I will not do this often, but I feel like I need to do two cards today.
One card is one of the most famous and recognizable bad cards in history. The other is also wonderfully loopy and yet forgotten.
If these cards were Scorsese films then the first one is the one everyone knows. It would be GoodFellas or Raging Bull or The Departed or Taxi Driver.
The second card would be the ones known by the true fans, like Mean Streets, The King of Comedy or After Hours.
If these cards were Coen Brothers films, the first one would be Fargo, The Big Lebowski and No Country for Old Men. The second one would be Blood Simple, Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink or Inside Llewyn Davis.
I really don’t think I can be any clearer with my analogy.
The one on the left, the 1978 card, is a classic image of Topps airbrushing gone horrifically wrong. I remember seeing it as a 6 year old kid and thinking “What the fuck?”
I didn’t say that, because I was 6 and I wasn’t supposed to swear. But man I thought it.
Now I never saw Minton pitch or if I did I have no memory of him. I lived in New England. We didn’t see many Giants games in 1978. So here was a guy who basically looked like a painting. Even his glasses, his uniform and face looked fake.
Remember that I was accustomed to seeing poorly painted hats. It was the 1970’s. There were a lot of messed up stuff I thought was normal back then. But this was too far. In an era where KISS was being marketed to kids and leisure suits were prevalent, this picture of Moon Man Minton was over the line.
Even his God Damn Teeth looked fake!
But as the years go by, the card becomes even stranger. Usually a card is doctored like this because they were traded and they want to have the cap on the head to be up to date. However, Minton wasn’t traded. If the 1978 card is supposed to represent Greg Minton in 1977, then keep in mind he played 1977 as a San Francisco Giant.
OK, he was only in 2 games with the 1977 Giants, but it wasn’t like he was with another team.
And if nobody took a pic of him with the Giants in 1977, he also pitched for them in 1976 and 1975. So they had 3 years to take a snapshot of Moonman instead of, evidently, turning to Bob Ross to make this freaky painting.
Minton would pitch for the Giants over 13 different seasons and become an All Star reliever. In 1982, as the Giants made a surprising run for the NL West, he saved 30 while winning 10 and posting a 1.83 ERA over 123 innings, all in relief.
In 1987, the Giants released Minton. He wasn’t pitching badly but the front office had other plans. They worked because, after an overhaul of their pitching staff, the Giants won the NL West for the first time since 1971.
Minton found his way onto the Angels. And thus was born the Traded Series card of 1987. Now when players changed teams, Topps would include them in the Traded Series at the end of the season. These would be like an airlock between two seasons. While we crazy collectors waited for the next year’s cards to come out, we had these updates.
So clearly the card on the right was taken at the Giants spring training. And the artist needed to portray him as an Angel. So thankfully there was no need to paint his teeth.
But the Angels hat remained sloppy and other worldly. And he could not be seen wearing a button down jersey the way San Francisco wore them in 1987. The Angels had pullover uniforms. So the entire shirt needed to be repainted.
This created a different sort of bizarre image for Minton. Instead of the whole image looking phony, only the hat and uniform look surreal. In a way it is more jarring. At least with the 1978 image, EVERYTHING looks weird. The 1987 pic shows the contrast between airbrushing and a clear photograph in a more conflicting manner.
It is a fantastic bookend of Topps cards in Greg Minton’s life.
While the 1978 card was written about in places like Cardboard Gods, Baseball Card Bust, Topps Baseball Card Fanatic and Number 5 Type Collection, the 1987 Traded Topps card should not be neglected.
It is the forgotten masterpiece of a celebrated artist.