No one could have known how the summer would unfold when the 1979 Hostess baseball cards issue was still on the drawing board.
All anyone knew for sure back then was that the New York Yankees were the two-time defending World Series champions.
That their captain was a grizzled 31-year-old catcher (32 in June) named Thurman Munson who seemed to have his bearings set for the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
A few observant fans or media types — or maybe card mavens — might have remembered hearing something about Munson’s securing his pilot’s license in June of 1978.
But would the cardboard powers-that-be’d let that trivia — about the pilot’s license, that is — seep into their card design, or their photo selection?
Likely not intentionally.
And, certainly, no one could have predicted that Munson would perish in a plane crash in August of 1979.
The baseball world was stunned, awash in grief and disbelief for months to come. Years, in some cases.
And, somewhere, some eagle-eyed card collector was munching on a Twinkie or Ho-Ho later that summer when he spotted Munson’s card on the back of the family-sized Hostess box.
And then he spotted something else, in the sky over the Yankee captain’s back, between his bat and the light pole in the background.
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Is that a blimp?
Just a printing defect?
Maybe, but it’s persistent on just about every copy of the Munson card you’re like to find. And it’s pretty “solid” looking when you de-fuzz the picture a bit.
Could it be an airplane? An eternal reminder of man’s fragile standing in this world, delivered through a swatch of ephemera that generations cling to, hoping against hope to preserve the moment beyond all reasonable bounds of time and space?
Or maybe it’s just us — or me, at least — looking for something more profound in the loss, and finding a speck of hope right there in the comfort of our baseball cards.