Monday, August 31, 2015

Displaced action

I'd argue that this is the most fascinating baseball card ever printed.

For a long time, I couldn't figure out exactly why that was. Yes, it is an odd photo, but there are lots of odd photos on baseball cards. There was something about it that separated it from the rest of the pack.

What was it? It's a beautiful card, no doubt. You get a glamorous shot of a part of Fenway Park that isn't often seen on baseball cards (including a line of blue-shirted groundskeepers), and a glimpse into the quirky personality of Wade Boggs in the process.

But that wasn't it, and I didn't discover what it was for a while. I don't know whether I realized it on my own or if someone pointed it out to me, but, on one magical day, I finally knew why this card captivated me so.

What makes this gem stand on its own is the fact that Wade Boggs is cheering for another teammate's accomplishments. He has nothing to do with the action that caused the celebration in the first place, and yet he is the one who go the baseball card out of it.

My mind was blown.

I immediately set out to find how many other instances of this phenomenon I could find...and soon discovered that they were few and far between.

I've taken to calling these "displaced action" shots, meaning that, like the Boggs, the player featured on said card is merely an bystander to the event that is happening outside of the cardboard frame.

Bill Spiers here is a prime example, in that he is trying to will a "safe" call for the disembodied legs of an Astro teammate after he himself had (presumably) already crossed home plate.

I found a couple instances of this with 2007 Upper Deck.

Like Boggs, Scott Hatteberg is celebrating a game-winning homer clubbed by an unseen Reds teammate, awaiting him at home plate. (Also, Ken Griffey Jr. cameo alert.)

I'm almost positive that the shot on that Craig Monroe was snapped just after Magglio Ordonez's pennant-clinching dinger in Game 4 of the 2006 ALCS crossed the outfield wall.

Arms raised in joy for something out of his control.

Topps seems to have some kind of fascination with Greg Dobbs and "displaced action," as he received two cards of the sort in consecutive years.

In 2012, he was seen giving a piggyback ride to a fellow Marlin (Hanley Ramirez, I think) at home plate. The following year, Topps went with a shot of him giving an emphatic SLIDE!!!! signal to an approaching baserunner.

Maybe he'll get to bask in the glory of his own accomplishments on a baseball day.

Jose Guillen is seen here pointing a Royal teammate to one side of home plate, probably to avoid a tag.

Other than that, however, we have absolutely no idea what was going on outside of the frame at the time.

I think that sort of mystery is part of what makes these kinds of cards so intriguing to me.

Most of this "displaced action" seems to happen at or around home plate, but I've found at least one instance of it occurring elsewhere.

It's tough to tell whether this yell is of pain or joy, but Kevin Brown is obviously reacting to some dramatic event that happened somewhere behind him on the diamond.

Once again, however, we collectors have absolutely no idea what that event was.

And we're back to Boggs.

This card, and this card alone, inspired an entire post, an entire semi-rambling pontification on the points-of-view on baseball card photos, and a rather expansive dig through my binders in search of similar pieces of cardboard. That's the mark of a surefire legend.

I have no idea if anyone besides myself will find this post enthralling or interesting in any way, but there's just something about this "displaced action" idea that sucked me in. It's one of those strange, seemingly unimportant cardboard occurrences that make me realize why I get so much joy out of collecting.

Now I know why I'm so mesmerized by this Wade Boggs card. That's taken care of, at least. But now I'm left to wonder exactly why I find the idea of "displaced action" so mesmerizing in the first place.

One dilemma is solved, another begins.


Robert said...

It's amazing what people will think about when it comes to baseball cards...

Great post Nick!!

shoeboxlegends said...

Awesome post and great idea for a collection Nick!

Big Tone said...

What message do you think Boggs's outstretched arms are conveying to the guy rounding third ,about to touch homeplate- A) give me two fives or B) Come to Papa! Either way ,It Is a great card,even If It Is a horizontal ;)Is that an emotionless Greenwell back there ,slowly approaching?

Jeff Jones said...

Love these kinds of shots too, sometimes I'm more enamored by the background/players in the background on a card than the intended focal point. The Huddy homer card from flagship a few years back comes to mind

Zvon said...

I wonder how hard it would be to find out exactly what game that Boggs pic was taken at. An afternoon walkoff at Fenway...

Nice an interesting post.

Mark said...

Not 100% certain, but I think the Kevin Brown photo is from his 1997 no hitter. It looks like the seat color in the background and attendance matches up with the photo.