Friday, August 25, 2017

The Fascination with Topps Card #666

When Topps Total was part of Topps' active catalog of baseball card products, I remember reading somewhere that there was a bit of notoriety when it came to card #666. To wit, the rumor was that someone at the Topps Company was a Yankees fan and would assign the "devilish" number to the pitcher that helped to knock his (or her...let's not assume gender here) favorite team out of the playoffs. To wit, the following players were included in that "elite" #666 club:

  • Byung-Hyun Kim, Arizona Diamondbacks (2002 Topps Total)
  • Troy Percival, Anaheim Angels (2003 Topps Total)
  • Josh Beckett, Florida Marlins (2004 Topps Total)
  • Keith Foulke, Boston Red Sox (2005 Topps Total)

In the case of Kim and Foulke, neither actually did end the Yankees' postseason dreams. Kim had blown saves in both games 4 and 5 for the Diamondbacks, taking the loss in game 4. Foulke pitched in five games against New York during the 2004 AL Championship Series, earning a save in Game 6. But Percival was the last pitcher the Yankees saw during the AL Division Series in 2002, and Josh Beckett pitched a complete game shutout in Game 6 of the 2003 World Series (the final game of the series).

So where am I going with this?

With a lot more free time on my hands, I've finally gotten around to putting my cards in binders and taking a closer look at the cards that comprise the 2017 Topps set. Since 2015, Topps has added more cards to the base set giving collectors 700 cards to chase for a complete set. For a good nine-year stretch prior, there were 660 cards in the each eponymous set. This year, card #666 was given to Rougned Odor, the second baseman of the Texas Rangers.

If there is any possible reason why he was slotted with this number, it's most likely because he had that brief spat with Jose Bautista. Recall that during Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS between Texas and Toronto, Bautista hit a seventh-inning home run to give the Jays the lead for good. But while the home run did get the Blue Jays into the next round of the playoffs, everyone remembers what Joey Bats did when he hit the homer...right???


So enter the 2016 rematch between the Jays and Rangers on Sunday, May 15, 2016. This would be the last time both teams would meet in the regular season. Rangers pitcher Matt Bush hits Bautista, putting him at first. One batter later, new pitcher Jake Diekman induces a double play. But Bautista tries to break up Odor's relay throw to stop the double play. So Odor shows his displeasure by hitting Bats with a right hook. At that was time to play the feud.

(Please note that I actually thought to put an image of the Odor hitting Bautista, but changed my mind...this is a family blog after all).

So that is the short version of why I think Odor is card #666 this year.

But why do I find card #666 fascinating? It is because back in 1989, Topps assigned card #666 to Reds pitcher Randy St. Claire:

It struck me in a funny, yet ironic way, that the guy pictured on a card that had a number usually associated with evil had a last name with the word Saint (St.) in it.

Others that shared the infamous number include:

  • 1970: Adolpho Phillips, Expos
  • 1971: Gene Brabender, Angels
  • 1972: Hector Torres, Cubs
  • 1978: Billy Smith, Orioles
  • 1979: Rich Dauer, Orioles
  • 1980: Mike Chris/Al Greene/Bruce Robbins, Tigers
  • 1981: Sparky Anderson, Tigers Team Card
  • 1982: Steve Kemp/Dan Petry Tigers Team Leaders
  • 1983: Sparky Anderson, Tigers, (What the heck did the Tigers, let alone Sparky, do to deserve this??!)
  • 1984: Jack Morris/Lou Whitaker, Tigers Team Leaders (I'm sensing a pattern here, don't you think?)
  • 1985: Mike LaCoss, Astros
  • 1986: Charlie Hough, Rangers Team Leaders
  • 1987: Von Hayes, Phillies (When you're traded for five guys and you've only had two major league seasons, do you really deserve this number?)
  • 1988: Mario Soto, Reds
  • 1990: Brian Fisher, Pirates
  • 1991: Danny Darwin, Astros
  • 1992: Tom Foley, Expos
  • 1993: Glenallen Hill, Indians
  • 1994: Steve Buechele, Cubs
  • 2001: Glenallen Hill, Yankees (What did Glenallen Hill do to get this card number twice??!)
  • 2002: Seattle Mariners Team card (When you have the best record in baseball and don't make it to the World Series, wait...didn't they lose to the Yankees??!)
  • 2003: Jeff Francis, Rockies Draft Pick
  • 2004: Texas Rangers Team Card
  • 2005: Texas Rangers Team Card (again??!)
  • 2015: Jonathan Broxton, Brewers
  • 2016: J. T. Realmuto, Marlins

Based on what happened in yesterday's game between the Yankees and the Tigers, don't be surprised if someone from either team will get this number. My money is on Miggy. Who knows?

Cleansing time.

Please keep in mind that I do not have a morbid interest in the number 666 nor am I trying to wish physical, mental, or spiritual harm on myself or anyone else by continually mentioning this number. Some people truly are afraid of the number 666, so apparently hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia is a real thing. This was just something that came to mind after putting cards to sheets.

I think I'll head to church and


JayBee Anama


ernest said...

Early Upper Deck Baseball card #666 is infamous for featuring Dodger players. Rumor has it that the UD employee in charge of the card numbers was a Dodger-hater. In 1989 it was Kirk Gibson featuring a pic of his WS homer. In 1990 it was Jose Gonzalez. In 1991 it was Mickey Hatcher. In 1992 it was Bob Ojeda with Tommy Lasorda showing him a pitching grip. In 1993 it was Jim Gott. That's five straight years of a Dodger on card #666.

defgav said...

I've long thought it'd be evil fun to have a "Mark of the Beast" minicollection with cards numbered 666 and serial-numbered 666/xxx. But alas, I'm too pure of heart to attempt such a wicked project.

night owl said...

I've done a couple posts on this. Someone at Topps really disliked the Tigers in the '80s.