March 14, 2007

Fleer Division:
(1) 1972 Pirates vs. (16) 1968 Pirates

Scoring: The two cards go head-to-head in each of the eleven categories, with each card scoring up to three points in each category.

Teamwork Extra points for symmetry (even if entirely coincidental)
Coach Attire Extra points for eccentricity and/or coordination
Floating Heads Extra points if heads constitute borderline religious experience
Card Design
Photo Quality
Number of Players
Special Notation of Futility
World Champions

1972 Pirates (1) vs. 1968 Pirates (16)

Teamwork Oh, what a difference four years makes: in the card from 1968, the Pirates barely look put together, like Murtaugh called them in from an intrasquad game to quickly have their photo taken. Some guys are still holding their gloves. By 1972 they’re a well-oiled, arm-crossing machine (even one of the equipment managers has his arms crossed. You know they mean business!). The 68ers are quirky, they’re sad. No question about this one. 1972 Pirates: 3 points | 1968 Pirates: 1 point

Coach Attire Here’s another funny thing about these two cards: the coaches don’t even look the same. The only guy who’s not in a uniform who looks the same is the guy dressed in solarium white, like after the photo’s done he’s going to wheel Joseph Cotton back to his room in Citizen Kane. That said, I am a fan of the front office guy on the 1968 card, the one in the is-it-blue/is-it-white sportcoat and black shirt off to the right. It seems like something Number 2 from Austin Powers would wear on the weekend. 1972 Pirates: 1 point | 1968 Pirates: 2 points

Uniforms OK, let me get this straight. Same team on both cards, and that team was one of the original teams. And the original teams hardly ever change their uniforms. So it’s pretty big then that we’re looking at two different eras of Pirate unis here. And really it comes down to which one you’re a fan of more. I happen to lean old school on this one, but I also really like the yellow caps, so I’m kind of torn. What the hell, 3 points apiece. 1972 Pirates: 3 points | 1968 Pirates: 3 points

Background The 1968 team is one of two places: broken down by the highway or in Spring Training. While I wish ‘broken down by the highway’ were true, and that the team photo idea came from an industrious traveling secretary trying to kill time, it’s more likely that this was taken during Pirate Spring Training. This brings up it’s own puzzling question: why are there deciduous trees in the background? Shouldn’t the Pirates train in a tropical climate? The 1972 team is in one place and one place only: in a ballpark, right before a game. This card cleans up in this category thanks to the not-quite-empty stands behind them. Nothing says ‘Team Spirit’ like fans trickling into the stadium. 1972 Pirates: 3 points | 1968 Pirates: 2 points

Personnel 1972 Pirates: Clemente (HOF), Stargell (HOF), Blass, Moose, Sanguillen, Hebner… 1968 Pirates: Clemente (HOF), Stargell (HOF), Mazeroski (HOF), Alou, Clendenon, Wills, Veale, Face… 1972 Pirates: 3 points | 1968 Pirates: 3 points

Card DesignYou really can’t get any better than 1972 Topps in terms of whacked out design, and the team cards from this set really do the design more justice than the player cards. Just beautiful, like a corporate version of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover, only a few years too late. That’s not to say that the 1968 design is chopped liver. It’s not. The team cards from the 1968 set do a great job in mimicking television, with their rounded corners to mimic the cathode ray tube and the thatch border like that of the tv speaker. Both designs are winners, but one refers to it’s time period (1968) and one is just crazy out of its gourd (1972). 1972 Pirates: 3 points | 1968 Pirates: 1 point

Photo Quality I’m going with the 1972 card on this one, because the clarity is so good that you can almost make out the facial expressions of the fans in the stands behind the team. The only guy you can really identify in the 1968 card is Clemente (he’s next to the guy in the white mental asylum getup all the way to the left of the second row). 1972 Pirates: 2 points | 1968 Pirates: 1 point

Number of Players 1968’s got 34, which is about average. They get one point for being average. 1972’s got 37, which just above average. They get two points for being just above average (despite overcrowding the frame). 1972 Pirates: 2 points | 1968 Pirates: 1 point

World Champions The 1972 Pirates get a point because the card mentions that this team was the 1971 World Series champions. 1972 Pirates: 1 point | 1968 Pirates: 0 points

Total Score: 1972 Pirates 21 points
1968 Pirates 14 points

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