February 12, 2010

Keeper: 1960 Leaf "Baseball's Two Hal Smiths"

Consolidation has never felt so good. Big trade with Blake Meyer of Twinscards.com, not to mention selling off stacks and stacks of cards on eBay have left me focused. More is going up later this week, including vintage basketball cards.

Over the past week I've received a lot of recommendations for Keepers, so I thought I'd kick things off by talking about one of my favorite cards: 1960 Leaf "Baseball's Two Hal Smiths". It's on my Keeper List, and is a card I don't own.

It's a Keeper because it isn't clear what the two Hal Smiths are doing in their photo. Are they negotiating over the bill? Are they diapering a baby? Because the background has been removed, context is missing (and desperately, desperately needed). These guys could be anywhere – a bus stop... a locker room...

It's no secret, my love for 1960 Leaf (read my set review here). The photos are mug-shot bad, the cards themselves came packaged with marbles, and the design has a style aesthetic with as much pizzazz as checkerboard kitchen linoleum. But what it's lacking in visual appeal, it more than makes up for in awkwardness. Awkward halos behind each head. Awkward checklist including immortal baseball gods Stover McIlwain (out of the league since 1958), Marshall Renfroe (career = 1 game in 1959), and baseball's two Hal Smiths (one a journeyman, the other an All Star). And did I mention that the cards were awkwardly packaged with marbles? I understand that Topps had cornered the market on the cards and gum thing, but seriously, who came up with marbles?

There's something about Hal Smith... both of him. I can't think of another time when two players shared the same name. (Wait a minute... Steve Ontiveros? Weren't there two of that guy?) I've mentioned this already, but one Hal was a journeyman and the other Hal was an All Star. The All Star had a knack for showing up on his baseball cards in full catcher regalia; that is, toothily smiling through his mask in a creepy crouching position. I can think of at least two cards (1958 Topps and 1960 Topps) of him photographed like that. The journeyman was just ugly: pursed lips, narrowed eyes... it was as if he was a street-corner criminal scouting for the next fence.

This one is also a Keeper for me because it's a combo card. But instead of Hal and Hal hamming it up under a corny line like "Backstop Buddies" or something, as Topps was wont to do throughout the Sixties, Sports Novelties kept it obvious, in a Ripley's Believe-it-or-Not informative kind of way. It's "Baseball's Two Hal Smiths" because that's who they are. In the end it matters not what they're doing, just that they appear together. 

That's why this one's a Keeper.

1 comment:

dayf said...

My guess: Neither Hal is wearing pants. I wonder which one is the 'All-Star'.