Once again, Canada Day greetings to all my Canadian readers!
It's tradition around here to put a little extra on the last wing ... er, I mean, to recognize my Canadian readers with a blog post on their national day (sorry, binging on the Hot Ones series on youtube)! I've done it for the last five years now, and, quite frankly, I'm not sure how long I can keep this up.
Since I live so close to the Canadian border, I hear a lot about Canadian-style this and Canadian-style that. Canadian-style beer (yum!), Canadian-style fries, Canadian-style bagels, bacon, chips, etc. (I don't know if there are Canadian-style chicken wings).
I won't surprise anyone who reads this blog by saying there are also Canadian-style baseball cards. Or, there were anyway. I don't remember when I first came across O-Pee-Chee cards and their wonderful take on Topps' American version, I was probably a teenager. But I know I was fascinated immediately, in the same way I was with the Burger King cards of the late '70s.
O-Pee-Chee captured the imagination of what a card could be. Living in a world of Topps only, collecting under Topps rules -- if Topps said that Bill Madlock was still a Chicago Cub in 1977, then, well, you had to believe it -- you took what you could get. Meanwhile, OPC was creating in its magical lab way up north, a card of Madlock with his new team, the San Francisco Giants. What? How? Is this the greatest thing ever?
It's long been my desire to gain as many of the OPC variations as I can and I've started slowly with the '77 set just because it's chock full of variations on the Topps cards. But it's a slow process that has stagnated lately.
A few days ago, I received some cards from Johnny's Trading Spot and included were several delightful Dodgers OPC cards, including that glorious Dodgers-A's conglomeration up top.
That spurred me on to find a dozen of my favorite OPC cards in my collection, in honor of Canada Day, of course.
You've probably seen many of these on the blog already. I'm sorry about that. I just can't help but show cards that fascinate me.
12. 1984 OPC Tim Raines
The attraction of this card is, of course, the French writing on an all-star card. Most of the French writing on OPC cards is confined to the back of the card. It takes All-Star prowess to coax "All-Star Etoile" onto the front of the card.
11. 1988 OPC Alfredo Griffin, Mike Davis, Jay Howell
By the late 1980s, OPC was no longer attempting to airbrush every player who changed teams into his new duds. That diminishes what could have been three spectacular cards here. However, the customary "now with ..." notations suitably serves the airbrushing purpose. These are three key people who helped bring the Dodgers a World Series title in '88. Sadly, there is not one of these OPC cards for Kirk Gibson (he's shown simply as a Detroit Tiger).
10. 1971 OPC Al Downing
The earliest example in my collection of what I enjoy so much about OPC -- the clashing of teams in an attempt to update the player's status. OPC made sure to clear up any collector confusion by stressing that Downing was recently traded to the Dodgers. Just in case that giant "DODGERS" above didn't help.
For my money, the most Canadian Dodger card in history. How in the world do you get the Blue Jays' signature '80s/'90s uniforms on a Dodger card? You call up O-Pee-Chee, that's how.
8. 1979 OPC Tommy John
This card is rather jarring -- in a pleasant '70s way -- as traditional rivals, the Dodgers and Yankees, are featured on the same card. It sums up the angst that I felt when Tommy John left the team that did so much for him to go to New York. Fortunately, the Dodgers won a World Series title two years later and John did not.
7. 1977 OPC Richie Zisk
A perfect example of what made '77 OPC so great. Not only is Richie Zisk painted into a White Sox uniform but the cropping is different than his '77 Topps card.
I hold a special allegiance to Zisk because he once called me back on my cell phone (which I nearly dropped out of sheer shock and awe), so I like the OPC card even more than your average collector.
6. 1985 OPC Al Oliver
OPC started placing its logo in a bright yellow box in 1985. I'm not too much of a fan because I think a lot of the charm of OPC is how it looks almost like Topps but not quite. The yellow box is too much of a signal. However, I'm going to overlook that here because AL OLIVER IS ON THE DODGERS YOU GUYS!!!
5. 1981 Topps Frank Tanana
A newcomer to my collection, the best part of this card -- besides it being another Frank Tanana card in my possession -- is the added misinformation (Tanana never played for the White Sox) pushes it above the ordinary OPC card.
The start of Topps' Traded sets in 1981 enabled collectors to accumulate three different cards of Tanana, if they were that on-the-ball about the options available to them (most of us weren't). Here are the other two Tananas from '81 (not including Donruss and Fleer, of course):
4. 1977 OPC Steve Garvey
If you collected as a kid in "The States" in 1977, this card would have blown your mind. I'm not sure what I would have thought if this landed in my possession that year. You might have had to administer smelling salts.
The obvious difference between the OPC Garvey and the Topps Garvey is the absence of the All-Star bar.
Garvey's signature migrated to his ankles to accommodate the All-Star bar on the Topps card. Truth be told, I prefer the Topps card. The lack of the all-star notation (I'm not sure why they disappeared off the OPC cards that year) diminishes the excitement of pulling the card of Garv.
3. 1992 OPC Gary Carter (Tribute)
With the exception of certain Blue Jays and Expos, OPC didn't create brand new cards separate from the Topps set prior to 1992. For the most part, the players in OPC were also in Topps. And there weren't too many cards special to just OPC. That's what makes this card of Gary Carter so great. You can't find anything like it in Topps from that year.
I find the back pretty cool, too.
2. 1989 OPC Kirk Gibson, World Series
Topps did not create World Series cards for its 1989 set. It is one of the great mysteries of my collecting life that Topps, during the 1980s with some of the most interesting World Series ever staged, dropped its World Series subsets.
OPC took note and stood up for what was right and created cards to recognize the 1988 World Series, including Gibby's Game 1 blast, one of the most epic home runs in World Series history. Nice job, chronicling, OPC. Topps really dropped the ball.
1. 1977 Topps Tom Bruno
This card is here because of its personal nature. I mentioned way back that I interviewed Tom Bruno during a fishing tournament. He was competing in the tournament and he was very generous with his time, very candid and I enjoyed talking to him. I hadn't really heard of him as a baseball player before talking to him and later looked him up to see if he had any cards. I came across just one, the 1979 Topps Cardinals prospects card, which he shared with two other guys.
Shortly afterward, gcrl (whose OPC collection dwarfs mine) sent me this OPC card of Bruno. It was quite exciting. If I was the autograph type, I would have tracked down Bruno's address and sent it to him.
Regardless, it's the most special OPC card that I own and if it wasn't for OPC, I wouldn't have a solo card of the guy I connected with while covering that fishing tournament.
OPC slowly faded away from the baseball scene during the 1990s. It started creating sets with its own designs instead of rehashing Topps' designs. That was probably better for its identity but OPC lost its appeal with me when it started doing that.
For me, the best period for OPC was during the '70s and '80s when it created mind-bending cards that were sort of like Topps, but not quite. Kudos to OPC for updating all those collectors back then on the transactions of the day.
Even if they were depressing ones like this: