Back during the halcyon days of my childhood, I thoroughly inspected the front and back of every baseball card I added to the collection. The pictures, the stats, the cheesy cartoons Topps would sometimes place on the backs, the pithy summaries of the player’s career or some memorable game/season — none of this stuff escaped my attention. Of course, this was a lot easier to do back during a time where there were only three major sets during the year. In my adult years, I started paying far less attention to the backs. The primary reason for this is that as I got older, it started feeling like the manufacturers were treating the backs more and more like afterthoughts — especially as the proliferation of sets took off in the early-to-mid ’90s.
Over the past few months I’ve been trying to pay better attention to the backs of cards — especially when I pick up a vintage pre-World War II card in an effort to rebuild that part of my collection, which I had to sell off nearly in its entirety back in 2003-2004 (more on that in a future post). One of my more recent reacquisitions is the 1933 Goudey, Flint Rhem #136. He passed away in 1969, long before the era of pitch counts and five-man rotations, but I have a gut feeling if he had lived long enough to see them, he would hold the modern starting pitcher in contempt. Why? Well, the first two sentences on the back of this card say it all:
“Pitched no-hit, no-run game for a minor league club in 1924 as Manager Branch Rickey, of the Cardinals, sat in the stand. Had pitched the day before, but Ricky wanted to see him work, so was put in again.”
With a name like “Flint Rhem,” it’s not surprising that he went out there two days in a row. He sounds exactly like the type of old-timey player who would have gone out there a third day and just kept throwing until his right arm fell off. If he had lived into his 90s, he would’ve been in rocking chair on the front porch of a nursing home, telling anyone who would listen about how today’s pitchers were too coddled, his reminiscences of pitching a no-hitter on no rest, how he must have thrown over 300 pitches on those two days, how he could get on a mound today and strike out Steve Jeltz on three pitches, and that it was a travesty that Chuck Klein wasn’t inducted into the Hall of Fame until 1980.
Okay, one part of that last sentence is probably a stretch, but I’ll leave it to you to decide which part it is.