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Ramblings: Players Changing Teams Sometimes Created Really Bad Cards

One of the great things about the era in which we live is that we can follow games online.  I was at work recently, keeping tabs on the Twins and A’s and when I looked at the game cast, the game was in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and the bases loaded. Since I did not remember much about the pitcher I looked at the Sports Illustrated web site a and the A’s pitcher, Dan Otero, was pictured wearing a San Francisco Giants Rich Ramblings 2014cap. Otero had even pitched 33 games for the 2013 A’s but apparently there was no picture of him in his new cap to post on the site. Most people, including me, would say that was terrible web editing but then my mind went a step further and I started thinking about a few of my favorite cards featuring players who are pictured in completely different uniforms than the team for which they’re represented or even suffer from a bad airbrush job that Topps did to try and make it look like they had a picture of the player in his new duds.

Mind you, this is nowhere near a comprehensive list but just some examples of a few of my favorite vintage cards that could have used some 21st century graphic editing–or a better effort at photo gathering.

1961 Topps Johnny JamesThe first card is the 1961 Topps Johnny James card which is a reasonably difficult semi-hi series card. James is pictured as wearing both a New York Yankees cap as well as a Yankees uniform but the team is stated as Los Angeles Angels.

James started the season as a Yankee and made one appearance before going to Los Angeles for their first season. Interestingly, this card might be on the want lists of three different types of collectors:  those who are trying to finish their ’61 Topps set, collectors looking for a complete 1961 New York Yankees team set as that was the year of Roger Maris’ 61 homers and of course, those Angels team collectors.  It wasn’t the first time Topps used a photo from the player’s former team and it wouldn’t be the last but it might have been among the most obvious.

1962 Topps Don ZimmerThe 1962 Topps Don Zimmer card is one of two which feature players wearing a Mets cap. Zimmer, like James, started the season with the newly christened New York team but was quickly shipped to Cincinnati. In Zimmer’s case, an 0 for 34 streak certainly greased his wheels.  I always wonder what kids have thought over the years when a player’s team is updated but not his picture.

Zimmer was the first player in what became the long-standing Mets tradition which was not truly settled until David Wright arrived 40 years later of the hot-corner revolving door. If you want to see some classic baseball names, just gander at some of the people who Billy Grabarkewitz 1975 Toppsplayed third for the Mets in their first two decades.

Among the worst airbrush jobs of all-time was the 1975 Topps Billy Grabarkewitz.  Not having any action photos available, we assume, Topps instead tried to turn him into a Cub with predictably disastrous results.  Billy G’s last name caused trouble for the folks in charge of putting his name on the back of his uniform, too.

1973 Johnny EllisTopps had plenty of odd looking cards in the 1973 set including a few in the final series.  The Rusty Torres card shows him in what was obviously a Yankees uniform taken in Yankee stadium if you note the background. The cap was 1973 Rusty Torreshowever airbrushed to show him in an Indians cap. Torres holds a great trivia distinction is he was in uniform for all three American League games that were forfeited during the 1970’s.

Meanwhile the John Ellis card shows him in a completely airbrushed uniform which is reminiscent of one worn during a church league softball game. No logos or anything else on the card and even better he is arguing with an umpire so his mouth is wide open. In my opinion, it’s among the top 10 bad cards of the 1973 Topps set.

Those are some of my favorite airbrushing or uniform mistake cards and we’d love to hear from you about those cards you always thought did not seem right.  Drop me a note at the email address below.

About Rich Klein

Rich Klein has spent almost his entire life collecting baseball cards having begun at the tender age of seven. He has spent more than three decades in the organized hobby including editing the first 12 editions of the Beckett Almanac of Baseball Card and Collectibles. He lives in Plano, TX along with his wife Dena and their two dogs. You can reach him at [email protected].

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