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Photo: Topps Company
The 1954 original Ted Williams baseball card and a new version by artist JK5.

If these were normal times, the grandchildren in both families would be starting baseball, and John would be organizing parents to help coach the kids’ team. Right. Normal.

So very many American kids grew up with baseball! My brother Bo knew all the stats of pretty much every player back in the day and had a big baseball card collection. He was beyond thrilled the times that our family visited the Baseball Hall of Fame in upstate New York.

As you can imagine, today that great institution’s website features a “Virtual Hall of Fame Spotlight: Giamatti Research Center,” a “Virtual Field Trip: Geography: Baseball Coast to Coast,” and “Virtual Voices of the Game: Al Oliver.” What’s the world coming to?

Meanwhile, the baseball card company Topps has decided to have some fun.

As Peter Abraham reported at the Boston Globe in April, Topps has solicited artists to recreate some of the best-known and most valued cards.

“That he refused to wear a tie for even formal occasions was as close as Ted Williams came to being a rebel. … So the idea of 20 artists from such disciplines as graffiti, cartooning, jewelry design, and tattooing reimagining the look of his 1954 Topps baseball card would probably not sit well with Williams.

“Or maybe it would. In his own way, Williams was a stubborn individualist, [defying] the lords of baseball by using his Hall of Fame induction speech to call for the inclusion of Negro League players in Cooperstown.

“ ‘We’re all honoring him in our own individual way,’ said Joseph Ari Aloi, one of the artists who took on the unique project. ‘I think he’d like it.’

“Aloi, who is known professionally as JK5, graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and now works at a Brooklyn tattoo shop while pursuing myriad other interests. His homage to Williams was rendered in black and white with intricate details that resemble his tattoo designs and reflect a love of typography.

“In place of his bat, Williams is swinging a pencil, a symbol of the parallels between artists and athletes. What appear to be laser beams are shooting from his eyes. The shapes in the background reveal his name, number, and statistics. …

“Aloi jumped at the opportunity to work with baseball cards when his agent presented him with the proposal from Topps. Reconnecting with something from his past was energizing. …

“ ‘I wanted to bring it to life with my own aesthetics and make it something unique. I’ve had a lot of fun with this.’

Topps calls it Project 2020 because Aloi is one of 20 artists who are reinterpreting 20 classic cards. The 400 cards — plus some artist proofs — will be sold over a period of roughly 40 weeks in limited quantities. …

“Topps recruited a wide range of artists, including Groteskito, the creative director of Nike Basketball, and Sophia Chang, a New York illustrator who has collaborated with adidas and Puma.

“Jewelry designer Ben Baller, who has 1.4 million Instagram followers, did his Frank Thomas card with a diamond look that was similar to pieces he designed for Drake, Snoop Dogg, and Kanye West. …

“Along with Williams, the artists will re-create cards featuring Roberto Clemente, Ken Griffey Jr., Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays, Ichiro Suzuki, and Mike Trout, among others. …

“The Williams card from 1954 card was traditional. There was an image of Williams smiling, a black-and-white photograph of his swing, and his careful, neat signature.

“ ‘It’s a classic card,’ said Aloi, who collected cards when he was a kid. ‘Ted Williams had such phenomenal stats. My father knew players from that era and always talked about him. For me, mixing two worlds appealed to my creativity and my sensibilities. With everything that has been going on, it’s been a good outlet.’ ”

More here.

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