I’d like to say that I’ve done a pretty good job of “taming” my collection over the past few months. With the uncertainty of a shaky economy, I felt that it would be better for the family if we chose to spend any extra money more conservatively. That means that the steady stream of envelopes being delivered every day would be coming to an abrupt halt.
Instead of adding lots of new cards, I’ve spent a lot of time organizing some cards that have been sitting around for quite a while and getting a handle on some set needs. I did celebrate a birthday last month, so I used that as an excuse to pick up a few singles here and there.
I was hoping to knock out the 2014 Topps Stadium Club set by the end of August but couldn’t quite get it wrapped up. While it is the smallest of the Stadium Club releases, it’s taken me years to complete. Most of the reason is that I simply get distracted with other card projects and before I know it, time flies by. The other reason is that I know to complete the set, I’ll have to shell out a bit more money than I typically like for singles. I love the eBay auctions featuring a listing of cards and you can pick “20” or whatever. Even if I don’t “need” 20 cards from the list, the few that I do need are often cheap enough that I don’t mind.
Topps put a halt to Stadium Club after the 2008 release. I’m not sure why Topps stopped making Stadium Club. If anyone knows, I’d love to hear why.
The want-list of cards for this set is slowly getting smaller. These are the cards left. I’m not looking forward to having to shell out for the Betts rookie. I’ll have to wait until I have an extra $50 floating around. The others shouldn’t be a problem to pick up fairly cheap.
$50 is ordinarily not something that I would even consider spending in an effort to complete a set…for one card. In this case, I really don’t mind. I love the set and I think Betts is a tremendous player. He’s worth the money. I’ve always been a fan of Stadium Club’s mix of present and past players. The photography is also always on point and seems to be getting better each year. Technology has allowed artists to “colorize” old black and white photos in ways that make it hard to imagine we ever lived in a world without color film. The Musial is a magnificent example. I also really enjoy any photo featuring an overhead perspective.
What sets have you all been working on during the past few months? With the release of new cards slowing down to a mere trickle, I’ve enjoyed seeing how many of you have found other ways to enjoy your collections.
I follow a fantastic artist named Graig Kreindler on Instagram. He is an American painter and illustrator. He is best known for his oil paintings depicting vintage, historical baseball scenes. Many of you have probably already seen his work. For those of you that haven’t, I highly recommend checking him out. You can find his work here.
Today his Instagram post pointed out that on this day in 1905, Ty Cobb received a telegram from Joe Cunningham, his longtime friend from home. The telegram read: COME AT ONCE STOP VERY SORRY STOP YOUR FATHER DEAD IN A SHOOTING ACCIDENT STOP HURRY. It was Cobb’s mother that had pulled the trigger. She would later be acquitted of murder as she claimed that she thought her husband was an intruder in the house. He was to have been out of town that day but had returned early.
Cobb was only 18 years old in 1905 when he joined the Detroit Tigers. He was as rare as a buffalo head penny on that Detroit team. A true southerner on a team of primarily northern teammates, he was just a kid and had never been outside of the state of Georgia. With his father gone and now having to financially support his mother after a lengthy and expensive trial, Cobb would stop at nothing to prove himself as a valuable member of the Tigers. The pressure was on.
His ambition would not go over well with many of his teammates. Veterans typically did not take kindly to rookies and why should they, it was the rookies who were after their jobs. The hazing that Cobb would endure during the 1905 and 1906 seasons was especially brutal and he took it particularly badly, which prompted even worse treatment.
The ringleader of this hazing was star center fielder Matty McIntyre. McIntyre resented the young Cobb and the excitement surrounding the rookie. With Cobb in left field and McIntyre in center, McIntyre would call for fly balls hit between the two and then at the last-minute stop and let the ball fall in for a hit. He would chastise Cobb right there on the field in an attempt to make him look bad to the other players and fans. Detroit pitcher Ed Siever bought into it and after one such play, attacked Cobb in the team’s hotel, accusing him of having lost the game. Having none of it, Cobb knocked down Siever and kept punching him until teammates intervened.
In one game, Cobb and McIntyre were both convening on a ground ball hit into the gap. As they approached each other, they both stopped, locked eyes and stared each other down as the ball rolled all the way to the outfield wall.
While Cobb was on deck, he would often swing three bats to warm up. He felt that once he dropped the two extra bats and stepped in the box with his bat of choice, the lighter weight would give him better bat speed. The veterans thought that swinging three bats was a brash and unnecessary display. To put him in his place, they sawed several of Cobb’s home made ash bats in half.
Other hazing included hitting Cobb in the back of the head with wet newspaper wads, nailing Cobb’s cleats to the clubhouse floor, calling the end to batting practice before Cobb had a chance to hit, and locking him out of hotel washrooms. The more his teammates pressed, the more pissed Cobb got. Things eventually deteriorated to the point where Cobb slept with a pistol under his pillow.
It never got better between Cobb and McIntyre. McIntyre begged management to trade Cobb but they refused. Instead, management made their position clear as they would start trading away those players that could not get along with Cobb. After a poor 1909 season, McIntyre would find himself on the bench and soon, traded to the White Sox. He would play only one more year before returning home to Detroit and finding himself running a local pool hall.
Cobb would go on to play 16 seasons with the Tigers and subsequently, would have the best two seasons of his career in the first years after McIntyre left.
It’s hard to believe that we’re already seeing the start of August. This has been the fastest but longest year of my life…if that makes sense? While I am happy to see baseball return this year, I’ll be honest, I rather enjoyed watching the classic game reruns on MLB Network and ESPN. While I’ve watched quite a bit of the 2020 live games, I find myself wishing they were still playing reruns. I’m probably the only one that feels that way. My cable network does show a ton of Yankee games and I’ve realized how much I enjoy Alex Rodriguez as an announcer. Again, I’m probably one of the only ones that feels that way.
I wanted to circle back to an earlier post called “42 Years of the BEST Mets Cards.” The idea was simple. I would highlight each year of the Mets and choose the “best” Topps card from that year. When I say “best”, I don’t necessarily mean the most popular card or even the best player of each year. These are simply cards that when I look at the team set, they stick out to me. Given that I’m 42 years old, I thought that 42 would be a good number to work with. To keep the post from being too long, I broke it up into 2 parts. Let’s wrap up the remaining 19 of the 42 years.
Part 1 left off with Rey Ordonez’ 2001 Topps card and as I went back to check out what I wrote, I found a gasp…typo. Next time you catch one…let me know!
We will kick off Part 2 with 2002. 2002 also marks the beginning of three straight sub .500 Mets’ seasons. I remember those days. It was awful to be a Met’s fan. Can’t wait to write about these dumpster fires. *sigh*
Many sports writers considered the 2002 Mets to be like a bad traffic accident on an interstate highway – they were an awful sight to see, but for some reason, many just couldn’t turn away. With a payroll of $102 million, the 2002 Mets were expected to give the Atlanta Braves a run for their money. Instead, they would finish 5th in the NL East.
