Sunday, July 1, 2012

Team MVPs, 1991 Topps

This card was not ranked as the best Cubs card of the 1991 Topps set, according to me. And therein lies the "problem" with 1991 Topps. Too many great-looking cards.

As has been mentioned many times, including by me, the '91 Topps set was unappreciated in its time, and is truly great. It's obvious that Topps stepped up its game that year (just compare a couple of these cards to the photos in 1990 Topps). Whether that was because it was playing catch-up with Upper Deck, or because it had a stockpile of great photos because '91 Stadium Club was on the way, I don't know. The important thing is that I have a complete set of these cards.

Like with all of my complete sets, I am determining the greatest card for each team in the set. I've already done it for 1993 Upper Deck, 2006 Topps, 2009 Topps and 2010 Topps.

This edition was as difficult as going through '93 Upper Deck cards and figuring out the best one. But it was a joy, because I've forgotten about a lot of the photos in '91 Topps and I got to relive them all.

So, let's return to 1991 -- the year of worst to first and smelling like teen spirit.

Once again, there were only four divisions in the MLB back then (and the seven-team divisions are starting to look monstrous  in retrospect). So I've grouped them in the divisions that existed then.

And, sorry to say, I am still determining all of this while seated at a table. I don't know if I'll ever get back to my childhood ritual of spreading my cards out on the floor. I'm not saying I can't. It's just, well, we must keep a clean house.

Or so I'm told.


American League East

Red Sox: Roger Clemens; Tigers: Lou Whitaker, Orioles: Billy Ripken; Yankees: Oscar Azocar; Blue Jays: Glenallen Hill; Brewers: Billy Spiers; Indians: Sandy Alomar Jr.

Team with the best cards: The Red Sox have the best cards in the whole set. If the Clemens card didn't blow everything away, I'd have a hell of a time picking between the Boggs, Evans and Marty Barrett cards.

Team with the worst cards: Blue Jays. Nothing stood out.

Team I should go back and review: Blue Jays. After a number of Jays cards put me to sleep, I kind of tuned them out.

American League West

White Sox: Carlton Fisk; Rangers: Nolan Ryan; Twins: Shane Mack; Mariners: Omar Vizquel; Royals: Kevin Appier; Angels: Kent Anderson; Athletics: Walt Weiss

Team with the best cards: Toss up between the White Sox and A's. The two cards that won are easy picks (the Fisk card is in the Cardboard Appreciation Hall of Fame, you know), but there are lots of good ones for both teams.

Team with the worst cards: Royals. I ended up with the Appier card just because you don't see the pitcher-fielding-a-grounder shot a lot.

Team I should go back and review: Rangers. Nolan Ryan is the first card in the set. It's a fairly good card, but not great. I just didn't see anything that could knock it off.

National League East

Phillies: Len Dykstra; Cubs: Ryne Sandberg; Cardinals: Craig Wilson; Expos: Rock Raines; Pirates: Gary Redus; Mets: Mackey Sasser

Team with the best cards: Cubs. I can see someone picking the Dascenzo card, or the Luis Salazar card, or the Dwight Smith card over the Sandberg card. But Sandberg is a terrific-looking card. If you blew that up into a poster, it would be amazing.

Team with the worst cards: This is a terrible thing to say on Canada Day, but both the Expos and the Blue Jays have their respective division's worst cards.

Team I need to go back and review: Maybe the Cardinals. The Tom Pagnozzi card is pretty good.

National League West

Braves: Dave Justice; Padres: Benny Santiago; Astros: Mike Scott; Dodgers: Fernando Valenzuela; Giants: Jose Uribe; Reds: Mariano Duncan

Team with the best cards: Giants. Eeesh.

Team with the worst cards: Tie between Braves and Astros. Braves are numbingly boring. The Scott card was the only decent one I could find for the Astros.

Team I should go back and review: Giants. That can't possibly be right.

And there you are -- probably the last set that I will review for this series in which the photos really, really, REALLY mattered.

Up next is 1989 Topps. So, uh, drink lots of coffee for that one.


  1. It really is an awesome set. You're right - under-appreciated in it's time. Including by me.

  2. (has urge to GRAAAH at Night Owl for saying Braves are boring)
    (grabs Braves binder)
    (holy frijoles, this team set IS boring)
    (still has urge to GRAAAH)
    (GRAAAHS anyway)

    How in Sam Hill do you pick Dave Justice - which is a fine card, mind you - over 12 year old Chipper Jones in his little league uniform?! That card is an icon! At least pick slouchy Bobby Cox doing his best Casey Stengel impression! GRAAAH!

    (I feel better now)

  3. Is that Reds card from spring training or something? Both teams wearing red softball tops.

  4. Always liked that Clemens.


  5. And Sandberg is the winner for being featured in 2 of the best of the best? Looks like it to me.

  6. @Jeff Wilk - Lots of photos at the time were taken during spring training, so, yes.

    @dayf - Almost considered the Cox card. Never considered Jones. Those scholastic uniform cards are an abomination.

  7. Carmelo Martinez is best Pirates card - it is a knock off of 1972 Clemente

  8. For my money this is the last "real" Topps set. From '57-'91 they were for the most part identical, then '93 added the fancy card stock and color backs and it just got worst from there.

    Still the change in cards doesn't bother me nearly as much as the NHL style playoff format now. 8 teams was silly 10 is just stupid.

  9. Braves in the West? I had forgotten how screwed up some things had been before.

  10. The Sandy Alomar and the Walt Weiss are by far my favorites. The Royals card that would have been my pick is the Rey Palacios. But your picks are all solid!

  11. I had the Palacios card in the Royals spot for awhile. But it just makes him look so damn goofy. I had to remove it.

  12. Love the 91 set. Lots of great photos and double play cards including the Weiss and others you posted. In fact, I would argue that the 92 lasorda fit better in the 91 set.

  13. FWIW - I think The Fernando card is better then the Giants card.

    Underrated set, but wish the Phils had a more impressive rep.