I was watching the latest About The Cards podcast, which this week featured Twitter friend Nick, and I remembered that I had a brief discussion with him a while back about one of those card topics that is very "inside baseball," as they say -- namely the depiction of a baseball on a baseball card.
You would think that showing a baseball on a card would not be that difficult, and generally it hasn't been over the years.
But there is a particular area of the baseball that sometimes trips up card illustrators.
Here is a typical baseball.
It's the only one I have in the house. It's from my dad. Bob Feller signed it, I've mentioned that before. The signature is almost gone now, but it was pretty faded when my dad gave it to me.
But enough about the signature, I want you to look at the stitches.
Notice that in this view, the most common orientation of a baseball on a baseball card, the stitches "point" in opposite ways. The stitches on the top are pointing to the left and the ones along the bottom are pointing to the right.
I have no knowledge of how baseballs are stitched but I do know that if you stitch a round object like a baseball, then those threads will appear to be traveling in opposite directions when two paths of threads are shown from one ball.
Here is another orientation of the baseball. Note that one side is pointing up and another is pointing down.
OK, now, have baseball cards noted that?
For the most part, yes.
Topps hasn't shown a baseball in the front of its cards terribly often, but when it has, it's gotten it right.
The most famous example from the first 40 years is probably the 1975 Topps set.
And you can see that the stitches are pointing in opposite directions as they should.
Topps returned to a baseball in its design in 1979 and again, the stitches are pointing correctly.
One of my favorite examples is the Topps Giants from 1964. You can see a correct representation of the baseball with the corner and if you study the stitches on the baseball in Davis' hand you can see them going in their natural direction!
Topps has featured a baseball illustration far more often on the backs of its cards, usually related to where it positions the card number.
It did this throughout the '50s and '60s and in 1973, '76 and '77, too.
In each case, it got the threads correct (through much of the '60s, Topps showed only one line of stitches in its design as the card number and Topps wording took up the rest of the baseball "space").
But there is one example where it did not.
Yup, 1952 Topps. Its first major set, it goofed up the stitches. Both lines are pointing in the same direction.
Honestly, this is one of the few examples in the first 40 years of cards that I've seen this error.
Just about every set that dared to show the stitches on an illustrated ball drew them correctly.
(I know some of the examples are too small to determine, but trust me, they're correct)
What are examples when they goofed it up?
Well, Fleer is the big one.
The first major-issue Fleer set didn't get the stitching correct. Those stitches on Lasorda's card, and every other 1981 Fleer card, are moving in the same direction.
Fleer was so scarred by this development that it did not use an illustrated baseball in any of its flagship sets for the next decade.
Interestingly, when Fleer issued its stickers in the 1980s, its baseballs were stitched correctly.
Meanwhile, Donruss went all in with the baseball in its second-year set in 1982. And it's correct.
Donruss also used the baseball with its card number beginning in '82 and that continued through the remainder of the decade.
All of those baseball stitches are correct as well.
Any other examples of incorrectly drawn stitches through the '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s?
Just one that I found.
You have to look close, but Jiffy Pop's late '80s discs didn't get it right. Each line is pointing up.
OK, I wanted to get all of this baseball study into one post, but I did so much searching and scanning that I'm going to have to make this a two-parter.
Join me then for more baseball card minutiae, from the 1990s to present day.