Sunday, March 3, 2013

Steel City Skyline

To some extent or another, I've almost always been a card collector.  But since moving from Pittsburgh, I've found that, for me, cards are no longer just pieces of a collection, parts of a larger whole.  My collection has become a tangible reminder of the place we hope to once again call home sooner than later. 

Nothing becomes a vivid reminder than cards that incorporate the city's skyline.  Pittsburgh may not have the expansive skyline of New York or Chicago, but any Pittsburgh or ex-pat can tell you there are few feelings that can top coming out of the Ft. Pitt Tunnels and being immediately hit with everything that is Pittsburgh - the skyline, the rivers, the Point. 

Because of the city's geography - for the unannotated, Pittsburgh's downtown proper is actually quite small due to the rivers bordering downtown - Pittsburgh's downtown poses quite the sight from either direction.  And after all, what is more indicative of a team's identity than the very city they call home.  Still, relatively few cards actually feature the city prominently.

There have been a few inserts in football and hockey in recent years that have integrated aspects of the city's skyline.  However, those designs have been limited to Panini releases, and have yet to trickle into baseball releases.

I really like the angle of the photo used for the background on Pirate cards in 2004 Studio.  Pittsburghers are all too familiar with shots of the Golden Triangle taken from Mount Washington, which seems to be used in just about every video package involving Pittsburgh ever.  However, this card captures an angle from (I believe) a bit farther down the mountain, stretching into the northern suburbs.  Add in the sunset reflecting off the buildings, and it makes for a great looking card.  If only they could have avoided using those ugly spring training jerseys.

In 2005, Donruss was barely clinging to life, pumping out dozens of (really good) products as their MLB license was set to expire.  The design for Studio was uninspired to say the least.  The background photo is clearly a recropping of the 2004 shot, recolored to be a less than appealing mustard color.

Last, but certainly not least, is one of my favorite Pirate cards.  This 2009 Topps 206 short print features Andrew McCutchen awkwardly photoshopped in front of the historic Duquesne Incline overlooking downtown.  Built in 1887, the incline (as well as its only remaining sister incline, the Mon Incline,  half a mile down) makes regular trips between the South Side and Mt. Washington.  The card is special to me, since we were living on Mt. Washington when it was released (I was a few blocks from the Mon Incline), and the card features both the Pirates pinstriped vest, one of my favorite uniforms, and Andrew McCutchen, the most talented guy to play baseball in the Burgh in quite some time.  Put all those factors together and you have a great looking card.

I'm sure there are some other Pittsburgh skyline cards out there I'm not aware of, particularly in football and hockey.  If you know of any other sets that contain others, leave a comment.


  1. The 1993-94 Leaf hockey set is great for the city skylines on the back. Check out the Lemieux

  2. Great point. I wasn't aware of the hockey design, but I believe the Leaf baseall set from 94 had a skyline shot on the back of series 1, and a really cool steel furnace background on series 2 cards.