Sometimes events occur which just seem to be mystical. Fred Astaire seemingly danced on the ceiling in the Royal Wedding film. Michael Jackson had jaws agape when he began dancing the moonwalk during the Motown Yesterday Today and Tomorrow television special in 1983. That one appearance took him from the major star he was to the superstardom he would maintain until his untimely passing.
Baseball fans remember Ron Swoboda’s catch in the 1969 World Series. Swoboda was frankly not a great outfielder but for the most important ball ever hit in his direction he dove and made a miraculous catch and even came up throwing. Although a run scored on that sacrifice fly, his catch saved some runs and became part of the lore of the 1969 Miracle Mets.
The early days of Topps baseball cards had their mystical moments as well but none may be as beloved among collectors as the 1952 Topps Gus Zernial card.
Now understand Zernial was a pretty decent hitter for the Philadelphia A’s who led the American League in home runs and runs batted in during the 1951 season. In addition, the story goes Zernial was the person who introduced Joe DiMaggio to Marilyn Monroe in what became one of the first athlete/entertainer marriages and one of the earliest mega star couples. His card turned the heads of youngsters, though, because of the highly unusual photo Topps used in its creation.
Six baseballs are seemingly attached to his arm as he flashes the ‘OK’ sign and the colors involved in producing this card have given him a pink undershirt. Why? The year before, Zernial had tied an American League record with six home runs in three consecutive games during a hot stretch in May and a photo shoot was scheduled that resulted in the image that led to the card. He hit his seventh home run the day after the photo was snapped. Such an unusual shot wasn’t something collectors had seen on a baseball card before. It’s always been considered one of the highlights of the 1952 Topps set and has had a small premium over the common cards in the same series today.
And of course, while the original photo is cool, the 1952 Topps card is our eBay Card of the Day. By the way, it’s an uncorrected error as in the biographical section as both ‘Philadelphia’ and ‘outfield’ are misspelled! Here is a link to one of the Zernial cards available on eBay. It’s not an expensive card, either. Low grade examples can be found for under $20 while ex-nm and better copies run $100 and up. You can see more ’52 Topps Zernial cards here.
We’d like to thank Dan Chies of Victoria, Minnesota who sent us this suggestion via our Facebook comments. If you have a card you’d like featured as eBay Card of the Day, please let us know and include your home town.
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]