As I started pondering the idea of Topps doing a Heritage version based on its 1958 baseball set, I realized that the company could assign someone to the project of planning all of the issue’s quirks and nuances and he/she would be swamped right up to the moment when the printer threw the switch on the press.
Assuming that 1958 gets the nod next year, I have to think it could be one of the best Heritage offerings yet produced. I base that on the colorful backgrounds of the originals, a design device that could make the 2007 Heritage set the closest match to its original inspiration. The portraits in the original 1958 Topps set are some of the best Topps ever produced (see Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax and Yogi Berra, to name just a few), so the potential to capture that flavor in the Heritage issue would seem to be enormous. There’s something that just works when those vivid close-ups are planted against the bright-yellow or orange backgrounds.
Obviously, it would be cool if Topps could get various players, especially stars, to mimick some of the portrait and posed-action stances from the original, but I can imagine what a tall order that would be.
The originals were all gray backs, but of course, creating a white-back version is always an option, since Topps likes adding additional chase components. One assumes that the yellow-letter variations (there are 33 in the first series of 1958 Topps) would be given a respectful nod in some fashion, as might the alphabetical or numerical checklists on the backs of team cards.
Still, it’s an idea that figures to work like gangbusters with or without all the chase additions. I know it’s probably too late for such suggestions, but it’s fun thinking about some of the current players offering even reasonably faithful impersonations of some of those freeze-frame poses, like Charley Neal awkwardly bent over either to pick up a quarter of maybe to duck below his name at the top of the card, or the various catchers who sit patiently in a decidedly unathletic looking crouch, waiting for a pitch that would seemingly have to be lobbed underhand for them to be able to handle it.
My favorite card in the original set, No. 213 of backup Tiger catcher Red Wilson, might be a toughie to revive. Because of some unconventional cropping by the Topps graphic artist back in 1957, Red would appear to be handling his limited backstopping duties without actually having any arms.
The only thing more difficult than that to rerun in 2007 would be finding a modern-day hurler with anything remotely approaching Don Mossi’s ears.