Thursday, August 27, 2015

C.A.: 1976 SSPC Joe Hoerner

(Today is "Just Because" day. I don't have much free time for "just because" activities, but I do have this blog post "just because". It's Cardboard Appreciation time. This is the 230th in a series):

There is a well-known baseball card from the mid-1990s of San Diego Padres player Bip Roberts wearing a sombrero in the dugout.

Now, I have no problem with the card or Roberts. They've been wonderful for the hobby and card blogs in particular. But don't you think that this card -- produced almost exactly 20 years before Bip in sombrero -- should get a little more credit and a little more air time?

I get it. Bip is wearing a giant, colorful hat. He looks rather serious. He's sporting eye black. But get a load at Joe Hoerner up there. Hoerner is a relief pitcher -- actually referred to as a "mop-up" man on the back of his card -- sitting pensively on the outer edge of the dugout, seemingly completely unaware that there is a large floppy hat on top of his head.

These are the hats that were quite fashionable at the time. Sun hats. Worn by women. Like so:

But Joe Hoerner ain't no woman.

No, he's a school-of-hard-knocks reliever, who spent nine years in the minor leagues before he reached the majors. And after doing pretty darn well for the World Series champion Cardinals, he settled into a role as a reliable middle man for a variety of teams. Sitting in bullpens in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Kansas City, Cincinnati and Arlington, Texas.

There is not a clue on this card that he preferred any other kind of headwear.

Hoerner was a hard-driving guy. As a youngster he was in an automobile accident that caused future heart problems. He once collapsed on the mound due to his heart condition and was administered last rites. He was in a boating accident that killed two people after his career ended. He was kicked out of the last major league game he played after getting into a brawl with the Pirates.

Does this sound like someone who wears women's floppy hats?

OK, he also liked to play practical jokes, which kind of explains EVERYTHING.

But really, as a young collector during the second-half of Hoerner's career, I had no idea.

Topps, as reliable as they were at the time, didn't show a lot of personality with their cards in the '70s. It'd take years (and Upper Deck and Fleer and Score) for that oversized player personality to show up on a Topps card.

But as we know, the players from the '70s definitely had personality. They probably had more personality than their well-payed successors. Less money leads to more character, I'm convinced.

So, thank goodness for SSPC, which showcased some of that personality.

The Hoerner SSPC card, like the Score Bip Roberts sombrero card, is often cited as one of the "worst" baseball cards ever made.

I disagree.

It is one of the best baseball cards ever made.

And that's why I bought it with the full intention of adding it to the Best Cards of the 1970s countdown once it begins at some point in the fall. Consider it a post-mortem tribute to Hoerner, who suffered one final accident that ended his life. While tilling a field, Hoerner was somehow pinned between a tractor and a tree.

Hoerner in a floppy hat deserves more attention. At least as much attention as Roberts in a sombrero.

If only he wore that thing on a Topps card.

He'd be a regular Oscar Gamble by now.


  1. If it were socially acceptable, I'd wear a big, floppy hat all of my waking hours.

  2. I have some from that set but I've never seen that card. I love it! Thanks for posting it.

  3. That's quite the interesting card. You're right though, he seems completely unaware that his regular hat has been replaced by a giant floppy hat.

  4. I don't know how cards like this can be classified among the worst of all time. There are plenty of boring 'torso of a guy throwing a ball' cards that deserve that distinction over something interesting and fun like this. I think I can detect a bit of a smile on his face in the photo; like he's in on the joke. I wonder if he knew the photo would make it onto a trading card, though.