Category: Baseball Cards

Red Sox Celebrate David Ortiz; Collectors Celebrate Unique Big Papi Baseball Cards

During his 14 years with the Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz became the face of the franchise, leading the team to three World Series championships while becoming just the 27th member of baseball’s exclusive 500 home run club.  As one of baseball’s top sluggers, Ortiz became quite popular with baseball card and memorabilia collectors as well.  A wide-range of Ortiz variation, rookie, game-used-memorabilia, and autographed baseball cards remain popular even with Ortiz six months into retirement.

Some of the most memorable and coveted baseball cards are the ones that capture a unique moment in baseball or a city’s history.  The rare variation of Ortiz’s 2013 second series Topps card captures one of the more emotional moments in Boston sports history.  A defiant Ortiz took the field just five days after the tragic Boston Marathon bombing, making an impassioned, heartfelt speech declaring  the city’s resolve.

Known in collectible circles as the “Boston Strong” card, Ortiz is pictured with a microphone in one hand and a clenched fist raised to the heavens with the other.  In the background is a giant American flag draped over Fenway’s left field wall, creating a uniquely patriotic scene.  Upon release, the short-printed “Boston Strong” card sold in the $50-$75 range.  Following the Red Sox third World Series title in 10 years in October of the 2013 season, the card was selling in excess of $150.  During the height of the Big Papi Farewell Tour last summer , the card sold for as much as $199.  Today the card value has settled in the $35-$65 range.

Ortiz played a huge role in the Red Sox six-game 2013 World Series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, hitting .688 with two homers and six RBI en route to being named World Series MVP.  The popular Topps World Champion autograph insert set features top postseason sluggers. The 2014 edition captures Ortiz’s famed home run stroke along with his certified signature.  Limited to a production run of 50, the Ortiz World Series autographed card sells for $59.

When Ortiz joined the Red Sox in 2003, there was considerable confusion surrounding his rookie baseball cards.  Prior to signing with the Red Sox, Ortiz played several seasons in the Seattle and Minnesota systems.  Signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Mariners in 1994 just days after his 17th birthday, Ortiz, who gradually established himself as a power-hitting prospect, was traded to the Twins as the player to be named later for Dave Hollins prior to the 1997 season.  

After joining the Twins system, Ortiz decided to change his baseball name.  His legal name had always been David Americo Ortiz Arias. While playing with the Mariners, he went by his maternal family name (Arias) rather than his paternal family name (Ortiz).  As a result, his earliest baseball cards are listed as David Arias.  With the Twins, he requested to be called Ortiz, which has stuck ever since.  

Ortiz joined the Red Sox as a platoon player in 2003, so many collectors didn’t connect the dots between David Arias and David Ortiz, meaning the Arias rookie cards were readily available for under $1 during the first half of the season.  With more playing time came more home runs and a knack for late-inning heroics.  By season’s end Ortiz slugged 30 homers in just 128 games, boasting the David Arias cards to $10-$15.

One of only two Ortiz rookie cards, the 1997 Fleer “David Arias” card could be found in 1997 Fleer Series 2 packs.  The base version of the card, sporting a throwback matte finish during an era of high-gloss cards, currently sells for $30.  The far more limited “Tiffany” parallel version — one of the  more valuable Oriz cards in the market — features a high-gloss look and feel while selling for $400 .

 

The other Ortiz (Arias) rookie is from the 1997 Fleer Ultra series, a slightly more upscale version of the Fleer set, sells for $35.  The full-bleed, glossy look was a popular alternative to the  high-priced Tiffany parallel set.  Gold Medallion parallel versions display  a different picture and gold-foil lettering. Limited to just 200 copies, the popular parallel version sells for $49.

The Topps Bowman brand, known as the  “Home of the Rookie Card”, somehow bypassed Ortiz in its 1997 set.  Sometimes wrongly advertised as a rookie, the 1998 Bowman Ortiz is readily   available for under $4.  Far more limited chrome and International refractor parallel versions sell for $18 and $15 respectively.  

