Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The de-evolution of the rookie cup

I'm not here to tear apart the new rookie card logo. That logo is a fairly recent innovation, something that completely threw me off when I returned to card collecting and something that I've found to be entirely meaningless and confusing at the same time. In other words, it means nothing to me and hurts my head.

So I can't give you any perspective on that.

What I am here to dissect is the once proud rookie cup/trophy logo.

The rookie cup logo basically served two purposes back in the day. It indicated that this was the first (or sometimes second) card of a player. And it indicated that the player was selected by Topps as the best rookie at that particular position, based on their rookie-season performance.

Of course, now that first purpose is totally out the window. By the time a rookie cup appears on a Topps card, the player has been a veteran of about three dozen card sets.

Perhaps that's why the rookie cup logo looks like crap now. Nobody cares about what it represents anymore.

Once upon a time the logo meant something, and was so impressive that it almost took over the card. In fact, it wasn't even a cup. It was a massive trophy.

Look at that badge of honor. You salute when you see that, sir. Now that is a LOGO. I can see that trophy being used to jam a door open or hammer some nails. It's that hefty. It is a hunk of hardware anyone would be proud to display on their finest shelf.

That's the logo collecting old-timers remember and was in effect on Topps' cards from the early-1960s through 1972.

Unfortunately, that logo was before my time. I am more familiar with this logo:

The rookie cup was introduced to collectors in the 1973 set. As a kid, that cup signaled to me that the particular player pictured was a future star, who had one terrific rookie season. It was a valued card.

The yellow cup continued into the 1976 set, seen here, and hung around for a few years during my young collecting days. Then it disappeared as the 1980s dawned. I don't remember whether I was sad for its loss. But I probably was.

Years passed and I put cards aside. I went to college. But one day I stopped at a drug store to see what the 1987 Topps cards looked like. I opened the packs that I bought and I saw this:

Wow! The rookie cup logo was back! I didn't particularly care for the 1987 set. I still don't. But the return of the cup was a nice surprise. It looked basically like the cup that I knew as a youngster. Maybe it was a little less yellow. Maybe it had a bit lighter font. But it certainly was the rookie cup logo.

The cup continued to hang around for the next few years.

But I noticed that while retaining the same basic look, the cup grew smaller. And it took on a more golden color. The color change didn't bother me, but I didn't like the smaller size.

Then something strange happened. The rookie cup started hanging around with Jose Canseco and was bitten by the steroid bug:

The enormous rookie logo has just swallowed Javy's foot! Wow, I could never get over how giant the cup was in the mid-1990s. I suppose Topps wanted collectors to see the other changes it made to the logo. The wooden base. The name-plate. The just-polished trophy. It did look more realistic.

But then Topps did a bad, bad thing.

It mushed the logo down with an electro-magnetic shrink ray so it was no bigger than the Topps logo above it. Why did it do that? You can't even read what it says on the cup.

Also, I never liked it when they started floating the rookie cup all over the card, putting it in the top right corner or just having it hover in space in the middle of the card. That baby needs an anchor, man!

But apparently Topps was proud of it because during this "puny rookie cup logo period" it made an entire card set devoted to The Rookie Cup.

And there was that damn midget logo on every card, floating around as if it was just injected with helium.

The logo remained teeny tiny through the last decade right up through last year.

Then, I heard that Topps was going to remake the logo. I did several victory laps around the block.

OK, I didn't do that. But I believe I was happy. Finally! I thought. Maybe they would actually bring back the giant bowling ... er, baseball trophy! That would be fantastic.

Well, it's not fantastic. We've got this:

What the hell is that?

First, it's not gold. A trophy is gold, damn it! Any trophy with any meaning is anyway. This looks like it was made out of tin. It looks like they took one of those plastic tea cups my daughter used to play with when she was 3 and propped it on some sort of stand. I don't even know how to describe the stand, because the drawing is so ill-defined. It took someone exactly 15 minutes to draw that logo. Don't tell me it took any longer. Because if it did, someone needs their pay docked.

No player would be honored to get something like that in real life. It looks like something from the dollar store. Is this how we treat players who actually enjoyed a decent rookie season in the majors now?

Bring back the awesome, three-foot-tall, use-it-as-a-door-stop, look-at-that-mother rookie trophy. Come on, Topps you likely just booted Upper Deck out of the baseball card business. Live a little.


  1. the Super Bowl trophy isn't gold
    the Stanley Cup isn't gold
    America's Cup isn't gold
    the Grey Cup isn't gold
    the BCS trophy isn't gold

  2. Are those baseball trophies? Because if not, I don't care.

    I also hope this is the last time yachting is mentioned on this blog.

  3. I grew up with the trophy. Anything else is lesser babka.

  4. Yeah, I miss the old cup. :( *big sigh* These times that are a changin' might be a changin' too fast fer me.

  5. It's funny...I was just looking at Dick Allen's '65 card (his second) marveling at the ol' Topps rookie trophy and thinking "man, I loved the way that old trophy looked".

    I guess great minds think alike?

  6. It took me about 15 packs to even notice the trophy this year. It seems to hide very well in the colored arc.

  7. -Bring back the gold rookie cup, bring back rookie cards with 2-4 players on them, and bring back Future Stars.

    Oh, and bring back Topps Big.

  8. Count me in as a trophy lover!

  9. Night Owl - Amen. I just pulled my first 2010 Rookie Cup last night and seeing that piece of cheesy clip art made me a little ill. My other gripe with this year's set is the "Cards Your Mom Threw Out" insert set. I was already annoyed that they were including stuff from the past decade (yeah, I'd really be kicking myself if my mom threw out a 2003 Kevin Youkilis card), but the picture quality on some of the Yo Momma cards is just poor. The aforementioned Youk and the 2005 Ryan Howard/Cole Hamels look pixellated and overexposed. How hard is it to reprint a card you just produced five years ago?

    That said, Topps still has me hook line and sinker. I broke open a hobby box last night and kept ripping until I got a code card (fifth pack, by the way). My reward was a beauty of a 1958 George Crowe that makes up for my first unlocked card - a 1988 Juan Samuel that I already had.

  10. Although I don't really care about Topps Big, I do agree with Casey about rookie cards. We need rookie cards with more than one rookie on them. There are so many rookies featured on their own cards now that it really waters down the whole rookie card thing. Putting four on a card meant you could look our for those guys and if any of them had a good year you knew they would be rewarded with their own card the following year. These sets with the 40-deeps (I'm talking to you, Bowman) are ridiculous.