Mike Piazza gets the best card award that year as we see him standing guard over home plate with cross-town rival Jorge Posada approaching. Piazza was coming off of an All-Star 2001 season where he became one of only eight major leaguers in baseball history to have 5 consecutive seasons hitting better than .300 with at least 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. 2002 was also Piazza’s ninth straight 30+ home run season. He would be one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal team performance.
Hoping for something different in 2003, the Mets would fire Bobby Valentine at the close of 2002 and bring in Art Howe from Oakland. They would get nothing different. 2003 would be another last place finish for the disastrous Mets and in 2004, the Mets would only manage a fourth-place finish. Scrappy utility player Joe McEwing gets the best card award for 2003 and 2004. A fan favorite in New York during his time there, he was also David Wright’s first mentor. Topps chose two similar shots of McEwing for his ’03 and ’04 cards. The only difference really being that one features him at Wrigley and the other features him at Turner Field. I’ve never cared for the 2004 design that Topps chose. The silver foil lettering is tough to read at first glance, but I actually just realized tonight that they used the actual photo and incorporated it into the border design in the bottom left hand corner. Look at that little guy down there!
2005 would see Willie Randolph leading the ball club and they would improve by going 83-79 and finishing 3rd in the NL East. He would become the first African American manager of a MLB team in New York. Matt Lindstrom gets the top card in the 2005 Topps set despite spending the entire year with the AA Binghamton Mets. Topps chose a sharp “batter’s eye view” shot of Lindstrom that was likely taken at a practice or Spring Training game. If I had to guess, I would say that this is a curveball. As unremarkable as this card is should tell you a little something about how unremarkable the OTHER Mets cards were in the 2005 Topps set. The 2006 best Topps card goes to none other than The Captain David Wright. As a local guy that grew up right around the corner from me, I’ve always been a Wright fan. He would make the first of seven All Star game appearances in 2006 and finish the year with 26 home runs. While the Topps design that year was a bit busy for me, this is a great shot of Wright in the batter’s box during a home game. Wright would help propel the Mets into first place that year but they would eventually fall to the Cardinals in the NLCS. 2007 would see another successful year for the Mets despite not seeing the post season. The top card goes to the speedy Jose Reyes as he is pictured sliding headfirst into third. He would steal 78 bases that year as well. In June of 2006, he would lead off seven consecutive games with a hit, a feat only his manager Willie Randolph had ever accomplished.
After three good years at the helm of the Mets, Randolph’s fourth season would begin with a slow start, poor play in the field and at the plate, and a record barely above .500, the Mets would replace Willie Randolph with bench coach Jerry Manuel. The Mets would finish with 89 wins in 2008 and once again miss the playoffs. It would be their final season at Shea Stadium and their last winning season until 2015. Mets ace and two-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Johan Santana has the best card that year. Another down the barrel shot of him on the mound, Santana would be coming off of an All Star 2007 season with Minnesota and would finish 2008 with a a 16-7 record and a 2.56% ERA. As a birthday present, my wife took me to New York to see the Mets play the Astros on August 22. Santana would get his 13th win of the season. 2009 would not be kind to the Mets as they finished 4th in their division and sent 20 players to the disabled list throughout the year. At the beginning of the season, many Mets fans were excited to experience Mets baseball in their brand new Citi Field. The $600 million stadium provided not only a beautiful atmosphere, but also an opportunity to move on from the collapses of the previous two seasons. Three time All Star Luis Castillo would be the starting second baseman for most of the year, while he gets the top card of 2009 for this great shot of him sliding headfirst into second, he would go down in infamy for refusing to participate in a charity event at Walter Reed Medical Center where the Mets visited wounded military personnel. He would say that he didn’t want to be “horrified at the sight of US soldiers without any arms or legs.” Mets management and the fans were not impressed and let him know it anytime he stepped out onto the field. To be fair, he wasn’t the only one who skipped out on the event. Carlos Beltran and Oliver Perez also stated that they had “other commitments” which didn’t sit well with team management. It would be more of the same in 2010 for the Mets as they hobbled to another disappointing fourth place finish. They would be an embarrassment both on and off the field and rightfully earned the nickname the “New York Mess.” All Star David Wright comes out on top with the best card of the year. I’ll be honest, I had a hard time between the Wright card and Jose Reyes. Both had great cards that year but this shot of Wright leaping for a line drive is just awesome.
2011 would be the 50th anniversary for the New York Mets. What a great time that would have been for them to do anything noteworthy. If only that that had been the case. To the surprise of no one, the Mets would finish fourth in their division and miss the post season for the fifth straight season as injuries and an inflated payroll plagued the team. As Mets ownership found itself wrapped up in the Bernie Madoff scandal, there was no money to sign any high priced free agents to help turn the team around. One bright spot that season would be Jose Reyes winning the batting title – the first in Mets history. Carlos Beltran gets the best card award for the season. While the aerial shot is fantastic, you can tell the photo was taken through the home plate netting. 2012 would be as you can probably guess by now, another disappointment. Despite Johan Santana’s no-hitter, the first in Mets history and R.A. Dickey winning the Cy Young award; the Mets would finish fourth in their division and suffer the loss of Hall of Fame catcher and fan-favorite Gary Carter. He would die of brain cancer in February. On June 27 against the Chicago Cubs, the Mets would become the first major league team to hit a home run cycle. Daniel Murphy began with a two-run home run, his run in 352 at-bats, then in the fourth, then Ike Davis hit a three-run home run followed by Murphy’s solo home run off of Casey Coleman, who had replaced starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija. In the sixth inning, Scott Hairston, who was typically a utility outfielder throughout the first half of the season, hit the cycle ending grand slam off of Coleman. The Mets won the game, 17–1. Murphy gets the top card of an otherwise forgettable 2012 season. He gets the top card in 2013 as Topps captured him making a flying throw. 2013 saw the Mets break their streak of five years worth of fourth place finishes. They would finish third.
