Saturday, February 9, 2019

Sorry, Ump, this might hurt a little

So the other day I was happily ripping some 2017 Series Two. Why was I ripping packs of 1.5 year old baseball cards? Too much time away from home, sigh.

It was a very enjoyable rip; it is fairly rare that I feel like I have sufficient financial liquidity to splurge on an actual Hobby Box of baseball cards, but I did that summer. Then I probably promptly disappeared back into living and working in a county without any stoplights. I like those, although they don't usually have baseball cards. Maybe this year I will luck into being in and around such country but still be within striking distance of a Walgreens, we'll see...

I did set aside some fun cards to share with you. But I also found a card that ties in with a subject I have written about a few times on this blog, including just recently: what is going on with the Umpires on the baseball cards?

This is a fun card all the way around. I hear it saying "Everybody Watch Now" before a music bed kicks off where other people hear "Everybody Dance Now." I vaguely remembered it from 2017 Opening Day, but when Opening Day is appearing in my grocery bags, I am generally working all 8 days a week, till dark:30, usually.

I first considered Umpires on cards after receiving a great 1992 Topps card sadly demoted to packing material.

That post in turn helpfully lead to an even more revealing post on Night Owl's blog, a full decade ago. I definitely recommend checking out that one. 

Now you have probably noticed the feature I noticed on this nice Hanley Ramirez card. I have been looking forward to scanning it - Topps can't hide much from a high resolution digital scanner. First, I wanted to see the Catcher:

Though I thought a scanner could figure it out, that is either Russell Martin, or Josh Thole, I can't conclude a positive ID here. But I can confirm it is a regular human being baseball player.

Here is the Umpire standing next to him:

Have you always thought certain Umpires were so terrible as to be not quite human? Maybe here is your proof, complete with a poorly done paste of the original image now with a bonus not-matching halo, though that is difficult to discern, in-hand. Until you see it, and then you can't un-see it.

This card does definitively answer something I was trying to figure out on a 2018 Update card just recently - was the Umpire deliberately blurred when Topps created the card? Ironically, on the card in that post, I couldn't decide for sure - but I could still figure out which actual Umpire it was, even before I just asked Getty Images to spill the beans for me.

Doing that for this card quickly leads to this image:
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 2: Hanley Ramirez #13 of the Boston Red Sox watches his solo home run during the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park on October 2, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

I'm not going to get into cutting out a blow-up of the Umpire's face from the Gagnon photograph; I don't have a license to do anything at all with photographs and the Internet.

But clearly, finally, to me, Topps doesn't have one for displaying the Umpires on the cards, either.

And that is too bad, really. I am not sure how much the Umpire Union wants to extort from Topps in case one of their faces appears on a baseball card, but the whole question just seems so, so - pointless? Petty?

Now I know Topps and Michael Eisner and Rob Manfred and Tony Clark and the head of the Ump Union, whoever that is, routinely hang on my every word here, every day, so I hope they will take my simple suggestion to heart - how about if Topps makes a small donation every year to the Retired Umpire fund, or the Minor League Umpire Emergency Tragedy Fund?

And then we could have a few more epic baseball cards in every set, when the photographer just happened to also catch an Umpire's face - and without Topps having to go to this extra effort to make sure they don't accidentally let us identify one of the ever mysterious Umpires that are so critical for us to enjoy a baseball game now and again.

Because otherwise, I have to wonder how often Topps just passes on photos that require this extra compositional effort, or simply isolate a player's torso from an otherwise interesting action shot, rather than do this silly looking Umpire erasing trick?

I did find another amusing Umpire card in 2017 Series Two, that required no extra effort from Topps, which just luckily obscures the Ump's face.

It also includes what looks to be a mysterious lurker visitor from the Boston Red Sox, perhaps, in the Oakland A's dug-out, who is blowing a bubble. But you just might have to blow this one up on a scanner, yourself...

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