1972 O-PEE-CHEE GIL HODGES
O Canada, you sure knew how to break a Mets’ fan’s heart in 1972…
In 1965, the O-Pee-Chee company of London, Ontario began producing licensed versions of Topps baseball sets for direct distribution in Canada. These sets generally contained fewer cards than their U.S. counterparts, and were printed on slightly different stock, but for the first several years there was little to distinguish an O-Pee-Chee card from a Topps card.
Then in 1970, Canadian federal legislation forced O-Pee-Chee to include French text on the backs of their baseball cards. In 1971, O-Pee-Chee rolled out a back design that differed significantly from Topps’ pea-green and black tableau.
That same year, the Canadian company also began capturing trade information on the card fronts by changing the team designation and adding a note in Helvetica Neue.
They continued this practice for years– for example, when our neighbors to the north opened their wax packs in 1980, they saw Richie Hebner in a Mets uniform as in the Topps set, but with a team banner indicating Tigers and a small note to that effect (with thoroughly superfluous double/single quotation marks, eh).
But the most heartbreaking annotation of all appeared in that 1972 O-Pee-Chee set on card number 465, Gil Hodges. It read simply DECEASED APRIL 2, 1972.