Daniel Murphy continues his “best card” streak as he is my pick three years in a row. I’d like to imagine that he’s rounding the bases after a home run you can tell it was a home run because of the red background which means the Citi Field “home run apple” was in motion. The Home Run Apple was originally installed at Shea Stadium in 1980 as a way to improve the atmosphere at New York Mets games, and an apple was chosen as a play on New York City’s nickname of the “Big Apple.” The Mets continued the tradition at Citi Field and doubled the size of the apple. The Mets would tie for second place in 2014 only to be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. 2015 was a stellar year for the Mets as they finally reached the World Series and the best card of the season goes to rookie Noah Syndergaard. Noah actually had two cards in the 2015 Update set but I prefer this horizontal card detailing his rookie debut over the vertical base card. I remember when these cards were first released – a buddy of mine loved them. I on the other hand hated them at the time. Today, after looking at the Tops designs before them, they aren’t that bad. The Mets made their fifth appearance in the World Series after sweeping the Cubs 4–0 in the NLCS that year and would go on to meet the Kansas City Royals. The Royals would win the World Series 4 games to 1. It would be the 2016 design that really grew on me as it ushered in the next three years of “full bleed design” for Topps. Some collectors hated the lack of borders and the “fogginess” of the 2016 cards. Admittedly with some of the cards, the fog is distracting bu in the case of this Neil Walker card, it fits perfectly. This card is beautiful. You can see him rounding the bases as the fans in the background cheer on. The Mets would play to a second place finish in the division and lose to the San Francisco Giants in the Wild Card game. I remember watching Conor Gillaspie hit a go-ahead 3-run homer in the top of the 9th off of Mets’ closer Jeurys Familia, placing the Mets in a three-run deficit that would eventually cost them the game. That was a tough night to be a Met or a Mets fan.
As we head into the tail end of the post, we also see the Mets return to the tail end of their division in 2017 with a fourth place finish. They would miss the playoffs for the first time since 2014, and equaled their worst record since 2009. Injuries to key players, poor performances from players such as Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Harvey, and Robert Gsellman, and by controversy within the organization and around players led to manager Terry Collins announcing his retirement following the final game of the season. (As of this writing today (8/2/20), Cespedes continues to be a Grade-A “a-hole” as he apparently no showed for the game today and when questioned, said that he was “opting out” of the season. He’s “opted out” since he was signed by the Mets if you ask me.) Third baseman Matt Reynolds gets the best card of the 2017 set with this “Jeter-esque” throw from third base. Anyone who knows me should not be surprised that catcher Travis D’Arnaud would get the top card of the 2018 set. I love catcher cards and this is a great shot of him reaching into the stands attempting to snag a pop up foul. 2018 would be another fourth place finish for the Mets despite bringing in a new manager (Mickey Callaway) and getting off to a red hot 11-1 start to the season. They would be eliminated from the playoffs for the eighth time in ten seasons. The biggest storyline of the season for the Mets did not emerge until the final month of the season as David Wright battled back from spinal-stenosis for one final home game. He would retire that evening. The top card of 2019 goes to…Citi Field. There were a few really good player cards that year but one has to agree, this is just a magnificent card. The Mets would finish third in the division and would miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
With Amed Rosario’s sweet 2020 card, we will wrap up Part 2 of “42 Years of the Best Mets Cards.” I love the close up shot of Rosario going deep in the hole and coiling up to shoot a bullet to first. The pressure to perform is on Rosario this year after two pretty unimpressive seasons on the field and at the plate. Regardless of how his career ends up, this will remain my favorite card of the 2020 New York Mets set.
Well, I hope you enjoyed Part 2 of this post. Have a great week out there and stay safe!
Anyone who has spent more than ten minutes browsing through the posts in this blog would have no doubt that I am a Met’s fan.
How I came to be a Met’s fan is likely attributed to where I am grew up and surprisingly, it has nothing to do with New York.
I grew up in the Tidewater area, which for anyone outside of the “Tidewater” area means nothing. Another local name for the Tidewater area is “Hampton Roads”, which to anyone not from the area ALSO means nothing.
The Tidewater/Hampton Roads area is what we locals collectively call the areas of Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Newport News, and depending on which local you ask; the Virginia/North Carolina border areas. Local travel and tourism organizations have been debating for years about whether the state should replace the term “Hampton Roads” with something more descriptive and meaningful to where we live. If you live in Ohio and you tell your family that you’re taking them to “Hampton Roads” for a week of fun probably doesn’t generate very much excitement. It has been suggested that we rename the area “Coastal Virginia” to reflect our most popular attraction, waterfront views, seafood, and ocean breezes.
But I digress.
My connection to the New York Mets lies in Norfolk, Virginia. The longtime home of their AAA minor league affiliate, the Norfolk Tides. From 1969 to 2006, the Tides would serve as the Mets’ minor league affiliate and call Metropolitan Park or, as the locals called it, simply “Met Park.” In 1992, the Tidewater Tides would move out of Metropolitan Park into their new home Harbor Park and would change their name to the Norfolk Tides.
From the mid 80’s through today, I have attended many games at both stadiums and have seen many future major leaguers come through the area. Getting to see former Tides in their Met’s uniforms on TV was a thrill. I have great childhood memories of attending games at “Met Park” and getting autographs of future stars like Darryl Strawberry, Gregg Jefferies, Clint Hurdle, and Ron Darling.
Here is a list of the Mets cards that I consider the “best” of each Topps flagship set. These are not necessarily the best player each year, but rather, the card that I like the best. In some cases, the card may not be that impressive. There will be some cards that you look at and wonder why it was chosen. It is simply the best of the other bad ones.
Let’s begin in 1978. One for each year that I’ve been alive – three up, three down.
Leading off the countdown is Jerry Koosman and he comes out on top two years in row with my favorite cards of the 1978 and 1979 sets. At first glance, one would think that Topps recycled the same photos. They are slightly different though. Koosman would have a terrible 1978 as did the rest of the team. The ’78 Met’s had the worst record in the National League, with a 66-96 mark, coming in 24 games behind first-place Philadelphia. The Mets would be in rebuilding mode for a few more years with no clue what they were trying to rebuild. Despite being pictured in his Met’s uniform on his 1979 Topps card, Koosman never played a single game for them. He had already been traded to Minnesota where he would have a resurgence and go on to win 20 games. Ed Kranepool has the top card in 1980 and is another featured player that never wore the Mets uniform that year. He would retire at the end of 1979. His last at-bat of the season resulted in his 225th career double and would secure one of the many team records he would hold for years to come. In 1980, he and several other potential investors made an unsuccessful bid to purchase the Mets. I like this card as it features him in the on-deck circle and that’s not something that you see very often.
Topps pretty much summed up John Pacella on his 1981 card. You can see him unleashing a fastball with such fury that his cap has fallen off. The Mets’ play-by-play guys would make a big deal about Pacella’s cap falling off and how it was a result of how hard he threw. The fact of the matter was that it was really his poor mechanics. On the back of the card, Topps would make mention of impressive or interesting things about the player. For John Pacella, the only interesting thing they could come up with was “John has a unique habit of losing his cap each pitch.” 1981 would be another dismal year for the Mets as they finished 5th in their division. Mookie Wilson takes the top spot in 1982 which also happens to be one of my favorite Topps designs. We see a great shot of the Mets center fielder following through on what may have been one of his five home runs that season. Yes, the Mets were terrible in 1982 and finished in last place.
1983 would prove to be no different in terms of division standings. They would come in last place again, BUT 1983 was the beginning of the club’s turning point as it would be the last losing season for the next seven years. Darryl Strawberry’s 1983 Topps Traded card is the best of the bunch. I don’t own it but hope to someday. He was a hometown favorite during his time here with the Tidewater Tides. Strawberry would win the NL Rookie of the Year award in 1983, and go on to make eight consecutive All Star Game appearances and win four World Series titles.
