Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Covering the Bases, Pt. 17: Top 10 Royals cards

In a couple hours, that field will host its first World Series contest in 29 years.

At this point in the season, I'd say a good 98 percent of baseball fans have become bandwagoners. I'm guilty of it. It's rare that I have any sort of real attachment to a team in the Fall Classic these days.

Although they've already knocked both my favorite (A's) and second-favorite (Angels) non-hometown teams out of the playoffs, I'm hitching my wagon to the Royals for this year's Series.

Unlike what seems like the majority of the baseball population, I don't have a vitriolic hatred for the Giants. Still, I'm all for cinderella stories, and the Royals are exactly that. So, although I'm always wrong come prediction time, I'm taking the Royals in 7.

In order to commemorate what I hope will be an exciting Fall Classic, I got it in my head the other day to borrow (okay, steal) another blogger's idea and put a little twist on it.

I wasn't around during the Royals' powerhouse era in the '70s and '80s. Frankly, I only know them as bottom dwellers, and that certainly doesn't seem like an appropriate theme for what is now a World Series-bound squad.

Instead, I went digging through my Kansas City binder today and picked out the ten best Royals cards ever made.

Please keep in mind that this list was based on absolutely no sane formula of any kind.

#10 -- 1982 Fleer #422 Dan Quisenberry

I first discovered this card on Night Owl's blog, which is appropriate since he was the inspiration for this very list.

Everything that is pure and good about early Fleer is summed up in this single, muscle-stretching shot.

#9 -- 1987 Topps #170 Bo Jackson RC

Behold, the champion of my first-ever "Gems of Junk Wax" tournament!

I can't say I was expecting it to win at the time, but I can certainly see why people think Bo is so special. The famous wood-grain borders and rainbow "Future Stars" banner make this the most memorable of Jackson's rookie cards, for my money.

Again, I wasn't around in 1987, but I can only imagine the waves this card created.

#8 -- 1971 Topps #118 Cookie Rojas

Aside from '56, 1971 was the first Topps set to make great use out of action shots.

If you've been collecting for any amount of time, I'm guessing there's a good chance you've seen this card by now. This "double dip" shot of Cookie Rojas is one of the first of its kind, and definitely one of the best to come out of '71 Topps.

One can only wonder whether the action shot would've ever become a thing without cards like this one.

#7 -- 2010 Topps "The Cards Your Mom Threw Out" #CMT-55 Alex Gordon

The back of this reprint kicks off with one of the best sentences in the history of baseball cards.

If your mom threw out this card, the first question is "How did you get it in the first place?"

Those who were in the hobby back in 2006 probably remembers the insanity that surrounded this rookie of then-prospect Alex Gordon.

Due to the new rookie card restrictions at the time, card companies weren't allowed to print anything of any player who wasn't on a team's 40-man roster. Gordon wasn't at the time, yet this card somehow slipped through the presses.

Topps soon tried to correct their mistake, but a few found their way into packs. That, of course, resulted in the card going for insane amounts of money. Some sold for thousands of dollars a piece.

To some, the whole thing may have seemed like an outright fiasco. And that it was. As it happens, however, the Gordon craziness was going on right when I was starting to get back into baseball cards. That will forever make it special in my eyes.

All in all, I'm glad that Alex Gordon eventually turned into a pretty darn good ballplayer.

To many, though, he'll always be That Guy With That One Card.


#6 -- 1981 Topps #473 Jose Cardenal

This is Jose Cardenal's only card as a Kansas City Royal.

I'm about as big of a Cardenal fan as you'll find, so that alone makes this one special piece of my collection.

If nothing else, though, it's proof that he kept the 'fro alive in the '80s.

#5 -- 1993 Donruss #261 Brent Mayne

It's one thing to get a shot a guy arguing with an umpire.

This is far beyond that. Something or someone upset Brent Mayne so much that he had to be physically restrained by one of the men in blue. And, better yet, Donruss thought it would be a good idea to print it on a baseball card.

Genius in every sense of the word.

Oh, and I wouldn't piss off Brent Mayne if I were you.

#4 -- 1984 Fleer #638 "The Pine Tar Incident" (George Brett/Gaylord Perry)

I probably don't have to tell you about The Pine Tar Game.

Though it eventually went down as one of the most famous (or infamous?) moments in baseball history, only Fleer had the gall to actually commemorate it with a baseball card.

That's pure mischief on the faces of those two Royal rascals there. A great goofy shot to honor what is undoubtedly one of baseball's goofiest moments.

It should be noted that Gaylord Perry is included here because he tried to hide Brett's bat from American League officials who tried to confiscate it. This is one of three cards Perry has in the '84 Fleer checklist, and, with the exception of this, the only ones to ever feature him as a Royal.

Not a bad way to go out.

Speaking of which...

#3 -- 1994 Topps #180 George Brett

...here's arguably the most well-made "sunset" card in history.

Topps sent George Brett out with an absolute bang in 1994. This is one of the cards that inspired me to branch outside the world of simple player collections and dig deeper into the photographical aspect of the hobby.

Though I've discovered a lot of great cardboard masterpieces since, I'm not sure anything tops this one.

I could stare at it for hours on end and still get lost in its pure beauty.

#2 -- 1976 SSPC #168 Harmon Killebrew

Between Brett and Killebrew, I'd argue that the Royals might actually have the two greatest "sunset" cards ever made.

The Brett, of course, is a favorite because of the image Topps used on it. If we're talking photography, this one isn't all that exciting.

No, what makes this one special is the fact that this is Harmon Killebrew's only card as a Royal. Topps passed on including "The Killer" in their '76 checklist, but the upstart SSPC was right on the ball.

Killebrew's .191 average in Kansas City makes his time as a Royal easy to forget, but I can't tell you how much I thank SSPC for commemorating it nonetheless.

It's the lone true "sunset" card for a man who deserved one.

#1a -- 1975 Topps #228 George Brett RC (dry)
#1b -- 1975 Topps #228 George Brett RC (washer-used)

This is the Royals card, as far as I'm concerned.

A '75 Topps rookie of George Brett, far and away the greatest player Kansas City has ever seen. 

While I eventually got my hands on a standard, well-conditioned copy of it, the "washer-used" Brett is the one that first won my heart. I found it in a 50-cent bin about a month before I started this very blog. 

It's probably popped up in my writings more than any other single card in my collection. It was even the basis for one of the first of what I hope will be a good-sized catalog of fiction writings I compose during my lifetime.

I've spent hours and hours appreciating the beauty of the downtrodden George Brett, and there's little doubt in my mind that he's one of the centerpieces of my collection.

It took a lot longer to create this list than I'd originally thought. I had a good-sized stack of a few dozen Royals when I started preparing, and it was insanely difficult to narrow down into a mere ten. (Okay, eleven.)

Guess that goes to show you.

Never underestimate the Kansas City Royals.


Mike said...

Big Papi and The Big Hurt both picked the Royals in 7 just now on the pre-game show,so you might be on to something....PLAY BALL!!!!

jacobmrley said...

FYI: the 1984 Donruss Living Legends A card also features Perry as a Royal. Most people consider this a regular base card and not an insert since it brings the total number of cards to the traditional 660.

Marcus said...

OH MAN! HOW HAVE I NEVER SEEN THAT KILLEBREW! This was a good list, but man, that Killebrew. LOVE that.

Kevin Papoy said...

I pulled the Topps Brett card a couple of months ago (the gold version also), and I did stare at it for a long moment, not even realizing this was a sunset card. Great post !

Mark Hoyle said...

I was waiting to see that well loved 75 Brett.