Card Corner: Nate Colbert
Hall of Fame staffers are also baseball fans and love to share their stories. Here is a fan's perspective from Cooperstown.
We should not be surprised to see Nate Colbert smiling on his 1969 Topps card. In many ways, that’s just Nate being Nate. In the same way that he appears on his Topps card—smiling so widely to the point of exuberance—Nate Colbert has always looked at the bright side of things. Perhaps this baseball card offers photographic evidence of his happiness over being a major leaguer, fulfilling a dream that he had fostered since childhood.
Although Colbert did not know it at the time this photograph was taken (likely sometime in the spring of 1967), he also had good reason to be positive about the next step of his career. After the 1968 season, Colbert would join the San Diego Padres via the expansion draft. He would soon become their starting first baseman—and the first star in the history of the new franchise.
Aside from his wide smile, there is something else noteworthy about Colbert’s 1969 Topps card. He is not wearing a cap, not for his old team (the Houston Astros) or his new team (the Padres). This was a common technique used by Topps at the time. The company had its photographers take capless photographs of players, in the event that the player changed teams during the season or over the course of the winter. That way, Topps would not be saddled with an outdated photograph of the player. With the capless pose, Topps could easily crop the photo so as to eliminate showing the name or logo of the old team on the jersey. Without the cap, the player became more generic, and less identified with his previous ballclub.
If Colbert had chosen a different path, he might very well have worn the cap and uniform of a more established franchise, the New York Yankees. As an amateur free agent in 1964, the year before the major league draft became a reality, Colbert was pursued hotly by the Yankees. They had promised to double any offers given to him by any of the other 19 major league teams, but Colbert turned them down. He had his heart set on a different plan of action.
Bruce Markusen is the Manager of Digital and Outreach Learning at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum