I woke up this morning to a really cool #PiDay tweet from the Chicago White Sox television partners. The idea was to connect the digits of pi to the uniform numbers of popular Chisox players.
As the father of a local Pi Day champ and something of a math nerd myself, I thought it would be fun to create my own pi-based lineup. As most of these cards are behind glass and tough to photograph without glare, I’ll borrow images from Trading Card Database. However, the rules of the game are that any card used is one I actually own.
3 is for 1934-36 Diamond Stars Bill Terry
I’m almost glad I don’t have a “real” Babe Ruth card since this gives me a chance to show off what may well be my favorite card in my favorite set. I love everything about this card from the bright colors to the background building silhouettes to the scoreboard showing the home team first to the…well, you get the idea. EVERYTHING.
I’ll even brag a bit and note this is one of the few cards I own where my personal copy is in better shape than the Trading Card Database scan. I will never be confused for a “condition snob,” but this is one card where holding a very nice copy in my hands (translation: would probably grade a 3 or 4) gave me immense pride.
14 is for 1957 Topps Ernie Banks
Here is a fine consolation prize for not having a “real” Lou Gehrig, in which case I would have had to go 1-4 rather than 14. I love everything about the 1957 Topps set and everything about Mr. Cub. If there is such thing as a perfect baseball card, I think this one might well qualify.
One detail the vivid photography brings out is Ernie’s bat grip with the thumb of his top hand curling around his fore and middle fingers. I never held a bat this way, and now I’m wondering if it’s why I’m sitting here typing baseball card blogs on my day off instead of telling stories of my own big league career!
1 is for 1952 Bowman Richie Ashburn
If any 1950s set could be considered a worthy heir to the Diamond Stars set, 1952 Bowman might be the one. What can I say? I’m a sucker for background building silhouettes. exchange. I absolutely love Ozzie Smith the player and his OPC rookie card is framed on my wall, but cards from the 1950s just have too much magic and allure to not get the nod here.
5 is for 1939 Play Ball Joe DiMaggio
This was my toughest choice of the post since a very close runner-up is my 1934 Goudey Hank Greenberg, and it’s not like Brooks Robinson is exactly chopped liver. Still, I remember what a thrill it was to finally add Joe D to my collection. I’d reached the point where my Top 100 project was down to just three cards who just happened to wear the consecutive uniform numbers 3, 4, and 5 for the Yankees. I wasn’t sure I’d ever get a card of any of the three, but one day I pulled the trigger. At the time I felt like I was settling for his 1939. Today it may just be ownership bias, but I have to say I’d put this card up against any of his others.
9 is for 1949 Leaf Ted Williams
Another tough choice in that my 1957 card of the Splendid Splinter was my favorite card in my collection for more than 20 years. Though early career cards are always more fun than late career, the 1957 card captured the majesty and arrogance of the greatest goddamned hitter who ever lived better than any other. Still, I already covered the 1957 set with my Banks, and it’s not like ANY card of Ted Williams isn’t top notch.
2 is for 1941 Play Ball Charlie Gehringer
Here is another set I just love, and I think it’s safe to say that any card with red, white, and blue bunting in the backdrop scores a ton of extra points. I had a chance here to go with my 1964 Topps Billy Williams in the “26” slot, but between the Mechanical Man and this next card, I think you’ll understand why the “2-6” split earned the nod.
6 is for 1953 Bowman Stan Musial
This shot of Stan the Man is so up close and personal that I almost imagine the Bowman photographer having to sit on Wally Westlake’s lap to take it. Besides retiring as the greatest player in the history of the National League (don’t @ me!), Musial was an all-around class act and tremendous ambassador of the game. I originally bought this card in college just to have a Stan Musial. At the time, which was very pre-internet, I can’t say I knew what all the other choices were. Today though I can flip through a gallery of all his cards and honestly say this one pops the most as the consummate card of one of baseball’s greatest men.
5 is (finally!) for 1934 Goudey Hank Greenberg
Good job, pi, on having so many digits! Here is a card I hated bypassing only digits ago, but leave it to pi to give everyone a second chance! I bought this card right around the time I picked up the Musial. I went that whole semester–maybe year–without textbooks to afford these cards, but I can’t say I have any regrets. It’s not like my professors stuck to the books anyway, and it’s not like I did any homework back then–not when I could flip through my baseball cards!
35 is for 1990 Leaf Frank Thomas
Okay, I’m as shocked as you are that I went modern. Partly I’m doing this for the nostalgia of this being one of the last sets I collected from packs, and partly I’m doing this to right the wrong of the White Sox leaving Thomas off their own Pi Day tribute in favor of Melky Cabrera and Juan Uribe. (And yes, I already lodged a complaint!)
The nature of pi (and my collection) is that I could continue this lineup forever, but leaving it at nine players feels like the right place to stop. I don’t exactly have optimum coverage around the diamond with three first basemen, four outfielders, a second baseman, and a shortstop, but in this shift-heavy era of baseball who cares about positions anyway! Yeah, I’m not crazy about having to pitch Ted Williams, but good luck to whatever opposing pitcher has to face Musial, Williams, and DiMaggio in the heart of my order.