On Wednesday, Doug Parker wrote about an Ed Kranepool card that I had not seen before. This card, issued in 2005, was modeled on the classic 1971 Topps set. But it was not the pose used for Kranepool’s ’71 card. As Parker pointed out, it was a much-younger Kranepool, but it showed the Krane in a pose with which card collectors were very familiar.
Steady Eddie had a bat in his hands.
Kranepool had his first Topps card in 1963 and his last one in 1980. That’s 18 years in all, 17 if you discount his rookie card in ’63, where a circle of his head appeared on a card along with three other circles – standard procedure for rookie cards back then. So, of those 17 cards, how many do you think Kranepool wielded a bat?
Kranepool appeared with a bat in 12 of them.
Now, it’s not like there’s a lot of options with baseball cards. Pre-1971, you can break down poses into three basic categories: head shots, pictures with a bat and cards depicting player with glove and/or ball. Of course there is variety among these categories. A head shot could show nothing but a player’s head looking up, with the bill of the cap visible so you could not see the team logo – very handy for players who were traded. Or it could be a bust shot or even from the waist up. Manager cards frequently had the waist up pose – extra points for having the skipper’s hands plunged into his back pocket.
Then in ’71, Topps added actual action shots, rather than posed ones, so we have a fourth category from then on. If the categories were issued randomly, we would expect Kranepool to have around six cards where he’s holding a bat. Let’s see the actual distribution:
63 – rookie card
64 – head shot (although I expect a bat was cropped out of this photo)
65 – bat shot – standing in box pose
66 – bat shot – similar to previous year, although not quite as zoomed in
67 – bat shot – kneeling in on-deck circle, resting on bat (the 64 pose without the crop)
68 – bat shot – a complete swing, with bat over right shoulder
69 – bat shot – reminiscent of 65-66
70 – bat shot – mid practice swing, with bat pointing right at camera.
71 – bat shot – like 69 and others before it
72 – bat shot – leaning against batting cage, with bat resting on shoulder
73 – bat shot – the popular pose, although this time with side burns!
74 – glove shot – an action photo showing him in the field
75 – bat shot – completed swing, although more relaxed than 68
76 – bat shot – similar to 75, although about 20 pounds heavier
77 – glove shot – might be a game photo, tight zoom on Krane
78 – head shot – bland, like you would have expected in the 60s sets, instead
79 – head shot – leaning against batting cage, doffing his hat
80 – bat shot – on one knee in on-deck circle, swinging bat
Nine straight years with a bat pose. That is potentially a record, but even if it’s not, it’s more than Aaron or Mays ever had, which is impressive in its own way.
But what is the distribution of poses on Topps cards? I took a set at random, which turned out to be the 1967 set, and counted all of the cards with just one player on them and tallied the results of the three poses. Some of these are subjective and if you did the same thing you might end up with different results, but I think these numbers are, pun intended, in the ballpark.
Head shot – 152
Bat shot – 151
Glove shot – 206
I have to say that these results surprised me. I would have anticipated more head shots, more bat shots and fewer glove shots. And the head shots were padded due to the managerial cards, which were almost exclusively in this pose, except for one which had a bat in it. Perhaps these results would be different with another year but I was not going to repeat the exercise.
So, a player had a roughly 30 percent shot in the 1967 set of having a bat shot. And Kranepool pulled the bat pose in nine straight years. If the poses were issued randomly, the chances of that happening would be less than 1 percent.
But Topps preferred its first basemen to have bat shots. From the 1967 set, 33 players were listed as a first baseman, whether by 1B alone, like Kranepool, or in a combo, like Harmon Killebrew, who was listed as a 1B-3B. The breakdowns of our poses among these 33 first basemen were:
Head shot – 11
Bat shot – 19
Glove shot – 3
So, instead of a 30 percent chance of a bat shot, first basemen in the 67 set had a 58 percent shot. Still, nine years in a row with a head shot still works out to less than a 1 percent probability, even with these improved odds.
Kranepool played a handful of games in 1962 and ended his career in 1979. In that time frame, he is fifth in games played among players who played 70% of their games at first base. He trails only Willie McCovey, Boog Powell, George Scott and Lee May. Let’s see how many poses those players had of each pose from 1964-1980, the Kranepool card era. This should be obvious but the breakdowns are (B)at, (H)ead, (G)love:
Both Scott and May had rookie cards with them holding the bat, with May having that pose in both ’66 and ’67. The 1974 May is a subjective one. There’s no bat visible, but it looks like a follow-through to me so I credited it as a bat pose. Perhaps I would not have been so generous if May hadn’t had his bat streak broken up by an action fielding pose in the ’71 set.
So, yeah, Kranepool had a lot of bat poses – more than the five other players who played more games at first than he did while active. Perhaps Sy Berger was a Kranepool fan and did his best to get him the best baseball card pictures.