I’m just going to go come out and say it: this card is a total mess. First, there’s a quality issue; it’s as if it’s a photo of a photo. And then there’s the strange, circular crop job at the top. I’ve spent hours pondering why it’s like this, trying to figure out a reason but I can’t. What makes it even stranger is that O-Pee-Chee used the exact same photo in his 1976-77 card without the black spot. So who knows. Also, there’s the usual airbrushing of his jersey. I particularly enjoy how the front trimming has been painted white but it remains yellow (from the old Seals jersey) on the inside by the nape of his neck. At least with Merrick’s they got the collar and shoulders right. Poor Bob. Even his smile is bad, reminiscent of a child’s third-grade school picture, taken right after gym class.
I’ve always wondered why some of the 77-78 cards used a all caps and a different font for the names on the back. Again, Merrick for reference.
I’ve been working on this project, of scanning and posting each Cleveland Barons card from the 1977-78 O-Pee-Chee set, since about the start of this blog over a year ago. Aside from the single card or two, the 1977-78 set is the only one to feature players in a Barons sweater, so I thought it’d be an interesting idea to post all of them in one place. Unfortunately, I used up all the historical anecdotes about the franchise (and all my jokes about the city of Cleveland) in the first few posts so the project stalled. But I’m recommitting to it, so if you like, you can follow it by using the tag “Barons“.
Greg Smith was drafted by the Seals and moved to Cleveland along with the franchise in 1976. He played with the Barons for both their seasons. His rights were protected when the club merged with the North Stars and the extra players were dispersed in a draft. He stayed in Minnesota for three seasons and remained in the NHL until 1988, being one of the last remaining Barons (and Seals) to retire. Dennis Maruk is the answer to that trivia question–having lasted one more year. More on him another time.
The Cleveland Barons didn’t actually play in Cleveland. They played in Ridgefield, Ohio, an hour away, at the Ridgefield Coliseum. The Coliseum was the largest arena in the NHL, sitting 18,544 but the Barons routinely drew less. I don’t think Topps/O-Pee-Chee’s photographers ever made it out there, except for this team card. I like the logo on the ice in front, though it looks like they could have ran the Zamboni over it one more time. Also, I’m curious to way the team chose to line up perpendicular to the logo’s bottom rather than above it.
The Ridgefield Coliseum didn’t see many wins. I can’t find the exact number but the Barons only won a total of 47 in their entire existence.
And we’re back.
I have a few posts planned for the upcoming weeks, one on an oversized baseball set, a vending box I picked up, and–most importantly–the worst/greatest set of junk wax hockey. But first: more Barons.
Ralph Klassen had a forgettable NHL career but his 1977-78 O-Pee-Chee card is one of my favorite in the set. It’s a great action shot–he’s helmetless, racing around the boards at the old Boston Garden chased by Rick Middleton. There’s a great shot of the Barons’ away sweater and there’s a clear view of their sleeve numbers which are outlined in the state of Ohio. I wish the Blue Jackets had incorporated this into their jerseys. Speaking of the Bruins, I prefer these old jerseys as well, they’re much heavier on the gold. The new whites are too monochromatic looking.
Back to the Barons. The same outline appears in the logo around the scripted ‘B’. Which brings me to my second favorite card in the ’77-’78 set:
Even by defunct teams standards, the Cleveland Barons are obscure. The California Golden Seals relocated to Cleveland after the 1975-1976 season due to poor attendance. The Barons played in the NHL for two seasons, 1976-1977 and 1977-1978, almost going bankrupt multiple times before merging with the Minnesota North Stars. Then, in 1991, the NHL essentially undid the merger by splitting the North Stars with a portion of the team starting anew in San Jose as the Sharks.
Because of this, there are a limited number of Barons cards. There’s a handful of 1976-77 O-Pee-Chee cards featuring players in Seals uniforms with the Baron’s name and logo on the top, while others still say Seals. By the 1978-79 set, any photos featuring Barons jerseys got the awful airbrush job. So the only true Barons cards appear in the 1977-78 set.
This is Wayne Merrick’s only Barons card. His 1976-77 was one of the many that still featured the Seals name and logo. He scored a career high 32 goals that year splitting time in St. Louis and Oakland. After that, his numbers waned considerably. Though he had a 56 point season in the Barons first season, his plus/minus was a -21. He played 18 more games for the team in 1977 before getting traded to the Islanders and winning four straight Stanley Cups while his former team dissolved.