For oddball baseball card collectors, there is a handful of Ortiz pre-rookie cards that have become quite popular in the slugger’s final season.  The Ortiz (Arias) 1996 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers Midwest League All-Star card,is an overlooked gem selling for $48.  His 1998 New Britain Red Cats Best minor league card is selling for $15.  Both cards feature a relatively elementary design with simple white borders — a far cry from the  the glitzy, full-bleed photos popular with major league sets in the late ‘90s.  The more mainstream Upper Deck 1998 SP minor league Ortiz card — featuring a portrait of a svelte, smiling Ortiz inside a silver foil border — sells for $5.  

Ortiz made his Topps debut in the 1998 edition where he was featured in a prospect card with future All-Star slugger Richie Sexson.  Ortiz made his first appearance in a Red Sox jersey in the more obscure 2003 Fleer Update Series and the 2003 Upper Deck 40-Man set.  All three cards can be had for $3.

The hobby’s most sought after and costly cards are serial numbered autographs of baseball’s top players.  Ortiz autographs have been extremely active in the secondary market since the start of the season. His 1997 Donruss Signature Series Autograph is his first card to carry the name “David Ortiz” instead of “David Arias”.  The base version (red background) has 3,900 copies and is selling for $122, while the Millennium parallel Version (green background) is limited to 1,000 copies and is selling for $225.  Perhaps the most valuable Ortiz autographed card is the Signature Series Century Autograph (blue background) is numbered to just 100 and is selling for $600.

A common gripe among autograph collectors is Ortiz’s failure to sign within the designated area of the Donruss Signature Series.  Most signatures in all three versions appear towards the side of the card rather than the bottom.  Ortiz’s signing gaffe may have held down the card values before he established himself as one of the game’s top sluggers.  There is no such issue today.  The 2005 SkyBox Autographics signature card is available for under $60, providing a nice alternative to the high priced Signature Series autographs.

As the Red Sox prepare to retire Ortiz’s number, expect his baseball cards to sell at elevated prices.  No. 34 placed among Red Sox immortals along Fenway Parks right field roof facade means increased attention for their charismatic slugger, which means inflated values for his cards.  You can anticipate card values to decline and level off later this summer.  The next boost for Ortiz cards will come in five years when one of the Red Sox all-time sluggers is Hall of Fame eligible.  

The Hall of Fame electorate and many old school baseball fans have shunned the DH position since its inception in 1973.  Edgar Martinez, one of the best pure hitters of his time, has yet to receive more than 36.5 percent of the HOF vote in six tries.  Quality hitters such as Don Baylor and Harold Baines have barely registered a blip on the HOF ballot.  

However, the anti-DH faction has been weakening in recent years.  Enshrined in 2004, Paul Molitor served as his team’s DH for nearly half of the games he started.  Last year, Frank Thomas became the first HOFer to DH in the majority of his games played.  

Ortiz is looking to become the first full-time DH to receive baseball’s highest honor.  He has established the standard for designated hitters, collecting more hits, home runs, and RBI than any other DH. His endless late-inning production — including 11 walk-off homers — have made Ortiz one of baseball’s most feared hitters throughout his Red Sox career.  

Ortiz’s Mantle-esque playoff production (a slash line of .295/.409/.553 with 17 homers and 60 RBI) have made him one of the game’s most recognized players.  His postseason success and affable persona has made Big Papi the ultimate fan favorite among Red Sox fans, which reflected by his many memorabilia cards.  His 2013 Topps Tier One Game Used Jersey and 2014 Panini Classics Game Used bat cards, each selling for $15, are great additions to any Red Sox baseball card collections.

Underappreciated Baseball Great Tris Speaker

Tris Speaker was one of the most prolific and underappreciated players in Red Sox history.  Playing in the shadows of Ty Cobb during baseball’s “Dead Ball Era”, Speaker led the Red Sox to World Series championships in 1912 and 1915 and the Indians in 1920 as a player/manager.  The “Grey Eagle” hit for high average, power, and production while eTrisSpeakerT206stablishing the standard for center field defense.   

