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C.A.: 2013 Topps Austin Kearns

(Oh boy, the stuff I do for this blog. Welcome to "Night Owl's an idiot, part infinity." Time for Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 176th in a series):

This just in. Austin Kearns is alive, well and trying to hook up with the Marlins for a second year.

"Who cares," you're saying.

Well, I do, for one. Because for about six hours on Sunday, I thought he was dead.

This was the error to which I was referring in the post yesterday, the one I was happy that didn't get out. But I have no problem admitting to my stupidity when I catch it in time. Why not let everyone in on the laugh? There's nothing more annoying then a blogger who can't admit his own mistakes. Besides all the cards are scanned. And we can't let time scanning ever, ever, ever go to waste.

I had confused Kearns with Ryan Freel, who most unfortunately took his own life in December. Both had played for the Reds about 10 years ago and, quite honestly, it was the last time I had really paid attention to both of them. This illustrates the importance of research, of course, a lesson I learn constantly both here and in the job.

But the initial belief, that Kearns had passed and that there was a 2013 Topps card of him, started me on the morbid topic that I shall now explore -- active players who died just prior to their card appearing in a set.

It is terrible when something like this happens. Of course, there is the obvious. But there is the card aspect, too. A new baseball card set celebrates the newest and the greatest. The most alive baseball players that we know. The best and the most vibrant.

To see that active individual, on a brand new design, doing something impossibly athletic, and knowing that he had recently died is the most jarring juxtaposition of thoughts possible in this hobby.

As you know this phenomenon has happened before, fortunately not that often.

The most famous example is from the 1973 set:

Roberto Clemente died in a plane crash on Dec. 31, 1972, and then his 1973 Topps card arrived mere weeks later.

A couple of years later, Don Wilson died on Jan. 5, 1975, and a card of a very alive Wilson appeared in the 1975 Topps set.

In 1977, Danny Frisella and Mike Miley died in January crashes within five days of each other. Yet cards of each showed up in the '77 Topps set.

But that wasn't the first time that two deceased players appeared in the same set allegedly filled with live individuals.

In the 1964 set, Jim Unbricht of Houston appeared after his death from cancer in April of 1964.

The back of his card acknowledged the fact:

(If you want to start a "Paul Is Dead" rumor, Frank Francisco of the Mets is featured on card No. 389 in this year's Heritage set).

The more famous case from the 1964 set is of Ken Hubbs, who died in a plane crash in February 1964.

Topps was able to present a tribute to Hubbs on card No. 550.

Here is the back:

1964 Topps #550 - Ken Hubbs/In Memoriam - Courtesy of

I don't think there has been anything similar in baseball cards until the 2006 Topps Updates & Highlights set:

Lidle died in an October plane crash just a few weeks before the release of the '06 U&H set.

I'm sure there are a few other examples of cards like this. Steve Olin's 1993 cards are a possibility as I don't know if his accident happened before or after the 1993 sets hit shelves.

At any rate, all of these cards are pretty much the saddest cards that I know.

But I don't want to be such a downer on your Tuesday.

After all, this is a happy post.

Austin Kearns is alive, you guys!


hiflew said…
The accident with Olin, Tim Crews, and Bob Ojeda happened during Spring Training that year. Along with the death of Len Bias, that accident was the hardest "famous" death to take during my teenage years.

Were any of Darryl Kile's cards in 2002 issued after his death? Also Joe Kennedy had his 2007 Topps Update card issued about a week before his death.

This is a very interesting topic to me. I don't know why, unless it's just morbid curiosity.
Kearns is a great guy. Not the best player, of course, but I believe he has an autistic child and has invested a lot in his well-being.
night owl said…
@hiflew ~

I don't know the release dates of cards in 2002 (I wasn't collecting then). But my guess is that there were some card sets issued later than June that year (which is when Kile died).
sg488 said…
How about Miguel Fuentes. Murdered on Jan. 29,1970,and appeared on 1970 Topps Seattle Pilots rookie card few months later.
Anonymous said…
I looked up Josh Hancock from 2007 - looks like Topps updated the planned card from his Cardinals team set to add an in memorium stamp.
Anonymous said…
How about this auction. Maybe creepier than any of the cards released, how about on-card autos released after Stan the Man died.