus was drafted by the Senators. He’d play one season in Washington before being sold to the Phillies.

Gene Green was acquired from the Cardinals late in 1959, played just one game with the O’s and would be drafted by the Senators. Like Klaus, he lasted just one season in DC.

Albie Pearson, who had been the 1958 AL Rookie of the Year with the original Senators, was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels

The scribbled pen marks over Pearson’s name further illustrates how unconcerned I was about condition when assembling this team set.


Finally…

Here are the 36 cards of the team set (which fits Oh So Nicely into a four 9-page sheets). In case anyone is wondering, they are in ordered by “How I wanted to order them”.




Minus the 2 combos, team card, manager and coaches, we’re still talking about 31 player cards, which made up a very good chunk of the roster.

So, in conclusion… This was a fun team set to put together and, as I mentioned in the first part, is the oldest team set I’ve completed thus far. Sometime in 2020 I should complete the 1957 Topps Orioles team set (which would then be my oldest) and these two sets have been so much fun to put together that I’m pondering attacking either the 1956 Orioles or the 1955 Kansas City Athletics, either of which – If I’m not mistaken – would fall into the “A fun challenge which would be possible on a budget” category.

Vintage Team Review: 1960 Topps Baltimore Orioles, Part 1

I recently completed a vintage team set, something which had not been an intended project of mine until Sir Nick of the Dime Boxes sent me a 1960 Topps Brooks Robinson.  Completing a 1960 team set frankly hadn’t been on my radar because… well, I’ll just come right out and say it, I’ve never been a fan of 1960 Topps.  But, once I was handed the key card to a vintage team set, well, that just gave me a fun, achievable vintage projects to work on.  Now that I’ve completed this team set, I will say I have a more favorable opinion of the set… but I’d still rank it towards the bottom of the 1960’s sets.  Take what you can get, 1960 Topps fans.

When I write up these team set posts, I like to give an overview of the team itself, and this 1960 Orioles team turned out to be more interesting than I’d imagined.  What was intended to be a single post kept getting longer and longer… and took more and more of my time… until I gave up and decided to break it in half and use the rest in a post early next week.

After six seasons of finishing in the bottom half of the American League, 1960 was the year that the O’s franchise turned a corner.  The team lost 100 games in 1954, their first year in Baltimore, and during the following five years the best the team could do was finish with a .500 record (and still 21 games out of first).

In 1960 the young team, nicknamed the “Baby Birds”, surprised many by remaining in contention for the pennant for most of the season.  After sweeping the Yankees in early September the Orioles had a 2 game lead over the Bronx Bombers, and they were in first place as late as September 9th, but a 4-game Yankee sweep in the Bronx in mid-September was the final straw.  The Birds finished 89-65 and in 2nd place, 8 games behind the Yankees.

Paul Richards managed the O’s from 1955 to 1961 and put in two stints as manager of the White Sox, with over 20 years in between. He managed the Chisox from 1951 to 1954, and then again for a single season in 1976. On top of that, he was the original GM of the Colt .45’s. Lum Harris would replace him a the Orioles manager on September 1st, 1961

I’ve mentioned this before, but I like the design of the managers subset much more than the base player cards.

…And speaking of the players, the best on the team was, of course, Brooks Robinson.  1960 was the first of 15 consecutive seasons where Brooks was an All-Star and the first of 16 consecutive seasons where he won a Gold Glove.

Brooks lead the team in Runs (74), Hits (175), Doubles (27), Triples (9) and Batting (.294).

Some of you may be cringing a bit at the fact that this HOFer’s card has scotch tape on the front, but I honestly found it kind of liberating.  It meant that condition wasn’t a huge concern for me, as long as the cards are all intact.  You’ll see that some of these cards are creased or have pen marks on them… and I don’t care.  I won’t be upgrading any of these unless nicer cards fall into my lap.

There was an Oriole in the starting lineup for the two 1960 All-Star games, but it wasn’t Brooks Robinson. That starting player would also be the 1960 A.L. Rookie Of The Year… I’ll let you chew on that for a minute while I run through the other Orioles All-Stars.

22-year-old Chuck Estrada went 18-11, pitched an inning in one of that year’s two all-star games, was named to the Topps All-Star Rookie team and was the Sporting News’ AL Pitcher Of The Year (there was only one Cy Young Award given back then, and it went to the Pirates’ Vern Law). Estrada also tied for 2nd in 1960 Rookie of the Year voting in a year where all three players who got votes were Orioles.

