Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The cup club

I received an email from Topps' media representative yesterday, Susan Lulgjuraj, otherwise known as "Sooz" to us collectors on Twitter and before that one-half of the dearly missed "A Cardboard Problem" blog.

She's moved on to promoting Topps' initiatives while I'm still here blogging, often trying to figure out what the heck Topps is doing.

Anyway, the email was an alert that Topps was going to announce its annual All-Star Rookie Cup team on the MLB Network at the ungodly hour of 9 a.m. I yawned a little night owl yawn and made a note to look up the team at a more reasonable time.

Today's announced team includes the soon-to-be-named rookie of the year, Cody Bellinger. I've read a couple of assumptions that this means that Bellinger will feature a rookie cup in Topps' 2018 flagship set. But 2016 All-Star Rookie Cup member Tommy Joseph is still waiting for his rookie cup so nothing is automatic.

If Bellinger does get his rookie cup, he will be the 19th Dodgers player to show a rookie cup or trophy on his flagship card. Yet, Bellinger is the 26th Dodgers player to be named to the Topps All-Star Rookie team since its inception in 1959. And that underlines how cavalier Topps has been with its very own award over the years.

This didn't just happen with 2017 Series 2 failing to place rookie cups on the proper cards. Nope, there have been several other occasions when Topps didn't seem too enthused with the award it hands out every year.

I'm going to go through all the Dodgers rookies honored by Topps over the years and you'll get the idea.


Dodgers named to the 1959 Topps All-Star Rookie team: Ron Fairly, outfield

The 1960 set recognized the first Topps rookie team, as "selected by the youth of America." The rookie players received an entirely different layout from the more veteran players.


Dodgers named to the 1960 Topps All-Star Rookie team: Tommy Davis, outfield; Frank Howard, outfield

This was the first time that two Dodgers made the team. Yet, Frank Howard did not receive a rookie trophy on his card.

I don't know why and he looks pretty upset about it. One personal theory is maybe they wanted to recognize only one rookie honoree per team?


Dodgers named to the 1969 Topps All-Star Rookie team: Ted Sizemore, second base

It took almost 10 years for the rookie award to appear on another Dodger player's card. Jim Lefebvre was named the National League's rookie of the year in 1965 yet there was no Topps rookie honor as Topps selected Joe Morgan for its team at second (a brief look at the two players' rookie seasons shows that Morgan got screwed and apparently held a grudge all the way through 1982 when he hit that home run against the Dodgers on the last day of the season).


Dodgers named to the 1971 Topps All-Star Rookie team: Bill Buckner, outfield

Still my favorite Dodger rookie cup/trophy award as Buckner is intent in knocking that little player off his top hat.


Dodgers named to the 1988 Topps All-Star Rookie team: Tim Belcher, pitcher

The '70s and '80s is my favorite time period for a host of reasons, particularly with baseball cards. But it's not a great period for recognizing players with rookie cups. It took all the way until 1989 for a rookie cup to appear on a Dodger card even though the cups started appearing in 1975!! The Dodgers featured Topps All-Star Rookies in 1973 (Dave Lopes), 1981 (Fernando Valenzuela), 1982 (Steve Sax) and 1983 (Greg Brock), yet none received a rookie cup. (Also Rick Sutcliffe and Steve Howe won Rookie of the Year honors in 1979 and 1980, respectively, but were shunned by the Topps rookie team).

Topps tried to backtrack in 2005 and recognize some of the players it ignored during this period:

That's not helping me much.


Dodgers named to the 1992 Topps All-Star Rookie team: Eric Karros, first base

This begins the golden age of rookie cup recognition for the Dodgers. It's also the first time a Dodger gets the version of the rookie cup filled with helium. Those cups "way up there" will always look odd to me.


