Here’s an admission you don’t get every day from hobby pundits: I am hardly the final word on virtually any topic you want to name in our beloved hobby.
Being a member in reasonably good standing of the hobby press and having the kind of forum that Sports Collectors Digest represents in reaching avid collectors every week – or in online blogs virtually every weekday – may give a faulty impression.
I have long understood that there are countless advanced collectors who have vast knowledge and understanding of their particular areas of expertise but simply don’t have the soapbox that others do.
It is to these sages that I direct my question about 1958 Topps Baseball. After I wrote a story a couple of weeks back in SCD about that colorful issue, I got an e-mail from a reader asking if I was aware of the reason Topps selected that design that year.
Easiest way to do this is just quote him directly: “You do know why Topps cut out the ballpark backgrounds and went to vivid colors for the 1958 set, right? Because they were all in, or from, Brooklyn, and they couldn’t bear the thought of the new cards depicting photos from Ebbets Field or the Polo Grounds (except where unavoidable, as in the team shots and the multiple player cards).”
I was startled, because I had never heard that theory, and at least potentially mortified because I should have. But at my age mortification is rarely a big deal, so I called a couple of old-timers who made me feel a bit better because they hadn’t heard of it either.
And so I called Sy Berger, in part because I always like finding excuses to call him anyway. When I relayed the theory, Sy said, “Baloney.” Which seemed fairly unambiguous. “No truth to it at all,” he added. According to Sy, the switch to the cut-out backgrounds – I’ll paraphrase here – was based on finding a contrasting style to the previous year where photos were left intact to show the ballparks.
Sy’s pronouncement may or may not put an end to the discussion, but I’d certainly love to hear from any readers who had heard such a thing, including any attribution, however sketchy it might be a half-century later.
Either way, I think it’s a great bit of hobby lore.
And in a personal aside, I’ll wish the Bergers a happy 64th wedding anniversary. How cool is that?