Skip to main content

Legends of cardboard: Carlos Hernandez

I'm sure the phrase "legends of cardboard" has been used previously. It probably came up in one of those nostalgia pieces that you see every once in awhile. Someone recalling the joys of his old collection, leafing through the cards in a bubble gum haze, writing those cliched words and ideas we longtime collectors have all read before.

In these articles, "legends of cardboard" are always players like Mickey Mantle or Stan Musial. Roberto Clemente or Pete Rose. Tony Gywnn or Frank Thomas.

But to me, those players aren't "legends of cardboard." They're "legends of the game." Their legendary status came on the ballfield, not on a piece of cardboard.

I don't think players like Oscar Gamble or Mark Fidrych are legends of cardboard either. They made an impact on the field, too, no matter how brief or no matter how impressive their cardboard picture. I'd consider those players "Cult Figures of Cardboard."

For me, "legends of cardboard" are players who would be totally forgotten by baseball fans -- if not for their baseball cards. But that's only a start, because you could say that about a lot of players. To reach true legendary cardboard status, your cardboard pictures must leave an impact and be as impressive as anything else in the cardboard realm.

That is a true Legend of Cardboard.

Tonight, I'd like to present the first player I think of when I consider a "legend of cardboard" (does this mean I have another series on this blog? I don't know. Ask me again when I'm bored and out of ideas).

That player is Carlos Hernandez.

Hernandez toiled for seven years as a backup catcher for the Dodgers. He had the misfortune of playing at the same time as Mike Piazza, and before that, Mike Scioscia. So he didn't see much time (he'd later become the primary catcher for the Padres during their World Series appearance in 1998, but that was by far his best year).

Since Hernandez was a backup, known for his defense, and there was no way the Dodgers were going to sit Piazza so Hernandez could hit, there are a disproportionate number of cards featuring Hernandez on defense.

Oh sure, there are a handful of Hernandez as a batter. Appearing very uncomfortable I might add.

He practically looks freaked out standing there.

Thankfully, the majority of Hernandez's cards are behind the plate, where he his cardboard legend grew.

These make for very appealing cards, some of my favorite 1990s Dodger cards.

Let's look at a trio of Hernandez cards from 1993, 94 and 95 Topps.

Now that is a whole lot of baseball card excitement!

If you're lucky enough as a player to always be featured in a "play at the plate" photo on your baseball card, chances are you rule, whether you get only 90 at-bats a season or not.

I mean this is the fourth or fifth spectacular card of Hernandez I've shown already. The guy just dominates baseball cards.

Hernandez was shown so often on defense that some of his cards start to look the same.

But isn't that better than repeated viewings of a batter swinging at a pitch? Fielding action is so much more exciting than hitting action.

Besides, you can do fun things like this:

OK, so it's not the same game (Hernandez is in a home uniform in the bottom photo). But it's still a hoot.

More sequencing:

That's very likely the same series of photos, judging by the red-trimmed dugout and the fact it's two Fleer products issued in the same year.

The best Hernandez card, however, is his 1993 Upper Deck card. No surprise there.

This picture is so good that I think it's shown again on the back of his 1993 Donruss card.

Still out!

There are so many "Hernandez fielding" cards that you can list categories for them.

Hernandez with the gray chest protector:

Hernandez without a mustache:

Hernandez with a mask but no chest protector:

I could go on, but I think you get the point.

Card companies could have chosen to feature Hernandez batting ('91 Fleer, '92 Donruss, '93 Score all dare to do so) or running the bases ('93 Stadium Club). But why?

It's obvious Hernandez reached his legendary status on defense.

He's a true Legend of Cardboard.


Eric Bracke said…
Know for his defense, but blamed by Tony LaRussa for being one of the reasons for the infamous Rick Ankiel playoff meltdown versus the Braves in 2000.
Commishbob said…
I'm surprised 'Legends of Cardboard' isn't a blog title somewhere.

I hope Ana Lu sees this, there are quite a few 'Dust is in the Air' cards here.
Roy-Z said…
Catchers make the best cards.

You're welcome.
Anonymous said…
He's from an era where companies had different photos. Even if it's the same moment, it's a different angle. Sadly, not the case today.
Bo said…
Great post, hopefully first in a series!
jacobmrley said…
I nominate Oscar Azocar - if only for his 1991 Topps and 1993 Stadium Club cards. The man knew how to pose for a trading card photo.
petethan said…
Nice. Great post from a legend of card blogs.

Popular posts from this blog

Stuck in traffic with Series 2

In the whirlwind that has been my life this month, I found myself going absolutely nowhere for a portion of Thursday afternoon. I was in the middle of yet another road trip, the third one this week. This one was for work, and because it was job-related, it became quickly apparent that it would be a waste of time. The only thing that could save it was a side visit to the nearby Walmart to see if I could spot some Topps Series 2. I found it right away, which was shocking as I was pretty much in the middle of the country, where SUVs share the road with tractors and buggies. Who knew that the Amish wanted Series 2, too? The problem was getting back into civilization to open the contents of the 72-card hanger box I bought. The neighboring village is undergoing a summer construction project smack in the middle of downtown. It's not much of a downtown, but the main road happens to be the main artery in the entire county. Everyone -- and by everyone I mean every tractor trailer ha

Heading upstate

  Back in 1999, Sports Illustrated published an edition at the end of the year rating the top 50 athletes of the century for every state.   As a lifelong Upstate New Yorker, I braced for a list of New York State athletes that consisted almost entirely of downstate natives, that is, folks from the greater NYC area and Long Island.   We Upstaters are used to New York City trampling all over the rest of the state. They have the most people, the loudest voices. It happens all the time. It's a phenomenon unique to this state. Heck, there are still people out there who, when you tell them you're from New York, automatically think you're from NYC. They don't think of cows and chickens when they think of New York. But trust me, there are a lot of cows and chickens in New York State. Especially cows.   So, anyway, when I counted up the baseball players that SI listed as the greatest from New York State, six of the nine were from New York City or Long Island. I was surprised all

G.O.A.T, the '80s: 30-21

  I often call this current period of the television sports calendar the black hole of sports programming. The time between the end of the Super Bowl and the beginning of televised Spring Training baseball games is an empty void when I'm looking for something to watch on traditional television. I don't watch the NBA and I find the NHL on TV holds my interest for maybe a period. College basketball I can't watch until the tournament. This didn't used to be as much of a problem back when I could turn instead to my favorite sitcoms in February. Do you remember when February was "sweeps month"? (Maybe it still is, I don't know). Networks would make sure that every top show aired original episodes that month, no reruns. So you'd always have something to view during the week even when the sports scene was boring. (I know, people have multiple streaming viewing options now. But I find myself going weeks sometimes before I see something I want to view on Netfli