Dick Tidrow had to be one of the most intimidating-looking players from my childhood.

It was that horshoe-fu-manchu mustache, and the glare, and that hulking 6’4″ frame out there on the mound. Didn’t hurt anything that Tidrow was pretty successful at his trade and could take on pretty much whatever role his teams needed — starter, reliever, swingman.

He picked up a couple of World Series rings, too, for his contributions to the New York Yankees in 1977 and 1978. By the time I “found” Tidrow in 1981, he was with the lowly Chicago Cubs, but he was still crazy bad-ass looking on his Topps baseball cards:

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Heck, they even gave you different angles to enjoy that mascu-lip of his, thanks to their Coca-Cola issue:

Fleer, though? Well, they seemed determined to undercut the grandeur of the dude who could make grown men feel inadequate and Little Leaguers gape just by exposing his ‘stache to the whipping Wrigley winds.

Don’t believe me?

Take a look at Tidrow’s 1982 Fleer card:

Has there ever been a more unflattering baseball card photo? I mean, sure, 1983 Topps Bryan Clark would probably say yes, but this Tidrow is pretty bad.

The photographer caught him just at the point that made his hips look as wide as possible and his shoulders as narrow as possible.

And, if you’re gonna allow a photo-bomb on a card, at least give us a chance to figure out who the bomber is.

And where are they playing? The neighborhood park?

And … and … what on earth is Tidrow’s right hand doing. Not sure we’d want to know.

Heck, his facial hair isn’t even in shape on what appears to be a Spring Training shot.

This wasn’t Fleer’s first dig at Tidrow, either:

This 1981 offering was better, but — is that Ted Kluszewski? And even if it is the Reds great, what the heck is he doing on Tidrow’s card? Tidrow never made an All-Star team, so Fleer is flatly implying he’s a fraternizer.

Fleer kept up in 1983, too —

Why is this man smiling? Why is he doffing his cap? This is supposed to be Dick Freaking Tidrow, yet the dude in this picture looks almost affable.

And, I’ve seen that lighting before. So … how did Fleer manage to get a picture of Dick Tidrow in the Hoosierdome during the Midnight Monster Truck Rally?

The mind boggles.

I have to say, though, that Fleer *almost* got their Tidrow crap together, right there at the end in 1984, after he defected to the South Side:

Take away the smile, and you pretty much have a winning Tidrow card.

On the whole, though, Fleer did their level best to deprive Tidrow of his proud Mad Hungarian baseball heritage.

But, since the man they called “Dirt” gets so little play these days, we’re going to end on high note — a dramatic note — with a little help from our friends at Donruss:

Now that is a baseball card worthy of a mound warrior like Dick Tidrow.

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