Team cards are an often overlooked source of an entertainment when it comes to collecting.
I am referring to the team cards in which the whole squad (and the traveling secretary!) poses on bleachers for a few snapshots, not the ubiquitous on-field celebrations that pass for team cards today.
These staples of my childhood appeared on Topps cards in different stages over the years: 1956-1968, 1970-81 and 2001-07 (and Heritage until 2012). I've written about them many times and pointed out several different aspects. They're really quite fun and you never know what you're going to find. Elephants roaming in the background (1980 Padres), Burt Hooton with his head down, players with missing body parts. The possibilities are endless.
I mean check out this phenomenal assemblage.
The Phillies are posing in front of a baseball sculpture that once stood at the podium level of old Veterans Stadium. The sculpture first appeared in 1976, which means the Phillies were still quite proud of it when this photo was taken in 1977. However, very few of the Phillies seem to be showing the poor photographer any kind of respect.
In the back row, Greg Luzinski is turned away from the camera deep into a conversation with Davey Johnson. In the middle row, Randy Lerch, fourth guy in from the left, is looking directly at Larry Christensen. Meanwhile, Jim Kaat is looking back at Steve Carlton and Jim Lonborg, next to Kaat, is staring off into the distance. Over at the far right, Bake McBride is making some sort of gesture -- we'll just say it's not obscene -- and distracting the heck out of Barry Foote. Finally, at the bottom, bat boy Ken J. Bush seems to be pondering the entire scene with hand to chin. And over to the right equipment manager Kenny Bush (any relation to bat boy Bush with basically the same name?) is studying ants on the ground.
The best part is this same group in the these same positions, actually took a decent photo. Just not for Topps.
That was kind of a tangent. What I wanted to address is something that's mentioned periodically on blogs over the years, and that is so-called "easter eggs" on team cards.
These "easter eggs" are people in the photo that may be their only association with the team, most likely they have never received a card of their own with that team, or if they do, it's a bit of a rarity.
The team photo posted at the top -- also sent to me by Dave -- is one example.
The fourth guy from the left in the front is none other than Joe DiMaggio!
DiMaggio was a coach for the Oakland A's in 1968 and 1969 and there aren't a lot of cards out there of the Yankee Clipper wearing green and gold!
Let's move from coaches to players. One of the more prevalent and most interesting easter eggs on team cards are players showing up on that team card with one team but appearing with another team on their own card.
There are lots of examples of this and there's no time to do researching on all of them.
One example is the '71 White Sox team card that shows Luis Aparicio in the front row.
But Aparicio shows up as a member of the Red Sox on his own card because he was traded to Boston in December, 1970 after a long and fruitful career with the White Sox (he's obviously still wearing a White Sox uniform in this photo).
A more famous example is Reggie Jackson's appearance on the Orioles 1977 team card. Jackson spent the 1976 season with the Orioles but signed with the Yankees as a free agent after the season, and Topps immediately airbrushed a Yankees helmet on Jackson for his individual card.
But they couldn't do anything about that truth-telling team card! There is Jackson at the far end of the middle row, showcasing that glorious orange jersey that Baltimore wore then, which didn't appear on enough baseball cards.
Jackson is wearing his No. 9 uniform, which a lot of fans forget was his number throughout much of his A's career and into his year with the Orioles. He didn't pick up No. 44 until he went to the Yankees.
You aren't going to find a lot of cards of Reggie Jackson as an Oriole issued during the 1970s and you won't find many cards of Dick Allen in an actual Cardinals uniform during the '70s either.
Allen appears with the Dodgers in the 1971 set but he's posing in the back row as a Cardinal on the St. Louis team card in that same set. You can find Allen with the Cardinals in the 1971 Kellogg's set and you can find him listed with the Cardinals in the 1970 Topps set, but Allen is actually in Phillies garb.
I'll finish with the Dodgers and one that Dodger fans of my era know well.
Boog Powell is remembered for his career with the Orioles and closing things out with the Indians for a couple of years. But he actually ended with the Dodgers with 50 games in 1977. He was released at the end of August, painfully close to a return to the postseason for Boog and also painfully close to Boog getting his own Dodger card.
But he's right there in the team photo, You can't miss him, seated at the end of the middle row.
These lost opportunities for cards has been a gold mine for custom card makers and I have my share, both actual cards and virtual ones.
The '70s/early '80s team cards are the best for making discoveries like this. Many of the team photos are little more clear and you sometimes can find ID'd examples of the team photos online.
Many of the '60s team images, and definitely the '50s, are much too muddled to pinpoint specific easter eggs (unless Topps provided captions as it did with some of its '50s team cards).
I haven't looked at team cards from 2001-07 to see what I can find, I admit because I'm not interested enough in that era to care. My baseball viewing was low at the time and my collecting non-existent.
But if there's no game to watch on TV, nothing on Netflix, no books to read and you can't find that damn face mask, maybe pick up a team card (and a magnifying glass) and see what easter eggs you can spot.
And you will respect traditional team cards again.