Dodgers named to the 1993 Topps All-Star Rookie team: Mike Piazza, catcher

The most overused, overplayed, overduplicated, overrreprinted Dodger rookie cup card ever. I see that there is yet another version out this year. I have no idea what the point of this is, yet you'll probably see it on my want list and I'll hate myself for obtaining it.


Dodgers named to the 1994 Topps All-Star Rookie team: Raul Mondesi, outfield

The rookie cup grew in size in 1995.


Dodgers named to the 1995 Topps All-Star Rookie team: Hideo Nomo, pitcher

Probably the best-looking Dodger rookie cup card.


Dodgers named to the 1996 Topps All-Star Rookie team: Todd Hollandsworth, outfield

This concludes the Dodgers' rookie of the year run from 1992-96. Unlike the Dodgers' ROY run from 1979-82, there is a rookie cup for each one of the the Dodgers ROYs from 1992-96.


Dodgers named to the 1997 Topps All-Star Rookie team: Wilton Guerrero, second base

This concludes the six consecutive years a Dodger received a rookie cup, the longest streak in team history.


Dodgers named to the 2006 Topps All-Star Rookie team: Russell Martin, catcher; Andre Ethier, outfield

The second time that two Dodgers made the All-Rookie team, each player received a helium-filled rookie trophy.


Dodgers named to the 2007 Topps All-Star Rookie team: James Loney, first base


Dodgers named to the 2011 Topps All-Star Rookie team: Dee Gordon, shortstop

Gordon is the first Dodger to have two different cards in the same flagship set featuring a rookie trophy. I refused to show the second one because that makes no sense at all.


Dodgers named to the 2013 Topps All-Star Rookie team: Hyun-Jin Ryu, pitcher; Yasiel Puig, outfield


Dodgers named to the 2016 Topps All-Star Rookie team: Corey Seager, shortstop; Kenta Maeda, pitcher; Julio Urias, pitcher

Things were going so well starting from the 1990s up until 2017. Then, disaster. For the first time in history, three Dodgers were named to Topps' rookie cup team. Yet, in flagship only Seager received a trophy. Maeda and Urias got nothing.

You can find the cups in Topps' Chrome set, but it's not the same. How great would it have been to celebrate the three Dodger cups all within flagship?

This is why Bellinger's rookie cup is not a guarantee in 2018 flagship. Howard, Lopes, Valenzuela, Sax, Brock, Maeda and Urias never received a rookie cup or trophy in the flagship set.

Sure, Topps is all about Bellinger when it's not all about Aaron Judge. It's difficult to believe it would not affix the cup to Bellinger's card next year.

But then, Topps has ignored recognizing so many players for it's very own award so many times. So, I'll wait until I see it with my own eyes.


  1. Topps should re-release the original cards (the ones without THEIR cup), but with their deserved cups! That would be SO much better than the "rediscover Topps" foil imprinted on them. Now that's a buyback I would BUY back.

    1. Mr. Miller... you are a genius. I hope Susan reads your comment and reports this great idea back to Topps. Who knows John... maybe you'll get your own Archives Fan Favorite autographed card in next year's set.

  2. And they owe it to the rest of 2017 players on the Topps "Team"

    At least they got a cup on their Chrome card. Too bad Chrome never made it to any of my stores this year. Thanks Judge!

    Anyhow, the total FAIL on the TOPPS Rookie Cup cards in Series 2 this year was turrible, just turrible.

  3. Dug deeper into this with a frozen No Work morning here. Thanks for covering all the permutations. The Cup comes and goes on the cards year-by-year but this year still takes the cakes for screw-ups, as maybe Ricky might say.

    Anyhow the Valenzuela belated Rookie Cup card seems like he has a few grey hairs already. Kind of odd for a Rookie.

    My latest favorites remain the relatively recent odd combination of an Official Baseball Card RC© Logo with an Official Topps All-Star Rookie Cup Logo too, right on the same card. I hope there are at least 9 of these some day, not one per position, just 9 cards to gaze at altogether on their little bound-up page in my weird baseball card binder.