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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Slate: The Secret Lives of Baseball Card Writers

Starting a job at Topps was stressful. I was about to enter, as an adult, a place I’d always imagined as a gum-scented, Willy Wonkafied dream palace. Before my first day of work, I pictured packs piled in leaning towers, slides from long-ago Darryl Strawberry photo shoots, game-worn Mickey Tettleton jerseys. When I showed up, I found a standard corporate office: cubicles, recycled air, bad carpeting, worse lighting.

kthejoker Posted: September 28, 2006 at 04:22 PM | 13 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: general

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   1. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: September 28, 2006 at 06:43 PM (#2190547)
I hope he at least made off with a F. Robbie ball. He didn't say he didn't...
   2. Hello Rusty Kuntz, Goodbye Rusty Cars Posted: September 28, 2006 at 06:52 PM (#2190555)
By David Roth

Now, he's a seaside sittin', just a smokin' and a drinkin';
he's ringside, on Topps of the world.

I know, and I'm sorry.
   3. bob gee Posted: September 28, 2006 at 07:12 PM (#2190571)
keith olbermann wrote the backs of much (if not all) of the 1976 sspc 'pure' card set.
   4. The Polish Sausage Racer Posted: September 28, 2006 at 07:21 PM (#2190579)
That Allen & Ginter set sounds kind of interesting.
   5. salvomania Posted: September 28, 2006 at 08:01 PM (#2190622)
After college, I sent an inquiry letter to Topps touting my ability to generate compelling and relevant content for card backs, using as an example that year's set and demonstrating what I would do differently (the content was---and still is, to this day---UTTERLY INANE).

Needless to say, I never heard back.

But I couldn't understand why they'd feature things like "Jeff got his first big-league hit on July 16, 1988." This would be on the back of a card of a guy who maybe set the team's rookie record for doubles, or who had hit for the cycle, or who had a 48-game errorless streak---you know, interesting stuff.

When I was a kid they'd feature real info on the backs, intersting stuff that made the player stand out. Now you could throw all the comments into a hat and reassign them and nobody'd knbow the difference. And the little cartoons: when I was akid, the cartoons related specifically to the text; now it's some generic graphic of a guy hitting or pitching that's, again, totally interchangeable with another guy's cartoon.

Just mindless crap, and really disappointing, considering that there are talented people out there who'd want to crank out cool content. I could do 800 unique cartoons---totally individualized (I'm a graphic designer and a damn good cartoonist)---in about a month, I'd guess.
   6. I am Ted F'ing Williams Posted: September 28, 2006 at 09:50 PM (#2190726)
My favorite is Terry Mulholland's '87 card:

"Terry works as a gas station attendant during the off-season."
   7. Stan Papi Posted: September 28, 2006 at 10:01 PM (#2190735)
"Brett was an amateur boxer until he was 13..."


Brett Myers 2006 card
   8. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: September 28, 2006 at 10:09 PM (#2190746)
I think Brett Myers was an amateur boxer more recently than that.
   9. Stan Papi Posted: September 28, 2006 at 10:15 PM (#2190753)
I was referring to his arrest for domestic violence in public this summer, but that works.
   10. Nobody ##### with DeJesus Posted: September 28, 2006 at 10:16 PM (#2190754)
Last post from the link:

Henson has been hitting better lately. What's his average now, .280? Still has a lot of SO tho...
   11. Droth11 Posted: September 30, 2006 at 08:09 PM (#2192612)
I'm a few days late on this, obviously. But to respond to a few things:

1) I didn't give a #### after Diver Down. Wasn't even trying, really. I think that's obvious.

2) I didn't take any of the baseballs, because they actually inventoried those. I've got a decent card collection based mostly on stuff that was going to get thrown out from the back room.

3) Olbermann was around the office fairly often. He still writes historical inserts for Topps in sets like Allen & Ginter and Turkey Red, the retro products.

4) Salvomania: until about ten years ago, card copy was written by people around the office, and there were no writers in-house or copy editors or anything, and the backs were admittedly garbage, if also kind of intriguingly non sequitur. For the most part, though, it was just random rip-and-run #### from the media guides, and yeah, it was terrible. Inanity is kind of a fact of life with these, though -- it's hard to say anything in 40 words, but some of the wordier backs (the Turkey Red retro cards have about 120 words of text on the back) I think can be pretty good. I'm writing them now myself, as a freelancer. I can't vouch for the cartoons, which are done on the cheap and are definitely interchangeable, but I promise to try to keep the inanity to a minimum.

Thanks to Repoz for letting me know you all were talking about it. And thanks for the link. -- David
   12. Ace the Bat-Hound, not a bumblebee Posted: September 30, 2006 at 08:40 PM (#2192652)
That's nice. Now gimme a bottle of anything, and a glazed donut, to go.
   13. Repoz Posted: September 30, 2006 at 11:16 PM (#2192825)
David...No probs..

stuff that was going to get thrown out from the back room.

You would think that Topps would have learned a lesson...after throwing all those '52 Mantles into the river.

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