(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.