Monday, November 22, 2010

Here's your top 60, part 1


Topps wants you to believe that this might be one of the best cards it has ever produced. It's also perfectly willing to feature this card in its set next year under the assumption that collectors will be thrilled if they happen to pull it.

As you may have heard, Topps is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2011, and part of the celebration includes having collectors vote on a pre-selected group of 100 cards -- "the best cards (they've) ever produced" -- to be inserted into packs of 2011 product. The 60 with the most votes get the insert treatment.

It is a good promotional idea gone terribly wrong because Topps has no idea what many collectors believe are "the best" cards.

I know this: if a 1989 Topps Randy Johnson card is voted as one of the 60 "best," and is inserted in next year's product, and I happen to pull one of these cards, I will cut it into 60 pieces and then cut each of the pieces into 60 pieces. I don't even know how many 1989 Randy Johnson cards I have, but I do know that I don't want another. And it's difficult for me to believe that anyone wants anything from the junk wax era under the guise of "the best ever."

I'm sure you've looked at the 100 cards that are up for vote. There are some cool ones. There are also pointless items that wouldn't even be among the best 20,000 cards that Topps has produced if they were viewed in even a partially objective manner.

The 2006 Alex Gordon is "the best" Topps has ever produced? If you define "best" as either a colossal mistake or as an offensive attempt to drum up business, then OK, the Gordon disaster is one of the "best." But in terms of the actual card, the meaning gleaned from that piece of coated cardboard, it is far from the best. There are no memories attached to that card because no one could attain it! How can it be the best if no one can touch it, view it, and place it on a stack on their end table?

There are other issues. Half of the 100 candidates are tributes to the Rookie Mojo disaster that plagues this hobby. Almost all of the 1980s cards that you get to vote on are rookie cards. There is even a large number of rookie cards from the '50s and '60s, a period when chasing rookies wasn't a thought in most collectors' heads.

Then there are all the Yankees. Look, I know Topps has had a sleazy relationship with the Yankees since it began. I know there are many Yankee fans all over the world and Topps has to cater to them because it wants to make money and Yankee fans spend ungodly amounts of money on ridiculous things. One-quarter of the cards available for voting are Yankees. OK, I can handle that. But 16 Mickey Mantle cards?

I did pick 10 cards for Topps, and I did vote for a Mickey Mantle (1952), but the other 9 didn't come close to what Topps believes collectors to be: Yankee-loving rookie hunters who still view cards as an investment.

But the act of voting got me thinking: what do I think are the best 60 cards of all-time?

Don't worry, I'm not going to do what JayBee is doing. I'm far too biased for that. But I know he'll come up with something better than Topps will.

All I'm going to do is feature my personal 60 favorite cards that are in my collection. If I was stranded in a Michael's craft store, subsisting on a diet of checkout counter candy bars, these are the 60 cards I'd want to keep me company and prevent me from going insane.

Many of these cards you have seen before, as I've shown them on Cardboard Appreciation (in fact, while going through my cards, I found a few more CA subjects. Sweet!). But they're worth showing again. After all, they're the best 60 cards that have ever been produced!

I am going to break this up into three posts, to run on consecutive evenings -- 20 cards each post. So clear your schedule. And don't whine about it. It's not like it's the biggest travel week of the year.

Oh, and Topps will like this: not all of the cards were made by Topps.

Heh. Sneaky me.

OK, here are the first 20. Featured totally at random:


1. 1955 Topps Sandy Koufax: One of the few cards that I will feature that you can also vote for on Topps' site. But my card has tape on it, and lots and lots of creases. It has character. The image Topps is showing does not. It is vacant and soul-less.


2. 1974 Topps Tommy John: Duh. The first card I ever pulled from a pack of cards. Any card that transports me to 1974 and Ooga Chaka, Ooga, Ooga. Ooga Chaka, Ooga, Ooga, deserves to be in the top 60.


3. 1976 Topps Fred Lynn: The first time I came across the concept of the "rookie superstar" and grasped what the rookie cup meant. This would eventually morph into what we have now, collecting photos of high school kids in desperate hope you'll be the first to discover the next big thing. I like the 1976 version better.


4. 1975 Topps Oscar Gamble: I know, I know. The 1976 Traded card is better. But this is the one I saw first. Gamble's hair was old news by the time 1976 came around. And '75 is PINK and YELLOW.


5. 1988 Topps Tom Lasorda: God, I love this card. It's my favorite Lasorda card. It screams "Lasorda," and "pasta" and "Sinatra" and "Dodger blue" and a few f-bombs, too (oh, they're there). Believe it or not, Lasorda will make another top 60 appearance.


6. 1971 Topps Lindy McDaniel: An intimate view of a pitcher in thought. One of my favorite baseball card photos ever.


