Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Ranking the All-Star designs

So, you didn't much care about my Cody Bellinger cards yesterday, no matter how difficult they are to obtain or how much they're selling. I get you. It's just the Home Run Derby. Players teeing off on batting practice fastballs. That's not why we love the game.

And you're right. Today is the day that I love so much. It's All-Star night and this time it doesn't count!

No matter how much they tinker with the All-Star Game -- and they have -- I still look forward to it. To let you know how much, today is one of only two days out of the year that I specifically select food and drink to consume during the game. The other day is Super Bowl Sunday. (There are plenty of other days in which I watch games and eat, but those are much more random). This day has special meaning to me.

But I've addressed all of that before during all of my other All-Star Game tribute posts. That's another hint at how much I like the game -- all of those ASG posts.

Here is another one.

I decided to rank my 20 favorite All-Star designs on baseball cards.

I love that Topps specifically recognizes the ASG and All-Stars on its baseball cards. It has a long history of doing so and it should. There really isn't anything in baseball much more interesting to me than seeing an All-Star pitcher face an All-Star batter.

Over the years, Topps has recognized the stars in a variety of ways. Some I like, some I don't. I'm not coming at this ranking from a designer's perspective. I just know what I like and what I don't so that's how I'm ranking them.

But first, here is a look at what NOT to do:

Don't cram two All-Stars onto the same card.

Good gosh, Topps, that stuff is for league-leader cards. Every All-Star gets their own card! I know this may look cool to some collectors but that's only because the card is 43 years old. It'd be cooler if Murcer and Rose received their own card with an All-Star logo!

If you're recognizing All-Stars with a banner, for god's sake don't strip the banner in the middle of the photo! And don't make it yellow! I can't describe how much I loathe the 2005 all-star cards because of this.

Don't let MLB logos speak for you and do nothing else. The 2010 Update all-star cards are sleep-inducing. Not only is every card just a snapshot of the player at the plate or a pitcher at the mound, but there is nothing that says that the player is an All-Star. To me, every All-Star design should have a star. They're stars, show a star.

The last few years of All-Star cards have been pretty pathetic. All Topps does is slap the respective ASG logo onto the card and then it's done. Some years, the logo is so small you can barely see it (2013 particularly so). All-Stars deserve special treatment on their cards. Also, how is it that none of these recent logos feature stars??? Come on.

But that's enough about the worst in All-Star looks, this post is about the best of the best! Because the ASG is about the best of the best!

These top 20 designs will be all Topps issues, because, honestly, the other card companies in the past didn't do a heck of a lot with the All-Stars. It's probably why so many fans are indifferent to the ASG today. Thanks a lot Upper Deck and Donruss.

Anyway, I think you can guess already what my No. 1 favorite is. But I'm still doing this.

The Top 20 All-Star designs:

20. 2003 and 2004 Topps

When Topps broke out the Sporting News All-Stars early in the 2000s, it was a tribute to the late 1950s when All-Stars were based on a publications' postseason honors. These don't necessarily have to do with the game's All-Stars, but that's OK. I still like these a lot. They're creative and they're loud. Because All-Stars should be noticed.

19. 1991 Topps

The '91 All-Star design may be the drabbest in history. I don't know why we're using browns to showcase All-Stars. But the design had a lot of potential. This is the only All-Star design that puts me in the mind of Star Wars because of the background behind the word "All-Star". That is very cool. You can barely see it, because half of 1991 looks like you're viewing the cards in a haze, but it's there.

18. 1982 Topps

Oh, I hold a big grudge against 1982 Topps' All-Star cards. This was the first year since 1970 that Topps featured a separate card for each All-Star instead of noting it on the particular players' card. But for someone who started collecting in 1975, it was brand new and I didn't like it. I've mentioned this before. It made the player's base card seem like every other card, and an All-Star was not like every other player. Of course, getting an extra card is special, too. But I still prefer the other way.

17. 1989 Topps

I get the All-Star cards for 1986, 1988 and 1989 mixed up sometimes. They're all similarly bright. With lots of yellow. The '89 All-Stars feature a cut-out design with a solid red or blue background. It's kind of retro while being very '80s at the same time. It's basic. But pleasant.

