Friday, October 24, 2014

Tough stuff

The pursuit of 1956 Topps is a slow one for me. I wouldn't even call it "deliberate". It's more like "plodding".

If I stumble across a '56 card that I need, then I will be happy to add it to the collection. But since '56 Topps cards never pop up during my daily errands, nor do I think to search them out during my very sporadic bouts of online shopping, I often must rely on the kindness of semi-strangers.

Robert of $30 a Week Habit recently sent three '56s my way. They are all very interesting, as each '56 Topps card tells a story that modern day cards can't.

One of my favorite stories from the Bobby Hofman card here is that although it's intriguing that Hofman appears to be washing the baserunner's face with the ball, Hofman didn't have a lot of experience behind the plate. In fact, out of the 341 games he played in the majors, only 26 can be documented with Hofman catching. He was mostly a second baseman.

The other two cards are also interesting for the action portrayed in their respective insets.

The Stobbs card was a '56 of the Month subject (will I ever resume that series?). It is notable for the fact that Stobbs, an American League pitcher, is diving back to first base as a baserunner, an event that has become very rare since the arrival of the designated hitter.

The Gomez card shows the pitcher running to first base during an apparent groundout. This isn't something that a pitcher is noted for doing either, but good for '56 Topps showing the unusual.

These cards can be artifacts for when the "Well that doesn't make sense TO ME" crowd finally gets its way and the designated hitter is the rule for all of major league baseball. We can remember the whimsical days -- in what will be a very unwhimsical world -- when pitchers could do things besides "be a pitcher".

But all of that is tangent for what this post was supposed to address.

Have you ever held a 1956 Topps card (or any Topps or Bowman card from 1952-56) in your hand? Not encased in a top loader, but the naked '56 card in your two hands.

What comes to your mind?

I mean beyond the genius and artistry of the set.

Well, for me it's how sturdy the cards are.

They are barely thicker than your average 2014 piece of Topps base slickness, but which one do you think would emerge victorious in a bar fight? Certainly not Topps Update Jackie Bradley Jr.

No, it would be Chuck Diering or Wally Westlake or Toby Atwell.

The cards created in '56 could stand up to your average 10-year-old boy. And it wouldn't squirt out of your hand like every flagship set Topps has made since the mid-1990s.

I feel confident taking one end of a '56 Topps card and whacking it against the end of a desk. I don't worry that I'm going to harm it or alter it. And it makes a satisfying "thwack!"

And while both the '56 Topps card and the 2014 Topps card are easily ripped (probably the '56 card even more so), I am more confident in the real cardboard of 1956. It feels like Something. While the 2014 card -- even though you know that it would never decompose in any landfill -- feels like something that will flit away in the wind and evaporate at 30 feet.

Baseball cards in the '50s, like fathers and TV dinners from that same era, were made solid. Unyielding. Substantial.

That's probably another reason why I want to collect it. I know my '56 Topps will be a cherished part of someone's collection even long after I'm gone.

I'm not nearly as confident about any of the cards that I've collected that were made in the last 10 years.                         


  1. Your point about '50s cards (and older cards in general) being sturdier reminded me that I need to get off my behind and get to work on my experiment involving cards from almost every era, a clothespin and a bike.

  2. We are care takers of baseball cards for somebody 50 years from now. Some one else will be enjoying my 1975 Topps baseball set and take care of it for some one else 50 years later.......

  3. Now that you mention it, when I took the '56s out of the top loaders last night to scan them, they did feel quite sturdy. Maybe one day I'll grab a few more cards from the older sets you mention and compare them....

    I miss TV dinners BTW.

    Glad the cards arrived safely, and look forward to the resurrection (hopefully) of the '56 of the month.

  4. "Baseball cards in the '50s, like fathers and TV dinners from that same era, were made solid. Unyielding. Substantial." One of the greatest things you've ever written. Great post.