7. 1976 Topps Kurt Bevacqua, Bubble Gum Blowing Champ: On this list as much for the back of the card as the front. Why, oh why, oh why, oh why, did Topps leave this card off its list of 100? Surely it knows how much collectors love it. Or maybe not.


8. 1981 Fleer Ellis Valentine: The first non-Topps card. Deal with it. I have adored this card since the moment I pulled it in 1981. Look closely. You cannot see Valentine holding a bat. It appears as if he just hit a home run with his forearm. That's right. The ball bounced off his powerful, muscled arm and completely left the stadium. Amazing.


9. 1981 Topps Traded Fernando Valenzuela: I don't know how this card is not on Topps' list or JayBee's list, either. I coveted this card for almost 30 years. The man is a legend.


10. 1973 Topps Tommie Agee: The '73 set is filled with examples of players being painted into uniforms of teams for which they never played. But this example of Bud Harrelson playing for the Astros is the first one I noticed and my favorite. What's the difference between this and Topps' sneaky dealings today? Well, I don't think Topps was trying to make money off of airbrushing.


11. 1975 Topps mini Steve Garvey: When I think of '75 minis -- my absolute most favorite variation set -- I think of the Garvey card first. When I had it in my collection back in '75 I marveled at something so powerful in such a tiny package. The Garvey mini was like a shot of Wild Turkey -- if you really want to make the baseball card/alcoholic drink analogy, especially considering I was 9 at the time.


12. 1969 Topps Bob Gibson, Game 1 of '68 World Series: There are a lot of Gibson cards from which to choose, but one that announces a dominating feat in newspaper form will win me over every time.


13. 1975 Topps Herb Washington: The best one-hit-wonder card evah.


14. 1957 Topps Willie Mays: I may act like I'm slumming some of the time, but there are other times when you just have to bring along cards to say, "look what I have." I could hardly believe my luck when I first realized that I would own this card. It might be one of the top 10 days of my life.


15. 2005 Topps Prestige Orel Hershiser: I know. I've confused you. Out of all the Hershiser cards, this is the one I pick. But you don't understand. I NEED a shiny card in the top 60. Screw the relics and autographs. But there has to be one shiny. And this is the best shiny card that I have. Trust me.


16. 1977 Topps Mark Fidrych: This card has everything. The goofy phenom with the curly hair. The all-star bar. The rookie cup. The fat security guard in the corner. Yet, Topps thinks we need another Mantle to select.


17. 1996 Upper Deck V.J. Lovero Showcase Mike Piazza: The single greatest card of the 1990s. That's right, Topps. You did not produce the best card of the 1990s. Upper Deck did.


18. 1971 Topps Nolan Ryan: This is easily the best Nolan Ryan card that there is. It's also the biggest example of in-your-face product placement in the history of card collecting. If I had to give up all of my baseball cards, this would be among the last 10 that I surrendered.


19. 1974 Topps Oakland A's: This card not only sums up baseball in the 1970s, it sums up the '70s, period. Spending three hours studying this card is a recommended alternative to wasting your life on whatever is on prime-time lately.


20. 1972 Topps Traded Frank Robinson: F-Robby was a Dodger, dammit! And he was TRADED! Classic, classic card.

Now that is a hell of a lot more fun than looking at another Stephen Strasburg card isn't it? By the way, Topps thinks Strasburg is one of the 100 best it's ever created. Really. It wants you to believe that.

Cards 21-40 coming tomorrow night.

10 comments:

  1. Hey, cool post. Looking forward to tomorrow's post. Is Topps not including their Topps Finest cards? I think some of the '93 Finest baseball refractors are incredible.

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  2. Wasn't there some sort of "Error" with the Randy Johnson card? Like a cigarette billboard in the background or something...

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  3. Unlike the tops Topps, I can't argue with your choices. The Fidrych might be my all-time favorite. It just screams of my younger days.

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  4. You're thinking of the '89 Fleer Randy Johnson card, Joe.

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  5. I am loving your selections. The more that I see different cards of the 1971 set the more I LOVE the set. Something about the black borders really sets the photos off, especially the in game action. That Ryan is one of my favorites.

    Here's hoping that Lowell Palmer makes your list.

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  6. "19. 1974 Topps Oakland A's: This card not only sums up baseball in the 1970s, it sums up the '70s, period. Spending three hours studying this card is a recommended alternative to wasting your life on whatever is on prime-time lately."

    Holy shit, I can't stop laughing.

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  7. Nice job--and another posting concept that should make the blogger rounds. If I do a similar post, hope it doesn't overlap your choices too much, so we can feature a bunch of different cards. :-)

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  8. Don-

    I traded some junk in the Million Card Giveaway for that '70 Lowell Palmer. I get offers daily on it but nothing even remotely cool enough to pull the trigger.

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  9. I absolutely love the color array of that '74 A's card. It just spits in the entire concept of "uniform."

    That photo would get the team fined by the league today.

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