I was sorting through some cards yesterday while not torturing myself by watching the Patriots-Jaguars game, when it suddenly occurred to me that there were no manager cards in 2017 Topps Heritage.
I'm not sure why it took me almost an entire year to notice this. I don't recall reading mention of it (OK, here's a reference to it from almost a year ago), but it's definitely worth noting because Heritage's "thing," if you will, is representing that year's chosen past set as faithfully as it can. Last year's set to mimic was 1968 Topps and 1968 most definitely contained manager cards.
There you go.
So what gives?
Why did manager cards suddenly disappear?
Up until last year Topps had no problem featuring managers in Heritage. The 1960s are the golden decade for manager cards and Heritage had stayed true to that decade each and every year:
2009 Heritage -- 1960 Topps
2010 Heritage -- 1961 Topps
2011 Heritage -- 1962 Topps
2012 Heritage -- 1963 Topps
2013 Heritage -- 1964 Topps
2014 Heritage -- 1965 Topps
2015 Heritage -- 1966 Topps
2016 Heritage -- 1967 Topps
Every year, there were manager cards, because that's what they did in the 1960s.
Until last year. When the managers vanished.
That brings us to ...
2018 Heritage and 1969 Topps.
1969 Topps features one of the most memorable manager subsets in Topps' history. Each manager card in '69 contains captivating artwork on the back with a terrific likeness of each skipper.
This would be a highlight of this year's Heritage set, which will be paying homage to '69 Topps.
But now I have my doubts that we'll see this.
The absence of managers from 2017 Heritage forces me to draw only one conclusion: this is somehow related to the contract with Major League Baseball. I know managers aren't part of the Players' Association, but this has never stopped managers from appearing in Heritage before. I've never heard of a Managers Union. Perhaps managers have acquired their own licensing deal? Or is it one of those things where everyone is off limits unless they sign on the dotted line? Whatever happened, it has to be something fairly recent.
I don't know what the answer is and I certainly don't want to go digging around into the legalese of it all. The card industry has been ruined by all of the legal restrictions enough as it is. Undermining Heritage would be just one more nail in the modern-card collecting coffin for me. (I'm already put off by Heritage stuffing all the stars in the short-prints).
With illustrations like these, this is the worst time to stop issuing manager cards.