Saturday, August 29, 2009

A set-builder's favorites

I have already mentioned that I am a set collector above all. Player collecting is not something I think I'll ever understand. Team collecting is something that grows more and more interesting by the day, and it may one day supersede set collecting for me.

But for now, like it's always been, I am a set-builder.

That said, I've never figured out exactly what my five favorite sets are of all-time. I've always known my absolute favorite -- 1975 Topps. But the rest just kind of hovered around in my brain under the general heading of "I LOVE these cards!"

It took a card package from reader Randall to pin down my absolute top 5. He sent me card wants from two great sets -- 1993 Upper Deck and 1971 Topps. That caused me to stop and figure out which sets ruled above all. And this is what I came up with -- in no particular order, except that 1975 Topps is the undisputed king:

1956 Topps
1971 Topps
1975 Topps
1983 Topps
1993 Upper Deck

That's the list. And the funny thing is, I knew these were my absolute favorites all along. Because I've written posts about each one of them here and here and here and here and here.

For some reason, it's nice knowning what my five favorites are. Just in case. You never know when you'll be walking down the street and someone will stick a microphone and camera in your face and ask you for your five favorite baseball card sets of all-time. You have to be ready. Always. Because people get on TV for all kinds of inane reasons these days. Come to think of it, people get on baseball cards for all kinds of inane reasons these days.

Anyway, Randall sent some favorites. And I'm going to show some of my favorites from the favorites. First I'll show some of the Upper Deck. Randall cut my want list for '93 UD in half. And then he sent another package of UD after that. So there isn't a lot left. And I don't even have any of the cards in a binder yet. Still sitting in two towering stacks on my desk.
Lenny Dykstra was a living, breathing Pig-Pen, wasn't he? He doesn't appear to be anywhere near any dirt, yet a giant cloud of mess is following him.

This card would have gone right near the top of my Mask list. Great card. Pudge always had one of those faces that is so memorable that it gets the attention of people who never watch baseball. You know who they are.

They'll walk by the TV and say, "Oooh, he looks mean." Or if John Kruk is talking on Baseball Tonight, they'll say, "He's too fat."

All valid points. Obvious, sure. But valid.
What a great photo this is. The best part is the photographer getting the umpire's gesture in the shot. I bet Morandini got thrown out of the game.

This photo just reminds me of how Roberto Alomar used to slide into first base all the time. I heard he claimed that it would trick the umpire into calling him safe, since umps go on sound for bang-bang plays at first. And if there was no sound of a foot hitting the bag, it would confuse the ump. Seems like a lot of trouble for an action that appears to slow you down more than running through the bag.

I have no idea what Joe Carter's gesture means. Upper Deck really needs captions with some of its cards.

Awesome. What a great card. I especially love that a headless umpire is making the call.

Is this the reason that Mitch Williams gave up that home run to the Blue Jays' Joe Carter in 1993? Upper Deck jinxed him by showing Williams wearing a tuque? And then Carter blasted the Series-winning home run in Canada, the land of tuques? I think that's what it was.

Randall wanted to make sure I showed the Dennis Cook card. But not the front, the back ...

Cook really needs to play the psycho is some horror film. He always had some interesting faces on his baseball cards. But this is out there even for him. David of Tribe Cards just posted this one. It's a favorite of Indians' fans.

Now we're going way back to 1971, when I was watching Sesame Street and baseball wasn't even a thought in my head. But as I got older, Don Money was one of my favorites, strictly because of his name. These days, I can appreciate that name even more.

Beltin' Melton was before my time. He was one of those players that I heard about just as I was getting into baseball. By the time I actually saw him play, he was a disappointment with the Angels. But his baseball cards were full of praise!

I now have two cards of Gary Ross. He's got the same expression on each card. It looks like he has no idea why you would want to take his picture and is completely unsure of whether he is even posing correctly.

Here is another one. Jose seems to be asking, "You want me to pull the bat back like this? Really?"

And then there's Sal Bando, who just seems to know what to do. Calm and collected. Even if he's wearing some green-and-gold leprechaun get-up.

This card may explain the Indians' problems during the 1970s. None of these guys turned out to be stars. Mingori had modest success with the Royals. Was Topps giving the Indians a false sense of security? "Don't worry about a thing Cleveland, these guys are going to be stars."

I think this card is my absolute favorite of the bunch that Randall sent. None of these players amounted to anything in terms of the major leagues. But the whole look of the card is so cool. The bright colors on the black background and the old-school photos, you can't beat that with any modern day set.

All I did was send Randall a few random 1970 Topps cards, with a promise that I'd be on the lookout for '71s for him to help complete his set, and he blessed me with all these great cards and many I didn't show. Plus, he helped me figure out what my favorite sets of all-time were.

Once again, blogging is a great thing.


  1. I feel the same way you do about 1975 Topps. Here is my top 5:

    1975 Topps
    1956 Topps
    1960 Topps
    1967 Topps
    1976 Topps

  2. I'm sensing a common theme here:

    1975 Topps
    1956 Topps
    1972 Topps
    1981 Topps
    1976 Topps

    I tried to fit 1982 Donruss into the top 5 (seriously), but '76 Topps is an awesome set.

    The Mickey Morandini card appears to be from the July 9, 1992 game against the Padres, and he was not ejected.

    Mitch Williams was more jinxed by having Wally Backman appear in the background of his card. Ex-Met = Bad Mojo.