November 03, 2010


Jeff Montgomery, 1996 Topps Laser Series

I think subtlety is what the Topps Laser Series does best.

MLB Notes, July 1, 1996. The Kansas City Royals placed RHP Jeff Montgomery on the 15-day DL after he was struck by a giant comet-baseball that was on also fire and which knocked him unconscious and gave him third-degree burns to his backside. Montgomery, who has not pitched since June 26, originally maintained he had suffered the injuries after entering a burning building in order to save puppies. He came clean after the Kansas City Fire Department revealed no record of a recent fire of that nature, and also after Montgomery’s teammate, Tim Belcher, noticed two giant seam marks on Montgomery’s back while the team showered after a recent loss in Chicago.

Of course, we joke here. It’s just symbolism! In this case, the giant, fiery baseball is symbolic of what Montgomery’s pitches looked like to opposing hitters. You try hitting a giant, flaming baseball! It’s not as easy as you might think. Topps did consider that it would make more sense to have it appear as though Jeff Montgomery was actually throwing the giant baseball, but they ultimately figured that placing the giant baseball in front of Jeff Montgomery would considerably block the cardholder’s view of Montgomery himself. Still, the subtle hint as to how hard and fast Montgomery apparently throws is obviously lost on the less intuitive, and they don’t deserve to enjoy this magnificence anyway. They always need it spelled out for them, ya’ know?

Topps was indeed the first company to realize that lasers were the future. The company used actual lasers to remove the outer edging of this series of cards, which brought baseball cards into the 21st century, a time where everyone has at least one laser, and a time when the straight, symmetrical edges of baseball cards has become obsolete. The graphic design team of the Laser Series also cleverly paid tribute to the last time America had been thrown on its collective ear in a special effects sense, by utilizing the actual fire from the “burning bush” scene in the 1956 classic, “The Ten Commandments.”

Montgomery himself, who Wikipedia notes made a cameo appearance in the film, The Fundamentals of Pitching with Jeff Montgomery, can best be described via the use of “spotlight stats:”

Downtown Kansas City in the mid-90’s wasn’t a great place to be, especially at night. Legend has it that once, a woman was walking back to her apartment when her purse was snatched from behind, the robber knocking her to the ground. Alertly, this woman located a nearby spotlight, turned it to the moon, and shined a “5,” which signified the consecutive seasons that her favorite pitcher had finished in the AL’s top 5 in saves. Then, out of nowhere, a masked man with a mullet and a Kansas City Royals uniform swooped down from above, and bowled over the thief with a giant, comet baseball. Then he pointed his laser gun at the robber and said, “Not today, punk,” and flew back into the darkness.

1 comment:

tourist504 said...

I loved these cards. Bought tons of packs. There were 3 or 4 principal designs of laser-etching.

My one complaint with the set is the red, gold, and black design featuring a cutout of the silhouette of a base-runner along the right edge running right off the card All 4 corners of that design were intact. This was the design Ken Griffey, Jr. appeared on (he's MY Don Mattingly, Mike), which made me angry. I think since he was the face of Upper Deck, Topps put him on the lamest iteration of the laser-etched cardboard.

The other design I remember had a home plate on one of the bottom corners and was impossible to keep in good condish. Tricky, Topps. Very tricky. This is the one I would have pick for Griffey.