Tuesday, April 8, 2014

1953 Bowman b/w Jackie Robinson custom

While I have created more than 125 custom baseball cards in classic formats from 1912 tobacco cards through 1990 Topps, I had not previously undertaken anything in similitude of the iconic 1953 Bowmans.

To avoid embarrassing myself as a custom card creator I'd want to have a photo that echoed the quality of those original Kodachromes. And frankly, I haven't seen a lot of those for players who aren't already in the set.

One of the most important players of 1953 who didn't make the Bowman checklist was Jackie Robinson.
After appearing with Bowman in 1949 and 1950, Jackie jumped on the Topps bandwagon from 1952-56 (he didn't have a bubblegum card in 1951, unless you count his appearance on the 1951 Topps Brooklyn Dodgers team card).

There are probably a few Robinson photos out there that would look good in the simple frame of a 1953 Bowman format, but would be the challenge in that?

Recently I found in an auction a photo of Robinson in spring training that evoked the 1953 Bowman Pee Wee Reese card. Robinson in leaping in the air to make the double-play pivot while evading a sliding teammate. Pee Wee Reese looks on.

While the photo was not in color, I foolishly thought that I could colorize it and come up with a custom card that complemented that of his double-play partner. I was wrong.

Any skills I've developed at using Photoshop to colorize photos proved to be woefully inadequate in matching the look of real 1953 Bowman cards. I'm almost ashamed to show you what resulted from my best efforts, but here goes . . . 

Stung by that failure, I was on the verge of giving up on creating a 1953 Bowman custom of Jackie Robinson when I remembered the '53B black-and-white series. The rest, as they say, is history.

Making my Robinson card wasn't as easy as slipping the photo into a border. Comparing my card with the original photo you'll notice that besides excising Reese, I had to move the sliding Dodger and second base closer to the leaping Robinson.

There was also an unusual typography challenge to doing the back of the card. While most of the fonts used by Bowman are common mid-century typefaces, I couldn't find a real match for the player name at the top of the card or the "BASEBALL COLLECTOR SERIES" in the red banner. I settled on a font named BlacklightD found in my Photoshop font selections. I enhanced it with the faux bold effect and squeezed it horizontally to 80%. At that, it's only close to the Bowman original, but unless you have a '53B at hand with which to compare it, most wouldn't notice the difference. 

As I worked on my Robinson b/w, it occurred to me that there were no multi-player cards among the 64 original Bowman black-and-whites. And, Pee Wee is standing right there . . .  

Check back tomorrow to see what I came up with.

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