As a child growing up in the 1970’s, I collected a variety of sports cards. Although I loved them all, the baseball cards I received from my dad seemed to intrigue me the most. My dad would give me a box of the newest cards available at the time and I would divide them as evenly as I could (wink, wink) between myself and my nephew, Jimmy. We would eagerly tear into the brand new box, hoping that the top player of the time would be one of the cards waiting inside. I grew partial to the unique cards, especially those that portrayed the player in action or those that had their old uniforms airbrushed over. The airbrushing occurred after a player had been traded to a new team before the cards were officially issued, but after the photos for the cards had been taken. The look of the airbrushing varied, for better or worse, depending on who was responsible for doing so. I preferred the airbrushing that was done poorly, where lines weren’t as straight and colors weren’t as opaque as intended. My feelings toward airbrushed cards have grown stronger as I have aged. Old fashioned baseball, or baseball as I remember it in the 1970’s and 1980’s, is reflected in the poorly airbrushed cards. These imperfect cards exemplify what baseball stood for in the good old days. The days before the replays. The days when you could take a player out at second base for attempting a double play. The days before you could throw at a player and remain in the game. Imperfect, airbrushed cards symbolize that baseball wasn’t perfect then, but the imperfection in it makes it perfect to me.
Case in point, the 1976 Topps Oscar Gable baseball card. Oscar was traded from the Cleveland Indians to the New York Yankees, and just by looking at his card, you could tell it was a rushed job to airbrush over his Indians uniform. To me, it made for the perfect baseball card (clearly, this was before I was clued in to the whole, “PSA” thing).