(Check out our other player card posts here.)

How would you feel if Topps came to you and told you they were going to feature you on your very own baseball card. Pretty awesome, right? Giddy, even? Like Gus Bell in 1960?

Yeah, me, too.

And we’re not alone. Count former Major Leaguer Ross Baumgarten among the “happy to be here” crowd, where “here” is nationally distributed cardboard.

Oh, it wasn’t always this way for the Chicago White Sox‘s 20th-round selection in the 1977 amateur draft.

In fact, when Baumgarten made his cardboard debut the next summer while pitching for the Appleton Foxes, his 1978 TCMA card looked like this:

1978 TCMA Ross Baumgarten

Not smiley, really. More of a wince … maybe one of his teammates was applying a hotfoot at the very moment the photo was snapped. Or maybe he was just an intense young man, um, intent on being serious and succeeding at his craft.

He did finish 16-6 that season over three levels of the Sox system, and his future was looking pretty bright at age 23.

So, maybe it was the glare of his career prospects that caused him to be all squintish.

By the next spring, Baumgarten was a bona fide Major League prospect. See, even Topps said so:

1979 Topps Ross Baumgarten

But while Mike Colbern and Mike Squires looked fairly happy on their black-and-white mugshots, Baumgarten seemed caught off-guard. And washed out. Like maybe the shine of his future, or the futures of The Mikes, is still overwhelming him and the camera.

By that point, Baumgarten had logged a few Big League appearances and crafted a 2-2 record with a *gasp* 5.87 ERA. But it was just a cup of coffee.

Steaming, if you will. Things would be better in 1979.

And they were.

Inserted into the White Sox rotation, young Baumgarten went 13-8, 3.54. That performance was enough to land his first full-color cardboard and buy him some normal natural lighting.

1980 Topps Ross BaumgartenThe change helped the lefty’s disposition, nearly eliminating the squint and perhaps revealing the hint of a budding smile. If he worked hard on the corners of his mouth during the off-season, why, 1980 might turn out to be the “Year of the Grin.”

Alas, Topps opted for the time-lapse option on Baumgarten’s 1981 card after he turned in a ghastly 2-12 (though with a 3.44 ERA) campaign in 1980:

1981 Topps Ross Baumgarten

“Here, just turn to your left a bit,” the photographer instructed him while shooting for the 1980 set. “That way, we’ll have really fresh material for next year. No one will even notice. Do it all the time.”

Clever, Ross thought to himself. And he smiled, just a tad, at the shutterbug’s ingenuity.

Donruss, in its maiden baseball voyage, was a bit more impressed with Baumgarten’s mound skills:

1981 Donruss Ross Baumgarten

Nice follow-through, kid!

The 1981 returns were just a smidge better for 26-year-old Ross, who went 5-9 with a 4.07 ERA. At least he scored his first action-shot Topps card for his troubles:

1982 Topps Ross Baumgarten


Apparently, Pittsburgh Pirates scouts were on hand for one of his outings and liked what they saw.

“Hey, we sure could use that kind of upright, stiff-legged delivery in our rotation! The ‘peg-leg’ angle could be golden for us!”

Maybe Baumgarten heard some of those whispers and liked the idea of a scenery change. He sure did take on a happier glow on his 1982 Donruss card:

1982 Donruss Ross Baumgarten

He was more chipper on his 1982 Fleer card, too:

1982 Fleer Ross Baumgarten

Whether it was his mound acumen or that improved temperament that finally smote Bucs scouts, they convinced management to snap up both Baumgarten and Butch Edge in exchange for Ernie Camacho and Vance Law on March 21, 1982.

New digs to start the new Spring apparently agreed with Baumgarten, in mood if not in results. For, even though he fell to 0-5, 6.55 in 12 appearances for the Pirates that summer, he was all smiles on his 1982 Topps Traded card:

1982 Topps Traded Ross Baumgarten

You won’t find many bigger, more genuine cardboard grins than this one.

Maybe Ross knew, somehow, that 1982 would be his last Major League hurrah even though he was just 27 that season. And maybe, armed with that realization, he decided to enjoy the ride fully, finally.

Whatever the case, Baumgarten and the card companies blessed us with two more bright and yellow pasteboards. His 1983 Fleer card featured a big, though perhaps slightly strained, smile:


1983 Fleer Ross Baumgarten


And his 1983 Topps issue fell back to the action theme from the year before, dazzled in sunshine and baseball motion:

1983 Topps Ross Baumgarten

Baumgarten is not exactly beaming on this card, but he seems happy with his place in the world.

He was a Major League Baseball player, by gosh, and he had a handful of awesome baseball cards.

And, if you caught him at the right time, it was easy to see just how elated he was to be there.

Just like you would be in his shoes.

(Check out our other player card posts here.)




1980 Topps Ross Baumgarten Chicago White Sox #138 PSA 9 MINT (KCR)

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Ross Baumgarten 1982 Topps Traded 3T

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Ross Baumgarten 1981 Topps autographed auto signed card White Sox

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ROSS BAUMGARTEN lot of ***** 9 Cards ***** All Different 1980 - 1983

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