From deep in the batter’s box, the crouching Speaker held the bat at the hip to ensure greater contact.  He struck out just 220 times during his 22-year career that included 3,514 career hits.  Speaker displayed the strength to hit line drives into the gaps and down both lines, accounting for his still-standing major league record of 792 career doubles.  Speaker batted higher than .350 nine times and higher than .380 five times en route to a .345 career batting average.

Despite the lofty batting statistics, Speaker won just one batting title courtesy of playing in the same era as Cobb, who won 12 batting titles and compiled a .366 career batting average.  Like his career accomplishments, Speaker’s baseball cards pale in comparison to Cobb’s, but are quite impressive in their own right.  Most baseball historians and vintage card collectors consider the 1909-1911 T206 card to be Speaker’s rookie.  The card displays Speaker on the verge of making contact from his unique batting stance.  Decent graded versions sell for as much as $7,500.

The original T206 baseball cards were issued in cigarette and loose tobacco packs through 16 different brands owned by the American Tobacco Co., including the “Ty Cobb” brand.  The set includes the T206 Honus Wagner card, the most valuable and coveted card ever produced.  One of the largest pre-World War I sets ever produced, the series also includes Hall of Famers Speaker, Cobb, Nap Lajoie, Cy Young, Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson.

Speed and defense also contributed to Speaker’s Hall of Fame career.  He stole 436 bases and hit 222 triples (fifth on the all-time list) during his career.  Speaker is considered the best center fielder of his time and one of the best ever.  Playing in an era when long drives were rare, Speaker played extremely shallow — practically positioned as a fifth infielder — to cut down would be singles and bloop hits.  His trademark play was racing to second base behind a confused or unsuspecting runner for a pick off play.  Speaker is still the all-time leader in putouts and double plays for his position.  He also recorded a record-tying 35 assists for the Red Sox in 1909 and 1912.

The majority of Speaker baseball cards display portrait or batting stance photos.  However, the 1927 Exhibits card is one of the few that feature Speaker in action defensively.  The photo shows Speaker as he awaits a throw, perhaps playing first base.  The 63-card 1927 Exhibit Baseball Set featured a green hue of the black and white images on each card front — a relatively new and unique printing method for the time.  Ungraded versions sell in the $125-$175 range.

Speaker’s unconventional path to centerfield started at a young age. After suffering two broken arms as a teenager, he taught himself to throw right handed.  Despite throwing with his non-dominant arm, Speaker tried to break into professional baseball as a  pitcher.  After being turned down by New York Giants manager John McGraw for a tryout as a pitcher, Speaker went to the Texas League to learn centerfield with the Cleburne Railroaders in his native Texas.

A year later, he was purchased by the Boston Americans (later Red Sox) and became the regular centerfielder, playing alongside Hall of Famer Harry Hooper and defensive whiz Duffy Lewis to form the “Golden Outfield,” which was widely considered one of the best outfields in baseball history.

One of Speaker’s earliest cards with the Red Sox is from the 1910-1911 M116 Sporting Life series.  A four cent investment would get readers of the Sporting Life newspaper a dozen sports cards.  Speaker’s card features a colorized portrait displaying his Red Sox baseball jersey.  Highly graded versions sell in excess of $5,900.

 

 

Andrew Benintendi Is A Hit

Drawing comparisons to Red Sox greats past and present, Andrew Benintendi enters the 2017 season as baseball’s top prospect and a hobby treasure.  The 22-year-old outfielder arrived in the majors just a year after being taken with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. He instantly impressed with spectacular all-around play and remarkable poise during the Red
Sox run to the AL East Division Title.