Estrada would lead the A.L. in wins and would lead the team in innings pitched (narrowly beating out Milt Pappas) and Strikeouts (144). Estrada’s career was eventually derailed by elbow issues.

The 3rd Orioles All-Star was Jim Gentile, who had been acquired from the Dodgers during Spring Training.  Gentile was the player who tied with Estrada in ROY voting.

With the Dodgers, Gentile had been blocked by Gil Hodges at first.  Once he was able to play full-time, he showed that he belonged by leading the team with 98 RBI, a .500 Slugging Percentage and a .403 On-Base Percentage.  In 1961 Gentile would have a monster year and lead the league with 141 RBI.

That Oriole who started for the American League in the two All-Star games?  That would be the 1960 A.L. Rookie Of The Year Ron Hansen, who lead the team with 22 homers and became one of the key players on the team.

Hansen would have a solid 15-year career, but after starting those two 1960 All-Star games, he’d never be named to another All-Star team as a starter or a reserve.

Hall-Of-Famer Hoyt Wilhelm appeared in 41 games, had an 11-8 record and got 7 saves to lead the team in the unofficial stat.  Something I didn’t know:  He’d received a Purple Heart for injures he sustained during WWII, and played with a piece of shrapnel in his back

37-year-old Wilhelm was used mainly as reliever, yet also had one of the team’s 10 shutouts.

Outfielder Willie Tasby would not last the year with the Orioles, being traded to the Red Sox in June for outfielder Gene Stephens, but I like the All-Star Rookie subset too much to leave this card out.

I’M IN AN EXPANSION STATE OF MIND…

Because of my “1961 Mets Prequel” project, I’ve become focused on guys who played for the 1962 Mets or any of the other three early 1960’s expansion teams.

Gene Woodling was selected from the Orioles by the “new Senators” in the late 1960 expansion draft, and in 1962 would be purchased from the Sens by the Mets.

Woodling, who played several years for the O’s, would be named to the Orioles Hall Of Fame in 2002.

Joe Ginsberg was also a 1962 Met, but in between he had been released by the O’s, the White Sox and the Red Sox.

This is the one card I’ve upgraded as part of the project;  at the same time Dime Box Nick sent me the Brooks Robinson, he also sent me this card of “Poor Joe Ginsberg” (FYI, the writing is on a pennysleeve, not on the actual card).

You can’t blame me for upgrading this one, but I did hang on to the “Poor” version. It’s funny, but every time I see a card of Joe Ginsberg I think of him as “Poor Joe Ginsberg”.

COMBO CARD #1

I initially thought I’d completed the team set over the summer, but then realized that I was missing this combo card which wasn’t flagged as “Orioles” in my database because it also features Roy Face of the Pirates.

The card isn’t framed very well, because you can see that each player is demonstrating his grip, but the design of the card keeps us from seeing those grips.

Face was famous for his forkball, and Hoyt Wilhelm for his knuckle ball. Face had an astonishing 18-1 record as a reliever in 1959, and much to my surprise is my height (5’8”). I might need to start collecting sub-5’10” pitchers like Face and Bobby Shantz… But that’s neither here nor there.

FUTURE MANAGER

Billy Gardner would manage the Twins from 1981 (replacing John Goryl mid-season) to 1985 (being replaced mid-season by Ray Miller). He also managed the Royals for most of 1987 season, before being replaced by John Wathan down the stretch.

Gardner didn’t play for the O’s in 1960, having been traded to the Senators on April 3rd.

FAVORITE CARTOONS

Normally I would pick out one cartoon, but many of the cartoons in this set were drawn by Jack Davis, who is well known for his work on Mad Magazine as well as his many magazine covers, movie posters (Bad News Bears) and even album covers (One I can think of is “The Greatest of The Guess Who”, which depicted the band as a celebrating hockey team)

It’s interesting that two of the cartoons in this team set – Joe Ginsberg and Milt Pappas – highlight the player’s interest in bowling.


I like this cartoon on the back of Gus Triandos’ card just because it nicely captures how well Jack Davis does sports images.  The style is very Jack Davis, but it also highlights how well he captures action.

