Wednesday, March 20, 2013

1999 Upper Deck Century Legends & 1992 Front Row Hank Aaron Baseball #5, Portrait/Swing

Let's look at some Hammerin' Hank cards to mark my blog's 755th post, one of baseball's transcendent numbers. Aaron's inseparable from 755 and Ruth has 714. I wonder if future generations will similarly remember Barry Bonds for 762. You know, the home run record? I had to look up how many he hit, so maybe not. (Would've guessed 765.)

Hank hit #755 off California's Dick Drago on July 20, 1976, adding cushion to Milwaukee's 6-2 win. He played sparingly in August and September that season without adding another homer, but collected his last hit, an RBI single, in his last game (Oct 3).

Aaron drew 35 walks and knocked in 35 runs in 1976, his 23rd and final season. He managed at least as many BBs as RBIs three times, all after the age of 38, showing that Hank's eye stayed sharp even as that iconic swing lost its power.

This hybrid swing and portrait is not the most attactive baseball card you'll see today. 1992 Front Row's known for some big rookies in its 100-card Draft Picks series (full checklist), particularly Derek Jeter, but ran several subsets of vintage players that included Hank Aaron the same year. Sorry, but those fonts and logos haven't aged well.

1992 Front Row Draft Picks (Gold Foil) #55, Derek Jeter

In March 2013, Topps locked up the exclusive right to print MLB-licensed cards through 2020, a stark contrast to the wide-open field of companies trying to print cash for themselves in the early 1990s. As much as I bristle at the thought of a card "monopoly," Front Row's fast-break approach to design (and accompanying over-production) says something valuable about making companies put real work into their stuff. At least this #5 picked an interesting HOF induction speech excerpt for Aaron's back text.

The "former teammate Roy Campanella" line caught my attention, but they mean Jackie and Roy here, not Hank and Roy, as Campy was winning MVPs in Brooklyn by the time Aaron reached pro ball in 1952 (minor league stats).

On Twitter? You can follow The Hammer: @HenryLouisAaron.

Value: HOF or not, you should be able to find these #5s for $1 or less. Check Out My Cards offers several for around 50 cents.

Fakes / reprints: I assume that Jeter card's been faked or reprinted several times, but the Aaron cards are probably safe from counterfeiting, thanks to early 90s overproduction.

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