Monday, November 14, 2011

Something Wrong with the Eyes (‘50s Version)

John Singer Sergeant once said, “A portrait is a painting with something wrong with the mouth.”  Personally, I think he could just as easily have said, “A portrait is a painting with something wrong with the eyes.” 

And in the early days of baseball cards, there were a lot of things wrong with the eyes.  Back then, cards really were painted portraits, usually starting from touched-up photos.  Yup, that’s right.  Topps had one year (1953) and Bowman three (1950 to 1952) where every card started out as an original painting..

The result, unfortunately, is sometimes a muscular masher who looks like he’s wearing mascara, a pitcher who looks like he was painted by Picasso, or a slugger with a stare that could bore holes in steel plate.  So, without further ado, here’s looking at you, kid …

Alright, let’s start this thing out with a genuine Hall of Famer, Harold “Pee Wee” Reese.  I can readily recognize a lot of things in this portrait.  Those are definitely not his eyes though.  There’s something a little unusual about them, something a little eerie.  My God!  What have you done with him?  What have you done with Pee Wee!?

Here's another Reese oddity.  

Jim Busby was a long-time outfielder in the American League, as well as an alien from outer space.  Seriously, he wasn’t really that weird looking.  I’ve seen photographs!

Jim had a pretty steady career, getting over 500 at bats for six years in the ‘50s, mostly with the Senators.  I’m an old fan of the Nats (went to elementary school with one of their batboys), so Jim’s always been on my radar.  His main claims to fame are an All Star nomination and a lifetime .988 fielding average (16 errors in 3394 chances).

I really wanted to save this guy for my entry on funny names.  You wouldn’t know it from this card, but ol’ George here has one of the greatest monikers in baseball history.  Yup, this is indeed the famous Catfish Metkovich.

But those eyes are just too much.  They’re like too beady little pieces of coal, staring right at me.  They seem to pierce into my very soul.  There’s nowhere to hide!  My God, make it stop!

Plus, one seems to be a little higher than the other, you know what I mean?

It’s a little known fact, but back in the early ‘50s, things were a little rough for Pablo Picasso.  He supplemented his more artistic work with the occasional commercial gig – magazine ads, a little packaging, greeting cards …  Then this guy from this American company contacted him for a slew of little portraits of guys in hats.  That one really didn’t pan out though.  He did the one, got paid for it, but they never called back.  Not exactly sure why.

Another Ted right here.


You are getting sleepy, Murray, very sleepy.  Your eyelids are getting heavier and heavier.  Soon you will be under my control … 

Murray Wall put together 4 years in the major – but over a span of 10 calendar years.  His first year was with Boston in the NL in ’51, and his second was with Boston in the AL in ’57. 

And all through the power of hypnotism!

“Stu?  Have you seen my makeup?  Honey?  I left it on the counter just a minute ago.  Do you know where it went?”

“Oh my God, Stu!  What did you do?  Is that my makeup?  Stu, honey!  Oh my God!”  [wrenching sobs]

Stu Miller actually put together quite a decent career, moving from starter to closer over a span of 16 years.  As a starter, he led his league in ERA; as a closer, he led his league in saves twice.

I have no idea if he liked to put on women’s makeup.

* - author has this card


  1. George Metkovich reminds me of the villain Hood from the Thunderbirds TV series!

  2. Had to look that one up but, God, you're right. Maybe I should give those two a spot on Separated at Birth:

  3. Pee Wee Reese has the look of an early-issue Fonzie, from "Happy Days".