Saturday, September 20, 2014
Until it started inserting presidential candidates a few years ago, Topps steered clear of politics in baseball card sets.
I appreciate that. I'm not a political person. I certainly don't want to see it in my baseball cards.
But I wonder with this card. Maybe it's not politics. But it could be editorializing. Just a little.
In 1973, the American League implemented the designated hitter rule. The AL team owners actually approved the DH during meetings in December 1972. It was the result of another downturn in offense, which had been going on since the late 1960s. Prompted by A's owner Charlie Finley, the AL decided 8-4 that another player would bat for the pitcher during games.
The DH had been used in pro ball in 1969 as an experimental maneuver in the minor leagues. Teams even experimented with it during that period in spring training.
So even though Topps had already completed and released its 1973 set by the time Ron Blomberg strode to the plate on April 7 to take the first hack by a designated hitter, I wonder if the debate regarding the pros and cons of the DH hadn't been in the public discussion for months if not years.
Could Topps have published this photo of an American League pitcher with a bat in silent protest?
Or this card?
I'm sure these aren't the first photos in a Topps set featuring a pitcher with a bat. But they carry extra weight when the set is issued the first year that neither Coleman nor Kaat would ever pick up a bat in a game. Each card seems to say, "Look! They'll never do THAT again."
As a National League fan who really has no use for the DH, even with interleague play well into its second decade, I'd like to think that there was someone in Topps with both baseball morals and pull with the company that a quiet protest such as this could happen.
But I'm as cynical as I am idealistic and my guess is that there was no political intent with these cards at all. Instead, I think it was just another case of weirdly quirky photos in 1973 Topps.
I suppose that's the way it should be. No baseball card politics.
At least not ON my baseball cards.