Monday, February 11, 2013

The golden age of all-star cards countdown: 15-11

Although I believe the perfect period for All-Star cards was from 1975-81, that doesn't mean it was without its flaws.

The most egregious, of course, was Topps' failure to reward All-Star notice to a player who was voted a starter in the previous year's All-Star Game.

Richie Zisk is one such example. He was voted a starting outfielder for the American League in 1977 and went 2-for-3 with two RBIs in that game. Then kids pulled his card the following year and got the above airbrushed monstrosity with no All-Star badge.

The double indignity.

It would be easy enough to MS Paint the badge onto this card and attempt to virtually right a wrong, but I know someone else on another blog has done it already. Plus, I don't have the time, patience, ability -- you know, the usual excuses.

So, instead, let me cite a couple of other examples of Topps All-Star snubs during this period.

Reggie Jackson was an All-Star in the 1974 game, but when the 1975 set came out, he did not feature a yellow-and-red border with a gigantic star. I can only imagine the outcry if this were to happen today. It'd be very messy. There would be a Twitter account set up just to scream for Reggie's cause.

Ben Oglivie, in a much less-noted incident, was a starting outfielder for the A.L. in the 1980 game, but never received an All-Star bar across the top of the photo on his 1981 Topps card. This was all the more grating to me, because in '81, Topps started rewarding All-Star notation for players like relievers and non-starting All-Star pitchers. So players who did not start in the All-Star Game received an All-Star bar, but Oglivie, a starter, did not.

The injustice!

But before I work myself into a froth any further, I'll move on to the Top 20 countdown of the greatest All-Star cards of the golden age.

Once again, it's very difficult to rank these things, and I'm still in mourning for the All-Star cards that did not make the list. But I am trying to pull myself together.

Cards 15-11:

15. Rusty Staub, 1977

I'm sure this isn't the first time I saw a card in which a player was beginning a home run trot while admiring his blast. But it's the first one that resonated with me. The Tigers were the latest and greatest in the spring of '77 with Mark Fidrych and Ron LeFlore. But Staub, who came over from the Mets in the offseason, was pounding the ball, too, and this was a fitting card.

14. Steve Garvey, 1977

Another very different photo for its time. Sure, there are '70s cards showing a first baseman anticipating the ball off the bat. But the angle is somewhat unique for its time. And Garvey's forearms are rather unique for their time.

This card will always be remembered by me as the first card I ever obtained in a trade with a girl. Her name was Tanya. She liked the Reds. I'm pleased to say, it wouldn't be the last time I traded cards with a girl. And let me tell you, it's much easier than trading cards with boys.

13. Mike Schmidt, 1981

I've already written how Mike Schmidt really got a raw deal with his cards during his career. There are a handful of decent ones, but an overwhelming number of so-so/awful ones. This is one of the best ones. I can't tell you what he's doing, but I like it. Something about it screams "All-Star" to me. And I also appreciate that the color used for the border of the Phillies' cards matches the N.L. All-Star border. That's not something I can say for the Dodgers (green and pink? Ugh).

12. Brooks Robinson, 1975

The fact that this card is even on the countdown is a feat, because unlike all the other cards in the countdown, I did not own this card as a kid. I only knew this card seeing it from afar. I can't even tell you where. But the moment I saw it, it stuck in my brain as a fantastic card. When I was completing the 1975 set, I could barely believe it when I finally obtained the card. It didn't seem real.

11. Willie Randolph, 1978

This is my favorite All-Star card from the 1978 set. Yet, it's not even the highest-ranked '78 card on this countdown. Don't ask me to explain that, because I can't.

Like the Robinson card, I didn't own this card as a kid. But I thought it was the coolest item ever. The pose, the look on Randolph's face, the deep blue stadium seats and the deep green grass. Throw in the badge and it's a glorious card.

That's what an all-star badge or star or bar can do for a card. That's why Richie Zisk suffered such an injustice in 1978. And Reggie in 1975. And Oglivie in 1981.

I've really go to work on my MS Paint skills.

Justice needs to be done.


  1. Thankfully, I can say that I own four out of these five cards. The Randolph is the only one I'm missing.

    That Brooks is probably my second-favorite All-Star card from the '75 set.

    I have a feeling my favorite one will pop up later in your countdown.

  2. I love the Mike Schmidt card. It must have been one of those double prints because couldn't stop getting them.

  3. That Staub deserves at least a top 10 finish for the stirrups alone. Those are beauts.