The Dock Ellis RC—and other vintage cards that pop (out)

1969 Topps, Dock Ellis

I just love the Dock Ellis rookie card. The photographer positioned his subject perfectly for this image: Ellis faces the camera directly with his throwing arm reaching towards the viewer—the pitcher’s almighty hand highlighted in a kind of extreme foreground’s foreground. The two-dimensional becomes almost three-dimensional. It’s really the only card of its kind in the 1969 Topps set. The somewhat similar Nolan Ryan, Bob Moose, & Barry Moore cards in that set come close, but they all fall just a little short of the Ellis effect. Clearly, the same photographer worked on many of these (or different photographers were contracted with similar Topps Photography 101 training). But Dock himself does some nice work here, too; he seems gleefully in the moment—and more so than most other players appear to be on photo day. Jocular, he “chews the scenery” and breaks the fourth wall. Of course this isn’t theatre or film, but baseball does have its share of drama.

1969 Topps, Nolan Ryan

[Silly Nolan: he forgot to throw (or hide) the ball.]

1969 Topps, Barry Moore

1969 Topps, Bob Moose

In any case, the 1969 Topps Ellis card also made me wonder about other vintage cards of pitchers (or hitters) that achieve this distinct pop-out look. I’m sure there must be plenty of great examples scattered throughout the bins, boxes, & binders of other cardboard curators. For now, here are some absolutely pristine specimens that I managed to find.


1967 Topps, Byron Browne

Stop, Byron! You only just won that nice little trophy! Now you’re trying to destroy it?!

1967 Topps, Chuck Estrada

1967 Topps, Hoyt Wilhelm

1967 Topps, Jack Baldschun

1967 Topps, Jim Barbieri

1968 Topps, Barry Moore

Here’s some Moore of Barry (yuck, yuck).

1968 Topps, Bob Veale

1968 Topps, Jack Aker

1968 Topps, Jack Hamilton

1968 Topps, Larry Jaster

1968 Topps, Mike Epstein

1968 Topps, Mike McCormick

1968 Topps, Tony Conigliaro

1968 Topps, TY Cline

1970 Topps, Fred Gladding

1970 Topps, Jerry Grote

1970 TOPPS, Reggie Jackson

1970 Topps, Ron Hansen

1970 Topps, Tommie Agee


Whooo, “Nancy” sure can throw—look at her go!

1970 Topps 195, TOM SEAVER

And if you catch that obscure reference, then you’re among the few and the privileged to have read one of the most delightfully jocular and lyrical baseball books ever written: Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball (1976), written by award-winning poet and genuine baseball aficionado Donald Hall. Leave it to Dock to informally refer to legendary pitcher Tom Seaver as “Nancy,” an eccentric and almost inexplicable nickname devised by none other than Ellis himself (201-202). As Hall strives to faithfully transcribe Dock’s commentary on Seaver’s mighty and masculine fastball, the passages read with an almost jarring hilarity–given the feminine pronouns that Ellis cheerfully employs: i.e. numerous appearances of “she” and “her.” Ellis relishes the games when they face off: “I hook up with her all the time. I ask to hook up with her. . . . I get more money beating the best.” A haphazard reader may well be forgiven for thinking Ellis is reminiscing about some casual transvestite acquaintance. What’s more:  Dock speaks of Seaver as “Nancy” with otherwise little hint of derision and largely awe and respect. Now that’s a feat.

Work Cited

Hall, Donald, and Dock Ellis. Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1976.