Back in the 1960s, a very successful pop group called the Turtles had a hit called “It Ain’t Me Babe” which was written by Bob Dylan. I’m sure glad other people sang his songs because otherwise we still might not know what he was singing. But I digress. The “it ain’t me” line could be applied to a lot of baseball cards over the years. Putting the wrong photo or name on a card happens more often than you might think. And no, most of the time it hasn’t been on purpose.
When we had former big leaguer Warren Newson as a signer at a show I was helping promote earlier this year, I was showing him the different photos we had for sale and within about 10 seconds he picked one out and told me it was a picture of Mark McLemore. We pulled the photo and I don’t think any customers bought one before he started signing so we were all fine on that regard. But on cards, players usually aren’t there to provide input before the card goes to press. While most of these stories are fairly well-known they are usually funny and in one case, a bit tragic. This list is far from comprehensive; just a sampling across eras and sports.
As usual, we got this idea from a fellow collector. He actually went back through the Sports Collectors Daily archives and recognized the conversations we had which triggered some of these columns where we pondered the Jake Gibbs and Tom Butters of the world. This week, he began by pulling out a 1957 Topps Ken Kuhn card.
Kuhn had a brief major league career which concluded at the end of that season. However, in preparing its one and done 1960 set, Leaf ended up using a photo of Kuhn on Chuck Tanner’s card. By that point, Kuhn had been out of the majors for two plus seasons and wasn’t showing any potential of returning.
You see there was also a Cardinals player named Jim Taylor and sure enough, his visage was used for both the 1959 and 1960 Jim Taylor Packers card. Why anyone would think a Packers player would be wearing red and white (and the number 55) is hard to fathom.
It took until 1961 for Mr. Taylor to be properly recognized. With the Pack having reached the NFL title game in 1960 and Taylor carrying a big load for Vince Lombardi, they couldn’t help but finally get it right. I’m sure young Green Bay fans let Topps know, too.
As we’ve written before, the 1966 Topps Dick Ellsworth card features Ken Hubbs who had sadly perished in a plane crash two years earlier. Now we can’t always remember what players look like but Ellsworth had won 20 games in 1963 and Hubbs was known in part for his untimely passing. You would have hoped someone caught that image issue and corrected it. Now we have the case of Hubbs showing up in a set two years after Topps issued a special “In Memoriam” card of him.
The following year, we have the doozy of the rookie known as George Korince. According to reports, the player who is actually pictured on the Tigers Rookie Stars card (#72) is James Brown. And no, not the soul singer who seemingly had an endless supply of interchangeable singles nor James Brown the television sports host. Instead this James Brown had a brief taste of AAA baseball before saying goodbye to baseball at age 26. Topps felt so bad about this error that card number 526, in the more difficult semi-high series features the correct photo and a note on the card back specifying the wrong player was pictured on the lower numbered Korince card. Out of all the photo mistakes from that era, why is this the only one noted as being corrected on a future card?
The AFL was a relatively new game for Topps in the mid-1960s so it’s not surprising that the player on Rick Redman’s card is actually Larry Elkins, something he confirmed for Todd Tobias, who caught up with Redman and wrote about that episode for us awhile back.
Some of the more famous errors came in the 1980s when the hobby exploded with players such as Gary Pettis whose 1985 Topps baseball card features his younger brother Lynn ( you can read about that episode in our interview with the photographer who took the photo) or Floyd Bannister pictured on the first run of Tom Seaver’s 1985 Donruss card.
In 1988 Topps put a player named Steve George on Al Leiter’s card, a miscue which was later corrected (see both variations here).
We’ve had an unplanned bobble in the 2016 Topps set, too. The variation involves two Arizona Diamondbacks pitchers. Vidal Nuno’s photo from card #116 was mistakenly used again on Patrick Corbin’s card (#558). In the factory set, Corbin’s correct picture is used. A few have picked up on the error, but not everyone, as you can see from some eBay listings.
But my favorite card of any of these “it ain’t me babe” cards was the 2006 Topps Heritage Jerry Snyder Real One Autograph. When asked to autograph the cards, Snyder wrote on each and every one of them, “This isn’t me”.
Sometimes those memories of not being properly pictured sure run deep don’t they?