Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wearin' o' the green

I'm not Irish. I don't know many Irish sayings and don't really like Irish food.

But I did date an Irish girl in college. She had a very Irish look, a very Irish name and a very Irish family. We did very Irish things together (I mean drinking beer. What did you think I meant? Picking four-leaf clovers?).

That is who I think of every St. Patrick's Day.

A little of her must have worn off on me, because today I can't help but celebrate the day with a glass of ale and a post on green baseball cards! The ale will have to come after work. But the post arrives right now!

I thought I'd give a little history lesson on the use of green in baseball cards. This isn't an all-inclusive study because I have neither the collection nor the time. But there are a lot a pictures here, so get ready.

OK, green has been a basic color choice for cards since the beginning. You can't think of baseball without picturing green grass, so the two go together.

In the early days of Topps, green was one of several basic background color choices in the 1954, '58 and '59 sets.

I like this color of green on the '59 cards. It's a very late '50s color. Houses were painted this color back then.

Entering the '60s, green would appear here and there, but never as a dominant color. In 1964, Topps began assigning certain colors to certain teams. The Cardinals and Braves received an extra helping of green that year. In the 1965 set, it was the Red Sox.

That seemed to fit, given Boston's rich Irish history.

In 1966, you had to be a Giant, Oriole, Astro or Senator to get green on your card. And the pattern of randomness continued into the 1970s.

In 1972, green was reserved for the White Sox, Reds and Expos. But the A's, the only team with green in their uniforms at the time, received red for their cards. A few years later, the 1975 set was filled with green, but again totally random.

You could be an Angel.

Or a Pirate. It didn't matter.

More randomness in the 1981 set. If you were a Phillie, Angel, Blue Jay, Brave, Expo or White Sox player, you had a green card. The A's color borders, meanwhile, were ... blue.

As I've mentioned before, the Dodgers were assigned green a couple of times.

The two most notable are in 1983 and 1997. At least in '83 they threw some blue in there.

Thankfully, good ol' 1982 Fleer gave everyone their due. Here is an Oakland Athletic with a green card. As it should be:

Moving ahead a couple of years, the junk wax era was the golden age of green. So many cards used green for a theme that I couldn't possible scan them all. Here are a few:

You could tell Fleer and Donruss were toying with using green for an entire set. Donruss almost did with its very child-like looking 1991 set.

Meanwhile, Score's fascination with the color appeared on almost a yearly basis.

I didn't even scan in the '89 Score traded set, 1995 Score and a couple of others. You knew Score was building toward an all-green set, and they finally did it with 1993 Score Select.

I actually like this set a lot. I don't know if I'll ever try to complete it. But it's one of about 46,000 goals of mine.

But the company to truly embrace green whole-heartedly, the company that drank the green Kool-Aid, was Fleer. They went over the deep end and produced an all-green base set.

Who doesn't remember the Green-as-the-Wicked-Witch-of-the-West 1992 Fleer set? This set did nothing for me. Instantly forgettable in a lot of ways. But the all-green concept was certainly unique.

Topps didn't dare do the same at that time, although it almost did with the 1994 set, with green featured on virtually every card. I'm not crazy about this set either.

Finally, in 2001, to commemorate its 50th anniversary of issuing cards, Topps issued an all-green set. It actually wasn't bad. I prefer it to the silver/gray, gold sets of the preceding years. But it's probably not the color to plaster on every single card.

Green didn't appear a lot in the 1990s as companies and collectors were obsessed with cold, metallic colors. Lots of silver and gold. If there was going to be green in the card, companies made sure there was plenty of shininess to go along with it.

Most of the green appeared in inserts and subsets.

But there WERE sets not afraid to fly their green flag.

1994 Topps Finest, one of my favorites, anchored its set in green. The 1995 set features a lot of green, too.

The non-licensed 1994 Post set wasn't afraid to use green either. And many kid-friendly sets, including Topps Kids and Upper Deck's kiddy sets, used a lot of green.

Today, green doesn't appear throughout a set very often. The one set I can think of is the Upper Deck Future Stars set from 2007.

Upper Deck 2005 Origins featured green, too. And so did the UD Power-Up series, possibly the first to feature "radioactive green."

There was also the splash of green in last year's Allen & Ginter. I liked that a lot.

Where green pops up most is in the never-ending parallels that are both a blessing and a curse on the hobby. But I have to admit, a lot of them sure are purty.

So, there you are. Green has a proud history in baseball cards and in baseball, as well. A lot of ballclubs are wearing green caps today. It's been a Dodger tradition over the years.

But silly me, I forgot to wear any green today. I've got a rust-colored shirt on and blue jeans.

I'm sorry, Mary. Not the kind of thing I'd forget during my college days.

Here, I'll make it up to ya:

"Show me the way to go home
I'm tired and I want to go to bed
I had a little drink about an hour ago
And it went right to my head

Where ever I may roam
On land or sea or foam
You will always hear me singing this song
Show me the way to go home"

That's the song you used to sing all the time. Yup. I still remember.


  1. Great post, happy St. Patrick's Day!

  2. I have to wonder how long it took you to go through your cards to find the greenies.

    Or if you have your cards separated by color, rather than year/set?

  3. The 1981 Topps Reds (and Donruss, for that matter) also featured a green color, albeit a lighter shade than the one shown.