16. 1990 Topps

1990 Topps is loud and off-putting on most days. But one thing I like a lot about this set is its all-star cards. The blue (or red) All-Star rectangle mutes the Lichtenstein/comic book design and makes the player stand out. As All-Stars should.

15. 1981 Topps

This is the last year of the Topps All-Star presentation that began in 1975 in which each All-Star player received a special notation on his base card. This was the fourth time in seven years that Topps used an All-Star banner, so it was getting a little tired for me. Also, this was the year where I noticed a lot of tinkering with who was an All-Star according to Topps. Left- and right-handed pitchers and "starting" relievers and the like. Hmmmm.

14. 1987 Topps

I may think that 1987 Topps is overrated and the set overplayed, but the All-Star cards are pretty sweet. Outside of the lack of a team name (an ASG card faux pas), this has what you need. It's still the '87 design, that's obvious, but there is no doubting the All-Star salute.

13. 1988 Topps

Wow, kids. Wow. Have you ever looked at all of the 1988 All-Star cards at once in a binder. You see spots afterward, don't you? Still, I like these a lot. It's distinctive and you may not be able to tell exactly what set it comes from, but think a little longer and "1988 Topps" will come to you. Pretty cool.

12. 1979 Topps

Back to the banner for the second time in three years, that was my thought when I was opening my first packs of 1979 Topps. It's like a stack of three banners here. It's a little much and also the first time I became aware that I was losing a little bit of the picture with this extra banner. But my love for All-Stars was still at a fever pitch so I enjoyed these. (P.S.: Is that the Twins vs. the Giants?)

11. 1980 Topps

Given the previous All-Star designations, 1980 Topps' black or purple banner is understated. I liked it a lot. These All-Star cards were as regal to me as almost anything else that came before them. It's simple, but packs a wallop. Also please note the two single stars. Not a lot to do there, modern-day Topps.

10. 1983 Topps

POW! The return of the GIANT star. Probably the biggest one ever. You can't take your eyes off of it. It seemed a little much at the time. It definitely seems a bit much when all of these are positioned together in a binder. But they're great. A nice way to salute your All-STARS.

9. 1960 Topps

One of the few All-Star designs that I like that doesn't showcase stars (you'll see another in a moment). This subset, with the giant "60" in the background and the shadow cut-out is definitely of its time. This was the way to provide impact in the '50s/early '60s in magazines, in advertisements. It works. Charlie Neal is probably not the best example because it's just a head shot. The players who are actually doing something on their All-Star cards look better.

8. 1977 Topps

Have I told you about my sixth-grade class? I have. This card itself was coveted by two-thirds of the class. Boys and girls. I hope you can see why. The first year that Topps chose the All-Star banner provided terrific emphasis to ASG players in this set. Nothing more than a bright red or blue banner with a star on either side of the type. We were all impressed. Because WE WANTED THESE CARDS.

7. 1961/70 Topps

Here is the other All-Star subset without a star. But who cares? The All-Star is breaking through a newspaper with his giant head! Too cool! The 1970 All-Star design is actually a repeat of the 1961 All-Star design except with a gray border. So I'm grouping these together. 1970 was the last year for specific All-Star card mention until 1974, and it deserves a proper tribute (it's difficult to believe given how large the '71 and '72 sets are that they didn't have All-Star cards).

6. 1969 Topps

When the older brother of my friend down the street gave him some 1969 cards, these were the ones I wanted. They were far brighter than any of the other 1969 Topps cards and look at all those stars! And you can't beat the black-and-white action shot, which was quite rare at the time. Also, Topps accommodated my synesthesia by making the AL cards red and the NL cards green.

5. 1968 Topps

Whenever I pull one of the 2017 Heritage all-star cards, which are modeled after the 1968 Topps set, I find myself hoarding them. I have no intention of trying to complete '17 Heritage, but I can't let go of any of the All-Star cards. They're too cool. I guess I'm just a sucker for giant numbers that designate the year.

4. 1958 Topps

For me, the 1958 Topps set isn't much to look at it (with certain definite exceptions). But the All-Star cards are very cool. The rows of stars behind the All-Star player seem to march along to a patriotic-type song, sending the All-Star off to war ... er, the ball field. Also the AL cards are red, the NL cards blue as it is written in the constitution. If I were the type to throw money at a subset, this might be it.

