If you ever wanted to see what a man budding into legendary status in his 40s looks like, take a gander at the 1960 Topps Fred Hutchinson baseball card:

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This colorful card fits its era like a glove, from the rah-rah team banner to the big block letters to the touched-up photo to the old-before-his-time man who graces the front.

Watch TV shows or news reels from the time period, and you’ll see guys in their twenties and thirties all stodgied up in stiff suits, perfect coifs, and thick glasses with chunky black frames, appearing for all the world to have their 50th birthday in the rearview.

On this classic card, the Reds manager doesn’t quite exceed his age group by such bounds, but he certainly looks older than the 39 years he had accumulated by the time of the 1959 season, when the photo was presumably taken.

That look became even more pronounced for Hutch as the 1960s wore on.

Then, in December of 1963, the skipper found a lump in his neck, and subsequent tests showed his body was riddled with cancer, likely the consequence of years of chain smoking.

Hutchinson continued to manage Cincy in 1964 but had to step away twice, the final time in August. From the point of his 45th birthday on August 12th until the Reds streaked into contention, pushing the Cardinals and the Phillies to the very end before falling a game short to St. Louis.

During the same stretch, Hutch was in and out of the hospital, finally losing his battle on November 12, scarcely more than a month after Cincy wrapped up their season.

The man who had led the Reds to a surprise National League pennant in 1961 during his third season in the Queen City after parts of six mostly middling seasons with the Cards and Detroit Tigers was gone, but he would never be forgotten.

Indeed, Hutchinson was elected into the Reds Hall of Fame in 1965, and many credit him with being a primary catalyst for catapulting the franchise to new levels of success and setting the stage for the Big Red Machine era that dawned in earnest half a decade after he passed.

Meanwhile the cancer research center that bears his name has brought hope and results to millions of cancer patients the world over since its founding in Hutchinson’s home town of Seattle in 1975.

So, was Fred Hutchinson a legend on his 1960 Topps manager card?

Maybe not quite yet, but he was on his way, and today the card is a reminder of a young man on the ironic verge of both big things and personal tragedy.

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