I was never much of a comic book kid, so I didn't get into the Marvel series, and I've never seen any of the Hulk movies. But I am a fan of campy TV action shows. And "The Hulk" on CBS from 1978-82 was right up my alley.
One of my favorite things to do when watching the show was to try to anticipate when Dr. Bruce Banner would turn into the Incredible Hulk. Sometimes it was easy, like when a baddie would punch Banner in the face and he would fly halfway across the room. Other times, it was more difficult, like when Banner would drop a dime in a phone booth and flip out.
The times when Banner would "hulk" over seemingly inconsquential issues were the favorite moments for my brothers and I. We'd go into hysterics watching Banner freak over a relative non-issue. In fact, years later the phrase "to hulk" lives on at my house. My wife has a habit of getting annoyed at small issues. She'll let out an exasperated sigh and sometimes stomp around. I tell her she's "hulking."
So what does this have to do with baseball cards? Well, you may remember this card featured on this post:
Bob Coluccio, the clean-cut, All-American boy swinging for the fences on his 1974 card.
And then Coluccio two years later, in which I mentioned that he looks like he just got done with his gig as a roadie for Grand Funk Railroad. It's quite the transformation, no?
It's not Hulk-like in that Coluccio didn't turn green or sprout muscles. But the guy doesn't look anything like he did in 1974, does he? Coluccio underwent a metamorphosis over those two years.
And he's not a rare exception, as many fans of 1970s baseball cards have noted. The Beatles may be the most recognizable "metamorphosis" examples, going from mop-tops to hippies in three short years during the '60s. But baseball players were a little behind the curve, choosing the early-to-mid-70s for their transformation.
Here is another player who was a Brewer on his 1974 card, Billy Champion (possibly the greatest baseball name in history. He should have a spot in the Hall of Fame just for his name. If I had a son, I think I'd have to name him Billy Champion. Forget about the fact that "Champion" isn't my last name. I'd go through all the paperwork just to get it done. It is THAT awesome of a name).
Then you'll notice on his 1976 card that Champion has taken on the rocker look. Frampton Comes Alive? Hell, no. Champion Comes Alive!
Here's another fine 1970s metamorphosis. Steve Hargan features a clean-cut look throughout his late '60s cards into the early '70s. Check out the look on Hargan's face on the 1971 card. Someone hypnotized him right there in Municipal Stadium.
Then, something happened a few years later and Hargan looks like he's halfway toward becoming Grizzly Adams. Since I wasn't aware of ballplayers until the mid-70s, Hargan's look on the right is what I was familiar with. When I saw Hargan's earlier cards, I was shocked.
But I was a pretty clueless kid in the '70s. I'd walk around in my purple plaid pants and pterodactyl shirt collars happy as a lark. Watergate? Cocaine? Swingers? Starland Vocal Band? I was oblivious.
Here's a great metamorphosis, mostly because it's Billy Buck. But also because it's so drastic. I'll bet there are a ton of baseball fans that didn't even know Buckner used to look like he did on the 1972 card. Chest-hair Billy, that's what they remember.
It's more fun, though, to look at the transformation of players who aren't as familiar as Buckner. Everyone is aware of how Rich Gossage changed. But I like to focus on some of the more common players.
Another one of my favorites is Dave LaRoche (father to Adam and Andy). In fact, you can see LaRoche's metamorphosis over the years, much like the transformation that you'd see on "The Hulk" as he'd go from Bixby to Ferrigno.
If I had photoshop talent, I'd try blurring the images to better show the metamorphosis. But instead I'll just do this: