Thursday, August 29, 2013

'56 of the month: Dave Pope

Welcome to the most beat-up 1956 Topps card in my collection.

It may not look all that trashy to you lovers of off-condition vintage, but it is rather out of step with the rest of my '56s, and that's interesting to me.

This is why:

I am usually something of a condition snob. I like my cards to look as reasonably presentable as possible. I will never be interested in graded cards, but I like cards that look new.

The exception to this rule is anything pre-1960s.

I have very few stipulations for allowing pre-60s cards into my collection. They can have paper loss, pin holes, pencil marks, whatever. I only draw the line at major stains, large portions of the card missing, or if I sense smells emanating from said card.

Normally, the well-loved nature of this Dave Pope card wouldn't faze me in the least. It fits the pattern of many of the cards that I own from the 1950s.

Pope, unfortunately, is a victim of the company he keeps.

In other words, he is an exception to exception.

But first a closer look at what makes this Dave Pope card so beat up:

And here is the binder page in which he resides:

It's a bit difficult to tell unless you click on the image, but the other cards on this page are a lot less worn than the Pope card. They're 60-year-old cards, so none of them are perfect, but except for some worn corners and scuffing these are as nice as you could want.

And this is the situation that Pope has gotten himself into.

The vast majority of my 1956 Topps cards came from my dad's work friend when I was a teenager. I've mentioned it before and several times subsequently. Around 75 percent of those cards -- even though they were 30 years old at the time -- were in ideal shape when I got them. Slight wear and that's it. It still boggles my mind that someone who collected cards in the '50s managed to protect those cards in such a manner while everyone else was feeding them to their bicycle or gluing them in a book. And I'm eternally grateful.

But oh, poor Mr. Pope.

Consistency is a big part of my collecting. Why do you think the wide variety of relic styles in this year's Allen & Ginter annoy me so? In the event that I achieve my very unrealistic goal of completing the 1956 Topps set, I would like it to be as consistent condition-wise as possible.

A beat-up Ted Williams card or Jackie Robinson card I can handle. I'll have to handle it. I won't have a choice.

But Pope isn't Williams or Robinson.

I feel a bit like the privileged rich kid who won't drive his dad's Ferrari because it's not the right color. But after receiving one-third of the set in tip-top shape, I've tried to find cards that match that pattern and I won't stray from it unless the name on the card is also listed on a plaque in the Hall of Fame.

So what's that mean for Pope?

An upgrade, probably. But I'm in no hurry. It's been 30 years since I first acquired the card, I can wait another 30 with barely a concern.

Rest easy, sir.

I suppose I should tell you something about him before I go.

Pope was coming off his best year in the major leagues in his first year with the Orioles, who obtained him in a mid-season trade with the Indians. In 1955, Pope enjoyed his only season with more than 100 games played. He also played in three games of the 1954 World Series when the Indians played the Giants.

Pope was known as an aggressive fielder who wasn't afraid to slam into walls. After a year in the Negro Leagues, he was signed in 1950 by Hank Greenberg, who was an Indians scout then. Pope played in the majors until 1956 and the minors until 1961. He died in 1999.

One final thing:

His signature always looked like "Davey Lopes" to me.


  1. Don't despair. When I get back into town and can find a little free time a nicer '56 Pope is coming your way.

  2. The Pope/Lopes thing is almost creepy. If not for the fact that Lopes was born long before Pope died I'd be taking a closer look at the concept of reincarnation.

  3. Very cool card. I'm definitely one of those off-condition vintage lovers.

  4. If they used 21st century baseball player signatures for Internet captchas, spam (or anything else) would never get through.