One of the things that both Topps and Upper Deck do right is retro. This set is based on the 1933 Goudey gum cards, and features striking player portraits with colorful semi-abstract backgrounds. It's funny how sometimes less is more: there's no glossy finish, no foil stamping, no chrome or refractors or whatever the hell else makes me feel like an old crank at the age of twenty-five.
Most importantly, look at Brian Roberts. He just looks so unabashedly filthy in that picture! The long, scruffy hair, the unshaven face, the satisfied smirk. It's a very different image from the smurfish, clean-cut second baseman that drives the girls wild in Charm City, and there's something about it that just makes me laugh. I would guess that the original photo was taken in Spring Training 2007, when Brian reported to Fort Lauderdale a little shaggier than usual. Of course, team owner Peter Angelos is known for his draconian grooming policy. When the O's signed the second baseman to a contract extension a few weeks later, he opted for a trim and a shave, indicating that he wanted to make Mr. Angelos happy. No wonder he's one of P.A.'s favorites; he knows how to play the game on and off the field.
I'd been saving this card for a "goodbye" of sorts to Brian Roberts, but I needed it in a pinch. It still seems more likely than not that he'll be in a Cubs uniform before Opening Day, but you never know. I do want to say that of the three stars the Birds have dealt or will probably deal this offseason, I'll miss Brian the most. He's one of the best second basemen in the game and has done a hell of a lot for the Baltimore community. So here's to you, #1.