You gotta figure Tommy John is down with contingencies in general.

After all, much of baseball hinges on having a backup plan — relief pitchers, pinch runners, pinch hitters, defensive replacements, bench players, bench coaches … all of them are there in case the primary option goes south.

And John himself has some built-in contingencies, like the sort of brainpower that propelled him to the valedictory pedestal in his high school class.

He almost had to call on those other options, too, when he blew out his elbow right in the middle of his big league career. But, rather than hang up his spikes or try to pitch with a “dead arm” like players before him might have done, he leaned into another option — namely, the then-experimental surgery that now bears his name.

That all worked out pretty well, of course, and John went on to a second half (plus!) that put him right on the doorstep of Cooperstown and may yet land him in the Hall of Fame before the Eras Committees are done with their work.

All of which is to say that you also gotta figure John was sorta OK with Topps building out some of their own contingencies as they prepared for the 1965 baseball card season, sometime in 1964.

At that point, John was finishing up his second partial season with the Cleveland Indians, showing some flashes here and there as a lefthanded swingman but generally not knocking anybody’s lights out — a 2-9 record with a 3.91 ERA was milquetoast at best in that era.

Also by that point, John had appeared on a 1964 Topps rookie card with fellow Tribe prospect Bob Chance.

Both men sported Indians caps in that one.

But I can tell you with some degree of certainty that Topps also had a hatless pic of John laying around, ready for 1964 … just in case.

Don’t take my word for it, though.

All you have to do is roll that forward a year — after the 1964 season was in the books, Topps had a hatless pic of John laying around, ready for 1965.

Again, just in case.

The proof?

Yeah, it’s that 1965 Topps card of his:

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

As long as there have been baseball players, and baseball teams, there have been players moving from team to team.

And as long as there have been baseball card makers, those trades and releases and signings have been the bane of their existence — how do you keep up with the moves when your cardboard concoctions are so … static?

Trickery, that’s how.

Like airbrushing.

Or … “now with Ye Olde Ball Club of Mudville.”

Or … traded sets.

Or, if you didn’t want to fiddle around with any of that, you wrapped up guys in brown paper wrappers for their card pics each year, so that you could just slap a new team designation on the card border and no one would be any the wiser.

For Tommy John in 1964 heading into 1965, and for so many others of the era, that brown paper wrapper was the hatless photo.

And it surely made Topps look like a collective genius, to the uninitiated, at least, when — lo, and behold! — the Indians traded John to the White Sox in January of 1965 … and Topps showed him with the right team just a few wax packs later.

Never mind that Indians vest (and logo) peeking up from the bottom of the card.

Pay no attention to the missing cap (not) on John’s head. Instead, be wowed by the brush cut and the dazzling blue eyes and the movie star smile.

And, of course, Topps’ prescience.

Because, after all, you have to build a contingency for it to save your bacon in the end.

Want to see a video version of this article?

1965 Topps Baseball - Pick A Card - Cards 1-300

$0.99
End Date: Sunday 10/03/2021 16:04:11 EDT
Buy it now | Add to watch list

1965 Topps Baseball 3rd Series Checklist #189 Unmarked.

$0.01 ( 1 Bid)
End Date: Thursday 09/30/2021 06:35:50 EDT
Bid now | Add to watch list

1965 TOPPS DAVE DOWLING BOB TOLAN BASEBALL ROOKIE CARD CARDINALS #116

$0.01 ( 1 Bid)
End Date: Thursday 09/30/2021 06:30:09 EDT
Bid now | Add to watch list

1965 Topps psa 8 NM-MT Billy Moran #562

$0.99
End Date: Sunday 10/03/2021 09:28:52 EDT
Bid now | Add to watch list

1965 TOPPS #16 HOUSTON ROOKIE STARS VG

$5.50 (2 Bids)
End Date: Saturday 10/02/2021 13:31:16 EDT
Bid now | Add to watch list

1965 TOPPS #120 FRANK ROBINSON VG(CREASE)

$0.99 ( 1 Bid)
End Date: Wednesday 09/29/2021 20:25:42 EDT
Bid now | Add to watch list

1965 Topps psa 8 NM-MT Don Blasingame #21

$0.99
End Date: Sunday 10/03/2021 09:19:12 EDT
Bid now | Add to watch list

1965 Topps psa 8 NM-MT Ron Locke #511

$0.99
End Date: Sunday 10/03/2021 09:22:30 EDT
Bid now | Add to watch list