Wednesday, July 22, 2009

1968 Topps Baseball Posters #5, Catfish Hunter

We're closing in on ten years since today's guest died suddenly after a stairway fall, perhaps related to his struggle with the neurological disorder ALS, more commonly called Lou Gehrig's disease. Like its namesake, Catfish Hunter later found home in the Hall of Fame, elected in 1987. Some contend he won "only" 224 games (67th all-time) and benefited from several years in a media-friendly city, but a total of 5 championship rings, 1 perfect game, and 8 All-Star appearances bulwark his place in Cooperstown. (This career path closely resembles other high-performance, short-career power pitchers like Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax.)

Poster front (blank back)

Speaking of enshrinement, Hunter's poster image shares one similarity with his HOF plaque--no cap insignia. A photo editor curiously wiped away Oakland's "A" on the hat, but left the uniform alone. (The middle crease proved hard to scan, so looks broken. It's all there in real life.) Not Topps' worst airbrush effort ever, but you can see it from here.

1968 Topps posters measure about 10" x 18" and sit between adjacent years both chronologically and sizewise.
  • 1967 Topps posters: 5" x 7" (single player)
  • 1968 Topps posters: ~10" x 18" (single player)
  • 1969 Topps posters: 12" x 20" (full team)

None of them are slouches, but 1969 marked Topps' "biggest" issue, short of an uncut sheet. Complete all 3 sets and you could nearly wallpaper a room. (I invite photos of anyone who's done this.)

UPDATE: Catfish as a hitter? Baseball-Reference's blog listed most hits in a season without extra-bases and Hunter appears not far down the list with 23 singles in 1972. Guess he didn't even have "warning track power."

Value: 1968s are hard to find today, especially relative to cards, being both lesser-printed and easier to damage. Expect to drop $10 - $20 for one in decent shape and more for superstars like Aaron, Mays, and Mantle.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any in the marketplace.

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