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C.A.: 1967 Topps Jim Perry

(Greetings, one day before vacation. I have never taken a week off in February. The mid-winter break staple of school-age kids and teachers was never a thing for me as a kid and never a possibility as an adult. But, for the first time ever, thanks to no high school playoffs, I can experience a full week off in sub-freezing temperatures! The pandemic taketh and giveth, as well. Time for Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 298th in a series):

I've often praised 1967 Topps for its ability to set the scene for what baseball was like in 1966-67.

It's a clean design with an open presentation that gives the best glimpse of Major League Baseball on the field at that time. The '60s sets are actually pretty good at this, as there are other minimalist designs that don't intrude much on the photo, such as 1961, 1966 and 1969.

Contrast that with 2021 Topps:

The photo interference and the close-cropping of images in 2021 Topps is quite evident. The photos aren't necessarily as zoomed-in as, say 2016 Topps, but it's pretty obvious that the photo is making damn sure you focus on the player ... and only the player.

Just about every 2021 Topps photo of an individual player that I've seen shows the player's head bumping the very top of the photo frame. And there is very little open space in the picture on the sides. It gives off a claustrophobic feel, similar to what the 2020 design did.

I believe Topps has done this in an effort to avoid showing backgrounds, which has been a thing for a few years now, but I think it's especially so this year, because either Topps or, uh, someone doesn't want to show off empty stands.
Empty stands, and cardboard cutouts, were a fact of life in the 2020 baseball season and I'd prefer that this was presented in the 2021 set, since Topps' cards usually reflect what happened in the past year.
But I guess this is a no-no this year (the cardboard cutouts aren't completely gone from the set, I've seen them on at least one Dodger card). The fact that several cards do show players wearing masks makes me believe that this is MLB's doing. MLB, which has given Topps an exclusive license, has no problems showing signs of the pandemic where masks are concerned, but empty stands is too much, not a good look for MLB.
I haven't seen every card in the set (haven't even seen any in hand), so it's possible there are empty stands on display on some cards. But, the close-cropping is pretty obvious.

I recently received some 1967 Topps cards from a collector who reached out to me, Dave. He said he had a few cards from my want list -- mostly placeholders -- and I gladly accepted. Some of the placeholders will be permanent additions because you know some of those '67 high numbers -- you take what you can get.

Cards like the Jack Fisher, and the Jim Perry, do a good job of showing off the baseball backgrounds from that time. I can see a lot of the field and the fence in the distance. It doesn't take much for me to enjoy those spring training photos. And they don't feel claustrophobic.

More cards that give the collector a lens to see an accurate depiction of the baseball scene in the late 1960s. Is that too harsh on current cards? Well, current cards tell you managers don't exist.

Great stuff, especially that Pagan photo.

Obviously, 1967 had its share of narrowly cropped photos, too. There were the ever-present head shots that haven't been a part of flagship baseball cards since the 1980s.

Yeah, the emphasis has been on action for three decades now but even those '60s headshots seem more natural to me than the 2021 cards do. I don't think "what are they hiding?" with the '60s cards like I do with 2021 (although I probably should since those close-crops back in the day were often hiding the wrong uniform).

(Gerry won't make the collection, I think the copy I have is less-wrinkled).

Many thanks to Dave for another round of '67 cards that offer one of the greatest windows on baseball of any set (1957 Topps is another one as is 1973. I haven't looked at 1978 that closely but that could be one as well).

Some collectors consider sets like 1967 and 1957 boring. But I'd much prefer this than what I've seen on modern flagship the last few years.

As I've said before, baseball is a game of ups and downs, ebbs and flows. It's not All Action All The Time. And that's what current Topps cards want you to believe. Because that's what MLB wants you to believe.

They aren't telling the whole story.


