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338 reasons to love '86 Topps

Some of you may have gathered by this post that I don't exactly care for 1986 Topps. I'm sorry for any misunderstanding. I actually quite enjoy '86 Topps. If I didn't like it, I wouldn't be collecting it. But, like I said, part of my reason for collecting it is it's kind of a misfit among the other fine Topps offerings of the 1980s. Blurry photos, odd poses, etc.

Anyway, Matt of Heartbreaking Cards either read my post or saw my huge '86 Topps want list and got the gist of what I was saying: I collect these babies. Then, he did something wonderful: he asked if I wanted a whole mess of 1986 Topps that he had purchased long ago and had barely touched. And he said he'd send them to me without hope for anything in return.

Wow, Matt, merry Christmas to you, too.

The 338 cards off my want list (take a look at the '86 want list now. It's gone on a diet) arrived when I was out of town. I'm kind of going out of order in terms of when the card packages arrived at my door last week, but I wanted to post this to let everyone know how cool Matt and Heartbreaking Cards is.

That many cards is a lot to sift through, but I pulled a bunch that caught my attention. It's interesting to look at cards that you've seen for the first time, after originally collecting the series 22 years ago. Back then, if I saw the '86 Gary Carter all-star card up top, I'd say, "nice, Gary Carter." Now, I'd note his 'fro or his practice jersey or something else that seems "so '80s."

I've broken the cards down into various categories. Hope you like '86 Topps, because there's a lot here:


I could've won a trip for 4 to the 1987 Spring Training Camp of the team of my choice (no purchase necessary)! Oh, well, no Vero Beach for me.


The Mets seemed to suffer the most from the '86 photos. A lot of hazy shots like on the Sid Fernandez and George Foster cards. Too bad, since '86 was kind of a banner year for the Mets.

I think you can make it out on the scan, but there's a halo effect around Saberhagen's head. I'm no photo expert, but I don't think that should be happening. Also, a bunch of the '86 photos, such as the Saberhagen, look dark. It could've been a picture-perfect afternoon at Yankee Stadium that day, but you can't tell.

There seems to be a highlight around Dan Petry's entire body on this card. Maybe the photographer was into auras and that other paranormal stuff that freaked me out in junior high.

No real photo issue here, but something about the photo angle on this makes it look like Clear has the tiniest glove ever. I don't know, maybe Clear did play with a super small glove.

This may be just a registration or ink issue or some other photo issue, or maybe Roger Maris really did have one green eye and one brown eye.

1986 Topps didn't have a lot of consistency in its photo choices either. A lot of times, sets will have a general photo theme, a lot of action shots, or a lot of portraits, or a reasonable mix of both. 1986 Topps had shots like the Hough one here, a full-body type photo, and then would throw in a shot like this ...

... where they could barely get Lynn's head in the frame. But that's what made '86 Topps quirky. I like it in an oddball sort of way.


I know a ballcap doesn't offer much protection when you're pitching in a sideline bullpen, but you don't see a lot of relievers warming up without their caps.

Bruce Benedict looks like he's about to break out into song.

Not the best action shot, but something kind of different, and that's OK with me.


Tommy John an A?

Tom Paciorek a Met? (And he apparently did something worth a congratulatory elbow bash, too).

Al Bumbry a Padre?

Burt Hooton a Ranger? (I do remember Hooton's Ranger days, but it's just wrong seeing Hooton in anything other than a Dodger uniform, even for a Texas boy like Burt).


This subject is also a future post idea, but for now enjoy these nobodies (to me, at least). And especially enjoy Romero's very cool lavender-blue glove (yes, I just made lavender-blue a color).

Who? (Nice shot, though).


Who? (Lots of Indians in this batch).

Who? Who? Who? Who?

Here's someone I knew all too well after the 1985 season:

Ugh. I'll get you back, Clark. Later in this post.


Apparently, they were looking for candid shots in 1986. Maddox seems vaguely annoyed, but also unsure if the camera is pointed at him.

Manny Trillo seems both sure that the camera is pointed at him and also annoyed that it is. "Is that dude with the camera still sneaking around?"

I like this photo a lot. Tony looks like someone just said, "Tony, look up here!" Gee, give Tony a few more things to do right now. He's signing a ball, carrying all his equipment, headed out to practice. Let's get him to pose for a photo, too.


Earl Weaver looks really young in this photo. He was about 56 when the picture was taken. When we were kids, we thought Weaver was ancient, but the gray hair just threw us off. Weaver, of course, is still ticking.

The colors just seem to go together on this card.

I can't think of Terry Forster without remembering David Letterman's bit that went on for weeks in which he called Forster "a fat tub of goo." The cards I had didn't seem to reflect Letterman's statement, but this one does. If I remember correctly, Forster took it all in stride.

The Record Breaker cards were extra colorful this year. I received five record breaker cards from Matt. I decided to feature two of the old-timers.

Kevin Gross surveys the situation. Not a pose you see often. I like it.

And, finally, because Matt's team is the Royals, and because I told Jack Clark I'd get him back, and because there is no card of Don Denkinger, a card of 1985 World Series hero Buddy Biancalana.

Many, many, thanks, Matt, in giving me a major boost in completing the '86 set. I will be sending you something in return, eventually.


zman40 said…
I actually met Rich Thompson (nobody #2) during Spring Training in 2006. He is a lawyer now and also an agent for a handfull of players. He represents a friend of mine, Terry Tiffee. Terry left me tickets to the game and Rich came over and introduced himself. I've seen this card before, but never connected it with him. The only other card I know of is the 1990 Topps.
night owl said…
Great info, zman, and a cool story. If I can get a story like that for each one of these "nobodies," this will be my all-time favorite post.
Goose Joak said…
Awesome post.

1. Mark Clear may appear to have a small glove. But the smallest glove I have ever seen donned by a Major League Baseball player was by a middling Cardinals second basemen in the early nineties. The glove was quite literally the size of the player's hand, which of course was quite small to begin with. The hand (and presumably glove as well) belonged to either Luis Alicea or Geronimo Pena. Unfortunately both of them were struggling second base prospects for the St. Louis Cardinals in the early 90's, and I can't remember which one had the small glove. My hunch says it was Pena, but I am not 100% certain!

2. The Saberhagen card is...very entertaining...and so weird. Not only is the halo effect strange, which I wouldn't have noticed without your keen eye, but ask yourself, why is he wearing a batting glove on his throwing hand? Fielders may do this, but fielders also hit in the American League. It lends further credence to the idea that this shot of Sabes was taken in Spring Training (against a National League team) and then doctored to appear in Yankee Stadium. Then again, how much does the player on the card REALLY look like Saberhagen? Is a Saberhagen doppelganger at large?

3. The Anecdote about John Mabry that you left on Goose Joak was awesome. Thanks for sharing. I never knew much about Mabry as a person (except that he's the huntin', fishin' type), but I always had a strange fascination with his career, probably to an unhealthy extent.
Goose Joak said…
2. An error of my own -- I should say, the batting glove is on his non-throwing hand