Old Baseball Cards of Old-looking Players
June 1, 2008
by William Szczepanek
In the Baseball Card Blog article from April 9, 2006, Ben Henry discussed the Topps Heritage sets. At one point he describes the 1957 card of Joe Adcock as that of someone who looks older than he really is. Adcock was 30 years old in the picture, but Ben felt that he looked much older, like from the barnstorming days. Anyone who remembers Adcock will agree that Ben is pretty close to being right about his comparisons, though I don’t really think Adcock looked old, he just looked weathered and tough.
Adcock’s first season with the Braves was capped by a mammoth home run into the center field bleachers at the Polo Grounds in 1953, a feat that had never been done before and only by Hank Aaron and Lou Brock since. But Joe's biggest blast went over the double-decked left-field stands at Ebbets Field.
Joe Adcock was beaned so severely by the Dodgers' Clem Labine in 1954 that he was unconscious for 15 minutes. Adcock said the helmet might have saved him from a severe injury, and the next day the Brooklyn Dodgers ordered all players in their organization to begin wearing helmets.
Now this card of Stu Miller from 1956 looks like he was playing in the dustbowl. He looks like a twenty year old playing in the 1930’s.
But I digress. I really wanted to talk about baseball cards of players who look older than they really are. As a youngster I often saw players who looked older, but I thought that was because I was young. Now, I look back at a time when I am twice the age these players actually were and I still think they look older than I do.
The data below is show in order of increasing difference in Perceived Age vs. Actual Age from my personal perspective. I’m sure many will disagree with my observations, particularly these player’s mothers. In certain cases the players actually look much younger on cards from subsequent years, so in effect I am commenting on the presentation, not the actual player.
I have added a card of Casey Stengel at the end since he always looked old to me during his entire time as a manager, but to his credit, he actually was old and was still doing a great job.
It is a little strange because I haven’t noticed the same issue with cards produced in the 1960’s and later. It’s all probably just me and my perspective, but I wonder how many others have experienced the same thing.
The Granny Hamner card was added because the name alone makes him sound old.