Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cardboard appreciation: 1956 Topps Herb Score

(We'll keep it short and simple this time, and borrow a line from the kids: "don't hate, appreciate." Welcome to another edition of Cardboard Appreciation. This is the sixth in a series):

This is one of my favorite cards from the 1956 Topps set. Even though I am not an Indians fan, Score's death this past week hit me because of this card.

I like the grin on Score's face and the painting of Score in mid-delivery, preparing to dazzle another batter with white-hot heat. Little did he know at the time, but Score was in his baseball prime in 1956. He had just won the Rookie of the Year award in 1955 after going 16-10 and striking out 245 batters. In '56, he would win 20 games and strike out 263. And in '57 it was over after being struck in the head by a line drive off the bat of the Yankees' Gil McDougald. His career was never the same.

I've mentioned my interest in pitchers before, especially lefties. So those are two other reasons why I like this card. But most of all, I like it because it's a great subject on a great card set. 1956 Topps is probably my favorite set of the '50s.

I own about a third of the set, thanks mostly to a man who worked with my father. I don't remember the man's name. He knew my dad had three baseball-crazy boys and he gave the '56 cards to us. We were ecstatic. One night, we spread all the '56 cards out on the dining room table and began selecting who received which cards. All Dodgers went to me, all Red Sox went to my one brother and all Orioles went to my other brother (poor kid, the Orioles sucked in the '50s). After that, we just alternated picking cards until they were all gone.

For years I couldn't believe the generosity of that unnamed man who knew my dad. Until I suddenly realized something. Of all the cards he gave us, not one was a Yankee card (I live in Yankee territory, and if you know someone is a baseball fan here, you assume he's a Yankee fan until he shows you otherwise). Not only that, but none of the cards were the major stars of the time -- Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Willie Mays. That's when it hit me: this unnamed man was STREAMLINING! He kept all the rare gems for himself.

Now that certainly is his right, those were his cards. It certainly didn't affect my enjoyment of the '56 cards that I have. And his generosity has me still adding to the collection many years later.

So I thank him for that. I appreciate what he did. And I appreciate 1956 Topps Herb Score.

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