Saturday, September 23, 2017
Top Five: Orel Hershiser
(In the interest of time and space, I've decided to postpone my fairly scan-heavy weekly frankenset posts and revive my past "Top Five" theme, in which I showcase my five favorite cards of a selected player from my stable of player collections. Enjoy!)
I often wonder how aware baseball players are of their own cards.
Do they have any of their own cards? Do some of them know that there are people out there obsessively chasing (and perhaps dropping big money on) their likenesses? And, perhaps most importantly, how much do they care about their baseball card personas?
Thanks to a random article I stumbled upon a few days ago, I at least know Orel Hershiser's answer to that last question is in the affirmative. The Bulldog is quoted as saying: I always tried to help the guys doing the photos not get bored.
There's no doubt that Hershiser's self-awareness in this regard made his cards just plain better, as I had a tough time narrowing it down to a surefire Top Five.
#5 -- 1995 Topps #305 Orel Hershiser
Though Hershiser has a lot of well-known cards, you don't usually hear this one mentioned.
I guess it kind of fits in with my feelings about '95 Topps as a whole: beautifully underrated.
#4 -- 1998 Fleer Tradition #359 Orel Hershiser
I always enjoying seeing family ties on baseball cards and, despite the fact that Hershiser looks infinitely awkward in a Giants jersey, this photo of Orel with sons Jordan and Orel V (the Hershiser you know is actually Orel Hershiser IV) is worthy of a place on the mantel.
His two sons look a lot like him, so much so that I'm a little freaked out by it.
#3 -- 1985 Topps #493 Orel Hershiser RC
No blue skies or polo-shirted children here, just a classic rookie card of the Bulldog.
I actually own all of Hershiser's major-brand rookies, but this early image of his classic follow-through has always been my favorite by a wide margin.
#2 -- 1991 Stadium Club #244 Orel Hershiser
And then there's this one.
Take away the nameplate and Stadium Club logo and you'd have absolutely no idea this is a baseball card -- it'd just be a goofy suburban dad in a thrift-store sweater. To this day, it still confuses me. I'll look at this card one minute and gush at the oddity of it. Then I'll see it next to action shots and Dodger Stadium poses in my LA binder and instantly wonder what the heck it's doing in the same group as all those real baseball cards.
It occupies the #2 slot in this countdown more because I've ever seen anything else quite like it in the hobby, and somehow, it so perfectly sums up Orel Hershiser's left-of-center baseball card persona.
#1 -- 1997 Upper Deck #53 Orel Hershiser
But Hershiser's status as a cardboard god goes further than sheer quirkiness -- it often extends in to pure, unfiltered art.
In an odd turn of events, my favorite card of the Bulldog actually came during his relatively short time in Cleveland. And though I'm sure 99 percent of baseball fans remember him as a Dodger, he's at least partially immortalized in my mind as an Indian because of the sheer magnificence of this card alone, which -- as the back of it perfectly notes -- makes it look as though Hershiser is pitching under his own spotlight.
Just perfection, and in the end, all I can say is: thanks for caring about your cardboard, Orel.
It went a long way.