The List of Fisk

The goal of this project is to document every* baseball card made during Carlton Fisk’s long playing career. With that career spanning 1972 to 1993, baseball cards changed A LOT; from Topps being the only maker until 1980 to the artificial luxury boom Upper Deck began in 1989 to the absolute glut of production in the 80s and early 90s which lead to even “limited!” cards being immediately and sustainingly valueless. I plan to primarily focus on the graphic design of the cards themselves, but expect asides into uniform design once he makes the jump to the White Sox, where he was present for one of the battiest eras of any team’s uniform history, as well as manufacturing trends, Carlton Fisk commentary, and overlapping Dan Fuller trivia and if anything springs to mind, notes about the specific card. Once other companies are in the mix, I’ll also discuss what each company was doing in a year and I’ll name a winner. Unless specified, every picture is a scan I’ve made from the card in my collection.

Welcome to The List of Fisk. Continue reading “The List of Fisk”

Topps 1972 – Rookie Card

And we’re off…

He didn’t even get his own rookie card!! This wasn’t abnormal back then – Nolan Ryan got the same treatment.

There’s nothing especially notable about the design. The three face rookie card doesn’t allow much room for design features. It’s very green. It’s fine, but it’s very green. The pure yellow and black of the thin border was likely to minimize print registration issues by using only two of the four print colors. It works on this design, but Topps used this trick later in the 70s and 80s with less pleasant results.

Interestingly, the normal 1972 Topps design actually is kind of batty. It’s got that late-60s “groovy” appeal. The use of the green field on the rookie card makes more sense when seeing a normal card. The back was unnotable with orange and black printing on brown cardstock. It made sense when I was a little kid, but I don’t understand the relevance of including the home town on every card. Maybe to give a a thrill to people in the home town? Who knows, but it sticks throughout all the cards.

Back when I was a little kid going to card shows and reading the Beckett price guides, his rookie card was viewed as “impossible” to get. It would regularly be $60 or more from vendors at card shows in the Lehigh Valley, and that was simply way, way too much money when $0.25-$1.50 was the normal going rate. If anything, the internet “fixed” card prices, and I bought this specific card (in maybe “good” at best condition) on eBay for $4 a few years ago. Graded, mint examples still go for a $30+.

Though my collection doesn’t include cards made after he retired, Topps did print a “make-up” rookie card in 2001… and there were three increasingly limited versions of it. Because 2001. I’m loving the retro-plain back, but they should’ve printed a light brown layer first so it appeared like the cardboard of the original 1972 set.

Topps 1973 – He Couldn’t Be Less Excited

It’s kind of an ugly design with a particularly unflattering picture but with a snazzy Rookie of the Year trophy graphic. More 70s cardboard, but as a little kid who didn’t have the rookie card, this one looked and felt old enough to warrant storing in a hard plastic case (with screws!). In 2018, it doesn’t warrant that.

Nothing too special on the back, but notable that his “Pudge” nickname was mentioned so early in his career. Also, this card, unlike his rookie card, establishes that he spent a fair amount of time in the minor leagues, but more interestingly, simultaneously in 1967, had an assigned team and a stat line of “military service.” This year includes birth town AND current city of residence for whatever reason.

The 1973 card is one of the oldest-looking cards, as such, with me as a little kid, this one was stored in a hard plastic case which involved four screws. Unless, graded, it’s effectively valueless.

Topps made a chrome version of this card, awful facial expression included, in 2017.

Of note, he was involved in a crazy baseball fight in 1973. http://dougwilsonbaseball.blogspot.com/2015/04/the-fight-of-century-fisk-vs-munson-1973.html?m=1

Topps 1974 – How Old is This??

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Like the 1973 Topps, by virtue of looking old as dirt, this (valueless) card got placed in a hard plastic case by little kid Dan for most of its life. Seriously, the design of this card would’ve looked contemporary in 1940, 1950, or 1960. It’s a clean design; a nice landscape, action shot, with accurate framing, and inexplicable yellow “Boston Red Sox” lettering (it’s not inexplicable: one doesn’t need to worry about registration and color matching if one of the CMYK colors is used without mixing. But, the registration is spot-on between the lettering and the background, so good work, print technicians in 1974.) The way the “C” position marker fits into the chevron of the team name gives a nice dynamic feel to the design, which is otherwise just a collection of rounded rectangles. The terrible edge registration/centering of this card is specifically a product of the exact card in my collection.

Onto the back, a cartoon makes its first appearance, featured on cardboard with black and green ink. He played soccer in high school! I did in middle school! Besties! Kind of a deep cut statistically with the putout/assists/chances stats being that this was 1974, and saves weren’t even tracked until 1969. It is kind of badass that he tied for the American League lead for triples as a catcher. It’s shown up previously, but it remains interesting that despite being thought of as a “sure thing rookie,” his Major League stints in 1969 and 1971 didn’t stick.

Also, a replicated autograph makes its first appearance on a Carlton Fisk card, though it’s hiding on the rear. This will come and go throughout the years.

This is the best looking of the “old as dirt” cards (72, 73, 74).

Topps 1974 All-Star – Aim Low, Sweet Chariot

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Don’t worry, we’ve got all your 1973 All-Star Game stats here, though the hyphen only exists on the back of the card, not the front. Also, Joe Torre played first base AND third base in an All-Star Game? Weird. Also, Carlton Fisk and Thurmon Munson splitting catching duties must’ve been awkward

This is the first “parallel” card in the Fisk collection. (Note: it’s not really a parallel card. It’s just an additional card in the existing set, not an alternate version of the main card. But, it’s the first one, darn it.) It’s an interesting mix of names there, most notably Hank Aaron, whom I had always thought of as a “before my time” player.

