Former Pirates pitching great (and his baseball card) appears on “This Is Us”
I love it when the hobby and pop culture collide. On last night’s episode of This Is Us, the mega-popular tear-jerker of a TV show, former Pirates pitching great John Smiley and his 1987 Topps Traded card made an appearance.
I know John Smiley is hardly considered a “great” today, but in 1992, coming off a 20-win season, an All-Star appearance, and a third-place finish in Cy Young Award voting, “great” is not a stretch. And it wasn’t actually Smiley on the show, but actor Troy Doherty portraying Smiley at a baseball card signing.
Young Kevin Pearson wanted to get Smiley’s rookie card signed so it would double in value. In the screengrab below, we see that the card in question is from the 1987 Topps Traded set with the iconic wooden border and white cardstock.
And flip it over…
Compare it to the real thing…
It seems that the actor’s face was Photoshopped over Smiley’s face, but the rest of the card is legit. Look at the logo placement on the jersey, the treeline in the background…there is no way they recreated the whole scene for a fake card but that is clearly not John Smiley’s face on the card in the show.
There is no doubt, though, that the writers were familiar with the original card. During the scene, the pitcher said Kevin wanted to tell him about the best pool places in Minneapolis. Smiley was the subject of many trade rumors prior to the ’92 season and was eventually traded to the Twins. It seems that young Kevin spent a lot of time reading the backs of baseball cards; his 1987 Topps Traded card talks about some of Smiley’s hobbies, including “shooting pool.” This led the thoughtful 11-year old to research the pitcher’s likely new home and offer some suggestions tailored to his interests.
I confess I’m a huge This Is Us fan so seeing a baseball card connection made my day.