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Digital Subscriptions > Vintage Collector > Feb/Mar 2019 > PURE FUN


Players mugging for the camera, images of the game rarely seen, no frills design focused on the player. And even Harmon Killebrew as a Royal! The mid-70s SSPC “pure card” set had it all…except licensing.
Cliff Johnson #51
SSPC snapped this image of Fred Lynn during his ROY campaign in 1975.

It’s the summer of 1976. You have just pulled your fifth copy of Topps’ Cliff Johnson card.

As the saying went in the 1970s: “This is the pits.” A list of frustrations for a 10-year-old boy raised during that decade may include supper without dessert, an abbreviated recess period or a trip to the shoe store, but nothing could draw such exasperation from a youngster’s lips quite like pulling dupes when Topps was the only game in town.

If only there was another card of Cliff Johnson, something else to look at besides Johnson’s glum mug turned to the side on his Topps card. There was such a card.

It shows Johnson with essentially the same look on his face. But he’s staring directly at the camera, almost daring the photographer. It’s bad-ass. He wears a helmet, not a cap, and props a bat on his right shoulder, the batting cage within view. On either edge of the photograph are two numbers, one on his bat and one on his left shoulder. The number 6 on Johnson’s bat is his uniform number. The No. 40 on Johnson’s shoulder is in memoriam of Astros pitcher Don Wilson, who had died unexpectedly in January 1975.

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