As I’d mentioned, Hoyt Wilhelm was a knuckleballer;  this cartoon illustrates that (but takes a few liberties)

This cartoon from Jim Gentile’s card is just… bizarre… But that’s why I like it.

No caption needed for this Walt Dropo cartoon… Well, in the sense that it’s a bizarre image with or without the caption.

Finally, this is the image from the bottom of the reverse of the combo cars

As I mentioned before, I’ll have more on this team set and this team in the next post.

Some Teammates For Brooks, 1960 Edition

Collecting a 1960 Topps team set for the Orioles wasn’t much of a priority for me… until Sir Nick of the Dime Boxes sent me this 1960 Topps Brooks Robinson…

…Which started me on a medium-priority quest to complete the O’s team set, seeing how I’ve got the key card out of the way. This post features a number of cards I got at a show in July.

Albie Pearson was the 1958 AL Rookie of the Year with the Senators, and was an All-Star with the Angels in 1963, but in between he was an Oriole for two seasons.

Pearson split 1960 between the O’s and the AAA Miami Marlins, and would be drafted by the Angels in the expansion draft.

By the way, the scan of this card shows the pen marks on the front, but it’s hard to read… Years ago somebody had crossed out “Albie Pearson” and made this into an ersatz rookie card for Mike Epstein (who broke in with the Orioles in 1966 and 1967).

…So between the tape on the Brooks and the “updating” of the Albie Pearson, you can tell that condition is not an important criteria for me at this stage.

Chuck Estrada was a rookie sensation, going 18-11, pitching an inning in one of that year’s two all-star games, and was named the Sporting News’ AL Pitcher Of The Year.

Two years after leading the league with 18 wins, Estrada would lead the league with 17 losses. Elbow problems derailed his career and he ended up being a two-year wonder.

Just for funsies, I’ll include Estrada’s last card as a player (and the only card to show him as something other than an Oriole); he finished out his career with a 9.41 ERA in 9 games with the Mets in 1967.

Gene Green The Dancing Machine!!!!! (You must be of a certain age to get that reference).

Gene Green’s Oriole career consisted of one September game where he went 1-for-4. Like Albie Pearson, he’d be taken in the expansion draft after the 1960 season, only in his case he got drafted by the “New Senators”. Between trades and drafts, poor Gene appeared capless in three straight Topps sets… and you have to appreciate the awful little painted Oriole on the black & white “action” shot.

Speaking of traded players, Gordon Jones appears in a Giants cap even though he’d been traded to the Orioles the prior November.  Jones pitched in 32 games with the O’s over two seasons.

We’ll wrap up with another player who was the AL Rookie of the Year, Walt Dropo.  Dropo had a career year in 1950 at the age of 27, which is not in itself unusual, but in his case that was also his rookie year. Walt lead the league with 144 RBI, but also hit 34 homers and scored 101 runs, all career highs.

By the time he was with the O’s he was wrapping up a 13 year career.

I love the “Moose” cartoon on the back of Dropo’s card.  “Hey, Rocky!  Watch me pull a rabbit outta my hat!”

Sleepless Nights… Photo Days… Where Would I Be Without My Customs?

It started with a sleepless early morning.

My mind was far too active, and no matter how long I did my own “counting sheep” substitute, I was no closer to sleep.  I went downstairs, ate a bowl of cereal (dairy products usually do a fine job of knocking me out) and tried to catch up on my magazines… but I couldn’t focus on that, my brain was all over the place.

I ended up surfing around and eventually ran into some “Photo Day” images from Spring Training.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Photo Day, each team has a day where they get all the players into their uniforms (usually home unis) and take numerous portraits and posed shots for use throughout the year.

Photo Day images are a lot of fun to look at, because it’s often the first good look at a player in new uniforms… either because they’ve changed teams, or because their team has changed uniforms.

One of the first teams I looked at was the Padres, who were wearing their new home unis that are trimmed in yellow… and I have to say, this was a small change that resulted in a huge difference.  The Padres have had very uninteresting uniforms for the past 15 years or so, but adding a bright accent color has given them a uniform set I can get behind.

There were also some portraits and pose-y images that would look great on 1950’s customs, so my brain kicked into gear.  I started with a 1953 custom…
2016 TSRchives 53T-2 Manuel Margot
Manuel Margot was a top Red Sox prospect until he was involved in the Craig Kimbrel trade, now he’s a top Padres prospect.

