Jeff Jones and the 1981 Topps baseball card

At present, I am particularly excited by “bad taste.” I have the deep feeling that there exists in the very essence of bad taste a power capable of creating those things situated far beyond what is traditionally termed “The Work of Art.” I wish to play with human feeling, with its “morbidity” in a cold and ferocious manner. —Yves Klein

The 1981 Topps baseball card isn’t a particularly exciting visual affair. The most prominent feature of the card front is the ball cap that’s at the bottom of the card. Player photos have a color outline that gives way to a thin white border with the Topps logo placed in a small baseball in the right corner. Of course, it’s just a baseball card. Most people see them as worthless pieces of ephemera for children to collect, toss around, and discard. I always get a kick out of people who say, “well, where’s the art in that?” Despite the term “art” being static and self-appointed to each individual, I believe if you have an iota of intelligence and an active imagination, you can find art and emotion in almost ANYTHING.

***

There is nothing remarkable about this card from a baseball standpoint–considering the player represented had a rather unremarkable career–but what really struck me was the marvelous blue background; loosely reminding me of Yves Kleins’ painting “IKB 191.” (right) This color makes me feel a myriad of emotions– the lapis lazuli jogging memories of my own Catholic school upbringing and subsequent guilt and confusion because of this. I recall that the Virgin’s robes were almost always painted this color because of the brilliance of it, and the stone was also semi-precious making it a “must-have” for artists of the Renaissance and Baroque period as it represented wealth, splendor, and significance– ultimately and deceptively accruing more power and influence to the church.

***

Centuries ago, in my fourth-grade weekly mass, my pal David was feeling diabolical and dared me not to swallow the thin, wafer-like “Body of Christ,” but to keep it still in my mouth so we could satisfy our boyhood curiosity and inspect it when I returned to the pew. (What we expected to see is still a mystery) I eventually brought the specimen back only to drop the now mushy wafer on the ground because of haste and overall blood- rushing-to-the-brain nervousness. As always, a busy body ratted me out and the congregation was stopped as I was dragged to the front of the altar in front of 100’s before being berated by the priest in a back room about the divine significance of the savior’s body part (which one I wonder?) being dropped on a dusty floor. There was a closet full of priestly robes, and between thoughts of the robes being similar to Bruce Wayne’s closet and me getting my ass kicked by my parents, I was just simply red-faced embarrassed. To my astonishment, my parents were never informed of my derelict behavior and I emerged from the situation relatively unscathed. Ah, the life of a daydreamer and heathen!…by way of an aging man’s fading mind motivated by an inconsequential piece of cardboard.

4 thoughts on “Jeff Jones and the 1981 Topps baseball card

  1. Minoring In Baseball

    I love the 1981 set. I think this year is when I discovered baseball cards, and even though I don’t have too many from this year, the set still has a place in my heart. Still never understood the pink border on the Tigers cards, though…
    -Mike

    Reply
  2. Dean Heiser

    It sorta reminds me of that wavy, swavy, velvety purple I experienced so many times while tripping my balls off on some really good psychedelics.

    Reply

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