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Card of the Week: 1969 Topps #466 John Boccabella

Posted by Andy on October 13, 2010

This week we present a Card of the Week written by Night Owl of Night Owl Cards and 1975 Topps (it's far out, man).

The design chosen each year for a baseball card set can often determine whether collectors love, hate or remain ambivalent about that set.

One aspect of design is how that design enhances or interferes with the photo on the card.

Some of you might know that the 2008 Topps set was notable for a particular design flaw. The “bump” that featured the Topps logo and jutted into the top portion of the card photo affected how Topps displayed the photos on its cards. Often, the photo images were shrunken so the player’s head would not be covered up by the Topps “bump.”

That particular set got me thinking about whether there were other sets in which the design forced Topps’ hand as to how it displayed its photos. I quickly scanned Topps flagship sets over the years. I found out that, in most sets since Topps went with photography over illustrations, the design has not affected photo selection or positioning of the photo.

An exception is 1969 Topps.

Topps’ decision to superimpose the colored circle, which contained the player’s name and position, onto the photo required a significant adjustment. You can see it with the John Boccabella card. If you removed the colored circle, what would you have? You would have an obvious off-centered photo. In most case, an off-center photo would never fly as a choice for a player’s card.

But for 1969 Topps, an off-center photo was REQUIRED in many cases. There are hundreds of examples in the set in which an off-center picture was selected so Topps could position the colored circle and not cover up a player’s face.

The ‘69 set had several issues, mostly related to major league baseball expansion that year. Blacked-out caps and hatless players run rampant through the set. But the off-center photo phenomenon was a self-imposed issue.

Topps must have been so scarred by that design flaw that it chose designs that did not interfere with the photo for the next 40 years. Then 2008 came along and the bump reared its ugly head.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 13th, 2010 at 8:00 am and is filed under Card of the Week. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

21 Responses to “Card of the Week: 1969 Topps #466 John Boccabella”

  1. Boccabella hit more than 1 homer off 3 pitchers:

    Ron Herbel 8 8 6 2 2 4 0 0 .750 .750 1.750 2.500
    Ray Sadecki 26 24 5 0 2 4 1 6 .208 .231 .458 .689
    Warren Spahn 10 10 2 0 2 2 0 0 .200 .200 .800 1.000
    Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
    Generated 10/12/2010.

    He had nice numbers in particular against Herbel, albeit it in a very small sample.

  2. Detroit Michael Says:

    Back then, players didn't ride the AAA-MLB shuttle as often. It wasn't unusual for a team's AAA affiliate be located a couple of time zones away.

  3. i have this complete set ,, its a interesting one but no match for 1968 and 1967 sets , those are special

  4. An update: "Hundreds" is a "slight" exaggeration on my part. I went through the set just now and counted 77 examples of off-center photos.

  5. I find it amazing that almost 7% of his career at bats over 6 seasons came against 1 pitcher (Sadecki) who he didn't really hit all that well.

  6. Worst baseball card trade ever: 69 Topps Reggie Jackson for 69 Topps Ken Harrelson, which I made right before Jackson went on a home run tear and established himself as a national star.
    It haunts me still.

  7. Always like the latter series cards in the '69 set because they featured the players on the expansion teams in their new uniforms.

  8. Awesome. When I saw the link, I laughed, Boccabella is one of my all time favorite baseball names. I never realized this about the off center for this set.

  9. At least they move the colored circle from side to side depending on which is better suited for the picture they have.

    Honestly, it took me over 20 years to complete this set, so I have looked at these cards extensively and I never even once thought of this as an issue. Even as it is pointed out now, I still don't see it as a problem. This set has MUCH bigger issues that this, like the one's mentioned by Nigth Owl in his post, specifically the hatless player cards. They are so rampant and horrendous that the numerous cards with the blacked-out caps don't even bother me that much, since the subjects at least look like baseball players instead of accountants. I don't like, however, cards with portraits taken from a low angle, so you can't see the logo on the cap, but you get plenty of nostril instead (I am talking about you 1972 Topps Texas Rangers).

    Actually, I like the Boccabella card from the post very much, compared to many other 1969 Topps cards. You can tell it is a higher series card (#466) just by the fact that you get a nice view of the new Expos cap. I would have preferred to be able to see a little more of the uniform, but at least it is a classic catcher's pose. Most of the other Expos cards have the hatless/blacked-out caps (ditto for the Royals, Padres, and Pilots).

    Two other side notes:

    1) The Seattle Pilots had cards in 2 Topps sets 1969 and 1970, but the team was in existence on 1 (1969) they moved to Milwaukee for the 1970 season.

    2) Every time I see Night Owl's name on these boards, for some reason I think of the Little River Band song "Night Owl".

  10. @6 Tom,

    Not a great trade. I feel your pain.

    The worst move I made was in the late 70's when I could have gotten either the 1973 or 1974 Topps Baseball Card set for my birthday. I chose 1974 because I liked the design better. That was right before Schmidt's rookie card from 1973 exploded in value. 5 years later I had to pay more for the Schmidt rookie than it would have cost for the entire 1973 set back when I made my choice.

  11. Morten Jonsson Says:

    I doubt they actually selected off-center photos. They simply cropped their photos to make room for the logo. With a different design, they would have used the same photos, but centered.

  12. I remember that when Leo Durocher took over the Cubs in '66, he wanted to replace Ernie Banks at first base with Boccabella. By the way, I have one of those Reggie Jackson 1969 cards. Actually got it in 1969, along with the Mantle card with the white lettering.

  13. @13,

    Nobody likes a show-off, Steven.


  14. Great work as always Night Owl!

  15. @11

    Poor word choice on my part. By "selected," I meant "created." I doubt they actually picked off-center photos as well.

  16. @#13: I am humbled.

  17. DoubleDiamond Says:

    There once was a player named Boccabella
    Who was named a top rookie for Pocatello

    (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

  18. I remember the PA announcer in Montreal (Jacques Doucet? Jean-Pierre Roy?) pronouncing his name as Boc-ca-BELLLL-A...

  19. Along with obscure shortstop Hec-tor TORRRRR-es...

  20. Boccabella and Biff Pocoroba should have played together.

  21. Very interesting, I started a Montreal Expos card album this week with a few random cards from a local card shop, and the only 1972 card I picked was Boccabella! 1969 Rusty Staub is a cool card. Love those expos. I also found some old expos cloth stickers that have to be at least 40 yrs old and they stuck perfect.