Keith Hernandez takes the top spot for 1984 and 1985. In 1984 Hernandez would come over from St Louis in a trade for Rick Owneby and Neil Allen. He would take over first base for the rest of the season and send the aging and strikeout prone Dave Kingman to the bench. The addition of Hernandez and Strawberry along with George Foster and Rusty Staub both bouncing back with great seasons put the Mets on the path to being a winning club. They would see a second-place finishes in 1984 and 1985. The 1985 card of Hernandez resonates so much with me (I think) because it was featured on the top of the 1985 Topps wax boxes. I remember seeing it every time I would reach for a pack at my local card shop. As a kid, you always thought that the “best” cards were the ones featured on the boxes. Of course, you can’t call yourself a baseball fan if you’re not familiar with the Met’s magical year of 1986. I’ve always been a fan of cards featuring catchers and plays at the plate so the top spot for 1986 goes to Ronn Reynolds. Literally a guy who “couldn’t hit his weight” (career .188 batting average vs 200 lbs), he would be shipped off to Philadelphia at the close of the 1985 season as the newly acquired Gary Carter would take over duties behind the plate for many years to come.
1987 was the toughest year for me to pick the “best” Met’s card from Topps. There are several that are some of my all-time favorite cards…of any set for that matter. You have two cards featuring gritty plays at the plate with Kevin Mitchell and Wally Backman. Ron Darling is depicted driving off of the mound with his picture-perfect mechanics and newly acquired third baseman Howard Johnson also has a nice card. The top Mets card for me in 1987 however, is none other than Gary Carter. This card would make him my favorite player and the set in general would go on to become a favorite of many collectors that grew up in the 80’s. 1988’s top Met’s card goes to Carter again. It’s a nicely framed action shot from Shea Stadium featuring Carter at the plate. That year Topps produced 2-pocket folders that replicated their 1988 Topps baseball cards. My Granny purchased a few for me. One of which was Gary Carter. This went right into my Trapper Keeper and I stared at everyday of sixth grade. The Mets would find themselves back at the top of their division in 1988 only to lose to the LA Dodgers in the NLCS. Darryl Strawberry takes the top spot for the 1989 Met’s set. A prolific home run hitter for the Mets, Topps captures Strawberry at the plate and laser focused on the next pitch. He would make the All-Star Team that year with 29 home runs and the Mets would finish in second place. Topps produced school folders in 1989 as well. They pop up on Ebay from time to time.
Anyone who reads this blog knows that I have absolutely no use for the 1990 set. I absolutely hate it and should mean something as it is coming from a collector who really looks for all the good things in a set before I look for the faults. In this case, the design is terrible, the color scheme is terrible, and the photography is terrible. It’s literally 791 cards of complete and utter junk. I do like Howard Johnson’s card though which is why I didn’t say it was “792 cards of complete and utter junk.” The Met’s weren’t “junk” that year either as they finished in second place, four games behind Pittsburgh. 1991, however marked the start of the toilet bowl spiral for the Mets. With a weird mix of checked-out former stars from their ’86 World Series squad, free agents that were not really interested in being a part of “rebuilding phase” and prospects that probably had no business being on the big-league club anyways. It’s no wonder that they would finish 20.5 games out of first. Darryl Strawberry pulls the best card of the Mets that year despite not actually playing for them. The 1991 Topps design has always been a favorite of mine and other collectors and they gave Strawberry a great card as he closed out his career with New York. Strawberry signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Dodgers in November of 1990, marking the end of his time in blue and orange and inking a lucrative five-year $22.25 million deal. 1992 would get even worse for the Mets despite the owners breaking out the checkbook and signing what they hoped would be major acquisitions that would curb the losing and make everyone stop wishing it was the mid-eighties again. Despite the talent, the team was an absolute disaster and would go on to lose over 90 games. Even Topps seemed to have little interest in the “Worst Team Money Could Buy” (according to Bob Klapisch’s book), as nearly every card is unremarkable. They did feature an aging Hubie Brooks and former Tidewater Tide rounding third base. He gets the top spot for 1991 but by the time that card hit collector’s hands, he was playing for the California Angels.
The next three years all go to catchers. The best thing about the 1993 team set is this Todd Hundley card and it’s not even that great. The photo looks to have captured the aftermath of a passed ball or errant throw from an infielder. I can’t think of any of situation where a catcher would end up like this. Sure, it’s a Mets card of a catcher and it even features the cool rookie cup, but it’s simply the best of an overall very mediocre collection of Mets. While every Mets’ fan was hoping to forget the disaster that was the season of 1992, the Mets actually got worse in 1993; losing 100 games – the worst season since 1967. 1994’s players strike actually allowed the Mets to hang on to a third place finish in their division. Charlie O’Brien gets the nod for 1994 and is featured on his Topps card getting ready for a play at the plate with Houston’s Steve Finley. Coincidentally, it would be Todd Hundley that would replace O’Brien behind the plate. O’Brien was traded to Atlanta in November of 1993 so he never saw action for the Mets in 1994. 1995 would be a nicer year for the Mets as they finished 2nd in the division. Third-string backup catcher Kelly Stinnett gets the top card for that season. Despite the terrible Topps design, he is featured nicely framed and following through at the plate.
Due to an injury, Bill Pulsipher sat out the entire 1996 season. It was a return to the Mets losing ways as they finished 4th in the division. He does get the top card of the 1996 Mets set though. I’ve always liked this card as it was his first Topps base card that showed him actually on the field playing. He was a member of the Norfolk Tides for much of the 1995 season and then off and on through 2000. I saw him play here locally many times. Another former Norfolk Tide gets the top card of the 1997 Mets set. This is the year I graduated from high school and Mets would roll to another mediocre 3rd place finish but this season was the start of a turnaround. Infielder Butch Huskey can be seen on his 1997 Topps card signing autographs for fans at Shea Stadium. This is something that he did often during his time here in the minor leagues. The 1998 Mets season was a heart breaker. They were one of the best Mets teams to come along in a decade and they played splendidly throughout the season. However, any hope of making the playoffs was dashed as they squandered away the last five games of the season. John Olerud gets the nod for the top card in the 1998 Topps set. The design of this set is not particularly my favorite, but I do just love this card. I love the bright uniform set against the dark background and the gold border works well. We also get a great shot of Olerud fielding with his signature batting helmet on. 1998 would be the best year of Olerud’s career setting a franchise record for both batting average and on-base percentage, both of which still stand to this day.
