Friday, November 19, 2010

"In a world before Ginter...": 1986 Topps Mini Leaders

One of the sets I got back in touch with this week, while pulling cards for Bo, was the '86 Topps mini set, also known as '86 Topps Leaders. I *loved* this set when it came out. It had sort of a meteoric rise and fall, as it was scarce at release, but another run of the cards made its way to retail and hobby stores pretty quickly and kinda flooded us out at the time, as I remember it. I managed to buy a ton of the cards and put together a few sets at the time, which have mostly been collecting dust for the past 2 decades, but going through what I have this week really rekindled my love for them.

As you can see above, the design was pretty simple, but elegant. I think these cards were well ahead of their time, both as a Topps product and in general. Their popularity at the time led Fleer to do a mini set (which were an awkward size, too small to be really legible or easy to handle, as opposed to the Topps variety, which were closer in size to the Topps 1975 minis), and probably set in motion the circumstances that made Topps think that doing a "micro" version of the 1992 set was a good idea. Topps Micro kinda killed mini cards for about 14 years until Allen & Ginter came out, if I'm not mistaken.
All talk about print runs, trends and such aside, my point in posting about '86 Topps minis is that they're beautiful cards, so let's have a better look at them. I started you off with one of the eight million cards on which Eddie Murray looks like a badass, but here's some more of some other guys.

Card #2, Cal Ripken. There were some really nice candid or candid-esque shots in this set, and I don't know that a better one was ever made of this guy, even with the ton of Ripken cards out there.

Card #4, Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd. He looks like he's going to jump off the card here. Love the soft focus on the Fenway background, too.

Card #23, Bert Blyleven. Knowing what we know about Bert, he's probably basking in post-fart afterglow, maybe bragging to a teammate or even the cameraman about it.

Card #26, Ron Guidry. Gator looks like Daredevil in his follow-through here, about to fight a whole mess of Hand ninjas. You'll notice on this card and the next one that the centering was off, which was the one production issue with these cards.

Card #31, Gorman Thomas. This picture was taken toward the end of Gorman's "Lost Weekend" period, when he had a lousy time in Cleveland and inexplicably ended up on the Seattle Mariners. I have two theories as to how Gorman got there: either the Pilots/Brewers thing confused him, or he just needed a ride back to Milwaukee and they were headed that way, albeit very slowly. It had nothing to do with the Tony Bernazard trade, believe me.

Card #35, Jimmy Key. Another nice candid shot of a guy who I wish had been a Yankee for longer, back when I wasn't too mad at the Yankees to watch them or root for them (a story for another day). His hat looks a little big for him in this shot.

Card #36, Dave Stieb. Fantastic pitcher. Yet another nice candid shot. Dave seems to be thinking "Did I leave the iron on?"

Card #44, Pedro Guerrero. In this photo, Pedro Guerrero is completely and utterly destroying a baseball. You don't hear too many people talking about Pedro these days, but he was a monster.

"You put all the best hitters in baseball in the same park year-round, and at the end of the year Pedro would have the best stats, counting average, power, walks, everything."
-Bill James, "Rain Delay", from the 1988 Baseball Abstract

Card #52, Dwight Gooden, closes out my look at the set, because it's Gooden and it was the mid-80's and anything was possible.

If you like this set, I highly recommend that you go get it. Sets and unopened boxes are super cheap on eBay, even by mid-to-late '80s junk wax/oddball standards (a set should run you well under $10 shipped). Remember, this set turns 25 next year and, even for a small set (66 cards), it has a mess of Hall Of Famers in it (12 and counting, including Nolan Ryan and the Ripken card I posted above). Eventually, even with these cards being released at the beginning of the great card glut, I think collectors will take notice and start scooping them up. They should, anyway, just on sheer awesomeness, which has to count for something.

1 comment:

  1. Great memories... I busted a bunch of this stuff when I was little. The Gooden card is nice... he has some of the best action shots on cards. I also like the Stieb too... I went to the same HS as him... although he was long gone by the time I got there.


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