Monday, June 17, 2013

Covering the Bases, Pt. 8: Top 5 Plays at the Plate

Ah, the play at the plate.

It's a baseball photographer's dream. When runners and catchers collide, it's nearly impossible to not snap a perfect shot.

Luckily for us collectors, quite a few of these masterful pieces of art have wound up on cardboard over the years. In fact, if I've learned one thing from this hobby, it's this.

Plays at the plate are and always will be awesome.

I think most of us can agree on that.

Ever since I started building little mini-collections, cards featuring plays at the plate have made for some of my more intense focuses. They certainly make for neat cardboard to chase.

Tonight, I'll be unveiling my five favorite play at the plate cards in my collection. While it's basically the blueprint for what I look for in a good PATP issue, Mr. Carter there proved to be the runner-up in this countdown.

Five other masterpieces managed to outdo "The Kid".

#5 -- 1973 Topps #542 Pat Corrales

Tonight's countdown begins with a guy who isn't even in my binders.

Usually, action shots as great as this one are reserved for the game's biggest stars. And, while Corrales would later become a fairly well-known manager, he was an otherwise mediocre catcher during his playing days.

Nevertheless, Topps granted him one jaw-dropping piece of cardboard in 1973. I don't think I've ever seen a more painful grimace featured on a baseball card.

And, on top of that, the runner on this particular piece just so happens to be former Cub Fergie Jenkins, a Hall of Fame pitcher.

The "pitcher on the basepaths"/PATP combo makes for one of the better action shots in hobby history.

#4 -- 1977 Topps #640 Carlton Fisk

I bet most of you have probably seen this one before.

As one of the more iconic cards of the 1970's, owning it is a true privilege. 

Given that the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry was likely at its peak around the time this card was released, Topps did a stellar job with the photo selection. These days, I'm only left with one question.

Out or safe?

Oh, and speaking of Mr. Fisk...

#3 -- 1991 Topps #170 Carlton Fisk

"Pudge" is a PATP legend around the hobby.

Fourteen years after his 1977 masterpiece hit the streets, Topps once again granted him a legendary piece of cardboard in '91.

Of course, it's one of the more memorable cards of the overproduction era. (And one that will likely be advancing to the "Final Four" in this blog's tournament on the topic.)

I've talked about this piece many, many times in the past. So many, in fact, that I'm having trouble coming up with anything new to say about it.

I think you can see why it's such an appreciated part of this hobby.

#2 -- 2007 UD Masterpieces #20 Ty Cobb

I recently rated this as the absolute greatest card of the "modern era".

In one image, Upper Deck managed to perfectly personifies everything you need to know about the way Ty Cobb played the game.

His take-no-prisoners style of play has been well-documented over the years. I feel bad for the unfortunate catchers who had to block the plate when "The Georgia Peach" was coming down the baseline.

A spike to the stomach wasn't out of the question.

Plus, this stunning piece of cardboard manages to hit my love for old-time baseball photography as well. For all intensive purposes, it is the perfect card of the "modern era".

That said, how could anything top it?

Does it get any better than perfection?

#1 -- 1971 Topps #5 Thurman Munson

In the case of Thurman Munson, yes.

Perfection is not an adequate term for this particular piece. It just isn't.

Much like the Corrales, Mr. Munson is in the process of tagging out a pitcher in this shot. Here, it's former A's hurler Chuck Dobson. I didn't know that until fairly recently.

Just when I thought such an awesome card couldn't get any better, it did.

For a long time, though, it was a card I never thought I'd own. I'm sure you've seen the crazy prices it usually commands.

But, luckily for me, the cardboard gods chose to grant me a little piece of heaven one afternoon. I found my well-loved copy in a box of heavily discounted vintage for a mere $12.

And I've had a smile on my face ever since.

To me, it's the greatest play at the plate shot in the history of baseball cards.

Nothing can top it.


Mark Kaz said...

Great list! Had to be tough to narrow the field down to just five. Heck, I wouldn't know where to begin -- there are just so many!

night owl said...

I like the Fisk and the Corrales both better than the Munson.

The Fisk for the anticipation and the Corrales for the devastation.

Backstop Cards said...

I'm glad to hear that N.O. appreciates the Corrales more than the Munson - I agree with him, but my opinion is obviously more than a little biased. Still, all of those are winners and great cards in my book. Carter had a ton of PATP cards in the early 90s.

petethan said...

Great stuff. I'm gonna have to track down that Munson, myself someday. Plays at the plate will actually be featured when I discuss 1986, coming up next at Top of the Topps. (Shameless plug alert!) Nothing in that set as great as these, but Topps fell in love with the concept that year (at least showing catchers in action behind the plate), and there are a few good ones to share.

Ana Lu said...

Other thing that make the play-at-the-plate good to me is the dust. There it's quite easy to get it all on the air!

Great countdown.

Anonymous said...

I'd put Fisk #1 on the list. Great post!