Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

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.

6 comments:

MattR said...

Wow -- I hadn't seen that card before. The thumbnail picture didn't have a lot of detail so at first I thought it was a picture of an older lady in an Orioles uniform. The second thought I had was that Don Sutton started announcing for the Orioles.

drew said...

Matt beat me to the punch. My immediate first thought: Don Sutton never played for the O's.

night owl said...

The more I see of this set, the more I like it -- and it's all because of photos like this.

Dean Family said...

I was at a card show once with Northrup signing. The guy ahead of me had this card. Northrup started laughing and said he thought all of these cards were destroyed. When he was told no, he kiddingly said he would find them all and burn them.

jacobmrley said...

ahhhh, the mid 70's - when it seems all player photos were taken at shea stadium...

Kevin said...

Matt - Yeah, it's almost as unflattering as Steve Trout's 1986 Topps card.

Drew - I wonder if there have been any other players with curly gray hair in MLB history?

night owl - I got the Orioles team set from an eBay store for a few dollars, and it was well worth it.

Dean Family - Thanks for the anecdote! It's rare that a player is so moved by his cardboard image that he feels the need to talk about it.

Max - Yeah, that Yankee Stadium renovation must have sent the photogs scrambling...