Joe Tipton: The Man Without a Hat

There is a reason ball caps feature so prominently on my 1952 Topps navigation page: Almost every single player in the set is pictured wearing a baseball hat. There is one exception: Joe Tipton is portrayed on card #134 without his Philadelphia Athletics cap. The back of the card helpfully volunteers that Joe has blond hair in the demographic information located near the top.

Only in its second year of producing cards of current players, Topps had not yet figured out the most efficient way to photograph ballplayers. A decade later the company’s photographic agents would ask players to run through a series of poses, including a portrait without a hat. The composition of a hatless portrait allowed the card manufacturer to use a photo even if the player depicted had changed teams. Close cropping omitted identifiable uniform markings and the lack of hat knocked out the need to pay artists to retouch ballcap logos.

As a third string catcher for Philadelphia with a .236 lifetime batting average, it is understandable that Tipton would get the no-hat treatment. The concrete wall and chicken wire seen in the background is interesting, reminding me of the aesthetic typical of minor league parks. Tipton ended up being banned from the minor leagues later in the decade when he became involved in a gambling scandal.