Big League Stew - MLB

Crossing Broad, a Philly sports blog  deserves major kudos for being the first to publish an image of this Topps baseball card.

It's of Seattle Mariners left-hander Cliff Lee(notes).

Topps cards, as many collectors would tell you, is notable throughout history for at least two kinds of oddities.

One, cheek-slicing gum inserts. Two, they have airbrushed more folks than Hugh Hefner.

Airbrushing technology was fairly lame 30 years ago when baseball cards would be altered to reflect a trade or another move of some kind. These days, with Photoshop and Illustrator and whatever else the whiz kids are using, one can pretty much take a photo of a common street urchin and transform the lad's image into that of an All-Star.

Take this Lee card, for example. He's not really pitching for the Mariners in the shot, no matter what the card says. This pic was taken a season ago when he still pitched for the Phillies.

How can you tell it's photographic sleight of hand? Other than the 2010 season not having started yet, Lee's cap seems a bit "off"; Mariners blue is a little deeper and not so fuzzy.

But that's not the big giveaway.

See the black circle with the white letters next to Lee's armpit?

It reads "HK" — the memorial patch worn last season by the Phillies for their legendary game caller, Harry Kalas. Philly sports fans don't miss a darn thing apart from their beloved broadcaster and this wasn't about to slip by.

Good ol' Topps. This never would have happened if Fleer and Donruss were still in business! (Diamond Kings 4ever!)

* * *

By request, here's Akinori Iwamura's(notes) Topps card. Aki used to play for the Rays — perhaps you notice the synthetic turf of Tropicana Field! Would the Pirates REALLY wear black tops on Opening Day AND replace the grass at PNC Park? Doubtful.

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