I had to go with Mike Piazza for the top card of 1999. It has a very “1987 Gary Carter” throwback feel to it. 1999 would be Piazza’s first full season with the Mets and he would help them break into the post season and reaching the NLCS before losing to Atlanta. It would be manager Bobby Valentine’s first taste of the post season in his 30+ year career. 2000 would be another great year for the Mets as they reached the World Series for the first time in 15 years. The Mets starting rotation featured five men who all finished with a record of .500 or better and while not unheard of, one must remember that this was the height of the steroid era. Hitters were swatting more home runs further than they ever had before. Shortstop Rey Ordonez gets the top card of the 2000 set. Given Ordonez’ athleticism on the field, it’s kind of a boring card. Nothing more than a routine tag-out of Ellis Burks at second. He gets the top card of 2001 as well which tells you how bad the OTHER cards in the set are. The card is unremarkable despite a remarkable year. 2001 was not only the year I graduated from college but also a turning point in American history. On Tuesday September 11, a series of airline hijackings and suicide attacks became the deadliest on American soil in U.S. history. As New York suffered horrific losses, baseball was the furthest thing from anyone’s mind and with that; Commissioner Bud Selig would cancel all games through the end of the week and announced that the season would resume on Saturday, September 17. After three games against the Pirates in Pittsburgh, the Mets would return home to a battered New York City to play the Atlanta Braves. It would be the first baseball game in New York after the attacks and no one was sure how to approach this game. It would be a Piazza 3 run home run in the eighth that would bring all 41,000 fans in Shea Stadium to their feet…together as one, momentarily forgetting the pain in their hearts. The Mets would hold on to the lead for the win and baseball would find itself as an integral part of the healing process.
As we wrap up a heavy moment; let’s close out the blog for today – 1978 through 2001 which is 23 years of Mets’ cards and commentary. Stay tuned for Part 2 as we explore 2002 through 2020.
I picked up my first pack of National Chicle back in May of 2009.
It was August 30, 2019 that I treated myself to the final card needed to complete the 330 card base set.
This set took just over 10 years to complete – approximately 3,650 days.
I had decided to try and complete this set back in 2009 when I saw an advertisement for it in a Beckett magazine. I have always loved the pre-war era “art” cards and was excited that Topps was going to release a modern throwback release with the same theme.
National Chicle was first distributed in 1934 under the names Diamond Stars and Batter Up. This little known vintage set featured a wealth of eclectic, great looking cards and was produced until 1937.
For 2010, Topps commissioned a team of 12 sports artists to replicate the original 1930’s Chicle look.
275 of the cards on the preliminary checklist are broken up into: 205 active players 40 legendary players 25 rookieplayers
The remaining 55 short-print cards are broken up into three subsets: 25 retired stars revisted (featured in present day uniforms) 10 vintage veterans (featured in throwback uniforms) 20 rookie renditions (2010 rookies on throwback card designs)
At the time of release, reception to the tail end of the set was luke warm at best as there was little to no explanation as to why the themes were chosen. I liked them as they are certainly thought provoking and quirky.
Most collectors prefer at least a heads up before the card companies go too far outside of the box.
For instance, why is White Sox rookie Tyler Flowers featured on the 1990 Topps Frank Thomas rookie card? I’ve seen a variation of this Flowers card with the “no name on front” error which is pretty cool.
The most likely reason is that Topps told the artists to have fun with the project.
Athletic’s rookie Matt Carson looks strikingly similar to a young Ricky Henderson on his 1979 Topps rookie card.
Artist Jeff Zachowski had Frank Robinson’s 1957 rookie in mind when he painted Red’s rookie Drew Stubbs.
The Babe posing in an Atlanta Braves jersey? Or is that Chipper Jones? Artist Paul Lempa points out that Babe Ruth did end his career with the Boston Braves. Now it makes more sense.
Giants rookie Buster Posey does his best 1952 Willie Mays impersonation thanks to artist Brian Kong.
I have always loved the Jimmie Foxx card in this set. I think I first saw it posted over at Nick’s “Dime Boxes” blog. (check it out if you haven’t already!) Pittsburg artist Chris Henderson painted him against a bold background and the action shot is just awesome. Although it didn’t win Boston a championship, Carlton Fisk’s iconic home run to end Game 6 of the 1975 World Series remains one of the great moments in Major League Baseball history and is depicted here on his 2010 Chicle card. We also see a nice throwback to Johnny Bench’s 1969 Topps card by artist Monty Sheldon. The only thing missing is the 1968 Rookie Cup.
Artist Monty Sheldon produced the John Maine and Curtis Granderson cards. I love the horizontal design and backdrops depicted. Kershaw shines in front of a strikingly red background and Evan Longoria looks right at home on artist Jeff Zachowski’s tropical depiction.
Easily one of my favorite cards in the set, artist Chris Felix puts a modern day “Scooter” against the shadows of Yankee Stadium as he plays “pepper” with a teammate. We also have a pretty good idea of what A-Rod would look like had he been a Bronx bomber in the early 1900’s.
Two more fine examples of Chicle honoring baseball legends in both their original uniforms and present day uniforms. Chicle “plays two” with Cub’s legend Ernie Banks by featuring him on two cards. Artist Mike Kupka presents “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks as a Cub in either 1970 or 1971. You can narrow down the jersey as there is no centennial patch on the sleeve. Jason Davies flips Banks into today’s modern uniform on his short-print version.
Honoring the team that drafted him, we see a fine depiction from Monty Sheldon of Ryne Sandberg in his Philadelphia Phillies uniform. In what is widely considered one of the worst trades in baseball history, in 1982 he would be traded to the Chicago Cubs along with the aging Larry Bowa for Ivan DeJesus. The rest is history as he would go on to play his way into the Hall of Fame. After retiring as a Cub in 1997, Sandberg would end up managing the Phillies to the worst record in baseball in 2015. He would resign on his own after his promise to return to “fundamental baseball” never materialized on the field.
Here we have four more dazzling horizontal cards of Hall of Famers Stan Musial, Jackie Robinson, Warren Spahn, and Roy Campanella. Artist Monty Sheldon produced the Musial, Spahn, and Campanella while former Marvel comic artist Brian Kong took care of replicating the mighty Jackie Robinson taking a cut against the bold red background.
Lots of collectors wondered about the spider featured on Cy Young’s card. He played for the Cleveland Spiders in 1891. Fielding their first team in 1887, the Spiders never enjoyed a winning season. Young is largely credited with turning the club around with his signing in 1891. The Spiders had their first taste of success in 1892 when they finished 93–56 overall; winning the second half by three games over Boston with a 53–23 record. National Chicle also features Young in a modern day Indians’ uniform. The Mick is also featured on two cards. One in his traditional Yankee pinstripes and the other in his “retired stars revisited” version.
I’ll close this post out with three of my favorite players. Ken Griffey Jr. is featured on only one card in this set. The same goes for Jeter and my local-favorite David Wright.
