Tuesday, June 4, 2013

One-dimensional player


A couple of months ago, I was wandering through some online images of cards when I came across the one you see here. It's a 1964 Topps card of Tom Haller, posing how catchers posed back in '64.

I had never seen this card before, but I had definitely seen the image before.


I had owned the 1969 Topps Tom Haller card since I was a teenager, and I recognized the pose right away.

I had also known that Haller was wearing a Giants uniform on the '69 card, but passed it off as that thing that Topps did back then. Haller last played for the Giants in 1967, they probably couldn't get a photo of Haller as a Dodger, even though he played the entire '68 season with the Dodgers.

Little did I know that the photo was at least five years old. That would have been much more amusing. There are a few other examples of old, old photos in the '69 set, but I could never figure out why they did this, and it's kept me from fully enjoying this set.

Recently, I read an explanation for all of the old photos in the '69 set. It had to do with the rise in the Major League Baseball Players organization, the fight that they were having over licensing at the time, and Topps wasn't allowed to take current photos of players. So it had to go back to 1968 or 1967 or even farther back.

I suppose this is common knowledge among some, but I don't remember hearing about this. It was interesting, and it made me look at the '69 set a little more favorably. Topps did have a reason -- it was a licensing issue.

Fast forward to the present. Topps doesn't have a licensing issue, at least not as far as what was happening in 1969. It can take photos of players, it can take photos of teams, it can take photos of logos and featuring them 47 times on one card if it wants.

So, remember that. It can take photos of players.


This is the 2013 Topps Archives card of Adrian Gonzalez. He's watching a home run. You might remember that he hit a home run in his first game with the Dodgers. Pretty big moment. Especially if you're a Dodger fan.


Look, there it is again, on the 2013 Topps base card. Gonzalez watching his home run. Big moment. That we've seen a second time.

I'm not going to bother showing the parallel versions of the Gonzalez card. But you know about them. Same photo. Same home run. With different colored frames.


And here's the Opening Day Gonzalez. Opening Day gets knocked a lot because it shows the same photos that are in the base set. So I was resigned to seeing that home run shot again on this card. But now we're up to four, or five or six or seven or eight or nine or 10 images of the same home run.

Now we move onto a photo that I originally thought was the same picture, but it's not:


This is the 2013 Topps mini insert card of Gonzalez. It's a different photo as he has short sleeves in this picture as opposed to the long sleeves in the other image. But the similarity of the photo (not to mention the similarity of the design to the Archives design -- Topps ripping off its '72 design everywhere this year), makes it a little confusing.


Here is A-Gone on an Opening Day Stars card in the Opening Day set. Guess what he's doing? That's right, admiring a home run blast. Can't say I've seen that before. This may or may not be the same image as on the '72 mini insert.


And here is another Blast Shot on 2013 Bowman. And you know if it's on the base card, then it's on all the Bowman border parallels, too.

After searching online briefly, I found what is likely one of same at-bats as above on a few more cards:


Commemorative patch.



Museum triple swatch/auto spectacular.


Triple Threads triple patch book "card."


Gypsy Queen mini variation.


I did find at least a different angle -- although still Gonzalez blasting off -- on his Gypsy Queen base card:


He's wearing a road uniform on this one.


That same at-bat, I believe, is on his 2013 Topps sticker.



Here he is with a road uniform and long sleeves. So maybe this is a different at-bat. Or maybe there's a bunch of photoshopping going on. I'm so confused now.



Again, Gonzalez admiring a blast. Could be the same, could be different. But here is the question I have after seeing all of these rather similar cards.

Are there any cards of Gonzalez this year in which he doesn't look like he is either in the process of or has just hit a titanic blast? The guy does have just eight home runs this year. And he's not a DH.

I have exactly two cards in which he's doing something different:


Gonzalez's Turkey Red card. Anticipating a pitch.



And his Heritage card. Sitting in the dugout.


Now this isn't the case of repeating the exact same photo through all of his cards. But with Gonzalez's many cards this year, we're talking three different actions. Sitting in the dugout once, waiting for a pitch once, and hitting or admiring some sort of blast featured many, many times.

