I have long admired this card.
It's an Awesome Night Card from way back and it was one of the only 1986 Topps cards that I owned in 1986. I don't remember at all buying packs of cards in '86 and I had so few that year, but I must have bought some because I've known about that Bo Diaz card for 35 years.
I've known about it for so long that it seemed a given for the upcoming Greatest 100 Cards of the '80s countdown. A tag at the plate was relatively rare on cards in the '80s and to get the entire scene in the frame, and also knowing who is being tagged out, was an achievement. It is an achievement. (Also, they're somehow playing while it's snowing).
But after reviewing eligible candidates for the countdown, I began to have my doubts. Oh, that's not taking anything away from the Diaz card. It's still great. But have you noticed how terrific the catcher cards are in 1986 Topps?
We'll start from the beginning.
At card No. 88 is Tom Nieto, a backup catcher for the Cardinals. He seems to be chasing down a squibber off the bat or maybe a passed ball. It's not often that you see the catcher's helmet almost taking flight. Except this is 1986 Topps and we'll see it again.
At card No. 137 is Charlie Moore, the sometimes starter for the Brewers and at the tail-end of his career. He looks plenty spry on this card though, aiming to gun down a thieving base-runner (it's probably just a warm-up throw to second). It's not a shot you see on cards all that often. And, again, it's a pleasing full-body shot of the catcher in action.
At card No. 218 is our second backup catcher for the Cardinals. (Starting catcher Darrell Porter is pictured in action at the plate in the '86 set, but he's batting). Randy Hunt played in just 14 games for the Cardinals in 1985 and this would be his only Topps card. But what a card! You want to talk airborne catcher's helmets? You want to talk about bespectacled backstops searching vainly for that foul pop-up? Who is Bo Diaz again?
Here is card No. 280. Tony Pena is also gliding toward a foul pop. It's perhaps a bit less frenetic than the Hunt card and there's no catcher's mask. But how do I pick between the two?
We take a break from the catching super-action in the 1986 set for a couple hundred cards or so, but when we come back it's with a knockout at No. 616.
You have everything you want in this card. Play at the plate, ball in the glove, ump making the out call, Yankee dead to rights. It's all there. This is Glenn Brummer's final card. It's also his best card.
Then, finally, at No. 639, is the Diaz card. It's still awesome. Maybe not the show-stopper anymore after seeing what came before it.
I don't remember seeing so many super-action catcher cards in one set, at least not anything before the beginning of the "every card must be action" era.
I quickly looked through the set that preceded '86 Topps, in 1985. I counted up about 10 catcher cards but all of them were similar to the other less-exciting catcher cards in '86 Topps:
You can tell that the photos are taken during a game, or at least during practice. But they're not the full-body action photos, those that I showed earlier. There is none of that in 1985 Topps.
So I think 1986 Topps is special in that way.
The Diaz card has always reminded me of the 1977 Topps Carlton Fisk card. And that Fisk card was ranked No. 13 overall when I did the Greatest 100 Cards of the '70s countdown.
I won't put the Diaz in '77 Fisk territory though. The '77 Fisk card is about anticipation and that makes the photo so much more real. There is tension all over that card.
But maybe the Diaz card will sneak into the '80s countdown. Or maybe it will be Brummer. Or Hunt. Or Pena ...
You'll have to tune in.
The 1980 Topps Andre Dawson card has advanced into the Greatest 100 Cards of the '80s countdown after your votes!
It was a super-tight tally with 16 votes for the '80 Dawson and 15 for the '87 Fleer Dawson.
I am doing the final, final finalizing of the list and I even found a spot or two for a couple of the candidates that I said on the earlier post wouldn't be making the countdown. This list will continue to be fluid up until the final week of December when I start putting together the first countdown post.
Thanks for voting and thanks for your interest!