If you were a kid ripping packs of 1961 Topps baseball cards that summer and pulled #405 featuring New York Yankees great Lou Gehrig, you might have got the wrong idea.

Here, see for yourself:

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Now, at that point, it had been just 22 years since Gehrig had hung up his spikes, felled by the disease that bears his name.

There were plenty of fans who knew the whole story (or at least most of it), who were there in the moment, who felt the anguish of losing a legend — first from the field and then from this earth — too early.

And even the kids who had been around the game or hobby for a few years, or who had historical yarn-spinning friends and relatives probably knew all about Gehrig and his amazing streak and his sudden, devastating decline.

But if I conjure up a similar scenario based on my own experience, it’s really easy to see how this ‘61 card of the Iron Horse could have caused some misconceptions.

As luck would have it, my first year of “real” collecting came in 1983, exactly 22 years after this Gehrig was issued.

What if Topps had, in that summer of ‘83, graced us with a card of Roger Maris that trumpeted his record-breaking home run performance in 1961, but gave us a headline along the lines of “Maris Can’t Catch Babe”?

And then, when we turned the card over, we’d see the rest of the story (thanks, Paul Harvey), to the tune of “Falls short of 154-game record, smashes #61 in Game 163.”

Accurate, technically and semantically, but misleading as all get-out.

It’s sort of the same thing here with the 1961 Gehrig card.

“Gehrig Benched After 2,130 Games” … are you kidding me?

Well, sort of. Here’s the rest, courtesy of the card back …

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Ah, so Gehrig *asked* to be benched, this card tells us.

And that would have been more in line with what the old-timers had told the whippersnappers about ol’ Larrupin’ Lou — a selfless gamer who would do anything and everything to help his team win.

Including going out there every day, even when he was hurting.

Including pulling himself from the lineup when he thought it would make the on-field Yankees better.

Topps gave us the full story, at least the surface-level, public version, minus any mention of ALS, but did it in a backhanded, negative clickbait-y sort of way.

Today, it’s pretty neat to have a Gehrig card from a fairly modern set that we can buy for reasonable prices — $5-20 in raw condition (eBay affiliate link), up to $200 or more for copies in PSA 9 condition.

But if you pulled this card in 1961 as an impressionable young collector?

You might very well have come away with a wrong impression and missed out on one of the game’s most compelling, if tragic, story.

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