This is our old blog. It hasn't been active since 2011. Please see the link above for our current blog or click the logo above to see all of the great data and content on this site.

Card of the Week: 1982 Topps and Fleer Rod Carew

Posted by Andy on October 29, 2010

(If you can't see the images, click here and they should come up.)

This week, let's do something a little different.

Above are the backs of two cards from 1982.

The first one is a regular-issue Topps card, #501. It was part of the "In Action" subset from that year's set.  On the back, you read about Carew's achievements in the All-Star game, LCS, and World Series. Carew had 3 other cards in the 1982 set: his main card (#500), the Angels Team Leaders card that also featured Ken Forsch (#276), and his All-Star card (#547). Back in those days, for a guy to appear on four different cards was pretty special.

The second card back shown above is from his regular-issue 1982 Fleer card, #455. This is a pretty standard card back. I don't believe Carew was featured on any other cards from the 1982 Fleer set.

So why am I showing these two cards? Check out their fronts:

Quite unusually, they feature the exact same photo. Carew's unusual facial expression gives away that the photos are from the same instant in time and the angle is identical.

The only logical conclusion is that a freelancer sold the same photo to both Fleer and Topps. This is surprising to me--I would think that both companies would require exclusivity on any purchase. I seem to recall that in its early days, Fleer bought some photos from Topps, though, so perhaps that's how this one got shared.

There's another weird thing about this photo. Based on what we can see, I think Carew must be playing 3rd base. He's come in on the grass and we can see the 2nd base umpire blurred out in the background. I suppose it's  possible that Carew is playing 1st base and he's fielding a slow-roller, but if so he's coming at a very strange angle, given the cut of infield grass visible behind him.

This is weird because Carew never played 3rd base with the Angels. This is almost certainly a spring training photo, so it's conceivable he played 3rd in a pre-season game.

Anyway--does anybody out there have any more info (or even speculation) on the story behind these two cards?

Thanks to reader Seth M. for emailing in this idea.

33 Responses to “Card of the Week: 1982 Topps and Fleer Rod Carew”

  1. Jeff Says:

    Could Carew be fielding a ball hit down the first base line? Looks like he might be in foul territory.

  2. Matt Says:

    I think he's playing 1B. Looks like a firstbaseman's mitt to me, and I would guess that he missed the ball, which is why the glove is at an odd angle.

  3. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    The umpire - and foul line - appear to be to Carew's left , which would seem to indicate that he is indeed at first base.

  4. night owl Says:

    I read about these two cards in the old "Baseball Cards" magazine back in '82. According to the brief in the magazine, both card companies admitted to buying the same photo from the same freelance photographer. The officials at the card companies were referred to as "embarrassed."

    Since the cards had just come out, the brief also compared the photo production quality of the two cards and concluded -- surprise! -- that the Topps Carew photo was superior. Of course, anyone who collected '82 Fleer knows that the photography in that set would never win any awards.

  5. don Says:

    it is a little odd...home uniform, long sleeves...umpire in a white shirt??
    still looks like 1b to me, though. Doesnt look like the background of Anaheim Stadium or whatever it was called back maybe spring training...long sleeves for Arizona???

  6. splint Says:

    If you look at the other 1982 Topps Rod Carews (#547 and #500) he's in the same outfit. Maybe they were all taken on the same day. The All-Star card doesn't shed any more clues as it's a close up of the head and the main card shows him in front of a batting cage.

  7. Devon & His 1982 Topps blog Says:

    I've been trying to figure this card out for months. The background appears to be Comiskey Park to me. But, why would the Angels play any games in their home uni's, in Chicago?

  8. Paul Drye Says:

    Is it possibly taken at the 1981 All-Star Game in Cleveland? Carew would be wearing a home uniform but be playing away from home.

  9. John DiFool Says:

    And would also explain the umpire-the right field line one behind the first base ump.

  10. Tom Says:

    Some guess work. It's a home spring training game, but not in Arizona. In the 1980s and early 1990s, the Angels worked out in Mesa. They played all their road spring training games in Arizona the first two weeks of the exhibition season. The last two weeks they played home games in Palm Springs. The stands run clear down the right field line and there's not a ton of foul territory. So the fans are close by, which fits with the shot. The green stuff in the background? It's really blurred, so I am guessing it's the trees that surround the ballpark. Why is Carew in long sleeves when the umpire is short sleeves? Could be because back in those days baseball people thought you really wanted to sweat in spring training. Dallas Green when he took over the Cubs wondered if you could seat enough in dry Arizona like you could in more humid Florida. Another possibility is the weather in late March can be a little iffy, and the shadows from Mt. San Jacinto cover the ballpark pretty early in the afternoon, so maybe he didn't want to get a chill.

