It's rare that I admire one of the year's greatest cards from afar without ever actually tracking it down, but that's exactly what happened in 2019.
I don't have to tell you why I wanted this otherwise common base card from 2019 Big League, but I'll do it anyways: it's Christian Yelich receiving an award from Hank Aaron. In other words, Hank Aaron is making the cameo here. Hank Aaron. This is a card I needed to have. But despite the the many trades I made, the many packs of Big League I opened (some of which were purchased with the main hope of pulling said Yelich), and the many card show boxes I perused, the friggin' thing just wouldn't show up.
I guess my 2020 already has a theme to it: The Year I Stopped Being So Stubborn About Randomness. Sure, it would've been great to stumble upon it in a dime box or pull it from a random pack of cards. But enough is enough: I finally broke down and just bought it on Sportlots last night (my first purchase over there in at least a year or two). Still, my stubbornness means that this otherwise great baseball card won't be making an appearance on my Cards of the Year list since I don't actually have it in hand yet. Consider it an honorable mention, I guess.
Thankfully, 2019 had a lot of other great cards that produced less of a fight -- and, keeping with the yearly tradition around here, I'm happy to present my Top 10 Cards of the Year here tonight.
#10 -- 2019 Topps Now #485 Max Scherzer
The only Topps Now card I bought all year, and I think you can see why.
#9 -- 2019 Topps Big League #114 Yolmer Sanchez
Sets like Stadium Club may have cards that make me say WOW, but Big League has cards that just make me laugh.
For the first time in a long time, I'm seriously considering giving the Set of the Year crown to something that isn't Stadium Club, because I really, really liked 2019 Big League -- I guess it all boils down to whether I consider awe or laughter to be the more essential emotion.
#8 -- 2019 Topps Update #US62 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Rookie Debut)
Most card years, for better or worse, seem to have a theme to them, and 2019 was undoubtedly the Year of Vlad Junior.
I understand the hype and money signs and all the other reasons people were clamoring for cards of the kid (though I still don't get why people buy entire shopping-cartfuls of packs and blasters from stores with the sole hope of pulling one guy). I just wanted his cards because he seems like a cool dude, an exciting prospect, and the son of my favorite player of my baseball lifetime. Vlad Jr. had a lot of cards issued in 2019 (and I mean A LOT of them), but this one from 2019 Update was my far-and-away favorite.
I'm particularly fond of cards that show guys reacting to someone else's accomplishments, but I'm guessing it won't be long until we see cards of Vlad Jr. performing those heroics himself.
#7 -- 2019 Topps #310 Javier Baez
The Cubs' 2019 season was a bit of a nightmare, but this card sure wasn't -- it makes the most out of last year's odd but generally likable Flagship design.
#6 -- 2019 Topps Allen & Ginter #213 Egg
I don't usually allow non-baseball cards into this countdown but COME ON IT'S A CARD OF AN EGG.
#5 -- 2019 Stadium Club #128 Jose Berrios
#4 -- 2019 Topps #529b Frank Robinson (Photo Variation)
I bought this card just days after Series 2 came out, knowing full well that it would be a) easier and b) cheaper to track down if I could just bring myself to wait a little while.
Spoiler alert: I couldn't.
#3 -- 2019 Topps Update "150 Years of Baseball" #150-55 Warren Spahn
I mentioned it briefly during my last card show report, but it bears repeating again and again: THERE'S FINALLY A CARD OF WARREN SPAHN ON THE GIANTS!
This year's "150 Years of Baseball" inserts were simply fantastic on all fronts (probably the best Topps insert set of the past decade), and just when I thought it couldn't possibly get any better, out popped something I've wanted for literally my entire card-collecting lifetime, WARREN SPAHN ON THE GIANTS, one of the more gaping "lost" Short Term Stops ever, and I'm sorry but this card just unleashes the run-on sentence fanatic in me.
#2 -- 2019 Stadium Club #161 Clayton Kershaw
I never knew how much I wanted a card of Clayton Kershaw with Clydesdales until I saw a card of Clayton Kershaw with Clydesdales.
#1 -- 2019 Topps Heritage #252 Pat Neshek
It's been agony deciding on a single Card of the Year at times in the past, but 2019 presented no such difficulties: it's Pat Neshek, by lightyears.
I can type all the words in the world without ever really conveying how much I love this card. But I'll try: first off, we have Pat Neshek, a dude who's noted for being a collector himself. There don't seem to be many card collectors in the game (which has always struck me as odd), so knowing that by itself made me a fan of Pat Neshek for life. He didn't need to endear himself to me any more than he already had.
But then he took it upon himself to pay tribute to one of the coolest baseball cards ever made, and thus I somehow became an even bigger Pat Neshek fan. I guess what I'm saying here is that the only thing better than knowing Pat Neshek is a card collector is knowing Pat Neshek is a knowledgeable card collector, fresh with the respect and admiration of the past that so many of us non-ballplayer collectors keep in our hearts.
Pat Neshek is one of us, and it's an honor to crown him (and his shades) Card of the Year for 2019.