After dominating every level of the minor leagues and forcing his way onto the Red Sox everyday lineup, Benintendi became an instant hit with baseball card collectors.  His first big-time baseball card, the 2015 Bowman Chrome card issued just months after the draft, sells for $BenintendiBowChrAuto6.  Rare purple refractor versions, limited to a production run of 250, sell for $80 and are on the rise.

Benintendi’s timely hitting and outstanding defense quickly caught the attention of collectors throughout the country. Certified autographed versions of the Bowman Chrome purple refractor card gained momentum over the winter and are currently selling for $405.  Because the full-bled, high, gloss photos are susceptible to dings and damaged corners, PSA-10 versions (the highest possible grade) are extremely rare and have sold for $1,400. The paper, smudge-free, non-chrome versions — ideal for in-person autographs — are readily available for $3.

Benintendi looked like a major leaguer from day one, batting .295 with a .835 OPS in limited play cut short by a knee injury.  With his rookie status still intact after a 34-game introduction to the majors last season, Benintendi looks to become the first Red Sox Rookie of the Year since Dustin Pedroia in 2007.   Benintendi’s true rookie card is from 2017 Topps Series 1,which is selling for $3.  Because the 2015 Bowman Chrome card is part of a Prospects subset, it is not considered a rookie card.

Small in FredLynn75Toppsstature like Pedroia and Mookie Betts, Benintendi fits perfectly on the Red Sox undersized, overpowering lineup. The Red Sox are hopeful Benintendi takes a similar career path as Betts by adding strength and home runs to his repertoire in year two.  Collectors crave game-used memorabilia cards of baseball’s top sluggers. Playing in Boston heightens Benintendi’s popularity. His 2016 Elite Extra Gold Triple Jersey card is available for $15 for the time being.

Benintendi reminds veteran Red Sox fans of Fred Lynn circa 1975.  He has the same smooth, graceful lefthanded swing as Lynn, the first player to take AL Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in the same season.  Like Lynn, Benintendi has the ability to wrap the ball around Pesky’s Pole and drive the ball off and over the leftfield wall.  The Red Sox would be thrilled if Benintendi approaches Lynn’s rookie season production when the 23-year-old centerfielder hit .331 with 21 homers, 105 RBI and slugged .566.  Lynn’s rookie card is a highlight of the 1975 Topps set.  The not-so-pleasant on the eyes orange and yellow framed card is a nice addition to a
ny Red Sox collection for under $10.

Benintendi put himself on the baseball map by hitting .564 with 12 homers and 57 RBI in his senior year at Madeira High School (Ohio).  After being named the ABCA/Rawlings National High School Player of the Year, Benintendi  was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 31st round of the 20BenintendiArkansas13 MLB Draft, but opted to refine his baseball skills at the University of Arkansas.  As sophomore with the Razorbacks, Benintendi led the Southeast Conference in batting (.380), home runs (19), and slugging (.715) en route to being named the Baseball America College Player of the Year and receivin
g the Golden Spikes Award as college baseball’s most valuable player.

Highlights from Benintendi’s college career are captured in the 2015 Panini Contenders set.  Action shots of Benintendi in his Razorbacks uniform are available for under $4 with game-used jersey cards selling for $15 and are on the  rise.  Certified autographed Panini Contenders cards of Benintendi in his college uniform is selling for $60, while limited versions serial numbered to 23 sell for $190 on eBay.

 

 

Roberto Clemente: Hall of Fame Player, Great Person

On this day 44 years ago, the world lost a Hall of Fame baseball player and a great humanitarian.  Thirty-eight-year-old Roberto Clemente, revered as a national hero in Puerto Rico, was leading a relief aid team flying supplies to earthquake-ravaged Nicaragua when the small aircraft exploded and crashed into the ocean shortly after takeoff.  

Clemente’s untimely death occurred just a few months after he recorded his 3,000th career hit and prompted a special election that made the Pittsburgh Pirates great baseball’s first Hispanic Hall of Famer.  At the time, Clemente was just the 11th man in baseball history to achieve 3,000 hits and his lifetime batting average of .317 was the highest among active players.

