Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Bad, The Worse and What the Hell Went Wrong Here? 1987 Topps Edition

That nice '87 Topps Chris Brown card in the last post got me thinking about some of the photographic disasters Topps unleashed on us all in the late 80s. Topps' troubles ranged from bad lighting, bad shadows and poor composition to just downright terrible airbrushing.

The photos for the 1987 release were taken as early as spring training 1986, and with the checklist finalized well before production begins little could be done for players who were traded. Rather than leave gaps in the checklist, Topps got their airbrushes out and went to work.

So in this first installment of "The Bad, The Worse, and What the Hell Went Wrong Here?" we're going to take a look at three examples of airbrushing tragedy.

#3 - Bad

The first time I saw this card, I thought that it had to be the worst looking job of airbrushing I'd ever seen. Don't let the fact that I'm placing it at number three in our countdown fool you into thinking that it's not so bad. It is, it's horrible. But it gets much, much worse.

Mike Laga was a player to be named later in a deal between the Detroit Tigers and St. Loius Cardinals in late 1986. The photo here was taken sometime in 1986, I'll assume Spring Traning because it really doesn't look like Tiger Stadium back there, but the background is so dark it's hard to tell.

Ladies and gentlemen, this year your St. Louis Cardinals will be sporting pink pullover warm up jerseys. They look an awful lot like paper hospital gowns.

A lot of times in these airbrushing train wrecks, as bad as the jerseys are, the hat suffers the worst fate. What saves this card from being worse than it already is it the fact that the hat came out looking pretty much like a Cardinals hat should. Some of the ink bled over onto the sky giving Mr. Laga a purple halo, but the hat is at least in proportion to his head and positioned correctly.

On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being little better than spray paint on a smiley face), I give this one a 5, it'd get a 4 if not for the pink jersey.

#2 - Worse

Where do we start with this one? Remember what I said about hats? Judging from this picture Carl Willis' head must be the same shape as Homer Simpson's. I don't understand why it's so hard to correctly position a hat, unless of course the original photo was taken hatless. It looks like the brush was running out of ink towards the bottom of the Reds logo on the cap.

Looking at the position of his shoulders I have to wonder if the high left shoulder is an accident of airbrushing or if he's in some non-standing position that we're unable to see because of the close up.

Without the luxury of the internet, this is actually a somewhat confusing card.

From looking at the back, there seems to be little reason to airbrush a Reds uniform on him as he had been with the team since the middle of the 1984 season. A mystery? Not really.

What the back of the card doesn't show you are off season moves. It seems that Mr. Willis had a pretty eventful 1985 off season and under that baby blue Reds uniform lurks a California Angel.

On December 10, 1985, Willis was picked up by the California Angels as a Rule V selection and attended Spring Training with his new team before ultimately being returned to Cincinnati on April 6, 1986.

1 to 10: 7

#1 - What the Hell Went Wrong Here?

First, I'd like you to take a moment to let the true horror of this card set in, then we'll talk.

I don't think the words "What the hell went wrong here?" are strong enough for this card.

Not a single thing about this card looks real. Nothing. From the placement of the logo on the cap, to his shoulders, and even the background doesn't look like Earth. Even his beard doesn't looks real.

Somewhere under there, maybe, lies a Cubs uniform. I know nothing about Ray Fontenot's short career, but I hope for his sake there's a better looking card out there than this one. He looks so happy to have his picture taken for a baseball card... only to have it turn out like that? I honestly feel sorry for the guy.

1 - 10: 10...million

So in the spirit of recent events, I've decided to try my hand at airbrushing.

See, I told you, it's the hat that suffers the most.


night owl said...

The 1987 Mike Laga is one of the worst airbrush jobs of all-time. Who in their right mind thought any team played in pink uniforms?

As a child of the '70s who had seen the airbrushing actually improve from the '70s through the course of the '80s, the Laga card shocked me, because it was if it was a holdover from the bizarre 1970s airbrushing.

And if you think the Fontenot card looks fake, check out the 1978 Topps Mike Paxton. There is nothing real in that "photo"

Jeffrey Wolfe said...

Maybe I'm sick but I love horribly airbrushed cards. Sadly, by '89 Topps actually *gasp* started making an effort to get more up to date photos and now they've gotten lazy again and just photoshop everything. Airbrushed takes me back to a bygone era in baseball cards. But you're right the Laga pink jersey is ridiculous. I think someone messed up and got some red ink on his shirt, then thought "well I'll just spread this out and crap now the whole jersey's pink I don't have time to start over."

Ben said...

I can't say that I like them, but they are fun to look at. I'd really rather see some airbrushing than Photoshopping really. Airbrushing at least takes some... effort? Not exactly talent, but it takes some time.

As much as I like Allen & Ginter and UD Goudey, they're nothing but products of Photoshop. For whatever reason, that kinda cheapens the idea a bit.

Oh, buy the way, I added Card Junkie to my list. I'd managed to overlook it when I set the list up, oops.

Jeffrey Wolfe said...

Thanks for the link I'll link you up as well =)