One of baseball's nicest guys, Gary Carter's 1975 Topps is his debut card issue. Shared with three other players whose major league careers never amounted to much, this card shows Carter at the start of his All-Star heyday with the Montreal Expos, though it wasn't until he moved on to the New York Mets that Carter was a member of a World Championship team (1986 Mets). Carter made a couple end-of-career stops on the West coast with the Los Angeles Dodgers and finally the San Francisco Giants but Montreal is how we remember Carter.
Possibly one of the most unique baseball cards ever, Glenn Hubbard's 1984 Fleer issue is an automatic inclusion into any celebration of the best gumcards in history. Coming off a season in 1983 in which he posted perhaps his best season, smashing 12 homeruns and earning an All-Star game berth, Hubbard's 1984 Fleer card tops even that. Forgoing the traditional batting pose or awaiting a line drive fielding stance typical of most baseball cards up to the time, Hubbard is grinning ear to ear with a huge boa constrictor snake wrapped around his neck and across his shoulders. As if that were not enough, the Philly Phanatic mascot makes an appearance in the background distance over Hubbard's left shoulder and Barney Rubble from The Flintstone's off to his right shoulder. Apparently, in the early 80's there would be an annual birthday bash for the Philly Phanatic and the word is that they were an all-out celebration, typically held on a Sunday home game. So it can be ascertained that this card captures a moment from the 1983 bash at Veteran's Stadium. Throw in the technicolor stadium seats, the Atlanta vintage powder blue uniform of the 1980's and it's pretty difficult to top this card.
Bo Knows Baseball Cards! During his career, Jackson was equally exciting to watch, both on the baseball diamond and football gridiron. This duality of All-Star talent and proficiency was something that had never been seen before and the 1990 Score captured this spirit perfectly, in black and white. Jackson was infamous for snapping a bat in half over his shoulders out of frustration after striking out, so the picture of the muscled Bo clutching a bat, while wearing his football pads, displays the menacing power that Jackson was capable of.
Sometimes your favorite baseball cards are like one of your favorite screwball comedy movies of the 1980's. They both are sometimes goofy, don't make sense at all and you can't quite explain it but you just love them anyhow. The 1986 Topps Razor Shines card falls into this category. A friend and I quickly took to the catchily-named "Razor Shines", becoming big fans of the light hitting but very cool named Shines. While Shines did have a couple of other baseball cards produced, it was the 1986 Topps that was the gold standard for us. The pinnacle was attending an Indianapolis Indians minor league game (and the minors was where most of Shines' career was regulated to), meeting Mr. Shines and having him autograph my cardboard treasure. Now that's truly awesome for a kid and still is twenty-five plus years after the fact.
This is a great card, with the superstar Reggie Jackson completely filling up the entire card with his presence...a larger than life star, already putting up great numbers that would shortly be making their way to the Yankees and be on display in the Bronx. The psychedelic card colors of blue and orange, combined with the Athletics green and yellow uniform colors of Reggie, create a visual "trip".
In 1987 Mark McGwire burst onto the scene, quickly establishing himself as one of the most popular and exciting players in the game, by smashing an American League rookie record 49 home runs. Combined with fellow "Bash Brother" and 1986 American League Rookie of the Year Jose Canseco, McGwire was one half of the tandem that was leading the Oakland Athletics to the top of the standings and perennial World Series participants. McGwire was elected the 1987 American League Rookie of the Year and while McGwire's 1987 cardboard issues were popular, collectors preferred his pre-Major League Olympic team card from the 1985 Topps set. Pictured with a huge grin, plastered with "USA" in big, bold letters, McGwire was the All-American kid representing America's favorite past time.
The first player to reach the hallowed 40-40 Club of 40 home runs and 40 steals in season and one half of the "Bash Brothers" tandem with Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco's 1986 Donruss card was once the equivalant of hobby gold. Frantically collected, the Donruss card skyrocked to $150-$200 in value as Canseco emerged as one of the most feared sluggers in all of baseball. Collecting Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards in his prime, Canseco is now more known for his post-career confessions of using steroids and whistle-blowing that "85% of major league players use steroids", "dating" the pop singer Madonna and infamously botching a fly ball in the outfield that bounced off Canseco's and over the fence for a home run. But ahhhhhhh.....the 1986 rookie with it's image of a pencil-thin mustached Jose and the disignated of "RATED ROOKIE" on the front of the card fondly reminds of a time of greatness before all the negativity.
A big part of the allure of baseball cards is that even years later they conjure up memories and remind a person of the kid that they once were. For me, the 1972 Topps Johnny Bench card does that. I still remember being at a hobby shop in the early 1980's, just having to seriously become interested in collecting the cardboard manifestations of my baseball heroes, that my father bought me the 1972 Bench card. I still have the card and don't remember what he paid for it at the time, most likely a buck or two I'd guess. Having just acquired my very first baseball cards in 1978, I didn't own any "older" cards. To me at that time, looking back on 1972 from the early 1980's was equivalent to me thinking back to the 1950's now. Bench is arguably the greatest catcher in the history of baseball and the 1972 card depicts him sporting very 70's sideburns and a still youthful face. Great card, great memories.
Sometimes the popularity of a card has little to do with what the pictured player has done on the field but is coveted because of the card. In early 1989, it was discovered in the initial printings that there was writing on the knob of Billy Ripken's bat. Closer inspection revealed a profanity and the word "FACE". The handling of the recall of this card was botched, with Fleer initially taking cards printed with "F--- FACE" and cutting the vulgarity out, this creating a 'notched" card. Another attempt was using whiteout on the original printing plate and minting more of the Ripken cards, creating a version known as the "whiteout version". Yet a third attempt exists, with this "scribble version" being an attempt of scribbling out the offensive phrase on the master plates and printing additional Ripken cards. At it's peak, the Ripken card was garnering much attention and selling briskly at $50, $75, even $100 a pop. Rational thinking settled in and the Ripken card can now be plentifully found for $5 today.
Pete Rose, nicknamed "Charlie Hustle", made his case as one of the greatest players to ever play in a playing career that spanned from 1963-1986. The 1963 Topps set was the first to portray multiple rookies on a single card and remains as Rose's most valuable card. Setting and still holding several records, Rose is as controversial as he was good in his career. As the all-time leader in the number of career hits, it does not appear that the "Hit King" will be inducted into Cooperstown anytime soon.
No other baseball card meant as much to baseball card collectors in the 1980's and early 1990's than the 1984 Topps Don Mattingly rookie card. After all, this was THE card to own! With Mattingly hitting for average and with pop in the bat, kids and investors alike clammoring for this version of cardboard gold. Throw in the allure of being a Yankee and this card was destined for greatness.
Sadly, Mattingly's career was cut short due to a bad back, that eventually lead to less astronomical years in the later years than he posted in 1985-1989. Mattingly hung on at the end, finally retiring in 1995, never making a World Series appearance. As luck would have it, the New YorkYankees began a string of dominance the very next year, winning it all in 1996 and several times afterwards. The Yankees success was not because of the subtraction of "Donnie Baseball" but the emergence of a new Yankees star that year...a shortstop named Derek Jeter.