While it had never really been on my radar as far as custom cards to create, a recent email exchange with a fan of my card creations got me to thinking about doing a 1954 Bowman-style card of Ernie Banks.
Topps had scooped Bowman in 1954 by issuing a rookie card of probably the most popular player ever to wear the Cubs uniform.
When I started investigating the availability of appropriate photos that would evoke the "look" of 1954 Bowman baseball, I was surprised to find not just one, but two, photos that I envisioned would look great in that format, once they were colorized.
After dithering for a while it occurred to me I didn't really have to choose . . . I could make both. To paraphrase the ever-sunny Ernie Banks, "Let's Make Two!"
This isn't the first time I've made two cards in the same format for a player.
My first pairing was 1955 Bowman Sandy Koufax "rookies." I used the same photo of Koufax at the top of his windup superimposed in two different sizes on two different original '55B backgrounds. I used that same photo to take a new look at a 1957 Topps Koufax. Some time later when I discovered a great photo of Koufax looking in for the sign on the mound of Ebbets Field, I made a second '57T-style Koufax.
I have two 1958 Topps-style Ed Bouchee cards. The first used a recycled Topps photo on a black background. When I found a new photo, I put it on a yellow background.
Similarly, among my football card customs, I've created several two-fers. I have 1955 Bowman Johnny Unitas (Steelers) cards in horizontal and vertical layouts, 1952 Bowman Brett Favres in both large and small sizes with different backgrounds, and 1952 Bowman Tom Bradys in both home and road Michigan uniform versions.
Among my 1955 All-American style football cards, I made two Troy Aikman versions, one with Oklahoma and one with UCLA. I did two different cards of local boy Austen Lane, one is a portrait, the other, "action."
And these don't include the dozen or so cards I've "rehabilitated," changing photos to improve the piece. On those, I've retired the original versions.
One nice thing about making two cards in the same format for a player is that generally I can use the same back for both. That's a real time-saver.
There's nothing much that I can tell you about Ernie Banks that you don't already know or that you can't find readily on the internet.
There were a few pre-Cubs tidbits I did encounter that I'll share. Banks is one of the few major leaguers -- much less Hall of Famers -- that never played high school, college or minor league baseball. Playing softball around Dallas at age 17, he was discovered by a semi-pro Negro barnstorming team, the Amarillo Colts.
After graduating from high school, he was scouted by Cool Papa Bell and signed by the Kansas City Monarchs in 1950. Following the 1950 season, he joined Jackie Robinson's barnstorming tour of the South as a regular on the Negro American League All-Stars that were generally the competition for Robinson's mostly major league squad.
For those who wonder about my card-making technique, I'll share a tip that was useful on my Bowman Banks cards.
Adding an autograph to my cards can be one of the toughest tasks. As a young ballplayer, Banks used an "Ernest Banks" signature. When my google-search failed to turn up a single "clean" example such as a signed index card, I resigned myself to having to "pick" the autograph off of a 1954-56 Topps card.
That procedure can be excruciating, essentially requiring erasing the background on the original card.
Then I remembered I had a 1954 "Baseball Register". Sure enough, despite the fact he'd played only 10 games in 1953, The Sporting News had listed Banks in the '54 edition, and there was a nice black-on-white autograph to go with it.
For a variety of reasons you're going to be seeing a lot of Chicago Cubs cards coming out of my customs studio in coming months. I'll explain them as they are presented.