Clemente used a unique inside-out swing to produce four batting titles, a 1966 roberto_clemente_rcNational League MVP, and 15 All-Star invitations.  Quick, powerful — almost Hank Aaron-like — wrists allowed Clemente to stand away from the plate and drive the ball with ferocity to all fields.  He also lead t
he Pirates to World Series Championships in 1960 and 1971, when he was named the Series MVP.

He got the most from his 5’-11”, 180-pound frame offensively and defensively.  Most baseball experts and historians still regard Clemente as the best right fielder in baseball history.  He patrolled Pittsburgh’s spacious Forbes Field for most of his career with speed and grace, earning 12 Gold Gloves and comparisons to Willie Mays as a defensive player.  A strong and remarkably accurate arm kept base runners at bay.

Known for his charitable tireless charitable work, Clemente was recruited by relief organizations to organize relief efforts from Puerto Rico.  He not only organized the efforts, but played a large role in gathering the goods and loading the plane.  He was on aboard the plane because many people thought the relief supplies were falling in the hands of profiteers.  Clemente wanted to ensure that people in need were receiving the goods.  The plane carrying a crew of three and Clemente crashed in heavy seas just under two miles from shore.

Clemente’s roberto_clemente_1972professional career started on the West Coast and if the Brooklyn Dodgers weren’t so careless, history may have been different.  The Dodgers originally signed Clemente out of high school with a deal that included a $10,000 bonus.  In 1954, his first season as a professional baseball player, Clemente played for the Dodgers’ minor league affiliate in Montreal.

Per rule of professional baseball at the time, all players signed for more than $4,000 had to be placed on the major league roster after one year of minor league service.  Any player not added to the roster could be signed by any other club for $4,000.  Instead of adding him to the roster, the Dodgers tried to hide Clemente in Montreal by not playing him.  Obviously, a player of Clemente’s talent could not be hidden.  He was scooped up by the Pirates for $4,000, making him one of the best bargains in baseball history.

In 1955, Topps issued the first Roberto Clemente baseball card. The colorful horizontal cards featuring portrait and action photos along with the team logo in the upper right-hand corner are considered one of the best-looking  sets ever produced.  Kudos to Topps for producing a card of a top prospect with no major league experience — a rarity in those days.  The final card featuring Clemente as a player, was featured in the colorful 1972 Topps set.

Curt Schilling Belongs In The Hall of Fame

Curt Schilling is a blowhard.  He talks and talks and talks and I’m not sure he always knows what he’s talking about, but he keeps talking.  I will never understand why he thinks people care about his views on politics, gender issues or anything else, but he keeps talking.

What I do understand is Curt Schilling was one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history and belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  His social media rants have grown tiresome, but should not block his path to Cooperstown.  He was never suspended, never linked to drugs, gaschillinrcmbling, or anything else harmful to the game.  Not being able to control himself on Facebook should not keep him out of the Hall.

Naysayers claim Schilling’s 216 career wins don’t pass muster.  But wins are not the sole measure of a pitcher’s value.  Schilling proved to be dominant in most essential categories, ranking 15th all-time in strikeouts.  More important in today’s advanced metrics, Schilling ranked third in strikeout-to-walk ratio all-time and 26th in career pitching WAR, tied with first ballot HOFers Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton.  By not giving away bases or  allowing hitters to make consistent contact, Schilling put his teams in position to win as much or more than baseball’s all-time greats.

Doubters are also quick to point out the Cy Young Award missing from the mantle in the Schilling household. Schilling spent his best years in the shadows of teammates Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez, but he was one of the best and arguably most dominating pitchers of his era, striking out three hundred batters in consecutive seasons (1997 and 1998 with the Phillies).

Schilling was also one of the best money pitchers in baseball history, leading three teams to World Series titles and winning some of the most memorable games in postseason history.  He finished with a 2.23 postseason ERA en route to an 11-2 record when the games counted most.  Schilling’s playoff heroics started in 1993, when he earned MVP honors in the National League Championship series by throwing a 147-pitch shutout, forcing a Game 6 in Toronto (when Joe Carter hit his memorable World Series walk-off homer).