I was going to leave it at one Padres custom, but Derek Norris made such a great old-school catcher pose that I had to do something.  This design is from 1959 Bazooka, which I’d used for my 2013/14 Hot Stove set.
2016 TSRchives 59BZ-2 Derek Norris
I’ve long been a proponent of Padres brown and gold, but blue and gold is a criminally underused combo that I hope the Padres hang on to for a while.

The final custom I made last night was one using a template that I whipped up just for this occasion.  Now, I’m not a fan of 1960 Topps.  There’s a lot going on, and all too often there’s too much happening and it turns into a trainwreck. However, after I ran across some horizontal portraits for the Royals, I thought that one of them would work well in a 1960 design, and since I was in full-blown “Custom Animal” mode by then, I started into the template… and I’m pretty happy with the way this turned out.
2016 TSRchives 60T-1 Cody Decker
Cody Decker is a Non-Roster Invitee to Royals camp, and I don’t know how much of a chance he has to make the team, but I liked his horizontal portrait the best of all, so I went to town.

As long as I’m sharing customs, I might as well include this one that I made a couple of weeks ago, and one that fits in with vintage-y theme of this post…
2015-16 Hot Stove 65CFL Andrew McCutchen
This is most likely the last “Hot Stove” card from this year’s set, and for those who aren’t familiar with the design, it’s based on the 1965 Topps Canadian Football League set.  Andrew McCutchen is modeling the Pirates’ new Sunday alternates, based on the late-1970’s / early 1980’s “We Are Fam-i-lee” uniforms.  They generally did a good job with these, but I don’t like the hat, it’s not as pillbox-y as it should be… and while the black pants looked OK with gold 1970’s stirrups, I’m not sure how they’ll do as full-length pants.

OK, so this wasn’t a planned post, but once I finished these customs I figured I might as well put them out there for everybody to (hopefully) enjoy.

I’ll be back tomorrow with some real baseball cards.  Promise.

Ranking 15 years Of Heritage, Pt 1: 15 through 13

The idea for this new series of posts came from the general reaction to this year’s Heritage set.  While I knew that there wasn’t a huge amount of love for the 1966 design, I didn’t expect this year’s Heritage to be greeted with the overwhelming wave of indifference that came upon its release… And that indifference may turn out to be well-founded because, to be frank, I’m far less “into” this year’s set than I had been when it initially came out.  I have some thoughts on my flagging enthusiasm for this year’s Heritage, but I’ll save that for later.

Anyway, indifference to 2015 Heritage got me thinking about how hard it would’ve been for most Heritage steps coming on the heels of 2014 Heritage (based on the wonderful 1965 design)… and that, in turn, got me thinking it would be fun to do a ranking every Heritage base set.  Plenty of bloggers have ranked the sets these are based on, but I don’t know of anyone who actually ranked Heritage as Heritage.

When going through these, I tried to take a number of things into account… the design being “Heritaged”, how successful Topps was in replicating the design and feel of the set, whether it changed my feelings towards the original cards, and – more of a belllweather than a factor – how many of the Heritage cards I have in my collection.

OK, let’s get started…

#15:  2001 Heritage (1952 design)

Right off the bat, I’m giving everybody cause to get out the pitchforks and torches.  I realize that the 1952 set achieves its fame from the fact that it’s the first “real” Topps set and it contains Mickey Mantle’s rookie card, but I maintain that if neither were true, 1952 Topps would not be viewed as quite as much of a classic as it is. Yes, it was groundbreaking at the time, but I don’t find it to be a great design. The original pulls it off by being sort of “organic”, and looking like a set where everything was done by hand. When replicated through 2001 technology, you lose the organic appeal and it comes across as kind of homely.

2001 Heritage Rickey Henderson

2001 Heritage Rickey Henderson back

I suppose I should cut them some slack, the Heritage concept was new… but looking back at it, I wondered how many lessons had yet to be learned when they started this.  A lot of the images seem like they just ran photos through some filter and tinted the background some sickly color.

Given that this is a ranking of Heritage sets, it might be off-topic to compare the 2001 set with its “peers”, but it does have a lot to do with how I felt about this set at the time, and how I feel about it now.

