Take a look at this card.
What do you see?
A floating head, for one thing. Those are always a plus. The baserunner. Cloud of dirt. And, of course, a marvelous in-action shot of "Marvelous Marv" leaping off first base to snag a wild throw. Funny, considering Throneberry was known for his ineptitude in the field.
I've been in love with this card since the moment I found it in a dime box so many years ago. And that was before I took an even closer look at it. It took me far longer than I'd like to admit to notice who the ducking baserunner actually is in this shot.
You can see "ON" on the back of the runner's jersey, plus a number that ends in 5. Let's see. ON. 5.
Why, that's none other than Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson! The longtime hurler wore #45 for the St. Louis Cardinals.
That discovery made me appreciate an already fantastic photo all the more.
As is the world of baseball card cameos.
You might already know that the term "cameo" is often used in the movie industry when a famous actor appears in a minimal role.
At some point, someone came up with the brilliant idea to extend the term to baseball cards. Though the focus may be on one specific guy, a cameo comes about when another player pops up in a minor role on a particular photo.
Unlike in the movies, a cardboard cameo doesn't always have to feature an A-lister. Often times, though, it's easier for collectors to identify some of the more famous players in cameo roles.
The card you see above features Albert Pujols getting a hold of one in what I assume is a shot from the 2006 World Series. A young, slightly out-of-focus Justin Verlander can be seen kicking his leg up in disgust at Pujols's swing.
Though I'm sure theories differ, I'd assume some player collectors chase down cameo appearances of their subjects as well.
I think a card like this would fit nicely into a Verlander collection.
Most cameos seem to happen by chance.
Still, there's a part of me that believes that some pairings are more than simple coincidence. I think card companies have gone out of their way to picture a few specific cameos over the years.
Take this one, for instance. Ozzie Guillen's 1997 Stadium Club issue features him covering second on what appears to be a stolen base attempt by Omar Vizquel.
Both Guillen and Vizquel are shortstops. Both wear #13. And Topps just so happened to feature both of them in the same photo here.
That looks like more than a random cameo to me.
This one couldn't possibly have been an accident.
In one of my favorite double play cards ever, Roberto Alomar is seen turning two over a Cleveland baserunner. That sliding star just so happens to be Sandy Alomar Jr., Roberto's brother.
Sly move, Topps.
Some cameos are just goofy.
Though I sadly don't own a copy of the real thing (yet), Rod Carew's 1972 Topps issue features him in a classing after-swing pose.
And in the background is former Twin Cesar Tovar, appearing to be lining up a baseball putt in a memorable cameo. I saw this card a good four of five times before noticing that.
The few I've shown here don't even to begin to scratch the surface of player cameos.
The cameos that interest me most, however, are the ones that don't feature players at all.
I'm more interested in the "outside the line" appearances on cardboard. Player cameos are much more common, of course. But these have that mix of silliness and rarity that make them special.
Kyle Farnsworth is seen here giving a postgame hug to fun-loving Rays manager Joe Maddon. It's appropriate that Maddon would appear in a cameo, given how close he seems to be with his players.
Though manager appearances can be fun...
...let's not forget the coaches.
If anything, I like coach cameos even more since they don't get recognized on cardboard anymore. The era of Topps manager/coach cards is long gone.
That's why seeing them on cards nowadays is especially refreshing. Angels third base coach Dino Ebel has a cameo on Vlad's 2008 UD issue, giving him a high-five in what looks like the aftermath of a game-winning homer.
Upper Deck certainly scored with this one.
Though we might not know their names, fans can make cardboard cameos.
Looking at the reactions on faces in the crowd in these types of shots are always fun.
The people in the front row seem genuinely surprised that Justin Upton came so close to the stands. Others are peeking through the heads and arms of those in front of them to see if Upton made the catch. You might notice a guy in the top-right possibly copping a feel, too.
Cards like these are deserving of a post on their own.
Mascots make for some of the best cameos.
Unfortunately, they're quite rare. The appearance of the Pirate Parrot on a card I recently received is one of the extreme few mascot cameos around.
Upper Deck struck gold with this shot. Lurking behind the intimidating Brad Ausmus in complete catcher's gear is Dinger, the goofy, Barney-ish mascot of the Colorado Rockies.
I don't know that any card has ever been able to contrast two subjects quite like this one.
Whether it be player, coach, or whatever, this may be my favorite cameo card of all-time.
Upper Deck captured a candid moment of Ichiro joking with Mr. Met at the 2003 All-Star Game. What I want to find out is whether or not he's simply laughing at the enormous head of Mr. Met or actually having a conversation with the man inside the suit.
I'll never know for sure.
And, if such a thing is possible, this card features a cameo within a cameo. You can clearly see the T.C. Bear, the Twins mascot, lurking in the outfield of this great photo.
I've spent hours digging through my cards, trying to find certain cameos that I may not have noticed before. It's an interesting little project, and one that I recommend trying if you ever have a little extra time on your hands.
The fun with cameos never ends.