Sunday, October 14, 2012

Becoming an icon

I try to keep things varied on this blog.

An essential part of that are the topics I discuss.

As a lot of my readers have probably realized by now, there's not a whole lot of rhyme or reason to my collection. I think this blog has been a good representation of that so far.

Unless one of my posts happens to be team-centric, I try not to repeat myself in terms of the cards I choose to showcase within that post. I try not to show more than one Cub or Dodger card in a post that's not specifically tied to either franchise.

Most of all, I try to avoid "repeats". I don't often like to display the same cards more than once on this blog, if I can help it.

That's just the thing, though.

I just can't help but show "repeats" on my blog at times.

If I'm remembering correctly, this has to be about the third or fourth time I've shown Mark Fidrych's famous '77 Topps rookie card.

Like many of the other "repeats", it's one deserves to be shown over and over again.

After all, it's an "iconic" piece of cardboard.

I throw the term "iconic" around fairly regularly on this blog, yet it's one that I've never actually defined.

That might be because it's not an easy task.

I've had the basic idea for this post rattling around my mind for a while now. However, a recent post from Robert over at "$30 A Week Habit" inspired me.

Tonight, I'm actually going to delve deep and give the best definition of "iconic" that I can muster. In my view, there's a few different ways to look at it.

In the history of baseball cards, only a few are pretty much universally regarded as "iconic".

The Bird's famous rookie card is a classic example of that, without a doubt.

But, I ask, why is that?

To me, it's because this card perfectly captures a moment in time, one that the game of baseball hadn't seen before and likely will never see again.

Thousands of pre-teen kids probably had this one at the top of their rubber-banded stacks of baseball cards. I wasn't around at the time, but I'd imagine that it was one of the most coveted cards of the 1970's.

That's pretty much the same today. Whenever I think about 1970's baseball, this is the first image that pops into my head.

If that's not "iconic", I don't know what is.

Understandably, most of the "iconic" cards out there feature some of the greatest players the game has ever seen.

A lot of the time, "iconic" is simply a word used to describe some of their finest moments on cardboard.

Although his career was tragically cut short, Thurman Munson had an array of great cards issued during his years behind the plate.

To a Yankee fan, perhaps all of them are "iconic".

However, most fans of the Dodgers or even the Red Sox would probably call this one "iconic", even though Munson was a major player in the heated rivalries during the '70s.

That's another part of an "iconic" baseball card.

It's one that most baseball fans can agree on, no matter how different their allegiances might be.

I'm not a Yankee fan by any means, but I'd certainly give this one the "iconic" label. (Also a "repeat" offender on this blog.)

I get the chills every time I look at it.

Then again, not every "iconic" card features a legend like Thurman Munson.

Sometimes, it can take the shape of a fairly unspectacular ballplayer.

Take Rowland Office, for instance. While he enjoyed a decent 11-year big league career, Office was a career .259 hitter and never made an All-Star team.

Yet there's no doubt in my mind that this is an "iconic" piece of cardboard.

Office never got the type of recognition that "The Bird" did during his career. Yet I get the feeling that a lot of kids who grew up during the '70s remember this one almost as well.

As I've mentioned before on this blog, my dad was one of the many kids who collected during the "golden age" of the 1970's.

Like so many others, his parents eventually threw his collection away. It's a common tale.

To me, any card my dad vividly remembers is an "iconic" one. He started laughing when I first showed him Office's '76 Topps issue.

Nearly forty years later, that funny face still resonated with my dad.

It's amazing how our memories work sometimes.

As much as the hobby has changed since the days of "The Bird" and Rowland Office, "iconic" cards are still being printed today.

They're harder to come by, but you'll find some by looking hard enough.

I'm pretty sure I pulled this one out of the lone A&G hobby box I purchased back in '08. (The peak year of A&G, in my view.)

I'd always regarded it as a fantastic piece of cardboard, but I never really viewed it as being in "iconic" territory.

At least not before I read Robert's thoughts on the topic.

Sorry to tease you, Robert, but I do actually have a copy of Jim Thome's '08 A&G card in my collection. (I'll definitely be on the lookout for an extra copy to send your way in the future.)

It didn't take me long to realize that this is indeed an "iconic" baseball card.

Thome has had a lot of great issues over the years, but this one blows them all out of the water. This is the greatest A&G card ever printed, as far as I'm concerned.

Between his light-tower power and his reputation as an all-around nice guy, Jim Thome is perhaps the most "heroic" ballplayer of my generation.

No card does a better job of representing that his "heroic" nature than this one.

It's certainly "iconic" in every sense of the word.

If the Thome is any indication, there have certainly been some "iconic" cards produced within the last few years.

However, there's a major barrier that develops in calling a recent issue "iconic".


Usually, a card takes a while to develop the label. I've never pulled a card from a pack and instantly said, "This is iconic."

When I originally pulled Aroldis Chapman's Topps rookie card last year, I didn't think it was anything that out of the ordinary. It's a great card, and one that I was hoping to pull, but nothing that even came close to bordering on "iconic".

These days, I'm starting to think that this could become one of those "iconic" pieces of cardboard.

It presumably captures the moment before Chapman delivers yet another 100 MPH fastball, a pitch that has been nothing short of dominating over the last couple years.

I don't think anyone can predict which cards will be remembered in the years to come. 

All we can do is wait and see.

Even with the likes of Thome and Chapman, everyone has their own definition of "iconic".

What I've talked about throughout this post is just my take on it.

I think this magnificent Ed Kranepool card is "iconic", although it's probable that not everyone else shares my view.

Whether it's a ballplayer simply making a funny face or a guy sitting down to enjoy a nice meal, the term "iconic" can literally mean anything you want.

That's part of the beauty of this hobby.

1 comment:

Robert said...

Ha ha, you're not teasing me about the Thome card Nick. I know that I will own it one day.

I am hoping that Thome plays one more year so I can make the effort to get out and see him play at least once live.

Great post Nick...