Before I kick off the '54 cartoons, I feel the need - nay - the obligation to inform you all that the funniest photograph that has ever or will ever be committed to film (or pixels, as the case may be) has already been taken and it's this one right here.
Human shutterbugs shall never surpass this masterpiece of comedy. Perhaps a strange alien race far away in a distant galaxy has snapped a more hilarious photo, but to those far out space nuts, I say: PICS OR GTFO. This right here is as far as humankind will ever progress in the photographic medium. I found this in this little insane corner of the interwebs and I am a much happier person today because of it.
Ok, onto the 'toons.
Comics in 1954 are much different from the ones in '53. The take up just as much if not a little more square inchage on the back of the card, but it is now in a comic strip form spread out over the bottom of the card. 1953 toons are simple and straightforward like Toothpaste For Dinner, the '54s are more complex and nuanced like Chainsawsuit. I'm hoping and praying that Topps' real "Game Changer" for 2012 is that they hired Winston Rountree to do the cartoons for the back. Each card would probably have to be 10" by 14" to fit in all the words, but it would be totally worth it. But I digress. In exchange for the Dugout Quiz* we now have Inside Baseball. Each toon is a two or three panel comic with an anecdote about the player on the card. They are all done pretty well, although they aren't as cartoony or funny as some of the '53s due to the subject matter.
It took me a while to find the right toons to post. Thanks to the flip flop back orientation of the '54 set, trying to read all the cartoons while flipping my binder upside down and back side up every 5 seconds was not easy. Reading tiny black text on a green background with my worthless eyesight wasn't fun either. There were also too many good stories in there, I had my binder half dismantled before I finally settled on 19 cartoons, which eventually got whittled down to a top 7. Aaaaaand of course, I just had to add in a couple of honorable mentions with similar but opposite themes.
Here's the rookie card of Philly hurler Tom Qualters.
In high school, Tom dreamed of playing for the Phils!
But the Phil's scout saw Tom at his worst!
But there was a reason - Tom was just getting over the flu! The Phils knew this and gave him a contract!
A heartwarming story, eh? Kid blows his big break but the scout sees something no one else does and signs him anyway? Pixar should pick up this story for their next picture, right? Well, check the back of the card. The Phillies threw 50 Grand at the kid when he was 18. He pitched in one game in 1953. See the ERA? Wonder why it's blank? That's not because it's an error, it's because Topps couldn't fit a 162.00 ERA in the box. Ok, so the kid got shelled in his first outing, he can still pitch and he'll get some seasoning in the minors and be right back up after his cuppa coffee. NOPE. Philly let Tom rot on the bench for TWO WHOLE YEARS. He pitched one game in '53, none in '54 and finally got sent to the Carolina League in '55. While his development was being stunted, Tom also gained the nickname "Moneybags" from his teammates. Worst of all, after Philly gave up on him and he went to the White Sox, just as he started to come into his own as a relief pitcher, he hurt his arm and his career was kaputt. Does Pixar do tragedies?
You knew I had to sneak a Brave onto the list somewhere.
Del became a catcher by a strange trick of fate.
He was last on line when equipment was handed out in school. Del got the catcher's mitt. That started his career.
Three exclamation points for Tom, none for Del. The rookie hype is not a recent phenomenon. While Tom was a burner striking out batters right and left in high school, Del was apparently a slacker who showed up late to practice one day and ended up with the Tools of Ignorance because no one else wanted them. While Tom's career didn't pan out, Del ended up being arguably the best catcher in Braves franchise history up until some kid named Brian showed up a few years ago. Rookie of the Year runner up, 11 time All-Star, four Gold Gloves and actually had a decent stick at the plate. All because he was last in line.
*True story: on highway 41, there was a bait shop called The Dougout that had a big billboard that I would frequently pass on my travels. The shop is closed but the billboard is still there. And now whenever I try to type the word "Dugout" it comes out as "Dougout" every single time.