Monday, April 2, 2012

April Fools from 1973 Topps: Del Unser and Willie Horton

Sift through your vintage cards and the darndest things pop out. For example, here's a normal-looking Del Unser, sporting Cleveland's cherry-flavored batting helmet from the early 1970s.

1973 Topps #247, Del Unser (front)

Unser played great defense for most of his 15-year career and stuck around as a pinch-hit specialist long enough to be part of Philly's first title in 1980. He owns the off-field distinctions of being traded by Texas during the 1971-72 off-season, before they ever played a game as the Rangers, and then swapped for collector favorite Oscar Gamble prior to 1973.

Nothing unusual about finding Unser's card in my trading box, right? Well, that's until you turn him over.

1973 Topps #433, Willie Horton (back)

The April Fools joke must be on me, because that's a Willie Horton back, stats and all. I nicked the scan from COMC to save time, but the real Unser/Horton card's on my desk.

Willie Horton with his statue in Detroit

It's doubly surprising to find these guys sharing cardboard, given that Del and Willie come from different series in the 1973 set, which Topps printed, packaged, and sold separately. Putting both on flip sides of the same card probably meant an error at the printer and it's anyone's best guess what time of year it hit the market.

Del Unser trivia: First player to hit 3 consecutive pinch-homers. Box scores: June 30, July 5, and July 10, 1979.

Willie Horton trivia: Horton wore the same batting helmet throughout his career, repainting it as he switched teams.

I've seen a few other wrong-backed early-70s cards online, but they're more common in the all-at-once sets printed from 1974 on. Any other collectors out there have a favorite mismatched front/back combo?


Anonymous said...

How many less deserving retired numbers are there than Willie Horton. Just on the Tigers I'd say that:
1 Lou Whitaker
3 Alan Trammel
11 Bill Freehan (retired for Sparky)
16 Jim Bunning
23 Kirk Gibson
25 Norm Cash
45 Cecil Fielder

are all vastly more deserving. I'm not saying that there should be statues of all of these guys, just that they would have a lot more facts and stats to fill the plaques on these guys.

Matthew Glidden said...

Agreed that Horton is a debatable choice for Detroit to retire and honor with a statue. I've got a soft spot for the guy as one of the first power hitters for Seattle, my boyhood team, but it'd be a lot like the Mariners making a statue for John Olerud because he's a hometown guy who played during the team's strongest era.