Friday, April 9, 2010

Airbrushed Fridays: 1989 Bowman #448

There is perhaps nothing more frustating to me in terms of baseball cards than cards that are larger than the modern standard size of 3 1/2 by 2 1/2 inches. I can handle smaller cards, and I'm even drawn to the tobacco sized minis that we see in current products. Oversized cards can and often do look awesome, but they're really frustrating to store. At this time, there's hardly any 1989 Bowman cards worth keeping (I think I sold or traded off my Griffey rookie card long ago) but I'm still left with a stack of these stashed in a half-filled box that also contains a long neglected Cubs mini batting helmet that I got from a Dairy Queen when I was a kid. Don't fret - I had no choice in the matter. But rather than deface the thing, I put it to good use: as a bookend prop for a set full of suck. If I had been a more enterprising child, I might have even shaved an eighth of an inch or so off of these cards to make them conform to my standards.

Andy Benes was a right-handed starting pitcher, college star, Olympian and one-time Major League All-Star (1993) who pitched in two separate post-All-Star stints with the Cardinals. He spent the majority of his career with the Padres, but came to the Cardinals for their playoff season (Tony La Russa's first) of 1996. He became a free agent after the 1997 season and was signed just moments after midnight - just past the free agent deadline. His contract was voided and I remember being very upset as Benes had become one of the strongest pieces in the Cardinals rotation at the time. He could have sat out the first month of the 1998 season before resigning with the Cardinals legitimately, but instead opted to play right away by signing a 2-year deal with the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks. This is when despicable agent Scott Boras first came on to my radar.

Why did Topps airbrush Andy's photo? The back of the card says it all. Andy was fresh out of college and had not yet pitched for the Padres or even in the farm system at the time of the set's release. He was on the 1988 Olympic team so he presumably got the rest of the summer off after being drafted by San Diego.

What's wrong with this picture, anyway? Topps/Bowman was clever and used a photo where Andy's cap was obscuring at least half of the logo, so they would only have to airbrush half of a logo. Unfortunately, half of an airbrushed logo is no less obvious than an entire airbrushed logo. Add in the wavy uniform pinstripes of an unsteady hand and the little button and you have an airbrushed winner.

(If you are interested in obtaining a card featured here, please send me an e-mail. If you have a card you would like to nominate for Airbrushed Fridays, please get in touch as well. I will require that I am able to see the card in person, either on loan or as a donation, so that I can examine the card and experience it in all its cruddiness.)