3. 1978 Topps

I've gushed about the All-Star shield in the past. It's brilliance. It's genius. It's a SHIELD OF HONOR! I know there is no star anywhere on this card. It's a shield! Didn't you just hear me?? Forty years ago today the All-Star players shown with shields in the '78 set appeared in the 1977 All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium. It is the first ASG game I remember watching avidly. The National League victory is the reason I'm so devoted today.

2. 1976 Topps

But when you get right down to it, an All-Star needs a STAR. Preferably bold and fat and bright. Yellow was a good choice here. Some may think that the '76 All-Stars were deprived of the little position man that appeared on every other player cards. All-Stars don't need position mans, man. They have proud yellow stars. These cards were so impressive they could knock over a weaker collector.

1. 1975 Topps

Of course! What else! Sure, I love the '75 All-Star cards over any others because they're the first ones I saw. But also, it's All-Star recognition done right. The star is there -- how can you miss it? But also, Topps showcased each star (except Reggie Jackson) with a two-tone yellow-and-red banner with the name in yellow letters (except Hank Aaron). This was in keeping with the '75 design, but much, much brighter and very, very, very cool.

The All-Star cards that I saw in 1975 -- Garvey, Fisk, Cey, Bench, Rose, Morgan, Campaneris, Carew -- are today the most awesome, jaw-dropping cards in my collection. Still. And always will be. The '75 All-Star cards that I saw for the first time during my trip to Cooperstown that year -- Robinson, Wynn, Messersmith, Allen, Bowa were coveted for years after I saw them. Then there were the All-Star cards that I didn't see for decades, Gaylord Perry, Bobby Murcer, missed out on my stalker obsession.

This is the proper way to recognize all-stars and maybe if it was still happening more people would be as giddy as I am about the All-Star Game.

I will be front-and-center tonight watching the game. It will probably be awash in hype that has nothing to do with the All-Stars, but I'll try to overlook that. Because it's All-Star Day.

It's a great day.


  1. Yeah, no surprise on the winner. No complaints, either.

    Very unlikely to be a Giant on that 1979 Carew...those teams didn't even play in spring training then. Most likely it's an Oriole, probably Rick Dempsey, as they had orange uniforms at the time, too.

  2. Honestly, I like the "comparison" of the ’74s!

    ’58, ’60, ’68, and ’69 are also brilliant designs.

    I also like the simplicity of the years with a star of banner. Made a regular card feel more "special."

    Jim McLauchlin

  3. Great posrt, plus you featured Strawberry! I agree with Brett it's got to be the Orioles. I've always been a fan if the newspaper ones, too. Hope you had a great all starvmeal and are enjoying the game.

  4. I like the backs of the 1983T All-Star cards with the summaries of different All Star Games. I would like to see Topps return to it someday.

  5. Hopefully Topps could follow MLB's lead this year and use the Stars with the # of years as an All-Star --- right on the player's card.

  6. One my biggest complaints about Topps is that they have all but abandoned unique designs for subsets. I'd be thrilled to see Record Breakers, Turn Back the Clock, All Stars, and manager cards return. Who in the hell cares about the "team cards"?

  7. Great post. I was going to do something similar... but only use my Tony Gwynns. Now I realize that there's really no need. Your post covers all of the designs. My top 5...

    #1: 1958
    #2: 1969
    #3: 1977
    #4: 1975
    #5: 1983

  8. An All -Star post my friend !

  9. Great post. I have always liked the 1978 cards. The shield just adds some added importance to the cards and makes them special. When I first saw those cards as an 8 year old I just knew these players were great, just because they had a shield.

  10. One of my first "big" purchases was of the 1958 AS Mickey Mantle for $5 at a card shop in the mid 80s. Great condition and still one of my favorite cards. 1958 would be my top choice.

  11. Great post. I think 1983 got short changed though. It deserves top 5 status.

  12. Have to agree with the 75 set as the best. Although I could care less about the game. Last watched in 1983

  13. I like Topps' recent year All-Star cards - the logo of the All-Star Game that year and a photo taken from the All-Star Game (or at least All-Star workout or other event if the player didn't appear in that year's All-Star game).