Fuji of The Chronicles of Fuji, threw down a challenge / contest with a post at the start of February. It’s a great idea – connect a player to another through cards by way of the six degrees of separation concept.
It’s been a tough month to find time to post but I was able to eke this out. So here’s my take on Fuji’s idea – a card journey that starts with 1975 Topps.
I start with Card #1 of 1975 Topps: Hank Aaron’s landmark setting record documented on a card. It’s the first place I’d start for many reasons. It had meaning not only for baseball but also for social reasons. Plus the event and the trying time leading up to it speaks to Hank Aaron’s character.
The first connection is to Al Downing, the pitcher that Aaron hit his 715th record setting home run.
Tom House is the guy who caught the ball – here’s his recollection about it. House was born in Seattle Washington and coincidentally he also made his last MLB appearance with the Seattle Mariners. House gave the ball back to Aaron, his Atlanta Braves team mate (there were players positioned in the stands to catch it).
After retiring House coached for the San Diego Padres, the team that Dave Winfield started playing on in the majors. And out of all the players in the 1975 Topps set – Winfield’s the one who played the longest, retiring in 1995. Nobody from the set lasted until 1995.
George Brett also started his MLB career in 1973. Here’s a young and older Brett. He played for one team during his whole career. He retired on October 3, 1993.
And tying it back to 1975 Topps, Robin Yount retired on the same exact date that George Brett retired. Like Brett, he also played on one team, his entire career, the Milwaukee Brewers. He was the final 1975 Topps player (that was also Hank Aaron’s teammate) to retire.
When I think of baseball players from the 70’s, I see their photos from the 1975 Topps set.
And that’s the way it was… until I caught a glimpse of some SSPC cards that were unique in all sorts of ways. I got the whole set and my world view of 1975 baseball players changed.
Jim Colburn was clean shaven when his 1975 card was at my local mini-mart, but 1975 Jim really had a perm doo a twirly mustache.
Finding the SSPC set was like unearthing photographs of people you’ve known all your life and discovering their wild and crazy side.
Charlie Williams had straight hair and so seeing him sporting a perm doo still takes some getting used to. It took until 1978 Topps Charlie Williams to ditch the perm.
And the dusk, sunset shots… there’s a feeling when I’m at a ballpark on a warm summer night when the sun starts to set. Charlie’s card reminds me of that feeling – it’s a card that transcends being just a card.
I still usually think of the ’75 players Topps photos first, but now I sometimes think of their other side.
This is one of the best baseball player portraits on a card that I’ve seen – if it were on a 1975 Topps card it would easily make my Top 10.
Unlike many 1975 Topps “Staring into the sky” portraits, this one evokes something deep within Carl.
One difference between the 70’s and today is the diversity of facial hair in the public. It wasn’t like all baseball players had moustaches, but it seems like there were a lot more than today.
Darrell Porter looked like a clean cut ball player on this 1975 Topps card. And then transitioned into a handlebar moustache tough looking guy. If Topps Porter ran into SSPC Porter in a bar, I don’t think he’d want to start any trouble with himself.
Strike a Pose.
Porter migrated to handle bars and Thurmon migrated to a beard.
I haven’t seen a pose like this one on a card, so until I know different, this is a unique one of a kind.
Catfish Hunter’s SSPC card pictures him in a pose that matches his nickname.
If you bought a Topps card in 1975, his card showed him as an A but he was really a Yankee by then. If you also owned the SSPC card, you’d have all the teams represented that Hunter every played on. He didn’t play in the major leagues. Thought technically he started as a Kansas City Athletic.
Both of these cards capture the transition nicely.
Some of the photographs in the 1975 Topps and the 1976 SSPC sets are so different it’s hard to tell it’s the same person. And others, like this one of Rudy May are more subtle.
The contrast between the two sets is more subtle with Rudy May. I was used to the sullen Topps Rudy May that I’ve grown accustomed to for decades. When I picked up the SSPC recently, there’s was familiar Rudy but with some differences – gold chain, Yankees jersey, and a cap that didn’t look airbrushed.
And there’s a contrast within the SSPC card. I like Rudy’s crooked glasses and his wide grin. He seems human and approachable. And yet he’s in a Yankees uniform – a professional baseball player with that big stadium full of fans in the background.
The SSPC shows us a different perspective on familiar faces from the Topps set. And that’s pretty cool.
This might be one of Nolan’s weirdest cards. It’s like he’s practicing pitching. I like the focus and intensity it captures. I also like the stadium and fans in the background.