Monday, May 18, 2015

The all-face percentage team

This has long been an obsession of mine but probably isn't an obsession with very many other people, so I fully expect blog clicks to be in the "whatever" range. But I'll see your "whatever" with my "whatever." Onward.

As someone who collected as a kid in the '70s, I've always noticed so-called "big head" photos. That's what we called them then. We thought they were weird. Who wants to see a giant head on a baseball card? We wanted to see action, or at the very least someone with a bat or a ball in their hand.

But, of course, like everything nostalgic, as the years passed and cards continued to hammer collectors with nonstop action, I started to long for those "big head" cards, or remember them fondly anyway.

There was a resurgence of "big heads" in the late '80s/early '90s with the arrival of Upper Deck, and I think it was noticed enough that other collectors began to refer to them, although they gave them a much more adult, and mathematical name -- face percentage.

Which cards featured the highest 'face percentage'? Which cards were nothing but a player's giant head?

I decided to look at my collection and form an all-face percentage team (by the way, this has been a scribbled idea for my blog since I began scribbling ideas for my blog).

Now, like I said, "face percentage" implies math, and I wasn't looking forward to doing math for a blog post. We're supposed to be having fun here! I don't care what Danica McKeller says, I don't have fun doing math.

So I reluctantly pulled out my tape measure and started determining the width and height of the photo frame on each "face percentage" card candidate. Then I measured the width and height of the actual head of each player (I can only imagine what people are thinking if they're stumbling across this blog for the first time and reading this). Then I realized I would have to be dividing fractions and probably coming up with some equation for area and, dear lord, I was in high school again.

So I got out of there quick.

All you're getting here is a visual evaluation. If the head seems to fill up a lot of the frame, then I'm declaring it to have a high percentage. I'm not going to put a percentage number on it, because it'd be only a guess without spending hours calculating. Just humor me: the baseball guy's head is very large in the photo on the card.

I didn't review all of my cards, but I did go straight to the periods where zooming in on faces was a regular practice -- the mid-1970s and early-to-mid 1990s.

I also checked out 1984 Donruss, because with all of the head shots in that set, I figured somebody's cranium was filling up the entire frame.

But this is about as close as it gets in '84 Donruss and that's not close enough for the all-face percentage team. ('84 Donruss actually cropped its photos quite well).

By the way, I never noticed there were so many "chilling around the batting cage" photos in '84 Donruss until I did this exercise.

Other than educated guessing my way through the collection, I didn't set many other guidelines. I avoided 1959 Topps because the photo area in the set is so small -- a player's head could fill up a frame without even looking very large.

I also scrapped gimmick type cards, like 1992 Pinnacle's Shades where the camera zooms in on the player's sunglasses so the entire rest of the photo is giant face. I'm looking for regular base card monster cabeza action here.

So, here we go, the all-face percentage team (without the percentages, sue me):

Pitcher: Ken Brett

Brett features two cards in which his face takes up most of the frame, including the glorious gold-paint cap job on the '74 card. In fact, both of these are airbrushed. Topps really wanted people to see their artistry here, I guess.

(P.S.: I wish I had the 1990 Upper Deck Mark Davis card. He should be here).

Catcher: Ron Pruitt

This is a late update as I originally had Tom Haller's 1971 Topps card here (see the comments). I don't know how I could have overlooked Mr. Pruitt. This card drew immediate attention when I pulled it back in the 1979, as in "whaaaaaa?" Of course, now it's nothing but cool.

First base: Eric Karros

Eric Karros could fill up an entire card with just his hair. I guess that means I need to do an all-hair percentage team, too. My work is never done.

Second base: Tito Fuentes

One of the most famous high face-percentage cards of all-time. I'm quite positive that the crop was so tight on Fuentes because Topps wanted to make sure everyone noticed the headband around the cap.

Shortstop: Garry Templeton

Donruss gets into the act and Templeton gets his dream. He's startin', so he better not be departin'.

Third base: Bill Melton

The 1974 Topps set is a gold mine for things like nose hairs, pimples and neck folds. This is one of the first cards I think of when the topic of face percentage comes up (and, yes, it does come up).

Outfield: Bobby Bonds

You're working pretty close to the subject when you can barely get the cap in the photo.

Outfield: Lou Piniella

You knew this one was coming, I hope. Piniella's full head isn't even in the shot. Even if you moved the image over to the left, I don't think you could get his whole melon in there.

Outfield: Glenallen Hill

Possibly the king of face percentage, or at least the king in my collection. I can get claustrophobic looking at this card.

Forming this team made me realize how cards I thought were the best of the best when it comes to big heads/face percentage were really lacking.

For example, the '75 Jesus Alou card, which actually may get the award for biggest starring role by a forehead vein.

And these other prominent head shots:

There are so many others.

I'm sure I've missed some very likely candidates, probably because I don't have the cards. For example, the early 1960s is prime territory as well for large face-percentage cards. One look through the 2013 Heritage set, which pays tribute to 1964 Topps, showed me there are several very worthy candidates in both Heritage and probably the '64 set.

In fact, this card doesn't make it for face percentage:

But it's got the grand prize for "dome percentage".


  1. Back when Terry Francona had hair...kind of like a lot of us!

    Great Post!

  2. That was funny! btw, both Haller and Ken Brett have pretty big melon shots in 1973 too.


    1977 Johnny Bench was a big Head card if ever there was one.

    1. Johnny! I missed that one. I'll have to go back and update.

  4. "That head's like a small planetoid!"

  5. 1967 Curt Simmons - His big head completely filled the space between his name and the team name. A close 2nd place is 1967 Dick Ellsworth. The fact that these 2 are capless only adds to the viewer's discomfort. (Come to think of it, most big-head photos back then seem to be capless.)

  6. 1979 Topps Ron Pruitt is all I have to say!

    1. And '77 Johnny Bench's reign at catcher is very short-lived.