Today’s Pittsburgh Pirates Card of the Day comes from the iconic 1952 Topps set. It’s the first appearance in this set for Bobby Del Greco, who played out for the Pirates during the 1952 and 1956 seasons. While I haven’t gone overboard on the 1952 Topps set over the years, it’s a set I plan on eventually putting out an article on for every Pirates card. There are some players where it’s their only option for a card showing them on the Pirates. Del Greco isn’t too far off from that being true. He also appeared in the 1953 Topps set, as well as asterisk sets that were semi-popular reprints put out by Topps years later as a tribute to the 1952 and 1953 Topps sets. He did not have any cards for his second stint with the Pirates in 1956. Here’s a look at his rookie card, which is card #353 in the 407-card set.
Here’s the front of the card:
This card has something that immediately stood out to me, even though it’s something you should expect to see in the 1952 Topps set. See that patch on the sleeve of Del Greco? It’s a baseball inside a mitt, inside a diamond. There are two important things to know about that patch. It was worn in 1951 for the 75th anniversary of the National League. The glove in the photo should be red and the diamond should be white. It’s hard to tell by the scan if it’s right or not, but the seams on the ball should be red as well. There’s one thing to know about Del Greco that is important for that patch. He debuted with the Pirates (and in the majors) in 1952, so he wouldn’t be wearing that patch ever you would assume.
The Pirates actually brought Del Greco and some other prospects to Forbes Field at the end of the 1951 season to workout with the team. I don’t know if they actually gave them jerseys, but it is possible that this artwork was based off of an actual photo, and the only thing wrong is the colors of the patch. Sometimes you can match these pictures on cards up to the real photos, but I was unable to do that here.
I’ve mentioned it here before, but I’ll say again because it is really highlighted here. Topps had some trouble getting that great Pirates logo clear on the cards. If you lay out Pirates cards side-by-side, you’ll also see some color variations in the logo. It was their first year for a full set (they put out some 1951 cards, but 1952 took it to another level), so I can let the quality slide a little.
Here’s the back of the card:
The backs here have some nice bio info for each player because they only went with one year of stats. They used minor league stats in place of big league stats if they were unavailable, which is what you see here. They also included fielding stats in the early years of their sets. Fielding used to be a much bigger part of the game when the players were more contact oriented. I recently read a quote from Jimmie Foxx where he even downplayed the launch angle swing you see from everyone. He swung harder than most players, but he didn’t try to lift the ball, noting that it led him to more popups and strikeouts, trading off a lot of average for a few extra homers. If he hit it hard, it would go, that’s what he knew. He still led the league in strikeouts seven times, but he was a contact hitter by today’s standards. He just wasn’t a caveman at the plate.
I went on that tangent to show that even the power hitters knew what they were doing back then, so the baseball was getting put into play much more often than it does now, making defense much more important than it is now. Hence the inclusion of more defensive stats on cards back then compared to more recent years.
One final note here that is mandatory for 1952 Topps talk. They included eye and hair color for players, as seen on the top right.
This is a high number card in the 1952 Topps set, so it’s not easy to find compared to most cards we cover here. There are currently 12 completed auctions on Ebay over the last three months, ranging from $50 for a low grade filler, to $950 for one graded PSA 7. There are currently nine active auctions, most of which will stay active due to the price. They range from $150 for a low grade copy, to $1,430 for a PSA 6. I think you can see how that might be too much when you see the PSA 7 price. As a side note, you can find autographed copies of the Topps 1952 reprints for Del Greco, but there are no 1952 Topps cards signed by him for sale, or among the closed auctions.