At one point in time, baseball cards were ingrained in the fiber of the sport as much as home runs and pop flies. Kids and adults around the world flocked to card stores to pick up the latest packs and hope they got a doozy. As the craze grew, players had fun with their cards, and the results were equal parts obscene and hilarious.
Error baseball cards
Error cards have a certain level of nostalgia attached to them for many card collectors. It’s one thing to have a run-of-the-mill baseball card with a cliche pose, some statistics, and basic information.
But having one with an error, a typo, or something that a photographer didn’t catch makes a card more unique, as Cardboard Picasso explains. As such, the value of a card that costs just pennies on its own skyrockets to being worth hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.
Baseball cards give fans the finger
When one thinks about people flipping off the camera, they might picture a more modern subject doing so. That is not the case, however, as Old Hoss Radbourn showed in the late 19th century. At that time, explains Sports Collectors Daily, cards were often used as a ploy to sell cigarettes and other products. Radbourn, who pitched in the National League for 10 years, was in a set honoring Old Judge McGreachery.
Likely fed up with the photographer who was keeping him in the studio, Radbourn decided to have a little fun. Shown with his hands by his side, eagle-eyed collectors noticed that his left middle finger was clearly extended. Whether that finger was meant for the photographer or the fan, a precedent of hilarious, obscene cards was set.
Since then, everyone from Billy Martin to Frank Thomas had their finger extended to the camera on their cards. It’s a playful and funny look at a sport where a commitment to tradition can often cover up these sides of players. Some, however, have gone even further to make people laugh.
Taking one for the team
Keith Comstock spent his years in professional baseball bouncing around the minor leagues with the occasional call up to the majors. Overall, it is a relatively unmemorable career. Despite this, he has become either famous or infamous, depending on who is asked, for a minor league card he took while with the minor league Las Vegas Stars.
Fed up with taking pictures for these minor league cards and barely hanging on to his sanity, Comstock decided to get creative with his card. Rather than show himself pitching a fastball or posing on the mound, Comstock decided to present collectors with a picture of a baseball hitting him right in the groin areas. While staged, the card was a convincing rouse.
The card was an enormous hit, and while Comstock might not be a premier name in baseball, he will always be remembered as the guy who got hit in the crotch on his famous baseball card.
Billy Ripken’s hidden message
Billy Ripken might not be a baseball legend like his brother, Cal, but he had an 11-year stint across Major League Baseball. While this is no small feat, however, his most defining moment did not come on the field. While many of these cards were deliberately obscene, Ripkens was not.
Rather than go for a creative pose like Comstock or subtly raise a finger, Ripken posed for a routine picture. At face value, the card is as cliche as they come. For these 1989 Fleer cards, Ripken was posed with a baseball bat with a partial smile on his face. Look closer, however, and he wrote a message, “F*** Face,” on the bottom of his bat.
This was not something Ripken did for the camera. In fact, he’d tried to keep track of his bats in the locker room by marking the bottom — not something he thought about for a photoshoot. He took the picture and went back to practice. Months later, he was a baseball legend in his own, unique, right. His publicist frantically called and asked what happened, and that’s when it hit him. Like so many others, this card helped give Ripken a different type of legacy
Baseball cards are still popular, but they are not the status symbol that they once were for fans. There might be examples of modern error cards, but they appear to be a relic of the past. Thankfully, we still have these cards to look at for the laughs. Who knows? Maybe more will arise in the future, and we just haven’t seen them yet.