Sunday, October 31, 2010

Freaks and geeks

As a kid, certain cards freaked me out. I don't think there's anything abnormal about that. The world is a scary place when you're little. If you have a vibrant imagination, like I did, just about anything can become frightening.

So, yes, I thought there were monsters under the bed and ghouls in the closet. The next door neighbor seemed suspicious, the dog down the street didn't act quite right, and what the hell was THAT on TV last night? I saw a snippet of the Exorcist when I was very young, and I think it ruined me for life.

Everything and anything was an opportunity to be spooked. This here 1975 Topps Ken Sanders card was the first card that creeped me out. Something about the photo didn't look quite right. The guy looked like a man, but also looked like a woman. He seemed like an uglier, more menacing version of Nurse Ratched, if that's even possible. I never saw "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" when I was young, so I don't know where I got that comparison, but that's what I thought. And it spooked me.

From that point, for the next few years, there were other cards that spooked me. Most were of the vaguely unsettling variety. They didn't make me want to cut the cards into a million pieces and sprinkle them in a graveyard at midnight, but I wasn't crazy about the idea of adding them to my collection.

In 1976, those cards were these:

I'm not sure if I can explain why certain cards gave me the willies. Part of it had to do with the unknown. I didn't know who these players were. Another part had to do with their poor statistics. If they're that bad at being baseball players are they REALLY baseball players? And it helped to have a face like Duffy Dyer.

I couldn't find a card that spooked me in the 1977 set, although I'm sure there's one out there. But in 1978, these frightening folks walked up my doorstep:

There are all kinds of comparisons to Lurch and Frankenstein that can be made here. Don't think I didn't notice as a youngster.

By '79, I was outgrowing the little kid freak-out thing, but one card got to me:

I think it's the eyes seeming to go in two different direction.

As frightening as some of those cards were to me, I'm lucky that I didn't grow up in the 1960s. There are many more ugly, crew-cut, capless mugs in that decade to keep kids up at night for weeks after Halloween.

Today, cards don't frighten me. Adults are bothered more by concepts than actual items you can see, touch and hold.

There is one card that shakes me up, though. You've seen it before and it's bothered me for five or six years now:

I'm sorry, Mr. Sheppard. I know you have recently passed, and I hear you were a really nice man, but this card Freaks. Me. Out.


  1. When 99 years old you reach, look as good you will not.

  2. I started collecting baseball cards in the late 60s and for me the freakout cards were of Joe Torre.

    Later of course I learned he was a pretty decent guy and no where near as Neanderthal as he appeared on his cards.

    But, man, he looked like an Alcatraz escapee on those late 60s cards. ;-)