#CardCorner: 1991 Topps Mariano Duncan
Hall of Fame staffers are also baseball fans and love to share their stories. Here is a fan's perspective from Cooperstown.
There is so much happening on Mariano Duncan’s 1991 Topps card that it’s difficult to know where to begin. I suppose we could start with the perfect timing of the photograph, which captures Duncan right in the middle of his leap, as he avoids a takeout slide at second base. The player who is sliding into second base is none other than Ozzie Smith, making this one of those rare cards where the “background” player is actually far more famous than the featured player. (For other examples of this, see Reggie Smith’s 1983 Topps card (which features a cameo by Ryne Sandberg) or John Ellis’ 1972 Topps card (where Harmon Killebrew occupies as much space as Ellis himself).
As much as the action photography and the presence of a Hall of Famer dominate the card, there’s also an oddity at work here. Notice that both Duncan and Smith are wearing red jerseys, even though they are clearly playing for opposing teams. This almost certainly would not be allowed in a regular season game, because of the confusion that would be created for fans, particularly for those watching from a good distance away. If it’s not a regular season game - and I’m almost certain it isn’t - then it must be from a Spring Training game played in Florida. Photographs from spring exhibition games are certainly not unusual on Topps cards, but they are rarer than regular season game photographs or even posed shots from the sidelines taken before games.
Still, there’s even more going on with this unusual card. Let’s take a closer look at the figure of Duncan. There seems to be a small black line outlining the back side of his jersey. It doesn’t look quite right. It almost appears as if a separate photo of Duncan is being superimposed onto a photograph of Smith. I’m not sure why Topps would do that, but it has the effect of a “green screen” technology that is used in Hollywood. It doesn’t quite look natural; if anything, it creates a surreal effect of Duncan being superimposed onto the outfield wall. It’s a little strange, to say the least, and only makes an intriguing card all the more curious.