This set was certainly a challenge. The short-prints were tough to find and regardless of the player on the card; often carried a premium price. Ten years is a long time to chase a set and I found myself abandoning all hope of completing it more than a few times. However, writing this post made me realize just how much I like this set.
The last card to finish the set? As a Met’s fan, it pains me to say that this guy was the one. There were about 4 years where this ONE card was missing. I finally bit the bullet and bought a copy. Chipper, you killed the Mets for all of those years. Makes complete sense that YOU would be the one that was needed to complete a 10 year quest to complete this set.
Congrats on the Hall of Fame induction. It is well deserved. If I had to choose a player to be the final card in a set; I would be more than happy to choose you.
It was a simple task really. I was supposed to go to the store and come home with some milk.
As I pulled the car back into the driveway, I realized that I had forgotten the milk. Instead, the trip to Target had yielded me this:
The box boasted the “World’s Greatest Card Chase”. I may even pull a “Diamond Pack” which would gain me an entry to win the “The Big Find” which according to the box would be a framed autograph and photo of Hall of Famer Cy Young.
I couldn’t have cared less about winning that card.
I just wanted the 14 packs of worthless junk wax inside the box.
It’s no wonder I forgot all about the milk right?
Inside the box was a good variety of packs. Mostly from the 90’s, a few 80’s, some Topps, Donruss, Upper Deck, Score and Fleer and just as I suspected, no Cy Young autograph which was fine by me. I’m always looking for cards to either mail off with an autograph request or add to my mini collections. Let’s take a look at a few of my favorite pulls from each pack.
(1991 Leaf) – Possibly one of the most forgettable sets of the early 90’s. You can get the entire 1991 Leaf set for about $6 these days. Leaf spotlighted the 1991 rookie crop through a 26 card “Gold” set. Bagwell, Mussina, Van Poppel, and Klesko were among those featured. This pack awarded me with one Gold Rookie – Scott Leius – but it was the card of Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes that will end up in my “Wrigley Ivy Covered Wall” mini collection. Here you can see him warming up in front of the lush ivy covered wall of Wrigley Field.
(1990 Fleer) – Another snoozer of a set from the early 90’s and also, the same cards that I see the most of at garage sales and thrift stores. Not being particularly thrilled to open this pack, I was happy to pull this Mattingly. I’ve decided to start a player collection for him and I’ve always liked cards that feature players at the old Comisky Park. You can always tell it’s Comisky from the bright yellow aisle railings in the stands.
(1987 Donruss) – It had been 32 years since these cards had seen the light of day. A testament to the sheer number of cards produced around that time I guess. I’ve heard stories of entire warehouses full of master cases of cards from the late 80’s and early 90’s. The result of dealers and collectors hoarding them with hopes of one day flipping them into boat loads of cash. Today, they sit there collecting dust with no one showing them any interest. My pack was so absolutely unremarkable that this Joe Cowley was the only one that sparked my interest. Cowley is known for the no-hitter he threw when playing for the Chicago White Sox. It would be the last game he would win in his career. Cowley now works in sales for a text message marketing company. A few years ago, my company had partnered with his company and his business card was passed along to me. I immediately recognized the name but figured it was another Joe Cowley. I ended up giving him a call one day and asked if he was the same guy. He was! Sadly, he wanted to talk business more than baseball. Of course my agenda was the opposite. Adam over at Cardboard Gods also has a cool story about Joe. Click here to give it a read.
(1989 Donruss) – Despite not pulling a Griffey Jr., Sheffield, or Johnson rookie card, I was pretty happy to pull this Rickey Henderson for my player collection. I have been meaning to upgrade the one I already had. I remember being in 6th grade when this set came out. A few of my buddies and I agreed that the design was an improvement from the 1988 Donruss set. Not only was the design much better but Donruss also increased the weight of the card stock which was nice. I particularly enjoyed the Baseball’s Best subset that came out later in the year. The Griffey Jr card is much more beautiful than his regular issue Rated Rookie. Donruss also made sure to feature an additional Rickey card as he was traded to Oakland mid-season.
(1988 Fleer) – Some people will tell you that Fleer had a print run in 1988 that was far less than its competitors but I would disagree. These cards are not only everywhere, but as ugly as they come. This pack was quite unremarkable with the exception of this Andre Dawson. Here you can see the future Hall of Famer watching a fly ball take off at Wrigley Field.
(1990 Upper Deck) – I love this card of Andy Allanson and it will go right into my catcher mini-collection. The 1990 Upper Deck set has a few fun cards to chase. The 10 card set of Reggie Jackson was popular and we all used to purchase packs with the hopes of pulling a signed and numbered Reggie card. I think this may have been the start of the modern day “chase card”. There are also a few error cards to look for. The Nolan Ryan high number card #734 can be found both with and without the “300th Win” flag on it. Ben McDonald’s rookie card #54 was printed with either the Oriole’s logo or the Star Rookie logo on the front.
(1991 Topps) – Another “Donny Ballgame” upgrade for the player collection. Topps really outdid themselves with their 1991 set as they celebrated 40 years in the baseball card business. The 1991 set features a few of my all-time favorite cards. These include Benito Santiago, Wade Boggs, Walt Weiss, and Rickey Henderson.
(1990 Score) – I’ve always liked Score baseball cards. I particularly liked their effort to include a thoughtful paragraph or two about the player on the back of most cards. The full color photo on the back was also a nice touch. This particular set’s popularity was driven by card #697 which featured a horizontal black and white photo of a shirtless Bo Jackson sporting shoulder pads and holding a baseball bat. At the time, he was a phenom on both the football and baseball fields and was starring in his own Nike commercials. He was the man. There was no Bo Jackson in this pack but I did pull this Bob Geren for my catcher mini-collection.
(1989 Topps) – The fact that this Chili Davis card is the “best” card in this pack should tell you something about the other cards. I have actually always liked the design of the 1989 Topps set. I don’t always like designs where the team name is featured without the logo but in this case it seems to work okay. Davis was a three time All Star with 350 home runs in his 19 year career. He also won three World Series. This year he will work with the New York Mets as their hitting coach. The nickname “Chili” came from a particularly bad haircut he received from his father. His classmates asked him if his dad had put a “chili bowl” on his head before he trimmed his hair.
(1991 Leaf) – Another unimaginative design for collectors to suffer through. We can be thankful for this great action shot of young future star Gary Sheffield recording a force out on Oakland’s Carney Lansford. This photo appears to be from the May 12, 1989 game between Milwaukee and Oakland. Lansford lead off the bottom of the 6th with a base hit. As Walt Weiss poked a ground ball into right field, Lansford made his way to third base. A strong throw from right fielder Rob Deer gave Sheffield just enough time to tag the bag and avoid the slide. This card will go into my double play mini-collection. (Yes, I know it’s not a double play – the shot is just too good to pass up.)
Three cards for the “Catchers mini-collection”.
