If you’re seeking a Jim Gilliam rookie card, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

And if you enjoy seeing your wax pack gods framed by a perfect blue sky, well … keep on truckin’.

And if you insist that card backs should be dominated by stats, then this is surely not the card for you.

But, for all the rest of us…

… and even for all the things the 1954 Bowman Jim Gilliam card is not …

… what the card actually *is* makes up for any perceived shortcomings or downright neglect over the years.

And here is what it is …

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  • Gilliam’s first Bowman card after appearing in the 1953 Topps set
  • The first card to show Gilliam holding a bat
  • The first card to show Gilliam wearing his proper Dodgers number (#19)
  • An artistic masterpiece that manages to frame Gilliam entirely against the infield dirt and green, with a baseline looped in as a top border.

This final assessment, that the card is a work of art, is admittedly subjective and offered up by a critic with no artistic expertise beyond “this looks amazing to me.”

Oh, and the indelible impression that those old 1930s gum issues made on a young, slack-jawed collector poring over the dusty pages of some yellowed baseball card price guide or magazine so many decades ago now.

I know an homage to Goudey and their light Art Deco motifs when I see one.

And Gilliam himself provides an homage to those other amazing Depression Era cards, the Diamond Stars.

Even at this early stage of his career, and even with scant statistical backing, Gilliam’s 1954 Bowman tells you about the young infielder’s rising star:

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A Brooklyn Dodgers second baseman who won the Rookie of the Year Award?

Why, there hadn’t been one of those since …

Right, since never.

The very *first* Rookie of the Year, of course, was Gilliam’s Dodgers teammate, Jackie Robinson, who christened the award in 1947 as a first baseman before moving to the keystone in 1948.

Jackie stayed put in the middle of the diamond through 1953, until a “Junior” was ready to take over at second base.

Indeed, Jim Gilliam had gigantic shoes to fill, and while no one ever really could have the impact that Robinson did, Brooklyn’s new man up the middle acquitted himself quite nicely.

And he looked great doing it, thanks, at least in part, to his first — and penultimate — Bowman baseball card.

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