Monday, December 31, 2007


In direct conflict to the popular myth that began sweeping across America in the mid 1980s, I’m here to tell you that baseball cards do not grow on trees. I suppose one might attempt the argument that trees are a necessary step in their production, but with recycling and the amazing things engineers are doing with plastics these days, you’d probably have to invest several bottles of Busch beer as part of the discussion before you would even get me to listen.

Heck, Topps has even been recycling their baseball card designs for years, apparently having run out of fresh ideas. And I’m not complaining either. Personally, I like the idea of reusing old card designs with modern players on them. I think it is a wonderful tribute to the original design(ers), and has somehow managed to introduce an element of fresh air into the trading card industry- not completely dissimilar to aerating the outfield grass in a 100-year-old ballpark.

Someone sent me an article several years ago about a fellow who used to work for Topps. He went on about how people he met thought it would be an amazing score- landing a job with a baseball card company, let alone the granddaddy of them all. However, in (his) reality, it turned out to be just another job. I didn’t buy it when I read the article, and I’m not convinced now.

As long as I can remember, I’ve always thought it would be super to be the person who designs cards, or takes the photos of the players that end up on cards, or sits in meetings and lobbies for things such as the immediate discontinuation of including stick of crap chewing gum with the cards. Perhaps if I had moved to New York after high school, enrolled in an art school, and began applying for internships with Topps 25 years ago, I would have ended up working for them. But I didn’t. Besides, maybe robots perform all the work there now.

I do still have the dream of one day having one of my photographs used on a baseball card. And it isn’t unusual for me to spend several hours during a winter evening working on a new baseball card design while listening to old Gordon Lightfoot tunes. I’ll hash out a design and print a couple copies to get autographed in the spring and to add to my portfolio in the event that anyone (any minor league baseball club, for instance) would ever give me an opportunity to design their team set.

Generally, the only people who see my work are the players featured on the cards and a few of the autograph collectors. I’ve decided that it can’t hurt for me to put some of my ideas online in the event that the right person needing that sort of service might happen by and give me a shot. Worst case, someone decides to flatter me by stealing my ideas.

So here’s my work in progress for my dream team set for the 2008 Albuquerque Isotopes:

The key element in my design includes LOTS of white real estate for player autographs. Another thing I’m trying to do is create a desire for the card collector to really think of the set as a team set, as opposed to a stack of cards of guys simply wearing the same uniform- a rare concept in the modern age of free agency when players move about from team to team with the frequency of migratory workers. My intention is that the image of the baseball stadium in the background will serve to force people to assemble the “puzzle,” and possibly even make them come up with interesting ways of displaying the set once they get all of the cards autographed.

Once the team sets their roster at the end of Spring Training, I will be able to decide which players I want to include in the final version. Until then, all I can really do is tweak the layout and do some research to find a printer willing to run a few sets for me at a reasonable rate. Maybe I’ll have my resume printed on the backs of the cards, and ship sets off to Topps, Just Minors, Upper Deck and MultiAd. At the very least, they are unique.

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