Monday, September 15, 2014


Imagine a time when "Walk Like An Egyptian" was at the top of the charts.

Imagine a time when Platoon was the big box office smash of the year.

Imagine a time when everyone crowded around their TVs to watch the Huxtables on The Cosby Show or a place where everyone knows your name on Cheers every Thursday.

Can you?

I can't. But that's mostly because I wasn't around in 1987. I didn't exist until five years later.

On top of that, triple-pronged, 48-card rack packs were long gone by the time I started getting into baseball cards. Luckily for me, a full twenty-seven years later, I finally got a little taste of what it was like to collect during the late '80s.

Matt of the awesome blog "Bob Walk the Plank" somehow stumbled upon a rack pack of '87 Topps. By the graciousness of his good heart, he decided I should have it, even though I've never mentioned any desire to open one. As it turns out, it was a desire I never knew I had.

The cards were like a time machine that transported me back twenty-seven years in the five minutes it took me to sift through them. They even smelled like what I imagine 1987 smelled like. A waxy, kind of musty scent.

Care to join me on a trip back to the heyday of Tiffany and Robocop?

#10 Dwight Gooden, Glossy All-Stars insert

The rack pack opened with what passed for an insert in 1987.

Here in 2014, a set called Archives is reproducing these things with a sense of nostalgia. And the originals, like Doc here, are staples in repacks near you.

This, as I found out, was the only insert in the entire 48-card rack pack.

A far cry from the 12-card packs that seem to come with eight inserts nowadays.

#514 Orlando Mercado

Topps and 1987 will be forever linked by those famous wood-grain borders.

An obvious nod to '62 Topps, this design became an instant favorite of a lot of collectors at the time. Lots of those who lived through 1987 still look on it with fondness today, so I've heard.

It'd be a longshot to make my Top 5, but '87 would most certainly crack my list of the Top 10 Topps sets ever made.

I would've bought tons of rack packs just like this one from the local A&P with a design that sweet.

#72 Walt Terrell

#650 Hubie Brooks

I miss the Expos.

#430 Mike Schmidt

Our first Hall of Famer.

And, judging by the Expos jerseys in the background, a shot that may have been taken during the same game as the Brooks.

#493 Tom Lasorda MGR 

I've long since forgotten what it feels like to pull a manager from Flagship.

I don't know how excited people got over getting a card of Tom Lasorda back in 1987, but I'd bet that most people who collected back then would probably be in favor of a skipper revival in the cardboard industry.

Either way, we get a good shot of Lasorda's wedding band in this photo.

#521 Rick Reuschel
#15 Claudell Washington
#115 Donnie Moore
#507 Dave Stapleton 
#35 Sid Bream
#73 Dave Anderson
#292 Franklin Stubbs

#104 Billy Sample

The backs of '87 Topps are fun and key to the overall success of the design.

I like the little "GW-RBI" feature, and a lot of the bios feature fun pieces of information that weren't readily available to people in the days before the internet.

Topps probably taught a lot of young collectors about Billy Sample's past DJ experience with this card.

#29 Jimmy Key

#116 Bill Russell

Sunset card!

#741 Paul Molitor
#364 Randy Bush

#471 Ronn Reynolds

A Ron so cool he had to spell his first name with two Ns.

#708 Scott McGregor
#337 Darrell Miller
#147 Randy Niemann

#102 Paul Zuvella

Baseball needs more Z-men.

There are six currently active in the big leagues (Josh Zeid, Brad Ziegler, Jordan Zimmerman, Ryan Zimmerman, Ben Zobrist, and Mike Zunino), but none of them can match Mr. Paul Zuvella.

Zuvella, who enjoyed a 10-year career in the bigs, is third-to-last in baseball's all-time player encyclopedia. He trails only George Zuverink and the immortal Dutch Zwilling in that department.

Those couple paragraphs probably had more Zs than I've typed in the history of this blog before now.

#233 Russ Morman

#23 Lee Smith

Here's probably my favorite card in this entire rack pack.