  11. Tom Says:

    Here's a link to a shot of the ballpark in Palm Springs

  12. MagicTony Says:

    The shot is definitely from the old Comiskey. The uniform is not a home jersey, but a road jersey. The road uni looked the same as the home, the only difference was that it was gray, not white. If the shot was from 1981, the only time the Angels were in Chicago that year was in late September. Anyone who's been in Chicago at taht time of year can tell you that it can get rather chilly. That would explain the long sleeves.

  13. Phil Haberkorn in Indiana Says:

    I'm no CSI, I never even played one on TV, BUT....I am a former news photographer, and have assisted police investigators by shooting video and photos and analyzing others to assist in their cases. ( I am always amused when I read of pot-freaks trying to "hide" their marijuana crop in the middle of a cornfield, but that's another story and I have yet to see a set of trading cards of jail inmates so you could see what I'm talking about. ) Be that as it may, as per the Rod Carew card photo discussion going here - a dead give-away is the design of the grandstands in the background. What minor league or spring training park has enclosed "below-deck" box seats at ground level? None that I've ever heard of. The Palm Springs ballpark link that was posted clearly shows generic metal bleachers, and are clearly not a match to what we see in this card photo, so the game wasn't played at Palm Springs. I thought at first it was Tiger Stadium, but am inclined to agree with the poster who says it's OLD Comiskey Park, the REAL one.. I took photos of the Angels playing at The Grand Old Lady back in the 80s in their road greys with "ANGELS" on the shirt, not "CALIFORNIA" or "LOS ANGELES." Carew may be lunging for a foul ball on these baseball cards, if the photo was taken from the first base side of the infield, and it's the second base umpire in the background as he's straddling the outfield grass, with the center field grandstands in the background - - OR the photo was taken from the third base side with a telephoto lens, Carew is lunging for a fair ball from his position at either first or second base, and it's the first base umpire we see in the background straddling the foul line. A telephoto lens would account for the fact that the grandstands appear so close, even if it's the grandstands in center field which would be visible if the photographer was on the first base side. But the curvature of the stands where they meet the ground isn't right for a shot toward center field (look up the artist "Vermeer" on Wikipedia to see what I'm talking about: perspective, straight lines that look curved and vice versa). I'm leaning toward a third-base photog position at Old Comiskey, Carew is on the infield grass, and it's the first base ump and the grandstands down the right field line that we're looking at. The greenish stuff in the background isn't trees, it's the wall structure of the ballpark and possibly large windows at the rear of the seating area down the right field line, and it looks green because of the way the camera probably auto-adjusted itself for the natural light in the foereground, which throws off the colors in the background where electric lights along the concourse were shining on the back walls and windows. Contrary to one poster's comment that the Angels only played at Chicago in September, they had a May road trip to Chicago too, and in that series Rod Carew committed an error at first base. May 30, Sox 9-Angels 0, Carew muffs a ground ball by Mike Squies with a runner on second. Since Carew was not holding a runner on, this explains why the first base umpire is down the line in the picture instead of closer to the bag for a possible pickoff play. I believe this is the play on which the photo was snapped, because Carew appears to be grimacing in pain or frustration after MISSING THE BALL. I rest my case. . . .:)

  14. Phil Haberkorn in Indiana Says:

    P.S. . . .I left out that while the ump "down the foul line" seems to be standing still, he's actually in mid-step as he approaches first base to make the call as Carew tosses the ball to pitcher Geoff Zahn, who has just passed by on his way to cover the bag. The ump is close enough to make the call, but far enough away so as not to get in the way of either Zahn or the baserunner, Mike Squires. I also see what I believe to be a person with darker skin, sitting in the grandstands just to the right of Carew's reaching left arm. After checking the 'net for their possible whereabouts that weekend, I have it narrowed down to either future Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, a member of Congress at that time and home for the weekend for the holiday recess, or future "president" Barack Obama, home for the weekend after attending college out west (this was before his "community organizing" career began, which explains all the empty seats around him - or most of the season ticket holders in that section were Republicans.) Marcia Clark, eat your heart out, I could have gotten O.J. convicted in five minutes. . . . .

  15. Phil Haberkorn in Indiana Says:


  16. Tmckelv Says:

    Not a huge fan of the in-action cards from 1982. They could have just used more in-action shots in the regular issue cards (the Carlton Fisk IA card is a great picture, but unfortunately, the alignment of the "in action" is awkward).