Schilling was overpowering in the 2001 World Series, giving up just two runs in seven innings before Randy Johnson sealed the deal in the final two innings to end Yankees mini dynasty.  Three years later, he held off the Yankees — bloody sock and all — in Game 6 of the American League Championship, leading the Red Sox to their first World Series title in 86  years. He closed out his career with another ring with the Red Sox in 2007.

It’s unfortunate that Schilling’s political and social rants cost him his job with ESPN.  He was thoughtful and insightful as a color commentator on the network’s Sunday night showcase. I’ve  heard more than enough of Schilling’s political views and will never vote for him for political office (he has threatened to run for senate), but he gets my Hall of Fame vote.


Schilling’s Topps 2005 World Series Game Worn Jersey card is a favorite among Red Sox fans.You can fine Schilling sporting his Baltimore Orioles uniform in his 1989 Donruss Rookie — a drab looking set with black and purple borders.

Tim Raines’s Last Chance For the Hall of Fame

There are two outs in the bottom of the ninth with the side of righteousness trailing by a run.  The Baseball Writers Association of America has one more chance to right one of the biggest wrongs in the Hall of Fame by electing Tim Raines.

Raines has steadily gained support, but is in his 10th and final year of eligibility. In his first five years on the ballot, the former Expos great, was nominated by 22-49% of the voters, with 75% needed for election.  Last year he jumped from 55% to 69.8%.  This year Raines is looking to become just the fourth  player to be elected in his final year of eligibility, joining Red Ruffing (1967), Joe Medwick (1968), Ralph Kiner (1975), and Jim Rice (2009).

Placed in a historical context, Raines’s resume is HOF worthy.  He was one of the game’s great leadoff hitters, top base stealers, and — believe it or not — an extra-base-hitting-machine during his 23-year major league career.  Raines wRainesas often lost in the shadow cast by Rickey Henderson, arguably the greatest leadoff hitter ever. But digging deeper into the numbers, Raines was every bit the player as Henderson and even rivaled the great Ty Cobb, arguably the best hitter in baseball history.

We all know Raines was one of the game’s great base stealers, but his consistency on the base paths was unparalleled.  He ranks fifth on the career stolen base list with 808 and is the career leader in stolen base percentage (84.7) among players with 400 attempts. Raines is the only player in baseball history to steal at least 70 bases in seven consecutive  seasons (1981-1986).  He stole 40 consecutive bases between July 1993 – August 1995, a major league record later broken by Ichiro Suzuki with 45 consecutive swipes.

Like Cobb, Raines will never be considered a home run hitter, but the former speedy outfielder combined extra base hits with stolen bases at an historic rate.  He was the only player in baseball
history with at least 100, triples, 150 homers and 600 stolen bases.  Raines finished his career with 113 triples and 170 homers.

Raines finished with 2,605 career hits — well below the imaginary 3,000-hit Hall of Fame threshold. But looking deeper, only nine of the 27 players with 3,000 hits can match Raines’s .385 career on-base percentage.  Raines reached base more times than three HOFers with 3,000 hits: Tony Gwynn, Lou Brock, and Roberto Clemente as well as the ageless and  still playing Ichiro.

Need more convincing?  Raines was the only player ever with four seasons of 50-plus extra base hits and 70-plus stolen bases.  Henderson and Cobb combined for four such seasons; every other HOFer combined for an additional four.

Raines is seldom mentioned with the all-time greats such as Cobb, but he should be and the evidence is in the numbers:  He is the only player in MLB history with five consecutive seasons with at least 30 doubles and 70 stolen bases, which he did from 1982-1986.  Before 1982, the last player to record 30 doubles
and 70 stolen bases in a season was Cobb in 1915.

