Tuesday, September 27, 2011

About this card update project...

Most folks reading this are managers in Chad W's fantastic h2h season replay league called ARAIG (As Real As It Gets).  Last season we replayed the 1976 season.  Following the laws of math and sequences we are now moving on to 1977.  Last season while playing games we used standard 90x135 player head shots.  This season I volunteered to put together the 1977 Topps Baseball set as our photo standard.  After going through the set I noticed a number of things:

  1. At least 1/3 of the players in MLB during the 1977 season never had a Topps card.  We will call those fellow "MIA"
  2. About 10% were pictured on the team they played for the previous season or split time between multiple teams, so they would need to be represented on a card for each of them.
  3. Topps basically took artistic liberty to "airbrush" new caps and uni's on traded players as well as players on the two expansion teams (Toronto and Seattle).  As a secondary phase for this project I will attempt to replace the worst airbrush photos with a real life photo and an updated card.  Basically Topps had a monopoly on making baseball cards from the mid 60's through the early 80's.  This led them to be lazy in their card creation.  Most photos were taken @ Shea or Yankee Stadiums respectively or during spring training.  Topps was also known to recycle older photos over and over again by zooming in and out.
  4. Topps used another old time trick for guys who they expected to be traded or for teams changing their logos.  We call this "trick" the BHNH (Big Head No Hat) Card.  Typically 10% of each Topps card during this era had the BHNH format.  After tackling the "Airbrush" issue I will attempt to cover up those bad 70's "doos" with an appropriate cap photo.
  5. Finally, I will attempt to track down as many action shots as I can to replace the Airbrush and BHNH shots to add some realism, especially if I find a superstar with a terrible look.
Below are some samples of standard Topps shots for 1977 that I will attempt to work on during this project:

By 1977 Reggie Jackson was the biggest superstar on the baseball horizon.  In 1976 he found himself playing in Baltimore, because Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley was in the process of dismantling his dynasty and shipping his perspective free agents out of town in hopes of getting some value for them.  Topps took this shot sometime prior to 1976 and airbrushed in a Yankee batting helmet and pinstripes for Reggie.  I deduced this based on the fact that I can see an Oakland A's jersey sleeve in the background just over Reggie's shoulder.  Thankfully I won't have to redo this one, because in the NY area Burger King issued a mid-season set with a real shot of Mr. October.  This is an anomaly, but we'll take it for sure.  IMO, this card was one of the worst ever, because the airbrushing looks like some kid used a marker during arts and crafts.  It is definitely not fitting the "straw that stirs the drink"

This is a great example of the BHNH (Big Head No Hat) card.  Topps would take multiple shots for each player during the season.  This was done with more frequency in 1976 due to impending expansion (2 new AL teams).  Topps eventually got even lazier and used these types of shots for star player rather than go and get a better shot.  If a team was in the process of changing logos and uni's this shot would be used as well.  The only way you can really tell what team the guy played on at the time of the photo is by looking at the jersey collar and piping.  If you have a cool 'fro like Grant Jackson you might not mind this shot, but if you were folically challenged like Mitch Williams, you might not be too happy.

Here's a classic "look up to the heavens" head shot employed by Topps during their monopolistic run.  The photographer would shoot the photo from the ground up with the player gazing unto the heavens.  It was very easy to airbrush these since only a bit of the cap and no log would show.  Sometimes they would shoot it straight on with only the underside of the cap showing.  Topps shot the whole Texas Rangers team like this in 1972, because the previous year they were the "lame duck" Senators.  Everyone knew they were moving from Washington to Texas and Topps wasn't taking any chances that they would also be changing their cap color or uniform style.

Mickey Lolich never ever threw a pitch in anger in a Mets uniform during the 1977 season.  In fact he didn't pitch for anyone.  Still Topps issued this card for him in 1977 in a Met uni since he played for them in '76.  This is a classic Spring training shot that Topps overused to most of our chagrin.  Lolich returned to baseball in '78 for an abbreviated stint in San Diego.  On a side note, every time I see this card I think of the man that the Mets traded away, Rusty Staub, who went on to have 4 All-Star seasons with the Tigers, while Mickey basically ate his way out of baseball.

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