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This Is My Kind Of Art

The 1975 Topps baseball card

I thought about Michelangelo’s ‘Pieta’ sculpture, the Bradbury building in Los Angeles, and Jan Van Eyck’s ‘Arnolfini Portrait’.

Then I thought…

“What have the Romans ever done for us?” — Monty Python

So I thought some more about the question, “What artwork speaks to you?”

The 1975 Topps baseball card set.

660 pieces of cardboard that enshrined my heroes, past and present.

Bold, two-toned borders of colour gave this set its attention grabbing appeal. The style also made the borders susceptible to wear and showed all damage, making the cards difficult to keep in pristine condition.

The 1975 Topps set introduced new features — a subset of cards paying tribute to MVP stars of the past (Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and others) and the team photo cards with player checklist on the back (an interesting new development that foolishly inspired kids, myself included, to deface the cards with a ballpoint pen).

Here was a set of baseball cards that looked like no other. More colour than had been seen before or since, in a style that is instantly recognisable as 1975. This card set is the only one of the last 50 years to crack the top ten rankings of all-time baseball card sets.

1975 embodied all that was my era of the game — tangible artefacts from players we’d only heard stories about, the Hank Aarons and the Brooks Robinsons, mixed in with portraits of all my present-day heroes — the Nolan Ryans and George Bretts, the Thurman Munsons and the Fred Lynns. These were my guys.

These are my guys.

Some kids treated their baseball cards with sacrilegious disrespect — placing them in their bicycle spokes hoping to mimic the sound of some 1-stroke lawn mower. My circle of friends, we saved our lawn mowing money and bought cards in bulk from the nearest Smart & Final store as soon as they came in stock. We scoured card shops to complete our sets and carefully slotted them into their rightful position in shiny plastic sleeves.

These were the guys I emulated in backyard Wiffle ball and on the ball field. The guys I watched play the game I loved. In watching them play — on TV and in real life — they made me dream, made me cheer as I jumped out of my seat and cry after lights out. Hanging around the ballparks and spring training, they taught me they weren’t idols, but just regular people. They’d talk to my friends and I. Joke with us and make conversation while having us hold their beer and Playboys while they autographed our baseball cards.

So what art speaks to me?

The 1975 Topps baseball card set is a collection of art.

660 pieces of cardboard that represent my childhood. Like me, they’re all growing old. A few are now passing on. I still love the game and decades of players and baseball cards have come and gone since the 1970s, but the Nolan Ryans and the George Bretts, the Don Baylors and the Reggie Jacksons… those were my guys.

Enshrined in works of art.

In 1975.

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in Memoir, Non-Fiction, Opinion Piece, Personal Narrative, Sports