Then the strike happened in 1994.
Then the popularity of baseball crashed.
Then the card companies decided to cut back on the number of cards in their regular sets.
And this was before it was decided that we as collectors (those who stuck around during the dark times in our Hobby) needed...MORE SETS!!!
Between 1982-1992, Topps produced a 792 card flagship set, plus a 132 card Traded set. In 1993, because of expansion (Florida and Colorado), that year's set reached a record 825 cards (along with splitting the set between two series for the first time since 1973). The number of cards in Topps Baseball went back down to 792 in 1994. Then the number of cards in the eponymous brand started to get lower, and more inconsistent. From 1995 to 2005, the number of cards in their set were: 660, 440, 495, 503, 462, 478, 790, 718, 720, 732, 733. The biggest effect here was the fact that not every player would get a card, and we saw the end of cards for players like the third string catcher or the mop up reliever.
And that leads me to my point. While Topps makes sure that most of the starters on all 30 teams get a card, along with maybe three or four starting pitchers, the first two pinch hitters off the bench, the closer, and maybe the best set up man (or two), along with a couple of "rookies," they leave out a number of players who the following year, could make an impact during the season. Not only does this leave egg on their faces, but it makes them look bad because the other company has actually produced sets with more than 1000 cards, and includes almost EVERYBODY!!!
In this year's All-Star Game, five players selected to both teams do not have a 2009 Topps card, or a card in the 15-card team set. They are:
- Heath Bell of the San Diego Padres
- Ryan Franklin of the St. Louis Cardinals
- Edwin Jackson of the Detroit Tigers
- Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox
- Ben Zobrist of the Tampa Bay Rays
Which leads me to my next problem, which surprisingly, had a quick solution. Because these five do not have cards, how do I represent them in my All-Star binder. Sure, it would be easy to find an older card for each of them, but it would look awkward, especially since all the other cards are from 2009.
Remember those bonus cards from the 15-card team sets? The cards of the teams' mascot, stadium, manager, or special person/player? Fortunately, all five of the teams that the "snubbed" players represent had their team mascot as the bonus card. Using these cards, I am adding them to my All-Star binder. Yes, it looks strange to see a costumed creature's card amongst the players, but I need something to represent everybody.
So without further ado, let's meet the five All-Stars who do not have Topps cards, and the cards I am using to represent them in my binder:
The Swinging Friar will represent Padres closer Heath Bell.
Fredbird will cover for Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin.
Paws takes the place of Tigers starter Edwin Jackson.
Wally the Green Monster steps in for Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.
And Raymond stands in for Rays jack-of-all-trades Ben Zobrist.
Enjoy the 2009 All-Star Game.
P.S. Now you may be wondering why I even bother setting this all up (the binder, the cards, etc). It's because I really love All-Star Games, and as you know, the players shuffle in and out so quickly, that sometimes it's hard to keep up. I actually use the cards to tell me who's in the game, who hasn't appeared yet, and where each person appears in the lineup card. Yes, I am a geek!!! But hey, anything to keep the excitement going. And, I've done this for years!!! So why stop now??! jba