For more head-spinning stats, be sure to check out the Ace of MLB Stats Twitter account.  Its creator, Ryan Spaeder, seems to be on a personal crusade to get Raines into the Hall of Fame.  Raines did the work and Spaeder has aligned the numbers in convincing fashion.

Just under 70 percent of the HOF electorate voted for Raines last January.  He’s on course to receive the 75 percent of the vote needed for enshrinement this year. Raines is looking to become the third player to go into the Hall of Fame as a Montreal Expo, joining Gary Carter and Andre Dawson.  Raines won two World Series rings (1996 and 1998) in New York as a role player with the Yankees.  Here’s hoping one of baseball’s great injustices is rectified.

The Raines Topps rookie card is one of the top rookies from the 1981 series.  Issued just before the mass-produced sets of the ‘80s, the Expos “Future Prospect” card also includes Roberto Ramos and Bobby Pate, two “future stars” that never panned out.  Be careful if you’re buying:  The “Future Prospect” cards are notorious for having gum-stained backs.  

Celebrating Nolan Ryan Trade To Angels; 1972 Topps Baseball

Forty-five years ago this month, one of the worst trades in baseball history was made, prompting one of the most hideous-looking baseball cards ever to be produced.  

On December 10, 1971, the New York Mets sent 24-year-old fireballer Nolan Ryan along with three prospects to the the California Angels for shortstop Jim Fregosi.  In hindsight, the deal was a disaster for the Mets, but the deal made sense for both clubs at the  time.  

The Angels obtained one of the liveliest — not to mention most erratic — young arms in baseball.  Ryan posted a 29-38 record with an impressive 493 strikeouts, but an alarming 344 walks over five seasons with the Mets.  

The Mets were adding an established big leaguer believed to be in the prime of his career.  Manager Gil Hodges immediately moved  Fregosi  to third base, where 45 players had come and gone in the nolanryan72toppsMets’ 10 years of existence.  The last of the original Angels of 1961, Fregosi battled numerous physical problems in his one season with the Angels, including a bad bout with the flu, a sore arm, a strained side muscle, and a tumor in his foot.  The six-time All-Star batted just .232 with five homers, and 32 RBI in 101 games for the Mets.

Ryan moved on to a Hall of Fame career that included a major league record seven no hitters, 61 shutouts (seventh all-time), 324 wins, and became all-time strikeout leader with 5,714.  This is just one of many trades of a big-armed, but erratic young pitcher dealt for a proven veteran.  Unfortunately for the Mets it will be remembered as one of the most lopsided deals in baseball history.

In the early ‘70s baseball card sets went to press in late-December or early-January to be ready for distribution by the start of the baseball season.  As a result, Ryan’s head shot for the 1972 Topps set was taken while he played for the New York Mets.  The wrong Angels logo (they went to a capital A in 1972) was poorly airbrushed over Ryan’s Mets cap.  For some unknown reason, the Topps production team failed to airbrush the pinstripes clearly visible from his Mets jersey.

To make matters worse, Ryan’s doctored image was printed inside the grotesque 1972 Topps tombstone design.  Keeping up with the times and looking to change the drab designs of 1970 (gray borders) and 1971 (black borders), the 1972 Topps design features a bright, almost psychedelic color scheme.   

One of the most controversial baseball card sets, the 1972 Topps series draws the ire of  long-time collectors for emphasizing the product and team rather than the player. The team name above the player image is energized with bright, bold lettering that creates a three-dimensional look.  The player name, however, is printed in a simple black font at the bottom of the card.  Going against tradition, there is no mention of the player’s position.

The 1972 Topps set is not without merit.  The series includes the rookie card of Hall of Fame Catcher Carlton Fisk, which he shares with Cecil Cooper (the featured player), and Mike Garman.  The series also features the last regular card issued during Roberto Clemente in addition to late cards of Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.  Other featured Hall of Famers include Reggie Jackson, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Joe Morgan, Frank Robinson, and Fergie Jenkins.