Friday, December 28, 2012

The best Dodger cards ever made countdown: 10-1

I'm probably not going to do an end-of-the-year "Best of 2012" countdown this year like I normally do. I still have time to change my mind, but right now, when I think of "2012" and "cards," the word "best" is not anywhere near the first word on my lips.

So I might want to steer clear of that.

But I know how everyone loves countdown shows -- myself included -- so this is what I can offer: the 10 best Dodger cards in my collection, also known as "The Best Dodger Cards Ever Made."

Yep, it's time for greatness.

So no more ados. It's time for eye-feasting.

10. Sealing Yanks' Doom, Game 4 1963 World Series, 1964 Topps

Granted, the photo is nothing great, except for the fact that Frank Howard is teeing off on Whitey Ford for a home run. But the caption is the greatest headline ever written. A caption announcing the death of the New York Yankees. A death knell for the Yankees on cardboard. It's glorious, and something I hope every Dodger fan understands.

9. 1964 N.L. ERA Leaders, Sandy Koufax/Don Drysdale, 1965 Topps

League leader cards, by their nature, are not typically pleasing cards. Too many players scrunched into too little space with nothing in common except for the stat that the card is recognizing. But this league leader card is the rare exception. It commemorates an era for the Dodgers and an era for baseball, when the team and pitching ruled the majors. The Dodgers' one-two combo is made all the more memorable by the Dodger blue outline that Topps used.

8. Mike Piazza, 1996 Upper Deck V.J. Lovero Showcase insert

Hands down, the greatest card of the 1990s. You can argue this for infinity and you will never change my mind. This card has everything I want in life. Baseball. Humor. Art. Cereal and Donuts. It's quirky. It's strange. It's filled with big hair and big phones. Hand towels and generic food boxes. Is that a bird cage in the background? What an odd shirt Karros is wearing. Why is everyone so serious? Or maybe they're not serious at all. And the cardboard cut-out! The Lasorda cut-out! LOL greatness! You can find something new every time you look at it.

7. Brooklyn Dodgers, 1956 Topps

Not impressed by the photograph? Well, let me read off the back row for you. Meyer, Gilliam, Loes, Labine, Hodges, Roebuck, Bessent, Snider, Podres, Walker, Robinson. If that's not enough, I'll give you a moment to pick out Campanella, Amoros, Reese, Koufax, Erskine, Alston, Furillo and Newcombe. That's the 1955 World Series-winning Dodgers there, all in one spot (those blue numbers sure look strange).

6. Jackie Robinson, 1955 Topps

Perhaps you think this card should be higher. I can't argue with that. But it's where it is because I can't make a case for this card over, say, the 1956 Robinson or the 1954 Robinson or any other Robinson. They're all equally great, and don't distinguish themselves in any manner other than the greatness of the player depicted. But this card is fortunate enough to make the countdown because I own this card. Lucky me.

5. Steve Garvey, 1974 Topps

I've already paid homage to '74 Garv a couple of times. For Dodger fans of a certain era, it is the epitome of Dodger cards. If you were a kid at this time, it was the greatest card you ever saw. It's cardboard art and unique for its time. I first came across it on the 1975 Topps MVP subset card. Every time I see it, I'm reminded of Garvey's 1974 MVP season.

4. Dodgers' Big Three (Podres, Drysdale, Koufax), 1963 Topps

I'm coming to the realization that the "combo cards" of the 1950s and 1960s are among the best cards ever made. They recognize an era, which a card of a single player cannot do. And in terms of a card making an impact, providing a memory, these combo cards -- if done right -- do that better than any other card. You want to know why the Dodgers swept the Yankees in the 1963 World Series? It's all right here. Dodgers' Big Three. Topps practically predicted it before it happened.

3. Sandy Koufax, 1955 Topps

Or should I say "Sandy"? I always thought this was a weird-looking card. The two-times too large uniform, the logo-less jersey. It could be better. But this is Koufax's rookie card, one of the most coveted cards of its time period. I'm not someone who scouts out rookie cards. I kind of lucked into this one a long time ago. But it's now one of my greatest pieces of cardboard.

2. Roy Campanella, Symbol of Courage, 1959 Topps

I'm trying to get a handle on how big of a deal this card was at the time. Campanella's accident, in which he was paralyzed, happened at least a year before this card appeared in the '59 set. I'm sure the news of the accident was everywhere for months and months. But I don't know how open we were as a society to showing a photo of a tremendous baseball player paralyzed in a wheelchair on a card that would be pulled out of packs by thousands of kids. I should research the history of this card more. Did Topps debate issuing this card? Did it have to clear it with Campy and a bunch of other people?

