Friday, December 4, 2015

1971 Baseball Cards - aka...the "Black Beauties"

Simply put the '71 set is my favorite of all time.  At 6 years of age it was my first foray into legit collecting.  The solid black backgrounds and pastel colored team and player names jump right out at your with contrast.  This set got it's nickname "black beauties" from their unique black borders, which was a first in the industry.  Like most things in life that are beautiful and fragile these cards were high maintenance.  The border easily chipped and lost its sharp corners.  Years later if you tried to buy one at a card show or from a dealer it was almost impossible to find one in mint condition.  Dealers took to using black sharpies to fill in cracks or using trimmers to cut them down and make the corners sharper.  Simply put, this is the toughest set to get and maintain mint.  Needless to say the cards that I rubber banded in a shoe box or put on the spokes of my bike (Ross Apollo) are nowhere near mint.  The one thing that really disappointed me with this set was the fact that I never completed it.  There were 752 total cards in the set, but it was released in 7 series' over the course of the baseball season.  By September I had moved on to football and hockey cards and quite honestly didn't even know that there were more cards to be had.

Here is my checklist of likes and dislikes:
  • Bright pastel colors with sharp contrast against the black border
  • Unique Action shots as opposed to all posed shots or portraits.
  • Player photos on the back of the card (1st time)
  • Color World Series action cards.
  • Better detail on assigning players to their new team as opposed to their old team
  • The gum stick and wax seal were on the back of the card, not ruining the front
  • Stadium backgrounds - I grew up in Brooklyn, NY, so I never tire of seeing photos with Shea and Yankee Stadium as the backdrop.  I never tire of seeing the monuments on the field in the background of an "old" Yankee Stadium photo.  I love the spring training photos as well, because you see palm trees (FL) or mountains (AZ) + a wide variety of gear and people in the background.  I love to imagine the story behind the photo.
  • The previously mentioned chipping of the black border.  What 5-12 year old had the capability to keep these pristine.  Many came out of the wrapper already chipped.
  • Horizontal Shots.  I loved the action shots, but I'm a stickler for vertical cards
  • Airbrushing.  Some were pretty good.  The Ron Swoboda Expos airbrush requires a second look, because it wasn't glaringly horrible.  Some looked like an 8 year old did them
  • BHNH - By 1971 guys were growing out their hair and the Big Head No Hat look sporting comb overs and hat head were almost criminal in nature.  Even a bad airbrush job was better.
  • Distant Action shots - I do a lot of sports photography, so that makes me exceptionally critical of card action photos.  If I can't see the guy's face and the ball in the same photo I can't tell what happened.  Some of these photos look like they were taken with a 126 Kodak Instamatic Camera from row 26.  By the early 1970's there were plenty of good zoom lenses and professional photographers out there to get really good accurate closeups.
  • Photo laziness - Even a little kid could tell when a picture was 2-3 years old.  The MLB logo on the sleeve, work in 1969, gives away a lot of photos.  A guy with a brush cut or no sideburns tells me it was taken pre-1969.  This was an era of ever evolving styles and looks and a stale photo was as easy to spot as an elephant in a phone booth (they had those in the 70's).
  • Too many of the cards in this set were off center or double printed.  I never understood how QC couldn't have made sure that they were near center cut off the sheets.  As for the double prints, that was strictly a marketing ploy that forced us to keep buying more to get that rare Tom Seaver.  I can swear that in each market they made sure to short print each of the marquis stars.  For every Seaver I got I would wind up with 10 Horace Clarke's.  That couldn't have been by accident ?
  • Stats - You got to see their numbers from 1970 and their total career stats, but not the individual years from their entire career.  Until Al Gore invented the internet and was invented, cards were our only way to see those numbers, so this dislike doesn't exist anymore, but it bugged everyone back then.
The goals for this project are quite simple:
  • Create a full working set for every player, so they appear on the game screen for our league (ARAIG).
  • Make sure that players that were traded in season have a card for each team that they played for.
  • Create vertical cards for those that had horizontal card
  • Scrap the airbrush and use a real photo of the player of their rightful team
  • Get a cap on their had and trash the BHNH look, so they look like a ballplayer and not someone's 35 year old uncle Richie trying to keep up with the fashion and styles better suited for the younger generation. 
  • Keep era appropriate.  The A's wore vests with green and yellow trim, not Green or Yellow pullovers (they came later).  Players need to match the style of that era.  Mustaches, beards and excessively long hair need not apply.  Muttonchops with well groomed hair ruled the day.  That would change in a year or two as baseball was curiously always 4-5 years behind the times.

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