Friday, March 19, 2010
Vintage Fridays: Jim Northrup, 1975 SSPC #399
Look at that picture of Jim Northrup for a moment. Stop giggling at the gray perm and just take it all in. It's less a picture than a portrait. So much gravitas. With the silvery hair (he was nicknamed "The Gray Fox", after all), the weary grimace, and the shadowy backdrop that seems to indicate twilight, the 35-year-old outfielder looks for all the world like someone who is ready to call it a day. This it what makes me truly appreciate the SSPC cards, a rogue set from the mid-1970s that was wholly unlike industry giant Topps. The full-color, close-cropped photos somehow exhibited more of a player's personality than Topps' awkward posed shots and often-blurry action pictures of the time. There was no brightly colored, boldly lettered design to distract the eye. The card backs featured the player's uniform number and a detailed biography not unlike the Score sets that came along more than a decade later.
The back of this card actually tells the reader that Northrup retired at the end of the 1974 season, and sums up his career with overall stats and a few highlights (including his grand slams in consecutive innings on June 24, 1968 and his .536 slugging percentage in that year's World Series). It's refreshing to see a solid and mostly unspectacular everyday player, one who topped out at 25 homers and 90 RBI and put up a 116 OPS+ over 12 seasons, get a little recognition for a job well done as he slips out of the active rolls of Major League ballplayers. It gives a real sense of the person beyond those rows of season-by-season numbers.