Wednesday, August 14, 2013


While I don't do it in the most orthodox way, some of my collection is built around set building.

I've never sought to get all the cards in a certain checklist. I can see the allure it has to other collectors, but I can't say I've dabbled much into conventional set building.

Personally, I like to create my own sets to chase. One of my quests that I've referred to from time to time on this blog involves the almighty "Topps set".

At its base, a complete "Topps set" is having one of every Topps card a player had issued in his career. Everything from rookies to "sunsets" must be present for completion. (All-Star, In-Action, etc. subsets are preferred, but not necessary.)

While taking inventory of some of my "Topps set" progress the other day, I noticed a few things.

Oddly, some of the game's best players could never seem to catch a break with their cards. (Mike Schmidt and Mickey Lolich, to name a couple, had a rough go of it.)

In contrast, some woefully obscure players managed to have one spectacular moment in the cardboard sun. Luis Alvarado is probably the king in that department. His '73 Topps issue is one I've shown many times in the past.

And I'll continue to feature it again and again for as long as I blog.

Then again...

Quite a few of the game's greats had one or two cards that almost everyone knows.

In many cases, those cards have become the stuff of legend over the years. So legendary, in fact, that they start to overshadow a few other awesome cards they may have had issued in the past.

Trouble is, thanks to the iconic status of their most famous card, those other great pieces almost never get their due.

Sometimes, those other forgotten cards may even be better than the more remembered one.

George Foster may be one such example. His 1977 Topps issue is easily the most famous from his long career.

Foster went on to hit 52 homers in '77, the only player to eclipse 50 dingers during the 1970's. Now, 52 homers is a lot in any era. During the '70s, though, 52 probably seemed like 100 to most fans.

For that reason, it's easily the most famous card of Foster's Topps run.

As great as it is, though, I almost never see his '81 Topps card get any credit.

This is the only action shot Foster had during his eleven-year run of Reds cardboard from 1972 to '82. And it's a darn nice one.

You can just tell he's thinking "home run" in this shot. And, seeing that powerful batting stance, there's a good chance he hit one in the seconds after this photo was snapped.

I can certainly see why Foster's 1977 Topps card gets the most publicity these days.

But I think it's time we started giving a little more credit to his spot in the '81 checklist.

You could argue that Carlton Fisk had two iconic cards during his career.

Both his 1977 and '91 issues are amongst the most memorable in this hobby's history. Both happen to feature amazing "play at the plate" shots as well.

In the case of Fisk, the hype is much deserved.

Still, due to the popularity of his other great cardboard, I worry that some people have never seen his prolific '74 Topps card.

In reality, you can't go wrong with anything featuring "Pudge". Pretty much all of his cards are awesome. His '74 is simply the best of the rest, if you ask me.

The 1974 checklist doesn't have a whole lot of horizontal cards to begin with. The few it did have, however, are spectacular.

This beauty seemingly features Fisk awaiting a throw from one of his infielders, in what may well be a pre-PATP shot.

In just his second-ever solo card, Fisk already cemented himself as a cardboard All-Star.

Even managers can overshadow themselves sometimes.

I've always considered Tommy Lasorda's 1992 Topps issue to be the greatest manager card in history. Not surprisingly, I've featured it on this blog many times in the past.

It's about as close to a managerial "action" shot as you'll find.

Like Fisk, though, you'd be hard-pressed to find a bad card of Mr. Lasorda.

As far as photography goes, the 1988 Topps checklist didn't have much to offer. However, they struck pure gold with this one.

I can't say I've ever seen another card that features a golf cart. This shot alone, however, pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the baseball-loving, happy-go-lucky attitude of Lasorda.

Yes, I still rate his '92 Topps issue as the superior card.

But not by much.

Chances are you've seen this one before.

In an era that featured a slew of great 'fros, Oscar Gamble was almost certainly the chairman of the 'fro.

I've seen this card pop up in articles that aren't even about baseball cards. Every time I hear Oscar Gamble's name, this is what I picture.

To think that I found my copy of such a memorable card in a nickel box is still amazing.

Still, it wasn't the only memorable appearance the famous 'fro would make on cardboard.

The hairdo is just as spectacular on Gamble's 1975 Topps issue, one of the more famous designs in Topps history. And there isn't any horrid airbrushing to get in the way of that one.

If action shots are your thing, then you're in luck. His '76 Topps card features the 'fro in action. I absolutely love how one half of it is neatly tucked under his batting helmet, while the other half is jutting out uncontrollably.

Oh, and his '73 issue ain't half bad, either.

While it may have hit its peak in '76, the legend of Oscar Gamble's cardboard just seemed to grow larger over time.

As did his 'fro.

Again, I bet this isn't the first time you've seen this one.

Although he had some nice seasons in the bigs, Lenny Randle is probably best remembered for punching out his manager in Texas and blowing a ball foul in the Kingdome. (I prefer to remember him for the latter.)

In the cardboard industry, though, he's most famous for his amazing specimen in the '78 Topps checklist.

I've read a few accounts of people who successfully tracked this card to a certain moment in time. Apparently, what you're seeing here is the grunting Randle diving back into first on what was an errant pickoff throw by the San Diego pitcher that afternoon.

It's easily one of the better vintage pieces in my collection.

As is this one.

My copy is wildly off-center, but the great action shot on Randle's '75 Topps issue is thankfully still preserved.

Interestingly, it features almost the exact same hard-nosed facial expression that he's sporting on his '78 Topps card. I'm guessing it came due to either a checked swing or a juicy pitch that Randle fouled off/popped up.

Call me crazy, but I think I like this one just as much as the famous 1978 Topps piece. The action is there, and I've always far preferred the '75 design to the '78s.

Over time, it's simply been overshadowed by his other, more famous issue. Whether that's for better or worse is up to you.

I just think it's about time we started giving the '75 Randle some credit.

That goes for all the overshadowed cards out there.


Backstop Cards said...

Man, you're right, I've never seen that '74 Fisk card before, and it's awesome! A "Topps Set" of Fisk cards would look pretty impressive.

Oh, and the '71 Foster RC is my favorite of his.

Christian fisher said...

Do you collect matt cain

Nick said...