Saturday, September 20, 2014

Silent protest?

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.


  1. Still amazed at how bad pitchers look when batting. You know they raked in high school and college but hey look like they are swinging from the wrong side of the plate. Still, I say no DH, 2 divisions in each league, no wild card, AND THE BRAVES SHOULD BE IN THE WEST!

  2. I love that Kaat card, I have never seen it before. I have the Coleman card and never really thought much that he had a bat in his hand. I guess that dopey look on his face always focused my attention. I really started to collect baseball cards that I can remember in 73, so I grew up with the DH as a regular position on the team, especially being from Detroit. I love the DH It gives your team a better offense, you get to see great players play a little longer than with no DH. In the National League these older players can be a detriment to the team especially in the field, where in the AL they are an asset to the team. I would also much prefer to see a hitter at the plate than a pitcher that hits .150. Yea a couple of pitchers can hit, but that's about it. I think I have rambled on enough. Go DH.

  3. Great post! I really like the Kaat card! That's got to be the oldest pitcher at the plate card I've seen. Now I'm curious as to the first card to feature a pitcher batting.

    1. I don't know the answer to that, but I posted a pretty old card of a pitcher batting on this post:

  4. As much as I love the Oakland Athletics and Frank Thomas... I'm not a big fan of designated hitters. Some of my favorite Greg Maddux cards are of him holding a bat. And how cool was it to see Mad Bum hit two grand slams this year? I can't stand the Giants... but I still thought that was totally awesome.

  5. I prefer no DH and favor them getting rid of it. I think both leagues should be the same.

  6. Interleague play, the unbalanced schedule and the Wild Card are all bigger stains on baseball than the DH to me

  7. Jim Kaat hit .289 in a injury shortened 1972 season. He deserved to be shown batting. I think if Kaat played that entire season the way he was pitching he'd be in the HOF and maybe have 300 wins.