Skip to main content

C.A.: 1981 Topps John Pacella

(Today is Collect Rocks Day. I used to collect rocks. As a kid, I once purchased some polished rocks at a gift shop during a trip to Vermont. It was my prized possession for about a week. I soon decided I liked collecting cards better. Which is good because "Night Owl Rocks" would never fly. Time for Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 187th in a series):


Yesterday was John Pacella's birthday.

I know nobody under the age of 35 has heard of him and probably has already clicked off this post. But you should have heard of him. He's been featured on the blogs a time or two or three. I even commented on a couple of those posts.

Anyway, on the occasion of Pacella's 57th birthday, I scrambled to find the 1981 Topps Pacella card that I no doubt featured on my blog previously only to realize that I'VE NEVER SHOWN IT.

I'm a bad, bad blogger.

The best part of this card, of course, is the cap falling to the mound in the photo. And the punch line on the back:


Fantastic, no? Depending on whether you saw John Pacella pitch or not, that single-sentence bio will produce either a knowing or incredulous laugh.

But I'm here to tell you that indeed Pacella did lose his cap while throwing a pitch toward the plate. He'd take the ball back from the catcher, pick up his cap, place it on his head, look in for the sign, throw a pitch, lose his cap, take the ball back from the catcher, pick up his cap, etc., etc. Through what was probably a combination of the force of his delivery, poor mechanics and a lot of hair on his head, he couldn't get that cap to stay.

I remember watching one of Pacella's first games on TV. The Mets announcers were beside themselves with Pacella's inability to keep the cap on his head. I don't know if it happened every pitch, for the six years that he played in the major leagues. But it did indeed happen.

But for me, the very best part of this card, is that the picture on the front depicts something for which the player was known.

This is nothing to people who grew up with Upper Deck, Collector's Choice or even Fleer. If a player had an interesting on-field habit, quirk or ritual, there's no doubt a card company would capture it (think Turk Wendell brushing his teeth).

But this didn't happen when I was a kid collecting cards. How I longed to see a card of Mark Fidrych talking to the ball, Joe Morgan flapping his elbow like a chicken, or even Wade Boggs simply eating chicken.

But I would open my cards and instead, Fidrych would be smiling for the camera in a dorky pose, Morgan would be swinging a bat, and Boggs would be watching an opposite-field drive to left. And there is nothing wrong with those images. I love those images.

It's just that I actually SAW Fidrych talk to the ball THERE OUT ON THE MOUND. I wanted to see it on a card.

Fortunately, thanks to retro sets and adult collectors reliving their childhood, we do have those images of '70s players doing what they were known to do. Fidrych smoothing the mound dirt. Pete Rose diving head first into a base. Luis Tiant turning his back to the batter in mid wind-up (I'd still like a card of Al Hrabosky punching his glove behind the mound before a pitch).

But this is what made the Pacella card great.

Topps caught him in the act that made him famous a mere two years into his career.

Timing is everything.

That's what makes a card worth appreciating.

Comments

Rob said…
I've never seen this card before - tremendous!
Anonymous said…
I love that card for the front of it and have shown it on my blog - but I've never noticed the card back until now!

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