January 30, 2013

'Smooth as Malt'

The year was 1991, and the Topps baseball card company was 40 years old. Topps celebrated this milestone by putting out an awful set of baseball cards. For example, this. The one thing that always frustrated me about this set and many other Topps sets from that time frame -- besides the ugzz factor -- was the extreme curlability. If you left a 1991 Topps baseball card out on a table, it would magically curl up like a slug trying to protect itself from a predator. (Slugs do that, right? If not, my bad, but you get the point.) You could leave it on the table, go to the fridge and get a drink, and when you turned around the card would appear as though you had it wrapped tightly in a rubber band for three decades. I never understood why or how this could happen, but my guess is that it had something to do with the cut-rate cardboard Topps was buying from Columbia. Anyway, neither here nor there.

Out of the ashes of the set's general terribleness arose this card:

 Walt Weiss, 1991 Topps

Granted, the thing that makes this card neat is the picture itself -- the rest of it falls victim to the Topps aesthetic. If Upper Deck made this card it would almost certainly have a legacy of being the greatest Walt Weiss card ever produced, and that's saying a lot because there is a card of him not-so-subtly threatening to bash you in the head with his bat. But let's check to see if there's anything cool on the back:

One of Walt's favorite activities is listening to the music of Bruce Springsteen. Walt has served as a guest disc jockey on an Oakland-area rock station.

So here you are, Walt Weiss, and you've got a card featuring an awesome shot of you leaping high in the air over a trying-to-take-you-out Joel Skinner whilst making a double play, and the back talks about how much you love Bruce Springsteen and also that sometimes you DJ. I would argue a baseball card never made a white person appear cooler.

Hey, hey, hey, how y'all doing out there in Oak-town? It's your boy W.W. on the one and twos over here, that's Weiss comma Walt for the uniformed, acrobatic shortstop for YOUR Oakland A's. Matter of fact, call me W.W.W. - the extra "W" stands for World, as in Series. Got my ring on now. Gonna patent that triple dub thing when I get around to it. Anyway, hope you're all feelin' good out there tonight, feelin' sexy, feelin' like you're in the mood for some love-making perhaps. We'll get to that later, with an assist from some Bad Company. For now it's time for a double play -- get it? -- with back-to-back tracks from the Jersey man himself. Let's start you off with a little "Born to Run." Number two is a surprise. Hope you like it. I know I will. This is Walt "Smooth as Malt" Wizz-eiss getting you through the night, and I'll catch ya' on the flip side. Oh yeaaaaaaahhhhh ....

Anyway, the point is not that Walt Weiss is dope to the max. The point is that it was Topps' 40th birthday. The burning question back then was: what do you get for the baseball card company that has everything? I was 13 years old at the time, and almost all of the money I had somehow earned at that point had already been funneled into Topps' employees' pensions, so I was at a loss. I eventually sent them a card about being over-the-hill and also being an old-fart who farts a lot. It was pretty hilarious. Hope they got it and weren't offended. It was all in good fun.

It's impossible to say how old Topps is now, but they're still around ... right? I think so. I haven't purchased a Topps card in more than 20 years, but here's to hoping they're using better cardboard. Catch y'all on the flip side.

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