(1990 Score) – The 1990 Score pack provided not only the Bob Geren above but also this card featuring Gary Carter at Shea Stadium waiting on a throw home. Score had already gone to print with Carter in his Met’s uniform for this set. He was actually a San Francisco Giant in 1990. In November of 1989 the Mets released Carter batting only .183 in fifty games.
(2018 Topps Opening Day) – Topps put together a nice Opening Day card of Salvy Perez. He would go on to be elected to his sixth All Star game last year and has won Gold Gloves in the last five seasons. This year, the Royals will not have their beloved catcher behind the dish as he will be out with Tommy John surgery for the year.
(1988 Score) – I’m always happy to pull an Ed Hearn card. He was a crowd favorite here in Norfolk when he played for the Tidewater Tides in the mid 80’s. He would not be with the Met’s during their championship season. Barry Lyons beat him out for the backup catcher job in 1986. He was then traded to the Kansas City Royals in 1987 for pitcher David Cone. A shoulder injury sidelined Hearn after only nine games into the 87 season. He would spend the next six years trying to make his way back to a major league team before he decided to hang it up. Hearn is remembered most for his personal health battles after his baseball career. In 1992 Hearn was diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. Hearn immediately underwent a kidney transplant and was required to take several types of medication on a daily basis. Due to the debilitating effects of the disease, and mood swings caused by the medication, Hearn almost committed suicide, but was able to fight his way past it through faith and a chance request for him to give a motivational seminar. He has also been treated for skin cancer twice, undergone two more kidney transplants, and was diagnosed with sleep apnea. Despite all of the challenges and taking more than fifty types of medication on a daily basis, Hearn travels the country as a motivational speaker.
(1992 Babe Ruth Collection) – Kind of a cool set with 162 cards highlighting the life and times of Babe Ruth. I’ve seen a million of these cards over the years but was never compelled to give them a second look or attempt to complete the set. There is one listed on Ebay today for $3 with free shipping. This particular card caught my attention due to the horizontal photo of what appears to be a spring training game in Florida. After some digging, I learned that this photo was taken in St. Petersburg Florida during an exhibition game and features Babe sending one over the fence against the Boston Braves. The back features a great story by pitcher Wes Ferrell. He said that pitching against Ruth was like “looking into a lion’s jaw.” He would go on to say:
“Hell man, you’re pitching to a legend! You were nothing out there when Ruth came up. You would look around and all of your infielders were way back and your outfields have all but left town. Here you are, 60 feet away from him. You also get great encouragement from your infielders. The first baseman will tell you to pitch him outside while your third baseman will tell you to pitch him inside. After all, they didn’t want Babe to knock their legs out from under them. I used to say ‘take it easy guys, I’m closer to him than you are and I’m not worryin” — I actually was though.”
I’m a “set” guy. I like choosing a set and hunting down each piece of the puzzle. Admittedly, I’ve lost interest in completing a few of the recent sets I’ve set out to complete. The Heritage sets with their high-number cards are just too much of a challenge for my taste. I prefer sticking to base sets with the exception of the Topps Gypsy Queen sets which have just the right amount of short-prints and variations to keep me interested.
With each new flagship Topps release, I will hand-collate the base set. It usually takes me all year but I always manage to get it done before the World Series hits. This year, as I slid the last card of the Topps Series 2 set into it’s final page sleeve I decided that I should do a blog post featuring my favorite 10 cards in the set.
The problem was, I had more than 10 cards that I wanted to feature. Topps has come a long way with their flagship sets and the photography. At one point in time, premium photography and exciting shots seemed to be reserved for the Stadium Club sets. The 2017 Topps design is awesome and I really enjoyed putting this set together. Here we will look at my top 15 cards in Series 1 and 2.
Once this post is finished, the cards will be taken back out of their pages, tucked into their respective “row” of a monster-box, labeled and up on the shelf they will go to sit and wait for the day they get broken back out to see the light of day.
The ritual drives my wife crazy. That’s her problem though.
Without further ado, let’s get to the cards and we will fittingly start with #1 in Series 1.
#1 – Kris Bryant – The Chicago Cubs World Series Champion and National League Most Valuable Player graces Card No. 1 and joins a long list of great players who have been represented on the first Topps card of the year from Jackie Robinson and Ted Williams to Mike Piazza and Derek Jeter. I’ve always loved the horizontal cards and Bryant was actually chosen by baseballs to get the coveted #1 card in this year’s release. The one-week online vote occurred in October of last year where fans chose from a list of 16 nominees on Topps.com. Topps started the Vote for Card No. 1 in 2016 when Angels outfielder Mike Trout earned the honor in the inaugural vote.
#236 – Lucas Duda – As a Met’s fan, we can start here. I love the throwback Mets uniform in this shot and the fact that it’s not even Lucas Duda on the card. The first time I pulled this card, I stared at it and knew something was off. The photo is actually of utility player Eric Campbell who is not even playing in Major League Baseball anymore as he signed with the Hanshin Tigers last year. The corrected version of the card was released in factory sets and the New York Mets team sets only. I’ll track the corrected one down on the Bay at some point.
#140 – Jesse Hahn – Here we have a nice crisp shot of the A’s starter. For some reason,
I feel like cards with daytime photos shot in California always seem to have a “brighter” feel to them. Check out any older A’s, Dodgers or Angels cards and you’ll see what I mean. In this particular photo, Topps captured Hahn using one of the warm-up mounds in foul territory at Oakland Alameda Coliseum. You can also see “Jacob Ellsbury” featured on the ticker tape scoreboard in the background. This would likely date this photo as May 22, 2016 which was a day game against the New York Yankees. The Bombers would go on to take that game 5-4 with Ellsbury using the 3rd inning to drop a Hahn fastball over the deep center-right field wall for a home run.
#6 – Kevin Pillar – Cards featuring plays at the plate are always popular with me. I think the first play at the plate card I owned was the 1987 Topps Wally Backman. Ever since then, I’ve been hooked. Topps zeroed in on this July 7, 2016, sixth inning play at the plate as Detroit Tiger catcher James McCann tags out Toronto runner Kevin Pillar. The Jays would go on to beat the Tigers 5-4 behind 3 RBI’s from Troy Tulowitzki.
#133 -Jace Peterson – This is actually one of three really nice “double-dip” action shots in the set. The Braves second-sacker has split most of the 2017 season between AAA Gwinnett. A versatile player who can play all infield positions as well as the outfield, if he can perform at the plate, he will be a key player for Atlanta.
#36 – Addison Russell – Probably one of the most notable cards of Series 1 due to the fact that this card (along with the Bryce Harper variation) were featured in most of Topps pre-release marketing. Collectors were seemingly very familiar with it before the set was even released. Despite that, it’s an awesome card. The partial full-bleed design of the set works really well with this card. I love the clarity of Russell and the base-runner against the blurred out background. Very effective card that captures the moment.
