Reader Eric sent me an email alerting me to a recent Ebay auction for this picture from the Topps Vault.
It's a negative of utility catcher Gene Oliver. When I saw the picture, several things raced through my head. First, I saw that Oliver was hatless. If a Topps photographer asks you to take your hat off, that is not a good sign for your career. Topps thinks you're expendable and might be moving to another team.
Second, I noticed the uniform. It's the style the Cubs last wore in 1968. But Oliver came to the Cubs during the 1968 season and his only spring with the team was 1969. The picture came from spring training, as you can tell by the small grandstands over his right shoulder. What that means is that the Cubs wore their old uniforms during spring training 1969 and didn't break out the new ones until the start of the season. That was pretty common back then, but it is also something you need to keep in mind when trying to determine the date of a spring training photo.
Lastly, what struck me is that Topps should have used the picture for Oliver's card.
Instead, this is what they did, taking an old picture of him when he played for the Braves and doing a little airbrushing. Oliver's card is #247, which put it in the 3rd series. I'm guessing there wasn't enough lead time to get the new picture on the card. Spring 1969 pictures didn't start showing up until the 5th Series. Oliver was released by the Cubs in September, 1969 and never played in the majors again, so the picture was never used.
I took it upon myself to do what Topps didn't. I put the picture in a Topps 1969 card.
That is what Gene Oliver's 1969 card should have looked like. As always, Topps, you're welcome!
But I think I like this one better. I made it a couple years ago when I was updating all of the 1969 Cubs.