    1982 is also the first year that topps went back to the All-Star card subsets. From 1975 thru 1981 they had put the All Star designation right on their regular card (always has been my preference). Before 1974, if topps showed all-star teams (some years there were none), it was via a subset of all-star cards.

    Finally, 1982 was the year that topps went away from the "Team Card" with a Team Photo (or for the Cubs, many times it was just a buch of head cut-outs). They started using Team Leaders as the "Team Card", showing the Batting Average and ERA leaders for each squad. Again, the new type of "Team Card" was not my preference.

    Therefore, if it were up to me, Carew would have only been featured on 1 card that year, his base card (with an all-star designation). And his status as the team leader in Batting Average could have been listed on the back of the team card.

    The features of the 1982 topps set that I list above are reasons as to why it is not one of my favorites...Sorry Devon!

  17. Raphy Says:


  18. Tom Says:

    Great detective work, Phil!!!!!

  19. Mike Felber Says:

    Yes, but we could do without the mean spirited Political commentary. On tons of sites the decline of civility is shown by jejune & gratuitous sarcasm & often name calling. On this baseball site I would hope we could avoid petty, knee jerk insults.

    But on the topic of baseball: how about a Reggie Smith for the HOF poll? He has a similar skill/peak set as Whitaker & performance profile, in less games...The debate on him would likely split the vote pretty evenly.

  20. Kelly Says:

    Agree with Mike's observation regarding Political commentary on Baseball Reference.

    Phil, I sincerely appreciate the research, but the divisive diatribe soured an otherwise enjoyable comment.

  21. Dan W Says:

    Good one. The interesting thing is I bet that photographer never sold anything to either company ever again. I wonder why he did this knowing it would burn a bridge if the photos were used by both. He probably did it with a lot but this was the first one actually used by both companies. If only Donruss had used it too, that would have been awesome.

  22. rick Says:

    I don't know why Carew seems to be in such an unusual position while fielding this ball, and frankly I'm not all that concerned to figure it out. But I do know that this is occuring in Comiskey Park. The visible architecture is clearly unmistakable as that of the long demolished Baseball Palace of the World. As for poltics, one way or the other, they don't matter to me either. Facts, on the other hand, do. And the fact is, in 1981, our current President did not call Chicago home. Home would have been Hawaii. In 1981 he attended Occidental College in LA, and then transferred later that year to Columbia in NY. The President did not move to Chicago until much later in the 80's.

  23. JDV Says:

    I have to comment only because Carew is my favorite player ever. I'm intrigued by all the speculation about the story behind the photos on these posts. In 40+ years of collecting, I've never given such thought to the card fronts, but it really is fascinating.

    The '82 Topps set is most memorable to me as the beginning of the 792-card issue, which would remain their standard thru '92. This number worked very well because it perfectly filled a 44-page album.

    That said, I did not like the separate In-Action or All-Star cards either. I thought it was a waste of capacity. I always wanted to see more players on individual cards.

  24. Philip Haberkorn in Indiana Says:

    CONGRATULATIONS JDV ! ! ! YOU WIN ! ! !... you're the only one who didn't fall for the "methodology" I used in posts 13 and 14.
    Also, my critics need to back off and reconsider who's having knee-jerk reactionary problems regarding post 14. I was just having fun with Chicago politics of the early 1980s and tossed in the tripwire that I thought would clue everybody in on the fact that post 13 is utter nonsense. My thought process was, "if I can fool people into thinking I've narrowed down the date and location the photograph was taken, even to the exact play, then maybe I can convince them the President of the United States can be seen in the background among the fans." So I just went with it, based on the notion that Barack Obama was "home from college" for the summer.
    My whole argument in post 13 is based on the assumption that the picture was taken in 1981, because the card came out in 1982. Carew played for the Angels in 1979 and 1980, and the picture could have been taken then, too. And if the play was a really difficult one, the batter might have been awarded a hit, not an error.
    People jumping all over me for "mean spirited Political commentary" and "decline of civility...jejune & gratuitous sarcasm & often name calling..." and "divisive diatribe" need to take another look at what I posted. Politicians show up at ball games all the time, to get their pictures in the paper and to get free time on the radio, like Congressman Harold Washington might have done. College student Barack Obama, on the other hand, would have had to pay to get into the ballpark, nobody knew who he was at the time, so conceivably he could have been sitting in the grandstands. He wasn't there to get his picture in the paper, but lo and behold, he gets his picture on a baseball card ! ! !
    All the empty seats being a "Republican section" is just my reference to all sorts of surveys and polls that indicate that those folks are more likely to be Cubs fans, hence all the empty seats at Comiseky Park's "republican section." Now if that isn't profiling, I don't know what is, but people don't object when it comes out in the form of a professional opinion poll instead of somebody posting it on a blog.
    Next time you watch CSI, pay attention to how much nonsense and gobbledygook goes into one of their typical episodes. That's all I was doing, people.

