(Check out our other player card posts here.)

Tim Corcoran (the First) had a fine baseball career.

Sure, he went undrafted out of Cal State at Los Angeles, but he signed a minor league free agent contract with the Detroit Tigers that June.

From there, it was a slow but direct climb up the Detroit farm ladder, including stops with the Lakeland Tigers, the Bristol Tigers, the Montgomery Rebels (twice), and the Evansville Triplets.

Then, just as the Tigers were beginning to roll out the young talent that would eventually form the core of the 1984 team that romped to a World Series victory, Corcoran forced his way to The Show.

On May 18, 1977, at the age of 24, Corcoran made his Big League debut as a designated hitter, collecting a walk and a run that day against the Texas Rangers in a game the Tigers lost 6-3. Corcoran’s teammates in that game included Ron LeFlore, Ben Oglivie, Steve Kemp, and veteran pitcher John Hiller.

Notably absent — from a 21st-century perspective — are Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Lance Parrish, and Jack Morris, all of whom would debut later in the season.

In all, Corcoran made 55 appearances for Detroit that season, hitting .282 with three homers.

It was enough for Topps to issue his rookie card in 1978:

1978 Topps Tim Corcoran

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

And even with the influx of soon-to-be big names, it was also enough for the Tigers to take a longer look at Corcoran the next season. He made 85 starts in right field in 1978 among his 116 total games played, platooning in right with John Wockenfuss and Mickey Stanley.

That summer, Corcoran batted .265 with one home run and 27 runs batted.

Judging by his appearance in the 1979 Topps set, those numbers must have inspired visions of grandeur for Corcoran … or for Topps … or for some other misguided soul.

Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when Roger Maris was rising among the ranks of American League power hitters, first with the Kansas City A’s and then with the New York Yankees, his powerful left-handed follow-through was one of the most famous poses in the game.

Topps capitalized on this Maris signature in both 1959 and 1962. That 1962 Topps card has become iconic as the #1 card in the famous woodgrain-bordered set and as the first card showing “61” on the back to denote the number of home runs Maris hit in 1961 to break Babe Ruth‘s single-season record.

And because of that majestic follow-through, of course.

1962 Topps Roger Maris

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

Maris holds his ribcage and hands high as the bat whips behind his right shoulder, and his forlorn eyes look toward an unseen horizon where his friend — the baseball — disappears forever.

It is, indeed, an iconic image. Depending on your point of view, it’s also heroic, romantic, maybe even tragic.

Younger collectors might not have noticed the nod to Maris when they first pulled the 1979 Topps Tim Corcoran card from packs that spring.

But you can be sure their older brothers or dads did.

There, on card #272, Corcoran stands with his hands and elbows and ribcage held high as he finishes his follow-through, bat whipping around behind … well, behind his head.

Corcoran looks like he was walking toward the batter’s box with his bat in front of him when someone suddenly flung a big, hairy spider toward his face. He flinched and bent backward to avoid the beast, throwing up a left elbow in a final attempt to protect himself from the fangs of death hurtling his direction.

As his expression transitioned from the mild joy of being at the ballpark on a sunny day to fear and shock … the Topps photographer struck.

1979 Topps Tim Corcoran

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

It’s not Roger Maris, not by a longshot.

It’s also not an iconic or heroic or romantic shot.

But it is comic. And it evokes an instant reaction when you see it, right? Giggles, back spasms, cringes  — all are on the table.

It’s also the most remarkable baseball card of Corcoran’s career, celebrating the most remarkable season of his career.

He never again played in as many games as he did in 1978, and he was with the Philadelphia Phillies by the time the Tigers became The Tigers in the 1980s.

But Corcoran will always be able to say he collected 283 hits over nine Major League seasons.

And he’ll always have a 1979 Topps baseball card that is among the most painful-looking in hobby history.

How many of us can say the same?

(Check out our other player card posts here.)

1979 Topps - #272 Tim Corcoran

$0.02 ( 1 Bid)
End Date: Tuesday 07/23/2024 10:20:12 EDT
Bid now | Add to watch list


End Date: Wednesday 08/14/2024 17:09:14 EDT
Buy it now | Add to watch list