Not a single Allen & Ginter card made it onto the list of the best cards of the past year. That's not too much of a surprise since many of the cards in A&G -- especially of the baseball players -- look the same.
But when A&G zaps us with a revolving door card or a Pluto card, that is when it is at its best and ends up on the countdown. Unfortunately, the closest 2011 A&G came to inanimate objects on cardboard is the chair propping up Kristi Yamaguchi. Red chair is just not going to cut it for the best of the year.
So, it's all ballplayers this time around. I just know that breaks some of your hearts.
Like past "best ofs," I have eliminated any parallel or hit cards for consideration, since the countdown is meant to recognize the photo itself, not the gimmick. However, as usual, the first five cards in the countdown mention some specific trend of 2011 that I liked.
So, let's get to it:
20. Topps Diamond Giveaway diecut cards: I had a lot of early luck redeeming these things and put away the Dodger versions pretty quickly before being stonewalled by the Koufax hoarders. These cards are super-fancy and a great way to make the giveaway site all the more appealing. I still think they look like Christmas tree ornaments though.
19. Topps diamond parallels: A parallel that looked so great that collectors instantly vowed to complete a whole set of the cards. I don't know if any ever managed to finish it off, but Topps found itself a moneymaker here. Unfortunately, it verged on overkill by the end of the year.
18. Topps Gypsy Queen framed paper parallels: The next three entries are just repeats of the last Blog Bat Around. So I'll keep them brief. These framed paper cards illustrate how great GQ could have looked without the backside of dried-out, faded, wallpaper from the '50s surrounding each image.
17. Topps Opening Day Stadium Lights inserts: My kind of insert: subject that I love, easy 10-card set to complete, glow-in-the-dark gimmick. Only complaint is that there are two Yankees in a 10-card set. Can we all agree that no one but no one needs another card of A-Rod?
16. Topps Lineage '75 mini inserts: Once I get out from under my holiday/company/no-I-don't-get-a- vacation-to-handle-the-previous-two-things-I-just-mentioned chaos I plan to finish off the other half of this set. It will be one of the craziest /smartest things I've ever done.
15. Zack Greinke, Topps Update: Here we begin the official countdown. I really like this card a lot and don't know why it didn't get much mention. Maybe because the shadow on Greinke's face kills the mood a little bit (especially when you see the card in person). Still a great shot.
14. Henry Blanco, Topps Update: As many have noted, there are some terrific photos in Update. In fact, all-around the pictures in Topps' base set are as good/if not better than they've ever been. Remember how nice the photos were in '09? I think they're consistently better two years later.
12. Heath Bell, All-Star, Topps Update: "Moment in time" cards are great. Capturing a baseball moment that was one of the most talked about of the season -- Heath Bell running in from the bullpen and sliding into the mound at the All-Star Game -- is even better. I used to not like Bell much. But after this I'm a fan. The guy has some kid in him, for sure.
11. Chicago White Sox, Topps: Maybe not the most exciting card, but the boys are having fun. It's at night, you can see the lights, you can see the scoreboard. Awesome, awesome night card.
10. Adam Wainwright, Topps Heritage: Heritage has a similar problem to A&G. Nothing to distinguish itself from card to card. But I still like this photo a lot. It's bright, sunny and screams baseball. So what if Wainwright still has the ball in his hand? That didn't stop the photographers in the '60s, did it?
9. Jason Donald, Topps: The newspaper editor in me is cheering at this photo. Maybe not the most unbelievable shot, but photographers know that it is not easy in baseball to get an action shot with both teams in the shot. Plays at second sometimes get too routine. Plays at the plate don't happen all the time. Rundown plays are just good fun to watch and to see on a baseball card.
8. John McDonald, Topps Update: That's right, I just followed Jason Donald with John McDonald. And I get the two confused ALL THE TIME.
You're going to see a lot of leaping in the next few photos. There is just something pleasing about the action on this shot. And it has nothing to do with the "Jake From State Farm" advertisement in the background.
7. Seth Smith, Topps: Another card that I think should have received more attention. What a story this one tells! Smith seems to think he was out because he appears to be in the process of beginning a protest to the umpire, who is no doubt yelling, "I'm SAYING you're SAFE!" Meanwhile, the catcher needs a medic.
6. Casey Blake, Topps: This card takes a plunge from when I ranked Series 1 cards last March. It doesn't mean I like it any less. I've just grown fascinated with some other cards. Besides, I already know that Blake is SAFE, SAFE, SAFE! So let's move on.
5. Oakland Athletics, Topps: This is one of the greatest dugout shots I have seen ever. Just fantastic. One of these days I'll go through the trouble of identifying the A's. You know how much difficulty I have with that team.
4. Eric Young Jr., Topps: Another repeat entrant. Young has made the best of the year two years running. That's what happens when you can float.
3. Roy Campanella, Topps Gypsy Queen: The only non-insert GQ card on the list. Campy's foul-pop catch and the delightful '50s crowd in the background overcomes that blindingly dull border. Also, Campy, unlike some of his GQ brethren, doesn't look zombified.
2. Michael Saunders, Topps: Once upon a time, it used to be difficult to photograph an outfielder leaping to catch a ball at the wall. I'm guessing it's still difficult, even though it appears on cards a lot more. But to capture Saunders at the apex of his leap as he's snagging the ball, with the Mariners logo in the background, well, that's impressive. ... Of course, Saunders could have dropped the ball and three runs scored. But we don't have to know that.
1. Dee Gordon, Topps Update: Best, best, best!!!! Your protests are futile!!!!
So, as you can see, it was all about Topps and its base set this past year. What choice did we have? Not much else out there.
But, really, some of the images were great. I didn't even finish off the set or the Update set, so I probably even missed a few. (Some, like the Ramon Hernandez broken bat and the Twins dude with the Budweiser ad, missed the cut).
That doesn't mean I'm redoing the list though.
Do your own list.