  25. Philip Haberkorn in Indiana Says:

    RICK TOO, I couldn't fool you either.....

  26. Mike Felber Says:

    My apologies if I mistook your meaning Mr. Haberkom. Though it was not about your speculation that Obama was there, we could not tell that the " Republican section" was well intended. Certainly nothing wrong with noting demographic tendencies, that is distinct from its use in preemptive law enforcement for racial profiling.

    What I still cannot tell was not intended to denigrate was the use of quotation marks around "community Organizer" & especially "President". I believe my comment was measured & appropriate given the quotation marks & context, there is no way to know that you did not mean to belittle the titles or his status as President. My ex Mayor did this about the former at the Republican convention in '98, mockingly pretending not to know what the former title meant, insulting him through a childish Yahoo put down.

    And liberals are just as capable of doing the same, which I regularly decry. So in sum, it is the quotation marks we still cannot account for as "creative nonsense'. But I am open to hearing why they were used.

  27. murph Says:

    I don't think that's an umpire in the background. I'm thinking the photo was taken from the thirdbase side and Carew (with an obvious firstbaseman's mitt) has grabbed a slow roller and is hoping to head the firstbase line and tag the runner. The guy in the background may be either a member of the grounds crew or someone from the Sox protecting someone in the bullpen (they were down the lines, weren't they?)

  28. PhilH in Indiana Says:

    It's gotta be the umpire. His feet are right on the border of the infield dirt and the outfield grass, might even be touching fair territory. Grounds crew are not allowed on the field during the game, neither is the bullpen crew, while the ball is "in play." Ballboys and ballgirls go chasing down foul balls, like Marla Collins did, but this guy is standing still while the ball is "in play." Umpires sometimes work games in shirtsleeves, no jackets, so he looks like he's not "in uniform." I guess it was "casual Friday" at Comiskey Park.

  29. Murph Says:

    He's nowhere near where an ump should be. That person is standing near the warning track in front of the stands along the 1st base/rt field line in foul territory. With the telephoto lens being used in this shot the guy is very far away. The first base bag is just off frame beyond Carew's glove. The umpire is probably just off to the left of the photo.

  30. Murph Says: 1981, the Sox were still wearing the white and blue untucked throwback style with white tops and blue pants. This is probably a bullpen catcher with blue shin-guards on protecting someone in the bullpen.

  31. PhilH in Indiana Says:

    It can only be the umpire.
    The guy in the background is nowhere near the warning track along the grandstands, his right foot is almost on the dirt portion of the infield and you can see grass to his left and the warning track further back. That means he's standing on the foul line. Somebody protecting the bullpen would be farther down the foul line, not that close to the infield dirt, and you would also be able to see the players warming up in the bullpen right behind him, but the bullpen area is nowhere in the shot. Players had not started wearing their pants all the way down to their ankles back then, so even if it were a catcher with shinguards, you'd be able to see something of the white sox with blue stripes the players wore then, along with a slight difference in the color the pantlegs and shinguards even if the shinguards were blue. There's nothing in the picture to indicate the guy is wearing shinguards. Only an umpire is allowed this close to the infield dirt while the ball is in play.

  32. Murph Says:

    You're just not looking at this photo correctly. Your angles are completely wrong. Just for a second, try to picture the angle this really is. You are along the 3rd base line, probably near the dugout, looking towards first base. You're looking past the 3rd base line and then past the mound to get to Carew. Home plate is off to the right and second base is off to the left of the photo. First base, as I've said before, is just out of frame to the right. The dirt directly behind Carew is the first base cut out. The foul line runs right to left from just to the right of his glove along the top of this part of the dirt. That thin strip of grass, due to the crowning of the field, is well off in foul territory. There is no base or infield dirt or foul line back where that guy is standing. Like you said about the grandstand, the telephoto lens is making the guy appear closer than he is. No umpire would be that far from 1st base.
    Best bet is that he is a bullpen catcher with shin guards on facing us. His socks would not be showing. I know very well how they were wearing their socks back then. And, if you want to look again, you can see a slight difference in the color of the pants and the shinguards. He's very far from us and out of focus, you're not going to see much. Just because you can't see anyone warming up doesn't mean there isn't some activity just off frame.

  33. Hartvig Says:

    just testing my gravatar