Heritage wasn’t the best throwback set of 2001… it wasn’t even second-best… not even close.  Upper Deck had their Vintage set which was a tweaked 1963 Topps design….

2001 UD Vintage Mike Bordick

Fleer had the 1950’s-ish Tradition set which is as derivative as derivative can be, but is still a far nicer set than 2001 Heritage.

2001 Fleer Tradition Jeff Conine

Looking at my 2001 Heritage cards, there’s one damning piece of evidence that makes my feelings for this set clear:  I’ve been a Mets fan and active collector for over 40 years, and this is the extent of my 2001 Heritage Mets.

2001 Heritage Bobby Jones

Yep, one card that I think I pulled from a pack.  If that doesn’t say “disinterest”, I don’t know what does.  I’ll probably go back and fill in the gaps… Someday.

How Heritage affected my opinion of the originals:  2001 Heritage, combined with the “Topps ’52” Rookie sets that came a couple of years later, made me tired of this design… although I’ll say that the “Topps ’52” sets seemed to have done a better job of replicating the feel of the originals.

2001 Heritage cards in my collection:  36 cards out of 407 in the set (8.85%)

#14:  2011 Heritage (1962 Design)

I’ll admit, the original 1962 set is a set that I sort of… resent.

It’s not a design that I care for… Part of it is the wood grain.  Somehow, I find wood grain to be less interesting than just a solid border.  I can’t explain why, it just is.

But – and here’s where the resentment comes in – but the catch is that the first-ever Mets cards are from this 1962 set… and as they didn’t get photos of players in Mets uniforms until the later series, an awful lot of the 1962 cards in my collection look like this:

1962 Topps Mets Binder page

Without team-specific colors on the card front, without caps, this is just a bunch of head shots of guys with crew cuts.

Unfortunately, Topps often did a little too good of a job re-creating the feel of the original set, so we get a bunch of head shots of guys (minus the crew cuts).

2011 Heritage Ivan Rodriguez

I did buy a number of packs of this set, but mainly because I had gotten into the Heritage “habit” by 2009.  I don’t hate the design, I just don’t care for it a whole lot.

The backs have artwork, but not the goofy cartoons I prefer.

2011 Heritage Ivan Rodriguez back

I will admit, I like the All-Star cards a bit better, because there’s something going on beyond wood grain.

2011 Heritage Albert Pujols AS

How Heritage affected my opinion of the originals:  Pretty much a wash…  I wasn’t a fan of the originals to begin with, I’m still not.

2011 Heritage in my collection: 140 / 500 (28% – I’m honestly surprised it’s this high)

#13:  2009 Heritage (1960 design)

I’ll start right off by apologizing to CommishBob, who just started a blog devoted to 1960 Topps.  I know a lot of people love the 1960 set, but I don’t think of it as a classic, it’s just a middle-of-the-pack vintage set to me.  The main reason that 2009 Heritage ranks so low is because Topps unintentionally played up the worst aspects of 1960 Topps and made 2009 Heritage into a set that I REALLY DO NOT LIKE AT ALL.
2009 Heritage Adiran Gonzalez
Horizontal design, clashing colors, a portrait in “Landscape” mode, a little B&W “inaction” shot, alternating letter colors that often make it appear that we’re looking at a card of “A R A   G N A E”  rather than Adrian Gonzalez.

It works better with less-clashing colors, but 1960 and 1962 are like evil twins of each other. Just as 1962 has too few colors and too little going on, 1960 has too many colors and too much going on.
2009 Heritage Erik Bedard

The backs aren’t bad, and the Jack Davis-drawn cartoons go a long way towards bringing me back towards this set.

2009 Heritage Erik Bedard back

I think there are two ways that the Heritage set “blew it”. The first is that the photos are not cropped tight enough, which lets the design and photo background take over. Most of the portraits should be head and shoulders, and that’s it. With too loose of a crop, it draws attention away from the player and towards the large amount of background you have when you’ve got a horizontal portrait.

Similarly, the black and white pose should be taking up a lot more space, and they shouldn’t have been afraid to let a player’s arm, leg or other extremity go out of frame. We get too much colored background as a result, and just this sad little black and white guy standing in front of it.

