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Redefining "fan," or "favorite"

One more Fan Favorites post. I've got other post ideas in the works, and a contest winner to determine, but it's a little too crazy today for that.

So let's look at a much studied segment of Fan Favorites. The off-field personnel. Or, the non-major league personnel in Buck O'Neil's case.

In the 2003 Fan Favorites set, I believe Topps went with only one non-MLB player/manager. It was Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell. (I'm missing about a dozen '03 Fan Favorites and I haven't had time to look at the checklist, so I could have missed someone).

Then, in 2004, Topps went a little crazy with the non-MLB player/manager types. There was Buck O'Neil here, which is not a problem for me. O'Neil played ball very well, and he had plenty of fans.

The others were kind of interesting/kind of strange. To this day I don't know how to feel about them. A lot of them redefine the definition of "fan." To me, "fans" are the baseball-viewing public. But some of the people who received cards, I don't think I've ever thought in terms of them having fans. On the other hand, some of the cards recognize that it's capable for other people in the game, besides those on the field, to have fans.

So, what I decided to do here is show each one of these cards and provide a "fan favorite rating." On a scale of 1-to-10 -- "10" being a true fan favorite and "1" being "burn him at the stake" -- are they really a fan favorite?

Here we go:

2003 Fan Favorites

Ernie Harwell, broadcaster, card #107
Fan favorite rating: 10
Why: Harwell ended more than 50 years of broadcasting in 2002, so creating a card for him was a very nice concept and gesture. I have a feeling that this was a one-off idea by Topps, but when it saw the reaction, it decide to expand the idea of "fan favorite" even more.

If any non-player/manager in baseball can have fans, it is broadcasters without a doubt. In my view, broadcasters have increasingly become gods in the last 20 years. Whether you like that or not, there is no doubt that they definitely have fans.

2004 Fan Favorites

Bob Sheppard, Yankees public address announcer, card #15
Fan rating: 9
Why: Along the lines of broadcasters, there is increasing reverence for a good P.A. person. Sheppard was/is the standard by which all P.A. announcers should be judged. I just wish Topps could've picked a more flattering photo/angle. And, yes, I know how old he was at the time. Still could've done better.

Jeffrey Loria, Marlins owner, card #24
Fan rating: 5
Why: It is questionable picking an owner of a ballclub as a "fan favorite" no matter what the situation. They are always going to have their detractors. But I'm willing to bet that Loria can't even walk in some places in Montreal with the way he is viewed by Expos fans to this day. Loria's Marlins won a World Series in 2003, right before this card arrived, so that's why he's in the set, and why it gets a few points. But a questionable decision.

Rudolph Giuliani, New York City major, card #51
Fan rating: 4
Why: You should have seen the number of question marks floating over my head when I pulled this card. It is not a novel concept that a politician -- particularly the mayor of a city -- can be a sports fan. It's almost a prerequisite for the job. Giuliani is more of a fan than most mayors, but politicians are not "favorites." If they have fans, they're in the political arena, and if we're going to bring up favorites in a political sense, then he has just as many detractors. I have a feeling Giuliani's actions during 9/11 led to this card. It's hard to argue with that. But the whole thing feels forced.

Ernie Harwell, former Tigers broadcaster, card #65
Fan rating: 6
Why: OK, still a legendary announcer. But after his appearance in '03 Fan Favorites, there had to be some collectors rooting for a card of Vin Scully or Harry Caray or Jack Buck. But Harwell AGAIN? Explain, please.

Eric Gregg, former umpire, card #97
Fan rating: 2
Why: Sure, he was a happy guy. That's got to draw some fans. But he's an umpire. And from what I can remember, not a very good one. Right Braves fans?

Peter Ueberroth, former baseball commissioner, card #133
Fan rating: 5
Why: I remember being pleased by Ueberroth's selection to replace Bowie Kuhn as commissioner. And he did seem like a kinder, gentler commish for awhile. But then there was the whole collusion fiasco. And, really, does the commissioner NEED fans? Outside of those in ownership, that is.

Sy Berger, former Topps employee, card #137
Fan rating: 7
Why: Berger is credited as being the father of modern baseball card collecting, and a pioneer. Collectors who are fans of card history are probably fans. But I'm also willing to bet that a ton of collectors have no idea who he is. I appreciate Topps' willingness to educate, though.

