Monday, February 26, 2007
Mantle? Maybe. W? Never
I’ve collected baseball cards since I was a little kid, and I used to wonder about whether Topps doctored photos when a player was traded.
For instance, as I kid I wondered why Bob Miller in 1973 was wearing a Pirates uniform and a Mets cap -- only a really bad Mets cap.
Later, I learned that Topps artists painted the new caps on the photos, sometimes to disastrous effect.
The company has become much more proficient at doctoring cards in the computer age. Sometimes, like last year’s Billy Wagner card, it’s very tough to tell unless you know ballpark backgrounds and other tell-tale signs that something is amiss.
Then you have the just-released Derek F. Jeter card, No. 40 in the first series.
The card shows Jeter swinging and probably missing. Nothing strange there. But if you look more closely, it appears that Mickey Mantle is in the dugout and President George W. Bush is standing in the box seats.
Where to begin. Let’s start with Mantle. The last time I saw Mantle, he was helping my cable television bill get to its destination.
Now it’s not a shock that the Mick would still be on the Yankees’ roster.
Think about it. Carl Pavano’s on the roster. And between Pavano and Mantle, guess who appeared in more games in 2006. That’s right, it’s a tie: neither of them!
Mantle has a pretty good excuse, being dead and all. But they’re actually cutting checks to Pavano.
But if you look closely, there is proof that Mantle has been PhotoShopped into the photo.
It’s a day game; Mick’s looking all bright-eyed and holding a bat, ready to get into the game.
Anybody who’s read any baseball book knows that Mantle hit the town harder than he hit the ball. And the day after, well, Mick was more likely to be slumped in the corner of the dugout with his cap pulled over his eyes nursing a hangover and lamenting that the barkeep at the Copa allowed himself to be bullied into serving one more round for Mick, Billy and Whitey.
Then there’s the president. Assume for a moment that the Secret Service would even, for a second, allow him to set foot in the Bronx, much less in that outhouse, much less, again, to sit in the box seats among the great, very unwashed masses that are Yankee fans. Imagine the diseases, much less the terrorists.
No, if the card is to believed, Bush is standing there waving or cheering. Nonsense!
The Decider is a red-blooded American. If anything, he’d be jumping up with hand to mouth letting loose a most profound boo that only Jeter deserves, or directing the unseen Boston pitcher to boink one off of Derek’s earflap because, as we all know, it’s just the right thing to do.
Then look at Jeter. Something’s wrong. If Tom Verducci is right, St. Derek The Intangable, patron saint of hype, would have wings, and at the very least a halo. Could it be that the Topps artists air-brushed them out of the picture? Either that, or Jeter isn’t all that Verducci makes him out to be. (A friend in the always-glorious Crane Pool Forum gets credit for the halo line. Clink on the link on the side to read more from that always interesting forum.)
I bounced this all to my friend Clay Lurchasi, a Topps spokesman. He said it’s true; the card has been doctored.
“Between the final proof and the printing, someone in the art department thought it would be funny to do it. I have to admit it -- it’s pretty funny.”
OK, Clay. Just keep them away from my David Wright card.