All that aside, even if producing this card was smooth sailing, it's still one of the all-time great cards. An iconic card that goes beyond baseball and more than likely helped many people overcome the stigma of paralysis, which Campy did himself for years and years. Tremendous, tremendous card, and one I debated putting at No. 1.

1. Dodgers Sluggers, 1957 Topps

Baseball -- to me -- is about moments in time, celebrating eras and recognizing greatness. The Boys Of Summer is my favorite era, even though I never lived through it. The Dodgers had some great pitchers at that time -- Newcombe, Erskine, Podres, Black, Branca, Loes, Labine -- but they played in tiny Ebbets Field and they had to be more about hitting than anything else. The Dodgers were sluggers, for one of the few times in their history, and you're looking at their sluggers right there. For me, cards don't get any better than that.

And that's the finale.

To those who are wondering where the '56 Robinson, '53 Reese, '49 Snider, etc., etc., are, I don't have those cards. Someday I may own them. And then I can do an updated list.

But for now, these are the Best Dodger Cards Ever Made.

Nothing else matters.


  1. Tremendous finale. The #1 slot certainly makes sense.

    I was glad to see that Piazza rank so high, I love that one. I even hope to own a copy of it one day.

    This countdown has been awesome. I can only hope that the "Top 100" on my blog is half as good as yours.

    Thanks for taking the time to share these!

  2. Now that, was a great countdown.

    The top 10 cards were all worthy picks for sure.

  3. Great countdown! These 10 were all fantastic!

  4. Bravo!

    Enjoyed the countdown!


  5. Pulled a bunch of Koufax tribute cards from packs tonight and thought of you. Excellent list - love that Jackie Robinson. And didn't know that Campanella even existed!

  6. great job with the countdown. I loved the last 10. I've been going to card shows since the mid 70s and I don't recall seeing the Campanella more than a few times. Do you have any history on this card's production and what kids thought about it?

  7. Greg it's been fun to follow along and nit pick your choices. I had five of your top six nailed, almost in order. I was drunk for most of the 90s so I've never seen the Piazza card. Love that Big Three card. It's on my most wanted list.

  8. Good stuff. I am both surprised and not surprised by #1. As they say on Prime 9, though, these kinds of lists are to start arguments, not end them. I would like to see what another Dodgers fan would come up with *coughjimglrccough*

  9. Was there also an unofficial Fleer sticker countdown going on?

  10. The Piazza/Karros card is so 90s that it brings me tears of joy.

    Thank you for writing up a great countdown.

  11. Awesome series. Any of the top ten could've been #1. Someday I hope you have the 52 Reese so you can include it the countdown. That would be number one in my book for sure.

  12. That's a great #1 card - my dad's favorite player growing up was Hodges, I need to find that card for him...

  13. Good stuff - it was great to follow along this countdown!

  14. Enjoyed this series.

    Bought a collection in September that had the Koufax RC and most of the '57 Dodger team set as the centerpieces. Pushed my love for vintage up a couple more steps.

  15. I really enjoyed that countdown. Great stuff as always.

  16. So you thought you could sneak a top 100 post by me while I was on vacation. Not just a top 100 post the most important one of all.

    10. Any card featuring a yankee loss is a good card.

    9. Koufax and Drysdale on the same vintage card is serious stuff.

    8. The Piazza has to be the worst card on the countdown. Not only would I say it doesn’t deserve top 10 it doesn’t deserve top 100.

    7. There are a lot of great manes on that card.

    6. I’m okay with no 55 vs 56 debate this time.

    5. I think the card is creepy but the ghouls like where Garvey is on the countdown.

    4. That is one heck of a rotation. It worked better back then because nowadays they have to try to shove 5 guys on the card.

    3. I haven’t ever seen a 55 Koufax card. Heck I never even saw a scan of one before. Now that I see it I don’t really like it. It is a great player on one of the greatest sets ever produced but the artwork on “Sandy” sucks.

    2. Former player in a wheelchair doesn’t do it for me. To me it is like one of those “word” cards Panini put in Cooperstown, checklist filler.

    1. I find it odd that the singe card of each of these guys goes for more on eBay that this one of all four guys sells for. Shouldn’t this one that pictures all 4 players be “worth more”?

  17. That VJ Lovero set is one of my favorites. I wish we had a set every year or so with photography like Iooss, Lovero, or even Christie Brinkley (remember that insert set?) provided for sets in the 1990s...