Thursday, January 28, 2016

1969 Topps Deckle Joe Morgan

Houston Astros CTNW Favorites #4

Joe Morgan was one of early stars of the Houston Astros and to this day fans are bemoaning his trade as the worst in Astros history, perhaps baseball history. But hindsight is 20/20.

This was an eight player trade. The Astros gave up Morgan who hit .256 in 1971, first baseman Denis Menke and his .246 batting average, back-up outfielder Cesar Geronimo who hit .220 in limitedplay, pitcher Jack Billingham who went 10-16 in 1971 and a minor leaguer, Ed Armbrister.

In exchange they got second baseman Tommy Helms who was 2 years older and not a stolen base threat like Morgan, However he was coming off his 2nd consecutive Gold Glove year and had a similar .258 batting average. They got Lee May who was an all star in 1971 and had hit 38, 34 and 39 homers in 1969, '70 and '71 respectively. They also got Jimmy Stewart who was a career .306 hitting pinch-hitter and utility man. On paper it looked like a fairly even trade. At the time...

After the trade Billingham had back-to-back 19 win seasons in 1973 and '74. Geronimo became a Gold Glove center fielder and turned his .228 career batting average with the Astros into a respectable .261 with the Reds. And we all know what became of Morgan. In Houston, Stewart was released after the 1973 season. May's numbers declined and he was traded to Baltimore after the 1974 season. Helms lasted the longest. He was traded to the Pirates after the 1975 season for Art Howe.

Since Morgan was one of the bright spots of the early Astros teams, I had to dip into the insert sets to find a Card That Never Was for him. The 1969 Deckle set was a favorite of mine and of Topps, too. They revisited it in 1974 and most recently in the Archive sets from both 2012 and 2014. Topps did actually make a Deckle Edge card of Morgan inserted into the 2012 Archives set. But as you can see the photo they used is not from the 1969 era. It is clearly from his return to the Astros in 1980.

In the comment section, Brett brought up a good point. I called out Topps for using a photo from the wrong era, but my photo would not have been used by Topps in 1969 either. That is not unintended. I try to keep the photos historically accurate (or close to it) but I also want to make the cards look the way I would have wanted them. (Right under the title of this blog it says "What cards would look like if I had my way.")  Topps used all posed photos in the original 1969 Deckle set. But even Topps went to candid or "action" shots when using the design in their Archive sets.

Realistically, Topps would have used a photo like I posted below.  Due to a trademark dispute by Monsanto, in 1968 and the first 3 series of 1969 the word "Astros" didn't exist on Topps products, nor did any Astros logos. So most likely if Topps had made a card for Morgan it would have been a head and shoulders shot of him in his away uniform (Houston on front rather than Astros). It would also have had either no hat like Morgan's 1969 base card or an airbrushed hat like Rusty Staub and Jim Wynn had on their Deckle Edged cards.

 So if I wanted to make a card like Topps would have in 1969, I think it would look more like this. I didn't know how to include a picture into the comment section so here it is:


  1. It bugs me to no end when they do a card like this and don't get the photo right!

  2. Great looking card! I too am a deckle fan and thinking of putting together the 1969 set.

  3. Very nice card. I don't think any of the actual cards in the set are candids, so it's a touch anachronistic, but I think it works. Certainly better than the Topps Archives version!

    1. Brett, you are correct. See my complete reply in the updated portion of this post. Thanks for your nice comments.