It was all too rare during the Golden Age of Topps (1952-1980) for star players to get cards that matched their luster.
I think of cards like the 1967 Mickey Mantle. I’ve seen more flattering photos on DWI mug shots.
The 1973 Willie Mays did its best to make a tired middle-aged man look like a tired old man.
And I am somehow convinced that if the 1970 Pete Rose never existed, I would have gotten more dates in high school. Still working on some of the mathematical formulas to prove that theorem…
(The only consistent exception to this rule was Ernie Banks, but this is not because Topps was being deferential or especially attentive. It is just physically impossible to take a bad picture of Ernie Banks.)
Tom Seaver was certainly vulnerable to this particular maxim.
Take 1972 for example. His regular card shows one of the most dynamic pitchers of the era in a lazy spring-training fake-follow-through pose. How lazy? He didn’t even bother to remove his blue satin warm-up jacket.
Seaver’s In Action card from the same year pictures him hunched over on the mound, apparently in the throes of a bout of ulcerative colitis.
That is why the 1974 Seaver card is such a relief.
“Strike ‘em out, Tommy!”
This is the Tom Seaver I see when I close my eyes and remember…