The modern baseball card game is tough to get a handle on for a crusty old dude like me, and to be honest, I’m not really trying to get a handle on it.
There have just been too many thousands of cards issued in too many configurations with too many bells and whistles since I last seriously collected new material in the 1990s for me to catch up in any reasonable way.
But, man, there sure are some good looking cards out there today! And by “today”, I mean stuff that’s come out since roughly 2010.
My Twitter feed and blogrolls and Facebook walls are filled to the brim everyday with cards that look better in a lot of ways than the cards I collected as a kid. And a good hunk of those “better” cards are retro in some way — old players on new cards, new players on old cards, old players on old cards that they don’t belong on from a canonical standpoint.
It’s dizzying and exhilarating all at once.
But even among the cards that I love when I see them online, there is a problem — not all of them are real.
A New Breed of Artist
Thanks to the handiwork of cardboard and digital artists like the late, great Bob Lemke, CardsThatNeverWere, Joe Shlabotnik, and others, nothing is off limits in terms of player-set combinations. “Cards that never were” have become a thing unto themselves, and I love looking at these gorgeous creations and imaging a younger me pulling them from wax packs.
But it doesn’t feel quite right to include one of those mythical concoctions in something so serious and buttoned-down as the 30-Day Baseball Card challenge. (Kidding about the gravity of this series, and Tony Lehman at Off Hiatus Baseball Cards has given us full license with his brainchild.)
So my hackles were up as I searched for a card to include in this Day-15 entry … “One of your favorite cards from the 2010s.”
When I saw Dwight Gooden staring down — the catcher? a runner? a coach? — someone from the mound and within the confines of a 1972 Topps framework, my heart rapped out a couple of jagged beats before logic set in.
This thing had to be a digital creation.
A quick bit of research revealed that this was an actual creation from an actual card company.
In particular, I had discovered the 2013 Topps Archive Dwight Gooden, card #34.
Dr. K — Better than Ever
Now, I’m sure there are other cards from the 2010s that could give this one a run for its money on my list of favorites, but old #34 is grand enough that it deserves its own post.
Here are just a few reasons why:
- Dwight Gooden was the first out-of-this world phenom that I drooled over. Darryl Strawberry and Ron Kittle were top-notch in 1983, but they couldn’t hold a candle to the Gooden of 1984 and especially 1985.
- I was born in 1972 (that used to seem so recent!).
- I hated the 1972 set when I first started collecting, but it’s grown in my esteem over the years. It’s now one of my favorites.
- Gooden’s hair on this card is just a tad longer than I remember it during most of his career. That extra little *poof* sticking out from under his cap puts him right in line with the styles of the early 1970s. He looks like he could have been a member of the cruddy 1973 Mets team that somehow almost won the World Series.
- The back of this card looks like a genuine 1972 Topps card, funky orange background and all.
For a (literal) product of the 70s, a child of the 80s, an inveterate baseball fan, and a hopeless baseball card collector (you can’t ever really move on from this hobby), this is just about the perfect modern card.
And it’s real, to boot!