My eldest is deep in his baseball, and baseball card, obsession now. For Christmas he got three Dan Gutman Baseball Card Adventures books, a San Jose Giants Team Set, a 25th Anniversary Trenton Thunder Team Set, a 2018 Topps Factory set, and a 1991 Topps Factory set. Yes we had lots of cards and Ultra Pro pages all over our floor that day. And yes we made sure that he cleaned up all the wrapping paper first before sorting and paging everything.
The 1991 set though deserves comment because it was a special gift from his godfather. Apparently it was the one thing his godfather wanted for Christmas that year and was so special that it stayed untouched in its box on his bookshelf at his parents’ house for the past 27 years.
Or so we all thought.
Upon opening the box we found that his godfather had sorted everything by team before leaving it untouched. This was pretty cool since my son had decided that he wanted to sort this set by team as well so he could learn a bit more about baseball as it was in 1991.
And learn we did. He noticed that there were 14 American League teams and only 12 National League ones and wanted to know why. So I got to explain how interleague play was relatively new and how before 1997 you needed an even number of teams in each league so that one team wasn’t left out every day. We got to try sorting things by order finished in the divisions (this ended up being too confusing for him). Lots more to look at besides just the numbers on the backs.
Then, when I said I’d show him my favorite card in the set, we noticed that the A’s stack was kind of short. And by kind of I mean really. Where every other team had like 30 cards (something else he appreciated compared to the current offering of closer to 20 cards per team) the A’s stack had under 20. Yeah. It turned out that the complete set wasn’t complete at all.
At first we thought that his godfather had pulled out a couple pages of A’s because the A’s at that time were the team in the Bay Area. But the Giants stack was untouched and his godfather was (and is) more of a Giants guy so that killed hat theory. Then I decided to check for the Chipper Jones rookie and realized that someone had raided the set.
This both sucked and was kind of cool. Instead of just paging the set we now had a project. After going through everything we determined that my son was missing 19 cards.
A’s: Todd Burns, Jose Canseco, Jose Canseco All Star, Ozzie Canseco, Dennis Eckersley, Reggie Harris, Ron Hassey, Rickey Henderson, Rickey Henderson All Star, Carney Lansford, Tony LaRussa, Mark McGwire, Scott Sanderson, Dave Stewart, and Walt Weiss.
Others: Carlos Baerga, Bo Jackson, Chipper Jones, and Eddie Murray.
Based on the missing cards I’m guessing it got raided pretty early in the 1990s. Any time later on in the 90s and I suspect just the Chipper Jones rookie would’ve walked. And more-recently anyone who knew anything about this would’ve also known that this set isn’t really worth anything.
Anyway my son was thankfully not disappointed and dutifully left spaces open in his pages for the missing cards. And he sat with me and played the “do you remember this guy” game as well. I do indeed remember many of them. I also don’t remember a bunch of them.
I meanwhile had been keeping twitter abreast of the developments. Partly because it’s fun to see kids get into sets that are three times their age. Partly because I enjoy the forensic logic of realizing when a theft must’ve occurred. And partly because I needed somewhere to write the missing-cards lust down since I knew I’d be writing this post and searching for the missing 19 in trade eventually.
I did not expect to receive 18 of the missing 19 cards before I even got around to writing the post. But on literally the first day of school in the new year a small package from Mark Hoyle arrived and inside were all the cards my son was missing except for the Ozzie Canseco.
The Walt Weiss is as glorious in person and dutifully impressed my son. The Rickey Henderson is also great and that Dave Stewart is awesome in a way that reminds me of the 1973 Juan Marichal.
When my son got this set I told him that this was one of my favorite sets ever and that for my money it was one of the top three sets Topps has ever made.* Yes there are some printing issues. But the photo-centric design is great with the colored borders and team logotypes and the photos are mostly good and frequently wonderful.
*Also on this list. 1956 and 1965.
Just looking at the 18 cards here shows a variety of images that reminds me of how good a set can look and how enjoyable having a set that includes all kinds of photography is. The modern fragmentation into having a portrait-oriented set (Heritage), and action-oriented set (Flagship), and an artsy-photo oriented set (Stadium Club) makes sense from a corporate point of view but it really short-changes each of the three products.
Hiding underneath all the 1991 Topps cards was a single goody for me. It takes one hell of a card and photo to upstage the 1991 Walt Weiss but this 1967 Topps Poster of Willie Mays does just that. As a 5×7 fold-out the only thing truly poster-like is the super-thin paper. But the over-size image combined with a great photo of The Kid looks fantastic and this is now one of the oldest Willie Mays items in my collection.
It’s in great shape too. Yes there’s some writing on the back. And yes it’s diamond-trimmed and off-center. But for something that feels this fragile I’d expect it to be coming apart at the folds and have wrinkles/creases everywhere.
Super cool Mark. Thanks for coming to the rescue. Thanks for the awesome Mays poster. And thanks for the great start to the New Year.