Nick Vossbrink said…
I don't mind tight cropping if it's done right. But 2021 has a bunch of cards where players are throwing and the throwing hand is either cropped out or covered by the 70 Years foil stamp. If I didn't know any better I'd think that Topps cropped everything to 2.5"x3.5" and then dropped the borders on top.
Bo said…
If Dave has more placeholder-style vintage to trade, feel free to send him my way. Thanks!
Old Cards said…
Great looking 67 cards. One of the best years ever. The posed shots with the backgrounds are well done except the Jim O'Toole and Gerry Arrigo cards with their arms above their heads. I just don't think it looks right on a card. The raised arms take up too much space on the card.
I partially blame this on the fact that the photos being used are not photos which were taken for baseball cards, they're photos taken for an image provider, so I see it as being more about capturing the action than it is about aesthetics... also there's no opportunities for posing for a shot in front of scoreboards or with the Yankee Stadium frieze in the background.

I understand about vacation... I end up taking vacation time every February. My work anniversary is in early March, and there are always some "use 'em or lose 'em" days. This year I have a lot of those because I kept pushing back vacation for "when things get better" (ha).
jacobmrley said…
I have bemoaned the lack of proper borders on the last few Topps flagship offerings and it's like they said "oh, you want borders, here's some fucking borders, I hope you choke!" So I guess be careful what you wish for...

That said, as much as I want to hate this year's design, I just can't. It's growing on me. I do find some of the photos don't quite jibe with what they were going for, but the ones that do really do work. It's like 1966 Topps and recent Bowman were shoved into the machine from The Fly and this is what we got. Kind of a monster but in the end it will shoot itself to save us. I hope you can unfold that metaphor.
bbcardz said…
I never cared much for the '67 or '68 Topps design but at the same time, I have to give them props. Topps took the best of those two designs and came up with the '69 design, which I adore for reasons NO stated in this post--clean design and open presentation. I just love all the space given to the player photo. It's also why I love 2018 Topps Heritage.
Nick said…
I agree with what Mr. Shlabotnik said above. I started to notice a great divide with Topps photography right around the time they seemed to stop using their own photography right around 2010 or so. The use of third-party photography makes current cards bleed together and/or downright dull.

I'm still not a giant fan of '67 Topps, but it looks like a work of art compared to 2021 Topps.
bryan was here said…
I have always been a fan of the '67 Topps, it reminds me of one of my other favourite sets, the '88 Topps.

I wasn't aware that Topps went to third-party photographers exclusively that long ago. This explains why the Heritage and Archives sets don't seem to have the same joie de vivre that the original cards do. Topps photographers seemed to capture the essence of the game. In today's sets, even the action shots feel posed.
These modern card photos like 2021 are so boring I wouldn't spend a penny on one let alone a dime. Maybe on some action shots. The background makes the cards so much more interesting.
night owl said…
To those who mentioned that all of Topps' photos come from Getty images, I had a whole diatribe on that within the blog post and then that evolved into how nobody wants to pay photographers anymore and how I've seen photo staffs dwindle to nothing at just about every newspaper I know, and I figured the post was long enough without it. But, yes, I agree, Topps is limited when it's just one image provider, no matter how vast the inventory. This what happens when you outsource everything and decide not to pay people.
Fuji said…
Enjoy your vacation. I've been looking forward to mine for a few weeks now.
CinciCuse Bill said…
I enjoy the simplicity of the '67 Topps set (and most other vintage sets). That Ron Herbal card is great!
The Anthony Rizzo doesn't hold a candle to any of those 67's.
BP said…
I've recently fallen for the 2014-2020 Stadium Club cards. While mostly action photos, the photography catches my eye. And although I've always been fond of borders, these borderless cards are far more fetching than the insane artwork Topps has put on the flagship cards. I thought I'd like Heritage more - I like it less and less each year. Some of it is the all the stars being SPs, but what I really don't like is the photography in Heritage. Not only is it too contrived, but the skin tones in the player's faces in the last 5-6 years is unnaturally brightened, and the choice of lenses the photographers use is bloody awful. Too many distorted or disproportionate views. It's as if they tried to take close-ups with wide angle lenses. Or many of the photos look like they were taken with iPhones. The photos on Heritage is just bad. I really like the first 9 years of Heritage, then they went to the fake graininess for several years, and now the last several years have been the bad photos. I've decided I'm going to build Stadium Club sets and just do Cardinals for flagship, Heritage, and Archives.

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