It's hard to put a finger on exactly what it is, but it's the type of heroic posed photo that Topps can't seem to get a handle on nowadays. They're too obsessed with game-faces and pitching follow-throughs.

Even someone who didn't know a thing about baseball could tell that Lee Smith was a star from this classic shot.

#232 Reggie Williams
#353 Ernie Camacho
#112 Alan Ashby
#368 John McNamara MGR
#728 Tippy Martinez
#387 T.R. Bryden

#475 Scott Garrelts


#516 Ted Simmons
#198 Lee Mazzilli
#349 Storm Davis
#743 Dwayne Murphy

#107 John Butcher

A shot that could double as a Calvin Klein ad.

#183 Andy Hawkins

This one, not so much.

#221 Vern Ruhle

Vern Ruhle is staring into your soul.

#736 Steve Bedrosian
#790 Julio Cruz
#293 Bob Rodgers MGR
#57 Scott Nielsen

#674 Bill Campbell

Another nice, candid image that I hadn't seen before this rack pack came into my life.

Judging by the chain link fences in the backdrop, I'm guessing this particular photo was taken during Spring Training.

#673 Don Sutton

#767 Ron Cey

1987 would turn out to be Ron Cey's final season in the bigs.

This is his final card as a Cub, though his official sunset issue would come in the '87 Topps Traded checklist later in the year.

Just in case you forgot he was ever an Oakland A.

#681 George Bell
#484 Jim Traber
#548 Bill Mooneyham
#747 Johnny Ray
#744 Roy Smalley

I don't know what I did to be worthy of such a fun experience, but I give my buddy Matt a huge thanks for sending over this fantastic little surprise.

It's doubtful that I'll ever be able to grasp what it was really like to live through 1987. If anything, though, this rack pack brought me one step closer.

Sure, "Walk Like An Egyptian" is a classic rock staple these days. (I've done that stupid little dance more times than I'd care to admit.)

Maybe I was first introduced to the DVD copy of Platoon in a college history class a few semesters ago. And there probably are more Cheers and Cosby Show reruns than I could ever possibly watch on TV right now.

If you think about it, though, Topps is still the same, in a lot of ways. Lots of us still go nuts over rack packs, just like a lot of other people probably did back in 1987.

The hobby lives on.

By the way, the Cubs went 76-85 in 1987, good for dead last in their division that year.

I guess some things never change.


JediJeff said...

The Phillies and their amazing zipper front unis.

Tony L. said...

Yeah, the 1980s. Back when baseball thought they could track the actual game winning RBIs.

For a while, I was trying to put together the 1987 set in completely autographed form. I totaled up about 45 or 50 of them before realizing that 792 cards is a crap load of cards to get autographed.

Matthew Scott said...

I have a few more oddball items that I've accumulated with you in mind. Glad you enjoyed the 87's.

Fuji said...

You thought 1987 smelled waxy and musty? Wait. That's exactly what the PE locker room smelt like my freshman year... which happened to be in 1987. Damn kid... you sure are smart for your age.

Nick... great post as usual.

Swing And A Pop-up said...

1987 was a great year for me. I graduated high school and got back into collecting. Boxes of 1987 Topps were $15 a box then...and I bought a lot.

Kevin Papoy said...

Great post as usual !
in 1987 I was 10, and we traded Panini stickers of soccer players during recess. In 1988, I spent a year in New York and found my very first Baseball card on the ground. People would leave them lying around in the 80s, apparently !

majpasqua said...

Great post Nick! I must have bought/accumulated enough of these classics to put together 5 sets or more. Ahhhh, the memories....

GCA said...

Heck dude, one local antique shop has those rack packs by the dozen for a buck and a half each. I almost built my set from them but decided to take a starter set from my friend who bought a large lot of junk wax era stuff. We completed the set the next day from the dime boxes at his LCS. Fastest set I've ever completed. Though I haven't tried to do '85 yet....