So, why the snarky headline? Check out those colors on the front. Purplish-red. Yellow. Blue that’s lighter than royal blue. Black. Wait a minute. Those sound like the colors in CMYK. Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Key (Black). To avoid having to plan for color matching issues in process color, just use the constituent colors only!

Oh well, the fact that the 1975 World Series featured Fisk and Bench is notable.

Topps 1975 – The Florida Red Sox

Look at those beautiful palm trees and the home uniform! That’s left field on the background, but there’s certainly no Green Monster out there. Looks like we’ve got ourselves a Spring Training photoshoot.

Unlike 1974, he doesn’t get a dedicated All-Star card, but he does get a badge. I’m not sure what the design goals here are, but the cyan “Red Sox” doesn’t make a lick of sense, and the droppppp shadowwwww keeps going and and going. The red and yellow generally work in a “well, the 70s…” kind of way. This doesn’t look like a lost 60s design, like the 1972 set or something unearthed from a World War 2 time capsule, like in 1974. A printed autograph makes another appearance, this time on the front. His indifferent expression looks doesn’t help to bring it all together. Of note, this is his first Topps card with color printing to the edge. Prior years flooded a layer of white ink over the cardboard then were offset printed and cut resulting in the color area being 100% represented, even if the centering was bad. With this design, areas with color were chopped off on cards with bad centering (such as mine, shown above). It’s still going to be many years until full bleed designs are manufactured.

The back is raw cardboard with red, green, and black ink. There’s a cutesy cartoon with a fact that I don’t want to fact-check. A tie in commissioner voting is decided by the President of the US? Really?? Quietly mentioned here is the fact that his 1974 season was cut short due to injury, which was to be a theme throughout the 70s. Though I didn’t have this card as a kid, I never pieced together that his abnormally low at-bat statistics for a few entire seasons were due to something, despite literally staring at statistics on his cards. More on this as I move on through the years. Notably, this is the first Topps card which omits any minor league statistics; oddly, it wasn’t until the 1976 set that Topps explicitly said “Complete Major League Batting Record” as the header for the statistics.

Some Fanmade Rookie Cards

Like detailed in the 1972 review, well after the fact, Topps made a retro rookie card. It seems there’s also a small fan community which makes “missing” cards from historical sets. A dedicated Carlton Fisk rookie card is practically the definition of a missing card. Interestingly, while Topps made a new card layout for their hypothetical rookie card, the internet made cards following the standard 1972 design. Spoiler alert: the community’s designs are better, and big part of that is them not feeling beholden to the original rookie card’s picture.

While the last two cards are mysterious results from Pinterest, the first one is from the great Cards That Never Were. (Card concepts from that site will make a few appearances throughout this list.)

Topps 1976 – Old Doesn’t Mean Ugly

The front isn’t my finest scanning effort (I got much better later). The white balance is pushed way towards blue. The yellow and red work (like they did in 1975), and the white space between color blocks, then thin red border, following the catcher graphic, is nice and clean. I’m not sure it’s “70s design,” but it looks old. It’s a good look, but it’s old. Oddly, after a year of printing color to the edge, Topps went back to a white border.

The back is cardboard with green and black ink. As mentioned for the 1975 card, injuries are incongruous. 79 games in 1975? That’s only half a season. (1975 was the crazy World Series home run.) 52 games in 1974. Yikes. Injury-prone? We’ll get back to this later. Also, check out that completely irrelevant trivia from 1917!

Topps made a retro card for this set in 2003. I’m not sure what the occasion was, but the design still worked, retro without being old. (The card below is from eBay, hence the watermark.)

Fans also made their own cards which worked with this design:

I’m not sure the years of the actual pictures match up (the red batting helmet is suspicious as is the the pull-over jersey versus the button up, much less the completely different “BOSTON” lettering), but it’s a good-looking card.

Topps 1977 – Real Action

1977 front

1977 back

Another rough scan, but a great action shot of an of-the-time 70s design. I’m digging the double border serving as a frame for the photograph. The “Catcher” pennant is in lazy process cyan ink… and is the only graphic detail with a shadow for whatever reason. Topps included a printed autograph, too. Not a classic design by any measure, but I like it.

The back is exposed cardboard with green ink only. This is a first for Topps. All previous cards used black plus another color. Check out that completely unrelated Ty Cobb trivia which includes a remarkably dumb cartoon. But, hey, there’s some actual Carlton Fisk trivia back there, too. Oddly, there are some missing “the”s in the interest of limited space for the trivia, but he was killing it in the 1975 postseason.

Topps 1978 – Attracting Flies (and My Mom)

Topps 1978 Front

Topps 1978 Back

As begun in 1973 and will show up sporadically through the years, an awful picture was selected for the card. That said, according to my mom, he’s got it going on in this card. Yeesh.

It’s another clean design in 1978; the offset, colored border makes it look like it’s more than just a picture with a white matte… Bowman 1989. Instead of a dedicated card, he gets an All Star (no hyphen) shield, and looking at his stats, holy crap, he killed it in 1977 with a .315 batting average, 102 RBI, and 152 games played. Of note, it appears spot colors were used with pure cyan and 50/50 magenta+yellow for the “Red Sox” and All Star shield, yet they’re not dotted to all hell. I’m not planning on dedicating many words to the Red Sox uniforms on this site, but the Red Sox uniforms, with the red helmets and prominent use of super dark navy blue, were spot on in 1977.

Considering the era, the back is fine. Cardboard with orange and blue ink. An odd combination, but it works. There is a bit of a typeface disaster in that there are so many different ones, but at least the trivia is related to the player at-hand, and it took place in the prior (covered) year, instead of arbitrary facts from his past. Topps used the back of the cards this season for some sort of two player game, so that’s actually pretty creative.

Follow-up: here is WAYYYY more than I ever expected to learn about “some sort of two player game” on the back.