I’ve never really been sure why they did it. Until the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, it was pretty common practice for card manufacturers to airbrush images of players who had switched teams since their most recent photos.
Touching up cards was not restricted to one company, but Topps (and Canadian sister company O-Pee-Chee) certainly made their airbrushing the most obvious, primarily because they did a terrible job of it.
I, for one, always wondered why everyone didn’t adopt the practice of putting simple text of “Now with (new team)” or “Traded to (new team)” on the photo instead of making the card look so ridiculous by airbrushing. There was absolutely no way that anyone would have thought the airbrushed photos were real and unedited. Hell, put the new team’s logo on the card if you want to, but don’t make the player’s photo look like a cartoon.
However, the fact that there are so many poorly airbrushed cards out there has led me to create this new category: Amazing Airbrushing. It is here that I will help the world chronicle the wonders that exist in the world of altered photos on sports cards. You’re welcome.
Leading us off in the Amazing Airbrushing category: A couple of classics from one of my favourite all-time hockey sets.
1989-90 O-Pee-Chee Hockey - Chris Kotsopoulos
1989-90 O-Pee-Chee Hockey – Chris Kotsopoulos.
Background: Kotsopoulos had played the previous four seasons in the blue and white of Toronto, and actually only ended up wearing the real Red Wings uniform twice, so there is a chance that this is actually one of the best pictures of Chris in a Detroit jersey.
Why this airbrush job is amazing: 1.) The attempt at arena lights glare on the red helmet. 2.) Airbrush + Mustache = Twofer.
1989-90 O-Pee-Chee Hockey - Larry Robinson
1989-90 O-Pee-Chee Hockey – Larry Robinson
Background: Robinson, clearly a future Hall of Famer by 1989, had played his entire career in Montreal, and was moving to Los Angeles to join Wayne Gretzky for the 1989-90 season.
Why this airbrush job is amazing: 1.) Heavily overshaded white home jersey, 2.) Wavy logo, I believe in a poor attempt to make it fit in with the jersey, 3.) Another mustache – but this is a Hall of Fame mustache. Boom.