(Today is "Ask a Stupid Question Day". This day, I've learned, was created by teachers in an effort to get kids to ask more questions in class -- giving teachers more material for the teachers lounge when they share which kids asked the dumbest questions. Time for Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 232nd in a series):
Today is Grant Jackson's birthday. Jackson is known for pitching for three different World Series teams during the 1970s and for being the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the 1979 World Series.
In the baseball card world, he is known for a couple of different things. One is for his insanely difficult to obtain 1966 Topps rookie card, which he shares with Dodger Bart Shirley.
The other is for this often-cited example of 1970s fashion:
Diamonds are a reliever's best friend.
But I want to go back to Jackson's 1977 Topps card.
Jackson is listed as playing for the Mariners. That's because he was selected by Seattle in the 1976 expansion draft on Nov. 5. But Jackson never played for the Mariners because Seattle traded him to Pittsburgh one month later for infielders Craig Reynolds and Jimmy Sexton. Topps apparently went to press somewhere in early December.
So this is a case of one of those "zero-year" cards -- as Dimebox Nick calls them -- in which the player never played for the team listed. But it's even more than that, to my way of thinking.
Jackson's traveling through the 1976 season must have driven Topps to drink. He started out the 1976 season with the Orioles, the team for which he had played for five years. But in mid-June he was part of the huge trade between the Orioles and Yankees that brought Rick Dempsey, Tippy Martinez, Rudy May and Scott McGregor to Baltimore. Jackson was now a Yankee.
So, Jackson pitched for the Yankees until the end of the year. And, on Nov. 5, he was drafted by the Mariners, and then on Dec. 7 traded to the Pirates.
So, I ask you, which team is Jackson actually with in this photo? Orioles? Yankees? We don't know because Jackson is not wearing a cap, and the background is a nondescript green. It appears Topps attempted to paint a "Mariner blue" color on Jackson's collar. If I had to guess, I'd say Jackson's wearing an Orioles uniform because there is no sign of pinstripes and the Orioles have white home jerseys.
But I don't know that for sure. In this photo, Jackson is actually with NO TEAM. There is nothing in that photo that tells you, "I play for ....".
This is not the only example of this in baseball card annals. The late '60s and early '70s are filled with hatless players in which the jerseys are obscured so they don't reveal their old team. But this card has always struck me as more nebulous, more mysterious than those. There is no field in the background, at least nothing discernible. There is no blue sky, no green grass, no stands, no diamond dirt. If you look at the photo the right way, Jackson doesn't even look like a ballplayer. He's a guy standing on the sidewalk, maybe leaning up against the wall of a storefront. The photo doesn't say baseball at all.
Thank goodness Jackson had an 18-year playing career. We have plenty of other cards to confirm he actually is a ballplayer.