Monday, April 5, 2010

Vertically challenged

This is a post best reserved for the dark days of early January with no baseball in sight, not Opening Day. But the thing about challenges is you never know when they're going to arise, and you best be ready to tackle them at any time, anywhere.

The heartbreaker himself, Matt F., issued a challenge a few days ago, regarding this 1982 Topps Willie Stargell card. He declared that it had to be the only card in which the signature was presented vertically in the left-hand corner. Then he dared -- yes, dared -- anyone to prove him wrong.

"Perhaps," I thought, "he has no idea who is reading this."

But actually he did, because later Matt told me that he thought if anyone was insane enough to track down another card with a vertical signature that it would be Night Owl.

OK, he didn't say it like that. But if I was the paranoid/insecure type, then I might have inferred that from him. But I don't infer. At least not in this situation. All I saw was the word "challenge," and nothing else meant anything anymore.

I started with my 1980 Topps binder. That is one of the sets that features facsimile signatures on most of its cards. But I came up empty. Not a single up-and-down signature. I thought, "Matt might have something here."

Then I turned to the 1982 binder, the one with the Stargell card.

I uncovered this:

Reggie always has to be different. It IS a vertical signature. But it's on the right side and it is traveling from top to bottom. I didn't know if that qualified. So I pressed on.

It didn't take me long. I found another vertical, left-sided signature:

It is another star-ish player of the early 1980s, Vida Blue. He appears to be admiring his signature -- very closely.

But then I found another sideways signature, in the upper left-hand corner:

And another:

And another:

You may think that this practice was reserved for the better-known players of 1982.


And nope again:

I turned to the 1982 Traded set. More verticalness:

Back to the '82 regular set again. This is my favorite sideways signature:

I'm wondering if there is another signature that takes up more distance from the bottom of the card to the top of the card. In fact, I dare you to ... oh, never mind.

I wondered why there were so many vertical signatures in the 1982 set when there were none in the 1980 set.

I think it might be because of the advent of a dark-colored practice jerseys in the early '80s. You'll notice that a lot of the 1982 signatures were placed on the card vertically to avoid disappearing in the darkness of the jersey. That's not to say that signatures haven't appeared horizontally over dark jerseys or jackets, because they have. I think that there were just SO MANY dark jerseys that Topps decided to do that.

But a vertical signature wasn't a new thing in 1982. There are two examples in the 1975 set:

With Demery it's because he's wearing a dark jacket. I don't know why Topps tilted the signature with Otis.

I also found a sideways -- sort of -- signature in the 1971 set.

I'm assuming there are others. I didn't have time to look through all those.

And if you go back to 1967, there are a couple of others I stumbled across:

Given that I am far from completing the 1982 set and my collection of 1960s cards is paltry, I'm sure there are many, many examples. It seems that the vertical signature appeared was used in the '60s when the head shots were so tight that a horizontal signature would run across the player's face.

Topps scrapped the facsimile signature after the 1982 set, so there were no more opportunities for wild-and-wacky signature placement.

So, perhaps -- if you're still with me here -- you're wondering exactly how much free time I have to do something like this.

I have very little free time. I believe I have established that periodically here.

It's just that I can't turn down a good challenge.

As long as it doesn't involve eating bugs or reindeer testicles. I don't do that.


  1. I actually stumbled upon that Vida Blue card today myself and I thought, oh crap, Night Owl's going to get me!

  2. Wow... Note to self: Do *not* challenge Night Owl to a duel...

  3. Great detective work. Never noticed that before and I have most of those cards.