The Golden Age of Baseball Cards™

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Vintage Baseball Card Blog

The Worst Year for Baseball Cards – Topps 1958

February 7, 2008

by William Szczepanek

Baseball cards were gaining in popularity in the early 1950s. Year after year they looked more and more amazing. They couldn’t compare to the cards of today, with glossy, clear photos, chrome highlights and super photography. The cards of 1952 and 1953 were pretty ordinary. The cards from 1954 and 1955 were almost replicas of each other except for the horizontal rather than vertical orientation, but better. Then, in 1956 the magic occurred when Topps produced cards with action photos of the players. The photos were not the best quality, but very interesting, if not sometimes funny. In 1957, the players came to life through colorful images of players standing around in various stadiums before the game. The anticipation in the spring of 1958 was enormous. What would Topps show us they could do? How would our favorite players be depicted in 1958?

Opening the first few packs of the year were exciting times. Much to my surprise, opening the first pack of 1958 revealed large heads on variously-colored backgrounds. Ted Williams greeted me with a sullen face on a yellow background. Bob Lemon was stern-faced with a yellow background. Hank Foiles smiled weakly on a yellow background. I hate yellow!! Hank Bauer’s smile was wide on an orange background. At least it wasn’t yellow, but his hat was pushed back on his head. Nobody wore their hat like that unless they were having their picture taken.

Finally, Dale Long and Jim Rivera appeared in respectable batting stances, but the pictures weren’t clear. All in all, there were far too many portraits and not enough baseball action shots. This of course didn’t prevent me from plunking down my nickels throughout the summer, but the cards were often disappointing.

Some of the most disappointing cards included those of Leo Kiely #204, Bob Shaw #206, Willard Schmidt #214, Brooks Robinson #307, and Murray Dickson #349.
The best cards included Bob Clemente #52, Frank Bolling #95, Bobby Adams #99, Andy Pafko #223, Warren Spahn #270, Gail Harris #309, and Nellie Fox #400.

The solid backgrounds were easily scratched and many came out of the packs that way. On the positive side, some of the head shots gave a very good representation of what the player really looked like up close, but overall, the concept of baseball as a game was lacking throughout this set. So, even during the golden age of baseball cards there were some disappointing seasons.

For some more modern ugly cards, check out the Ugly Baseball Card Blog.



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