Joe Buck, Fox announcer, card #141
Fan rating: 2
Why: I believe this card was made before Buck's "baseball is boring" summation. But at any rate I'm no fan. I'm not sure if he's still doing Cardinals games, but I only see him on Fox games, so his allegiance to team is lost on me. Why does he get a "2" instead of a "1"? Well, his broadcasting partner, Tim McCarver, also "beloved," has two Fan Favorites cards.

Fay Vincent, former baseball commissioner, card #146
Fan rating: 5
Why: Vincent seemed like he was at odds with the owners a lot, which I liked. He also seemed willing to talk a lot about baseball stuff that other commissioners wouldn't. I liked that, too. Still, he was a commissioner, and I think being a "fan favorite" is a reach.

2005 Fan Favorites

John Elway, former Yankees prospect, card #15
Fan rating: 1
Why: Unless you lived in Oneonta, N.Y., in 1982 -- which is where Elway played Class A ball -- you are a fan of John Elway because of his connection to the Denver Broncos. Last I checked, Fan Favorites is a baseball set. This is Topps being cute. And failing.

Marvin Miller, former head of the Players Union, card #80
Fan rating: 2
Why: Miller was the most hated person among baseball fans during most of his tenure with the Players Union. Unless I've lost all concept of the word "favorite," hate is not a requirement. He's a fan favorite if you're a major league baseball player, or a vigorous and blanket supporter of unions. Otherwise, I'll bet there are millions of fans who despised Miller during the 1970s and early '80s. Especially in 1981. That doesn't mean they were right. But we're not judging right and wrong here. Just "favorite."

Michael Kay, Yankees broadcaster, card #81
Fan rating: 7
Why: Kay reminds me of a lot of Yankees fans I've come across in my lifetime. Loud. Forceful. Every emotion on his sleeve. Not as smart as he could be. So, no, I don't like Michael Kay. But I can see why he works in New York. I also get the feeling that some Yankees fans are a bit embarrassed by him.

Walt Jocketty, Cardinals general manager, card #107
Fan rating: 7
Why: At the time this card came out, Jocketty had been the GM for 11 years and the Cardinals had just made the World Series for the first time since 1987. I'm sure he was very popular at the time. Bringing Albert Pujols to the team probably didn't hurt. GMs are a little safer than owners as "fan favorites." But they're no broadcasters. Ned Colletti is example A.

Theo Epstein, Red Sox general manager, card #141
Fan rating: 9
Why: If there is one GM who breaks the mold, Epstein is it. Young, relatable, creative in his thinking about acquiring players and which players to acquire, and of the "Moneyball" era. Oh, and he helped the Red Sox to their first World Series title since 1918. Definitely a Fan Favorite in 2005.

So, that pretty much sums up my feelings on these types of cards. I'm somewhere in the middle. Some I can see. Some I can't. I think more care should be made to select just the right people if this concept ever returns (and I'm not taking about the inserts in Archives this year).

Like selecting a Vin Scully card.

It'd easily be the most popular card in the set.


Anthony Hughes said…
Like you, I'd love to see a Vin Scully card, or Drysdale who did Angel's games in 70s. So, I understand the Harwell cards. But Joe Buck? Someone actually wants a card of that guy? He is so boring. He doesn't evoke any emotions in me at all except... ... what were we talking about?
I think even Rex Hudler has more fans of his broadcasting career than Buck does.
arpsmith said…
I actually kind of liked Eric Gregg. I picked up the auto version of that card about one week before he passed away - I felt kind of weird about that.
Unknown said…
Marvin Miller is my favorite from that group.
Kevin said…
Jeffrey Loria is one of the biggest scumbags in baseball, from his destruction of the Montreal Expos to his handshake deal with Bud Selig to his fire sales in Florida to the swindle he pulled off to get all of those taxpayer funds for his obscene, tacky new stadium. If he's not a '1', I don't know who is.
Rhubarb_Runner said…
Meh, more Sawks and Yankees love. Whatever.

I would be all over a Herb Carneal card.
bailorg said…
Maybe it's the liberal in me talking, but I think the world of Marvin Miller. I think he should be in the Hall of Fame.
What is that Eric Gregg card supposed to be? If it is '78 it should have MLB in script, not a black and white logo. If it is something else, I can't identify it.

Also Joe Buck should have a fraction or possibly a negative number. Whatever is the lowest you can go.

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