What Were They Thinking: The Red Letter of Blue Moon Odom Edition
May 9th, 2011 by slangon

This series of posts is dedicated to examining the numerous design details from the Topps art department that leave me scratching my head. They’re the types of things that could just be one time instances that are the result of someone overlooking them, or they could have been a conscious decision on the part of Topps designers. It’s always kind of hard to tell. They always make me wish that I could sit down with someone who was involved with the creative process and ask them “What were you thinking?” In the mean time, I’ll just sit here pointing out weird little things that I notice and coming up with my own theories, or more likely just pointing them out and not coming up with any answers at all. Who knows? Maybe someone out there who is smarter and better versed in the ways of the hobby will know the answer to some of these queries. Or maybe they’ll just go down in history as some weird thing that Topps did way back when.

Today we’re going to look at one of my favorite Topps sets – 1967. Specifically, we’re going to take a look at the player’s name and position. Even more specifically, we’re going to take a look at how inconsistent Topps was with displaying this information.

Let’s take a look at the various ways in which the Topps designers chose to display that chunk of information on the 1967 set. They made both the name and the position plain old black type.

They made it with black and yellow type.

They also made it with white and yellow type.

So far, I’m following their logic perfectly. Some photos just don’t work with certain color combos on the type depending on whether the background of the picture is dark or light, or a mix of the two. On the Bob Veale card, for example, you couldn’t really have his name in black type because it would get lost in the darkness of the upper deck. On the Gates Brown card (or even the Bob Gibson card for that matter), you can have all black type because it happens to sit on a light portion of the photograph. I understand that thinking. In certain instances, however, it doesn’t seem like the Topps designers followed their own logic, as is the case on this Sam Mele card.

You can see how his name gets all sorts of lost in the batting cage netting. Not so good Topps.

As you can see from the different examples I’ve shown, they put a dot in the middle of the line to break up the player’s name from their position. That too I can understand. I don’t think anyone would mistakenly think that the player’s name is “Bob Gibson Pitcher”, but it makes sense to me that they would use some sort of device to break up the information. Agin, though, Topps didn’t always follow that rule.

You’ll notice that on these 2 cards, they decided to forgo the dividing dot. I don’t think it adds or detracts from the overall design, but it just seems weird to me that they wouldn’t be consistent with it. Initially, I figured maybe if the player’s name was too long, they would have to ditch the dot to get things to fit into the space, but it’s not like “Dick Simpson” is any longer that “Gates Brown”, especially when you take into account that for some reason they wrote out the word “outfield” on Dick’s card, but abbreviated it on Gates’ card. Inconsistencies galore. What is even weirder about the dots/no dots thing is that apparently they sisn’t make any cards with black and yellow type that didn’t have a dot, at least none that I could find. Keep in mind I wasn’t able to find images of all 609 cards from this set in one place, but I did actually go through all the cards from this set that were on Check Out My Cards (What can I say? I was bored at work.) and I didn’t find any cards that had the black and yellow type combo but without the dot separating the name and position. So aside from arbitrarily deciding to use a dot or not use a dot, they also decided to always use a dot with one of the three main color combos. What the hell, Topps?

If you notice, in that last paragraph, I used the phrase “three main color combos.” Why would I specify that they were the “main” color combos? Because, although those 3 combinations represent about 95% of the cards in the set, there were also a few seemingly random combinations that appeared on maybe 2 or 3 cards in the set. Hell, sometimes, I was only able to track down 1 example of a particular combo. Here are some of the other combinations Topps used for the player name / position.

As you can see, “Blue Moon” Odom’s name appears in red. This was actually the very card that got me thinking about all this foolishness in the first place. I happened to notice that out of all of the 1967 cards that I have, which is maybe in the neighborhood of 80-100, his was the only one that had the red/yellow color combo. Upon further investigation, I found out that card #112 Dave Wickersham also has the red/yellow combo, but that seems to be it. Why the hell would Topps make only 2 cards out of 609 with that particular color combo? Is it just random, or is there some sort of reasoning behind it? Both Blue Moon and Dave happen to be pitchers, but I doubt that’s why.

Initially, I thought that the red/yellow was the only uncommon color combo, but when I ran through all the ’67 cards on COMCs, I found a few other combinations that only showed up on 1 or 2 cards, such as a white name with a black position.

This one had exactly 1 example without a dot, and 1 example with a dot.

There was also an all white combination.

This also had a sans dot version and a dot version.

As I mentioned above, I didn’t find anyplace that had all 609 cards from this set in one place, but if I had to guess, I’d say that Check Out My Cards had probably 85% of the set on their site and I did go through all of the cards they had. The red/yellow, white/black, and all white color combos had maybe 2 or 3 examples at the most. Even if it turns out that the 15% of the cards that I didn’t see happened to consist entirely of those 3 uncommon combos, it still makes me wonder why did Topps even include them in the first place. It seems like their mainly pretty consistent when it comes to their designs, especially in the use of color, so I can’t help but wonder why they were so seemingly inconsistent in this particular design detail. Was it just oversight on the part of the art department? Did they have some sort of weird color coding that they used in the name / position? Did someone just screw up? Were they just toying with us? Is it some sort of code just waiting to be broken? I don’t know if we’ll ever find out.

Leave a Reply