In a delightful on-line photo essay found on B/R Bleacher Report website, writer Avl Wolfman-Arent offers us a look at his personal choices for the fifty worst baseball card photographs ever printed.
Not a bad selection it must be admitted. But with all due respect to Rex Hudler (or is that actually Rex “Hugler”) none of the selections seem in my book to match the classic 1958 Topps cardboard gem featuring fifties-era journeyman outfielder Bob Cerv.
Now this card is a double winner – the worst ball card photograph and the worst airbrushing effort ever put before an uncritical public. Authors Brendan Boyd and Fred Harris were absolutely on track when they penned the following description in their memorable tome entitled The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book (1973):
No, Bob Cerv is not trying to knock himself unconscious with a fungo bat. And that is not a blue felt gravy boat he is wearing either. Every player is required to have two pictures taken of him for his baseball card. One with, and one without, a baseball cap. Just in case, God forbid, he should be traded. This accounts for Bob Cerv’s subtly counterfeited head gear in this picture, although it in no way accounts for his Yankee uniform. Don’t laugh. Somebody had to take five years of John Gnagy art lessons to learn how to do air brushing like that.
And just to show that Bob Cerv made a career out of awkward poses for poorly designed cardboard images, take a gander at this earlier Bowman masterpiece. What is the world is going on with that two finger hand signal? Is Bob calling “time out” to the photographer? Is he practicing his prearranged motion to Casey Stengel in the Yankee dugout (“Hey Casey, get me out of the batter’s box before I injury myself!”). Or is he practicing his clever imitation of Babe Ruth’s famed called shot in the 1932 World Series (“Watch me now, I’m going to lash the next two pitches foul – right over there into the first base dugout.”)
And one more thing should be mentioned. I have the strong suspicion that Rex Hudler (aka “Hugler”) was actually trying to be cute and put us all on. After all, Huddler’s whole big league career seemed more of a put-on than any kind of serious athletic effort. But I don’t think that was ever the case with Bob Cerv. The Yankee and A’s slugger was simply the victim of a contingent of bad designers then under the employ of the Topps Company – just as for more than a full decade he was a repeated victim of almost every American League pitcher.