Thursday, May 9, 2013

This Magic Moment

Baseball is a game with a rich history.  But that can be said of any sport.  Perhaps the biggest difference is the amount of attention the sport gives to that history on a regular basis, and card sets are no exception. 

I think you can safely argue that Bill Mazeroski's walk off game 7 home run in the 1960 World Series is the most dramatic moment in pro sports.  Other events may be more impressive, more talked about, or more photographed.  And that last part may be the most interesting to discuss.

Full game film from the famous game was only recovered a few years ago.  And the still photos from the famous homer are pretty slim pickings as well.  All in all a far cry from the army of photographers and cameras that come with each and every sporting event today, regardless of scale or importance. 

And the number of cards celebrating the occasion are inversely impressive.  The thing is there's only so much you can do to make the same event, the same photo, the same angles interesting.  Some have been more impressive than others, but each and every one is a part of my collection that I love having.

First up is undoubtedly the most straightforward.  Iconic image.  Clean, crisp design.  The retro Topps Heritage design captures the excitement of the moment and the spirit of the game in its moment.  So too does Maz's bland crew cut haircut.  The design highlights the image, while still recognizing the event in the text.  As much as many of the aspects of Heritage annoy me, it's about as well designed as you could hope for.
Fleer decided to take a slightly different approach in 2001 and 2002, pairing Maz with fellow WS Walkoff HR Club member Joe Carter.  I like the pairing, and it's a fun and unique pairing of major events in baseball history.  I just wish the 02 Fall Classic card would have used a retro Jays logo, rather than the since abandoned (and arguably ill conceived) version featured on the card.

Fleer took another crack at it, this time using a facsimile box score clipping.  Sure, the box score doesn't tell tell the whole story, but it's a unique piece (numbered /1960), connecting the iconic image of Maz with the glorious, glorious score board line.

And the event is certainly worthy of a little artistic flair as well.  This card beautifully captures the elation of Maz rounding third.  I love the Masterpiece sets, and the set features quite a few cards depicting famous moments in baseball history.  It's also interesting to see a tightly cropped version, since I'd assume the photos from the game are all at too low a resolution to be blown up and cropped so tightly.

Of course some cards take a...less inspired perspective.  Both UD and Topps offered up these posted photos that make mention of the big hit.  But they're a far cry from the drama and excitement of the moment.

For that, what better place to go than to the card that captures that very moment, in the moment.  I can't imagine what it might have been like to be a card collecting Pirates fan in 1961 and to pull this card, pack fresh, from the local five and dime just months after the game.   I was able to get the card signed by Maz at Piratefest a few years back, along with his RC, and they are two great pieces in my collection.  What more could you want than a beautiful vintage piece of cardboard capturing the defining moment of your team, and quite possibly baseball history.

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