Now that Joe Torre is a Hall of Fame manager and a baseball czar, it’s easy to forget that he spent the first third or so of his professional career as a catcher, corner infielder, and standout hitter.
Well, Torre was good enough to snag the National League MVP award at age 30 in 1971 by slamming 24 home runs, driving in 137 runs, and hitting a gaudy .363 to pace the Senior Circuit.
In fact, Torre has a decent overall Hall of Fame case as a batsman, having accumulated 57+ WAR over his 17-year playing career.
And, while that on-diamond prowess is often overlooked these days, Torre was right there in the thick of the superstar cardboard world in the 1970s. And part of being a superstar in the 1970s was also being part of various Topps test issues.
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One of the toughest test issues of that era, or any era, really, was the 1973 Topps Pin-Ups set … and, can you guess who makes an appearance?
Yep, young(ish) Torre shows up as a third baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals, standing in a batting pose with what appears to be a spring training park behind him. That hefty warm-up under his jersey gives you that chilly spring feel, too.
If you take a gander at this thing, you might notice something missing — namely, the Cardinals logo on Torre’s cap. That speaks to perhaps a licensing issue, but I’m not sure why Topps would have run into those types of troubles with any particular set.
Anyway, something you see with some of the 23 other cards in this set but NOT with this Torre, is a fresh picture. This one is just a blown-up rehash of Torre’s base 1973 Topps set.
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By comparison, Nolan Ryan got this update:
Fresh photo or not, though, the Torre pin-up joins the others is Scarceville. These babies were designed to be wrapped around gum, and one side of each shows that heritage, with gum-package graphics and lettering.
The other side … that would be the player, or course.
All of it presented on a waxy paper stock reminiscent of … well, of a wax pack.
So you had a wax wrapper and baseball card in one, sorta like Torre ended up being a batter and an executive rolled up in one.
Even if his Florida-sized sideburns blinded us to that fact for a few (dozen) years.
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