Published August 25, 2013
Slate is wondering if this is the worst baseball card of all time , and I'd have a hard time arguing that it is not.
That's Bob "The Hammer" Hamelin, who was briefly a thing in Kansas City during the 1994 season, which ended with a player strike. The Kansas City Royals were 64-51 at the time, just four games out of first place in the AL Central, thanks in part to Hamlin, who won the AL Rookie of the Year award. The Royals still haven't been to the playoffs since their 1985 World Series campaign.
Hamelin was goofy-looking, even by 1994 standards. He was certainly not on his way to becoming the new Ken Griffey Jr..
The Hammer played first base and designated hitter. He was 6-foot-1, 240 pounds, from Irvine, Calif., and he was Kansas City's second-round pick in 1988. He made his major league debut at the end of the 1993 season, hitting just .225 with two home runs in 55 plate appearances.
But when the 1994 season began, Hamelin seemed to have caught up. He played 101 games for the Royals that year, hitting .282 with 24 home runs and 25 doubles. He won ROY honors over Manny Ramirez and Jim Edmonds, among others.
It would turn out to be The Hammer's best season. He didn't play in 100 games again until 1997, when he hit .270 with 18 home runs playing for Detroit, but a .219 year with Milwaukee in 1998 was the end of his MLB career.
Fortunately, he was immortalized in 1996 by Pinnacle, a baseball card company that for some reason ran a card (No. 289) with Hamelin clumsily holding up a card with his name on it. It would have been an effective, if straightforward, card design, except that you can't even read Hamelin's name on the card. That's because it's covered up with a graphic with Hamelin's name on it.
Here's some of what Slate's Josh Levin had to say about it:
The card's commitment to badness never wavers. Consider the fact that the "BOB HAMELIN" sign looks like it's about to slice Bob Hamelin's chin off. There's also the defeated look on Hamelin's face, which--along with the blinding glare on his oversized glasses--makes it look like he's being interrogated by the baseball police, or perhaps being held against his will by a designated-hitter-collecting maniac. The "Pinnacle 1996" logo in the upper-left-hand corner conceals the Kansas City Royals logo on Hamelin's cap, part of a recurring pattern of hiding terrible things behind other terrible things. And what's that written on the underside of Hamelin's hat bill? Just in case there's any question that the man on the Bob Hamelin card holding the "BOB HAMELIN" sign is Bob Hamelin, there it is in black marker: "HAMELIN."
And somebody who wrote something called Cardboard Gods had an even stronger reaction.
"It's so jarring and awful, a collision of unpleasant forms and surfaces," says author Josh Wilker. "I fear for anyone dwelling too long on this card. There should be contests to see who can last the longest staring at it before screaming into the night."
That may be a little extreme, but the piece is worth a read if you've ever had any interest in card collecting, which you totally did."