It'd be nice if we could mix the photos up a little bit. Gonzalez on deck. Gonzalez focused on the pitcher. Gonzalez greeting a teammate. Gonzalez making a fielding play. Something different.

Perhaps with Gonzalez being acquired so late in the season last year (Aug. 25), Topps' options were limited. I don't have first-hand knowledge about how difficult/easy it is to get photos of players these days. I don't want to be accused of being one of those consumers who bashes a company without knowing how the sausage is made.

What I think is happening though is that Topps can't quite handle its own success. It got an exclusive license, it has to issue a number of different product lines to make money and to satisfy customers. So apparently it doesn't have enough pictures to go around, or it wouldn't be doing this. That's got to be it, right? My only other option to consider is that it just doesn't care.

And this is the issue. No matter how challenging it is for Topps to acquire photos, when something like this happens, it just looks bad.

Perception is everything. Image is everything. When you don't have an explanation, all you've got is what's in your hands.

And to me, as I look at my Gonzalez cards that all essentially seem the same, it just looks like they don't give a damn.

I'm sorry. That's just the way it looks.

11 comments:

  1. It's absurd, especially on new cards. With digital photography, it's ridiculous to think that Topps can't get more card-worthy photos of virtually every player.

    I think you're right though. I don't think they give a damn.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I get a kick out of the photos that are nearly the same, but a frame or two different. I have a few cards where you know it was taken during the same game and probably same at bat, just slightly different pose.

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  3. It's a different sort of animal, but I was able to get shots from the very last day of the season to use in my custom set. Obviously I didn't have to print them all out, so I don't know what kind of deadline they have for that. However, it must be after the season or else they couldn't get accurate stats on the back. I am chalking it up to Topps' laziness.

    The good news is we have at least seven more years of the exact same laziness to look forward to.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Never knew that about the 1969 set, great info.

    Not that Gonzalez is a bad hitter, he is very good, but he is about the best fielding 1B around. Might be nice to include some cards of him on D.

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  5. Another reason that vintage wins. Despite having a CRAZY number of options these days, there's simply a higher percentage of cards that elicit that "they don't give a damn" feeling. Maybe some of the older cards aren't as "sophisticated," or their "technology" is dated. But I'll take 'em every time.

    ReplyDelete
  6. More Tom Haller Dupes

    1965 Topps:
    http://baseballsimulator.com/baseballcards/front.php?id=6275

    can be found as 1963T inset photo:
    http://baseballsimulator.com/baseballcards/front.php?id=4733

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is why 3 companies putting out 1 or 2 sets max is preferable to one company putting out 10 sets. They need the competition.

    Down with the monopoly

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  8. Hasn't Topps being doing this for awhile now? It does seem that they have gotten incredibly lazy. Give Panini and UD a full license already...Topps needs some competition again!

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  9. I'd guess it's a money issue. Does Topps have its own photographers, or do they buy shots from the pros?
    If they buy them, then they're just pinching pennies by only buying a fraction of the number of photos compared to products issued. (Ex. Three different photos to use in seven products.)

    ReplyDelete
  10. as soon as they put out a card of Gonzales with a glove, there will be a blog post somewhere saying "Adrian is the greatest slugger, I don't wanna see him in the field. Show him whacking a Home Run fer Pete's sake. Topps is so stupid." Or perhaps, actually,. a forum post, where everyone is crankier.

    but yes, I agree. Topps is like the Lily Tomlin phone company. They don't care, because they don't have to. Monopoly or not.

    WE keep buying their cards.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I agree with your sentiment. I realize they have so many products, but if you went back to 1998 when a guy like McGwire or Bonds or Griffey would be featured on base cards from 8-10 Topps products and probably 15-20 more inserts. I'm pretty sure if you went back to those years, Topps would have different pictures. But now, in 2013, it seems like Clayton Kershaw (or insert other superstar) has only a few pictures used. His Heritage photo is shown all over the place.

    ReplyDelete