Furthermore, because so much of this set is large slabs of color, I think it worked better with the imperfections of 1960’s printing technology. Without any flaws, with an even distribution of ink on the cardboard, we end up with big swaths of PINK! and GREEN! and YELLOW! …and again, it takes away from the overall effect.

By letting the players take a back seat to the design, it emphasizes the fact that there are so many different design elements competing for the eye.

Here, take a look at a 1960 Topps card, just to see what I mean.
1960 Topps Ray Sadecki
Cropping this image this tightly probably goes against the Topps Stylebook (or maybe even the MLB Stylebook, if there is one), but without the tight cropping, the design does not work.

“OK, Joe”, you say during a break in the egging of my house that started shortly after I started dissing classic Topps sets, “If you have such a problem with 2009 Heritage, why is it not ranked at the bottom?”

Ah, a lovely question. Very astute of you to ask.

The funny thing about 1960 is that even though I’m no fan of the base design, I really like most of the subsets.

The manager cards are my favorite. If this had been the designed used throughout the set, we would not be discussing this set down at #13.
2009 Heritage Joe Torre

I also like the team cards and combo cards, although these designs couldn’t have worked across the whole set.
2009 Heritage Baltimore Orioles
2009 Heritage Win-Savers

(Note to Topps:  Combo cards work better when the players are actually photographed together, and not just photoshopped in front of an outfield wall)

I don’t love the rookie cards, but they’re not bad.
2009 Heritage Jonathon Niese

And I really like the All-Star cards, even though I don’t often care for cards where so much of it is taken up by the design.
2009 Heritage Ichiro AS

One thing I find interesting among all of these cards is that there’s not a lot of cohesion in the designs.  The team and combo cards go together, but don’t go with anything else.  The manager cards echo the alternate-color-lettering of the base cards, but that’s about it.  This last bit isn’t so much of a criticism as much as something I noticed.

How Heritage affected my opinion of the originals:  Heritage is what got me to appreciate the subsets, which I hadn’t had a lot of exposure to (except for the Rookie design, which I know from the Carl Yastrzemski rookie card).

2009 Heritage cards in my collection:  108 / 720 (15%)

So that’s the first three sets in my ranking.  Hopefully the remaining posts wont take as long to write as this one, otherwise they’ll be coming out once a month rather than the once a week I’d intended from the start.

As Manager / As Player #1 – Chuck Tanner

I’ve long had a certain fascination with baseball cards which picture players who would later be managers. I think the fascination started with these cards from 1978 Topps:
1978 Topps Chuck Tanner

Before then, I don’t know how much it had registered that managers were usually former players.  Sure, Yogi Berra was famous enough that I knew that he’d been a star with the Yankees… But guys like Chuck Tanner and Bill Virdon?  They’d always been old guys who managed teams, right?

As a 13-year-old, seeing photos of then-current managers as young men was pretty mind-blowing… Like seeing the English teacher you have a crush on out in a supermarket with her family.

“She has a life outside of school?  She has a husband?  She has a baby?”

“…So maybe I don’t have a shot with her when I get older…?”

So anyway, Chuck Tanner is probably best known for managing the “We Are Family” 1979 Pirates to a World Championship.  He’d also managed the White Sox, A’s and Braves, but never saw the success with those teams that he had with the ’79 Pirates.

He’s second-most-famous for having been traded as a manager – after one season managing the A’s to a second-place finish, he was traded to the Pirates for catcher Manny Sanguillén.

But Chuck Tanner was also a player from 1949 to 1962, spending a good amount of time in the Boston Braves system before making his MLB debut.

1960 Topps Chuck Tanner

As a Major League rookie in 1955, he hit a home run on the first major league pitch he saw.  In 1957, while with the Cubs, he and Ernie Banks both hit inside-the-park homers in the same game against the Pirates.  After playing for the Cubs, he put in some time with the Indians and expansion Angels.  Most of  his Major League playing career was as a 4th outfielder and pinch hitter.

One thing I found interesting about his minor league career was how many cities he’d played in which were future MLB cities… he played in A ball with the Denver Bears, in AA with the Atlanta Crackers and in AAA with the Milwaukee Brewers, Minneapolis Millers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Dallas/Ft. Worth Rangers.  That’s largely a result of spending a lot of time playing in the upper minors in the days before widespread relocation and expansion, but it’s just something that caught my attention.

