1976 SSPC #145 - Lee Richard
There have been numerous posts this week about Bee Bee, so here's a great opportunity to revisit one of his little seen cards. By now, most everyone knows I'm a sucker for oddball cards, or underdog cards with an interesting history. The story of SSPC is pretty legendary around collecting circles.
SSPC was the one company to stand up to Topps in the middle of its dominance and actually release cards to the masses. The blow to Topps was that SSPC presented a decent alternative to the malaise that came over some of Topps' output during the mid-seventies. Sure, the Topps designs of the seventies are mostly classic now, but that wasn't necessarily the case when they came out.
If you've ever really studied Topps photography of the seventies, the colors seem muted, feature odd angles and can be of questionable quality. Part of the blame lies in the photos themselves and a small portion can be blamed on the card stock. I usually blame the glib way that the photos were chosen. The cards were still being presented as an afterthought. Only something to increase gum sales.
SSPC came along and put the focus on the cards themselves. They are riddled with errors on the back, but that's still something that Topps hadn't yet perfected either. The cards didn't feature much in the name of action, but it had clear, crisp photographs, which showed detail in the face of every player; something that Topps couldn't claim. The cards were produced on brighter stock, which only enhanced the photography.
Topps made three cards of Bee Bee. In 1972, Lee is shown in a side pose, with a nonchalant smile on his face. The card looks airbushed and is a fair representation of Richard. It's a little muddy looking, but you get the general idea of Bee Bee. in 1975, Lee looks a bit worried. He knows his time is short on the White Sox. The colors are washed out and it shows. In 1976, Bee Bee is shown in a batting pose. The photo is a little off-kilter and the background is slightly out of focus. Lee looks fed up. It's a decent card, but it could have been a lot better.
In contrast, Bee Bee's 1976 SSPC card shows him with a gigantic smile. The colors are bright. He's wearing a helmet, but doesn't seem buried in it, like in the 1972 Topps card. It's a revelation to see his face clearly. Glad to finally meet you Bee Bee! Topps never wanted me to see the real you.