#443 – Dee Gordon – Here we have a great action shot featuring Gordon turning a graceful double-dip against the Phillies Cesar Hernandez. This photo was from the September 18, 2016 game between the Marlins and Phillies at Citizen’s Bank Park. The Marlins would take this game from the Phils by a score of 5-4. In addition to a slick-fielding lead off hitter, Gordon is known also as the son of former Royals and Phillies pitcher Tom Gordon. I will always remember the emotional lead off home run he hit in his first at bat after the untimely passing of teammate Jose Fernandez.
#251 – Justin Turner – As Justin Turner played here locally in 2009 & 2010 with the Norfolk Tides; I’ve followed Justin Turner’s career pretty closely over the years. After being let go by the Mets in 2013 as just one of the many bone-headed moves by Met’s general manager Sandy Alderson (how does that guy still have a job?), Turner rebuilt his swing and overall approach at the plate and is currently an All-Star as well as one of the most feared hitters in the league. Imagine a Met’s infield with Turner at third and Murphy at second. I not only love the photography on his 2017 card, but I think it looks great in the sideways landscape format. This photo is from the June 17, 2016 game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Milwaukee Brewers and features Turner celebrating his walk-off RBI single which won the game in the 10th inning. He had also tied the game in the 8th with two run homer.
#581 – Brock Holt – Another great landscape shot from Topps. Featuring Brock Holt warming up between innings or before a game, you see a beautiful sky in the background as well as the telltale signs of the iconic Fenway Park. I can actually imagine myself sitting in the front row at this game.
#350 – David Ortiz – As Nick over at the Dime Box baseball card blog would call it, this is Ortiz “sunset card”. Topps did a fine job of capturing Ortiz’ graceful swing launching of his last home runs into the bleachers at Fenway Park. This photo was taken on July 26, 2016 in the third inning and happens to be a 3 run homer. San Francisco Giants catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is also featured in the photo. An absolute first ballot Hall of Famer, Ortiz has been a fan-favorite for years and will go down as one of the most beloved Red Sox players. I have to admit, I’m huge Ortiz fan and this card marks the end of a career that was thrilling to watch every step of the way. I’m still on the hunt for a copy of his 2013 Topps SSP “Boston Strong” card.
#508 Hanley Ramirez – Topps really outdid themselves with the Red Sox cards this year as their are so many great shots of them. Here is another great landscape shot featuring Hanley Ramirez watching his 7th inning home run against the Blue Jays on October 2, 2016. I love how the catcher and the umpire are both featured in this card as well. Despite the efforts of Ramirez, Toronto would go on to win the game 2-1 and clinch the Wild Card spot. Coincidentally, this game was also the last home game of Big Papi’s career.
#324 Ben Revere – Taking a break from the BoSox, let’s move over to the Washington Nationals and take a look at this great shot of speedy outfielder Ben Revere robbing Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman of a home run during the fourth inning of their August 19, 2016 match up. You can watch a video clip of the grab HERE. The Nats would go on to take this one from the Braves 7-6. This grab was one of the few bright spots in Revere’s season and 2016 would be his only season with the Nationals. He was picked up by the Los Angeles Angels this past December.
#520 Andrelton Simmons – Topps took advantage of the flame throwing backdrop of Angels Stadium to capture Simmons celebrating a double. Simmons was traded to Los Angeles from Atlanta last November so this is his first card in an Angels uniform.
#669 Corey Kluber – If you’ve ever wondered what it would look like to stare down the pipe of a Kluber fastball, this would probably be a pretty accurate example. This photo was from the 2016 ALDS matchup between the Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays. The Tribe would go on to take the game from the Jays 2-0. 2017 has seen Kluber be as good as any pitcher in the game could be and the Indians are currently leading their division by 8 games. This year I put my Cy Young bets on Kluber or Chris Sale.
#576 Russell Martin – Topps has made a concerted effort to feature key moments from the prior season and this card is exemplary of that effort. Here we have a a close play at the plate in the seventh inning of Game 2 of the explosive 2016 ALDS between the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays. After a lead off double by Ian Desmond, Adrian Beltre hit into a fielder’s choice leading to Desmond being tagged out at the plate. This was the second meeting between the Blue Jays and the Rangers in the postseason, the first being the 2015 American League Division Series in which the Blue Jays defeated the Rangers after losing the first two games at home, which was marked by a controversy-laden deciding Game 5 defined by José Bautista’s bat flip. It was also the first series between the two teams since May 15, a game which featured multiple bench clearing skirmishes and the infamous Rougned Odor punch of Bautista.
That’s it for the Top 15 cards of the 2017 Topps Series 1 & 2 set. I’ve just completed a nice 1978 Topps set so I’ll likely get started on a Top 10 list of those cards as well.
I’m a “complete set” kinda guy. Not to the extent that I’d ever spend the time or money to complete a present-day “master set” though. I’m perfectly happy with stopping at just the base set in most cases.
I say ” in most cases” because since Topps first released Gypsy Queen, I’ve always put the effort into completing the set through the SP’s. I justify it by telling myself, “it’s just 50 more cards,” I guess.
My latest project is the 1978 Topps set. It has taken me a little bit longer than usual not for any other reason than Little Cam requires all hands on deck in most cases. I’d say that I’ve got 3/4’s of the set complete but I still need to get what I have in pages so I can quickly fill in the blanks. My wife thinks it ridiculous that I spend the time to put the cards in protective pages…only to complete the set, which is then neatly put in a box and stored away.
I’ve ended up with quite a few doubles and before I pass them along to a buddy of mine, I usually pull a few to send off with autograph requests. In this case, Pittsburg Pirates 3rd baseman and former Houston Astros manager Phil Garner ended up on the mailing list and was happy to oblige my request.
As one of the more unique photos in the ’78 set, this photo was taken during the 1977 season and shows Garner admiring a fly ball. Garner did hit a career high 17 dingers that year so I suppose he could be watching the ball leave the yard. Standing in the background is manager Chuck Tanner and 2nd baseman Rennie Stennett. If it were a home run, I’d hope Stennett’s reaction would be a bit more enthusiastic than what you see in the the photo.
The ’77 Pirates not only sported some of the sweetest uniforms of their time, but also finished 2nd in the National League East with a 96-66 record and five games back of the Philadelphia Phillies. I love the home uniforms of the Pirates of the ’70’s. Revolutionizing baseball uniforms forever, the Pirates were the first team to sport buttonless pullover jerseys. They also decided to replace their belts with colorful elastic bands on their pants. You can clearly see that in the photo above. The Pirates were also the first to wear a cotton-nylon knit fabric uniform that was not only cooler and lighter than the woven flannel uniforms of the time, but also provided a more “stretchy” fit. The “stretchy” duds were not particularly well received by the players or the media; generating comments such as “the new uniforms do not flatter fat men” and “these pants are like taking off a girdle.” Regardless, this look would be adopted by nearly every team for the next 20 years.