Felix Mantilla Had A Credit In The Movie “Ruthless People”

…not that he had anything to do with the movie (to my knowledge), but he’s listed in the credits under “Utility Infielder”.

I can’t understand why people leave a comedy after the credits start.  Don’t they realize that there are often jokes in or after the credits?  Heck, my favorite part of the movie “Cars” was during the credits.  “Hey… they’re just using the same actor over and over.  What kind of cut-rate production is this? ”

And, of course, there’s the very, very end of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”:

Review: Game 7 of the 1960 World Series – Pirates vs. Yankees

All images courtesy of CheckOutMyCards.com

1961 Topps #312 - World Series Game 7 Bill Mazeroski - Courtesy of CheckOutMyCards.comI recently finished watching Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, and boy, that was a fun game to watch.  The game itself is exciting, but the fun is on so many levels…  The players, the uniforms, the ballpark, the manual scoreboard, the broadcast itself… it’s so great being able to watch an entire game from 50 years ago without going through the filter of a World Series Highlight film.

If  you know anything about this series, you know that Bill Mazeroski hit a walk-off homer in game 7 to win the series.  What’s telling about this series is that the Yankees absolutely beat upon the Pirates in their 3 wins, and scored 9 runs in this loss.  Yankee Bobby Richardson was the MVP, and when the MVP is on the losing team, that tells you something.

1960 Topps #405 - Bobby Richardson - Courtesy of CheckOutMyCards.com

For those who don’t know the story behind this recording of the game, it was something which was thought to have been lost, but an archivist going through Bing Crosby’s wine cellar (Bing was a part-owner of the Pirates) found a kinescope (a film made of a TV broadcast) of the game.  It was originally re-broadcast on the MLB Network in December, 2010.  I’d Tivo’ed the game at the time and didn’t watch the game all at once;  instead, I watched an inning or two every time I needed a baseball fix.

It’s kind of trite to say this, but a large part of the fun was seeing players “come to life”.  There were so many players I was familiar with, but had never seen on a field before;  there’s Hall of Famers like Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra and Roberto Clemente – one small thing I noticed is that when Clemente tossed a ball back into the infield, he did so underhanded, almost like fast pitch softball.
1960 Topps #326 - Roberto Clemente - Courtesy of CheckOutMyCards.com
I’m familiar with Tony Kubek from his  broadcasting days, and many of the other players, guys like Bobby Shantz, Roy Face and Gil MacDougald, I know solely from vintage cards.  I hadn’t realized it, but if Shantz were playing today he’d be a favorite of mine… Dude was about my height (5’7”), and those who read this blog regularly are probably tired of me saying that I’ve got a soft spot for the vertically challenged.

1960 Topps #315 - Bobby Shantz - Courtesy of CheckOutMyCards.com
At one point in the game, it looked like Hal Smith would go down through the ages as the hero of Game 7, but things didn’t quite pan out that way…
1960 Topps #48 - Hal W. Smith - Courtesy of CheckOutMyCards.com
There was Bill Virdon patrolling center field, which was very interesting to me… Virdon was the manager of the Yankees when I first started following baseball, and it’s odd to think of him as a defensive specialist and on-base guy.
1960 Topps #496 - Bill Virdon - Courtesy of CheckOutMyCards.com
Then there’s just the general feel of the game.  The uniforms were flannel, still a bit baggy, but starting to come into what we’re familiar with.  The stirrups were getting longer, the sleeves were getting shorter.

They showed the manual Forbes Field scoreboard often, and showed the score being changed once or twice.  I have to say, If I were ever to have input into the design of a ballpark, I would make sure that there’s a manual scoreboard somewhere in the place.  You can have 300-foot tall megatron videoboards everywhere, but there needs to be one manual scoreboard somewhere.  It’s just too cool not to have.

If whatever method you might use to watch this game includes the post-game interviews, don’t skip them.  It’s fun to watch and see how each player gets his 15 seconds on camera and then is almost literally shoved off to the side.  And the jacket that Bob Prince is wearing… GAHHHHH!!!!  Even in black and white, it’s a sight to behold.
1970 Fleer World Series #57 - 1960 Pirates/Yankees - Courtesy of CheckOutMyCards.com
I’m not a particular fan of the Pirates, and I’m certainly not a fan of the Yankees, but even so I’m thinking about buying this on DVD.   Great stuff, highly recommended.