I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan of many of the vintage Topps sets. '55 and '56 are amazing. Don't get me wrong. It's just that many of the later '60s sets lacked luster--all crew-cropped head shots and grainy photos. Call me a blaspemor to doubt early Topps' mightiness, but I'll take vintage Bowman any day. And I think it's that they opted for art and action rather than photo portraits.
Anyway, all this is leading up to some subsets I really dig from Topps' sets venturing into photography. And here's the best example from this subset:
Topps makes their vintage set even more vintage by making the Baseball Thrills subset into art cards. Really, 1959 is one of the better vintage photo sets, in my opinion, but these cards are a highlight. And perhaps this isn't the most action-packed picture, but there's something really nice about getting the full layout of what's going on at the plate. There's Kaline, of course, but we also get the catcher, and then the rarely-featured umpire. All the ducks lined up in a row. Sure, maybe there are more exciting BT cards, but this one's great.
I like the way the backs of these cards are designed, too, mimicking a newspaper article, and still all full of stats like a good back side of cardboard should be.
And I couldn't forget about Fence Busters.
This is a time where Topps' ventures into photography was really working. It's the grouping of heroes that really makes this, something like a Braves Justice League. And the candid style gives this shot a sense of story, makes you think about how cool it would be to be in earshot of this conversation. Of course Hank is the draw here, but I kind of like how he's worked into the foreground, letting these other guys take the front. This shot also makes Hank seem extermely short. He was indeed shorter than these other guys, despite his towering career. But Joe is really only four inches taller than Bad-Ass Henry.
My favorite part of the back of this card is the border of the Topps cartoon guy with his weirdly tiny feet. Have we decided on a name for this guy? How about Artie McWeefoot?
Somewhere along the way, Topps dropped these subsets in favor of league leader cards, which are nice and all, and a good excuse to include more cards of all-stars within a set, but they just don't have the character of these cards.