The salaryman’s Christmas stocking, like those of his kids, usually includes a couple packs of baseball and hockey cards.
And so it was that yesterday, during Belated Christmas Back Home, he took another step into 21st-century pop culture.
In 35 years of collecting baseball cards, I have (to the extent of my memory, and it’s still pretty good) never pulled one with a woman on it.
(This is also the first card I’ve ever pulled to which the words “rockin’ some pleather” apply. But I digress.)
In an attempt to stir up interest among collectors, Topps has taken to lacing its standard set of player cards with bunches of subsets.
Technically, this is not new. Topps has been producing sets-within-sets for decades. Like cards showing boyhood photos of top stars, or cards showing father-and-son player combinations.
But these cards, in the past, were usually tied directly to the prior year’s action … whereas now, Topps seems to take more liberties and license in creating new subsets.
So now, in addition to your basic player cards, you’ll get cards that commemorate a player’s first home run (I pulled the much-sought-after Yadier Molina First Home Run card, commemorating an event that happened in 2004), or cards that pair a current player with a player from the past who allegedly influenced them. (Joe Mauer, meet Rod Carew.)
There’s also a First Pitch subset, which shows various celebrities doing the pregame honors.
This group of cards turned a few pop-culture heads early this year, when it was revealed that petulant blues-rock primitivist Jack White would be on one of them. (That bump in public interest probably justified the subset’s existence all by itself.)
Others in the First Pitch set included actor Jeff Bridges; Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney; marathoner Meb Keflezighi; and this young pop star, who I got back in May when I bought my first and only non-gift pack of the year.
(Correction to the above: This is the first card I ever pulled to which the words “rockin’ some pleather” apply. Is that an iPhone in your pocket, Austin, or are you excited to be on the mound?)
Anyway, I pulled the First Pitch card of comedian Chelsea Handler as part of my Xmas haul.
And it made me wonder how many Topps baseball cards — in the main set, or closely related subsets — have ever featured women.
(I specify baseball cards because Topps has produced all manner of side sets over the decades. I’m pretty sure I have a Star Wars card upstairs from either 1980 or 1983 with Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia on it. But I’m trying to limit my line of thought to cards you might pull if you bought a standard, basic pack of Topps.)
The Baseball Hall of Fame finally got around to inducting its first woman a few years ago, and she’s received cards from other companies, though I don’t know if Topps has done any in its mainstream set.
Also, several women have owned World Series-winning baseball teams — like Joan Payson of the New York Mets, or Marge Schott of the Cincinnati Reds. But while players, managers, coaches and even umpires have been featured on mainstream baseball cards, owners don’t usually get there.
Edit: I’ve also Googled the “boyhood photos of the stars” Topps cards from the ’70s, to see if anyone’s mom or sister showed up. I don’t see any, though the crop job on Willie Horton’s card sure suggests there were other family members in the original picture.)
Searches for phrases like “first baseball card of a woman” or “first Topps card of a woman” don’t provide an answer.
(Knowing Topps’ fondness for things Yankee, I suspected they might have come up with an excuse to put insufferable Yanks radio announcer Suzyn Waldman on a card. A Google search suggests this has not, in fact, come to pass.)
None of this, even my griping of a paragraph ago, is meant to suggest that cards with women are a bad thing. I ask about them out of historical curiosity, not as a complaint; and I’m hoping that someone who knows their baseball-card history will leave me a comment steering me to some examples from the past.
While I’m not specially a fan of Chelsea Handler, I’m kinda delighted to see something other than a scowling masculine game-face on a baseball card.
Women have always been part of baseball — in front-office roles, now as scouts, always as fans. They ought to be represented in what is still one of the lasting historical records of each season.
And, while I’m generally celeb-phobic, I don’t mind the First Pitch set. It seems firmly enough related to baseball; it’s something you’d see if you went to the park on a given day. Why not put it on a series of cards?
It’s sure as hell more interesting than Yadier Molina’s first home run.