Super Topps, My Super Fave

I’m not a huge fan of Topps Heritage. For me, it doesn’t quite make the emotional connection I need. Like most of you, seeing the old designs is nice, but the repetitive nature of the pics (this year’s Red Sox cards are BORING! and it look like they’re repeating the background for next year) and the weird modernity of the photos is off-putting.

I am intrigued about the 2019 set. I saw that there will be Topps Supers as box loaders; after all these years I still don’t know what that means. For me it means nothing. The originals are irreplaceable.

The 1970 Topps Super set, sold separately, three cards for a dime, were a thrill to find at my local Canarsie candy store (Paulino’s, I think it was called, on Glenwood Ave.).  Paulino’s was on the walk to school and a frequent, if not daily, stop on the way home.


As beautiful as the 1964 Topps Giants are, I like the Supers more. An obvious reason is that I was a sentient baseball fan by 1970. I wasn’t yet two years old when the ‘64’s came out. The 1970 Supers represent a coming of age year for me. Plus, there’s the heft of these cards.

The 1970 Supers are thick, so thick, certainly the thickest cards I’ve ever encountered. They’re thicker than even Post Cereal boxes, and that cardboard is protecting food! The weight, the rounded corners, make for idiot-proof great condition. It would take a lot of force and evil intent to crease these placards or bend their corners.

The photos are marvelous, with colors that pop, and are different from the base cards. At a time when there wasn’t much choice in the card world, this was very welcome. Backs are the same (though I haven’t read them closely. There may be differences in the text to denote trades, I don’t know.)

(Topps also made Football Supers that year).

Though the 1970 Supers proved to be less than popular, Topps returned with a baseball only version in 1971. Take this as my small sample size, but the 1971s seem to have many more miscuts, with hints of adjacent cards on the sheet visible. Who cares? They’re awesome.

They’re also not too expensive. Complete sets of all three (for you football fans) seem attainable in the $200-300 range. The checklists are crammed with Hall of Famers and, if you get some of these, you don’t have to be so dainty handling them. They’re tough, super tough.

Lusting in My Heart for Tommy Smith

The Summer of 1976 saw Mark Fidrych seemingly come out of nowhere to be a rookie sensation.  His surprising success was mirrored in politics when an obscure, peanut farming governor ascended to the highest office in the land.  President Jimmy Carter will occupy the Oval Office for approximately two months before the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays take the field for the first time in April of ‘77.

Starting in ’74, Topps began distributing all the cards in their base set at once (they did this in select markets in 1973), meaning there was no longer an opportunity to take photos in spring training and include them in later series.  Therefore, all the Blue Jays and Mariners cards feature poorly rendered, airbrushed cap insignia.

77 Smith

As a kid growing up in Washington State, it would be an understatement to say I was “stoked” at the prospect of Major League Baseball returning to Seattle.  I certainly “lusted in my heart” at the prospect of collecting Mariners cards.  I began purchasing-by mail-complete sets in ’74.  Once my ’77 set arrived, I discovered that the first ever Mariner card was that of Tommy Smith.  Who!?

Tommy was a little used outfielder made available by the Indians in the expansion draft.  The Mariners waited until the 58th pick to add him to the roster. Smith didn’t make the squad out of spring training but found his way to Seattle later in the season.  After 21 games with the M’s, Tommy’s career in organized baseball ended.

The first Blue Jay on a card was veteran Steve Hargan.  Before an elbow injury in ’68, Steve appeared to be destined for greatness with Cleveland.  An All-Star year in ’67 led to his inclusion in the ’68 Topps game insert subset.  He’s easily the most obscure player in the set and was selected by Topps over teammates Sam McDowell and Luis Tiant.   Picked in the 39th round of the expansion draft from Texas, Steve was the oldest pitcher on the Blue Jays roster.  He was a Jay for only a short time before being dealt back to the Rangers on 5/9/77.

Whether coincidence or not, Topps featured the two winningest pitchers for the Blue Jays and Mariners during the ’77 season as the first to debut their teams uniforms in the next year’s set.  The “Tall Arkansan,” Glenn Abbott, won 13 games in the inaugural season for Seattle.  He went on to be the M’s best starter in the early years.  His fellow 13 game winner, Dave Lemanczyk, is the Blue Jays first card.  Like Abbott, he will be a mainstay in Blue Jay rotation during the lean, expansion years.

By the way, the ’77 set contains an error card for Mariner Dave Collins.  He was first batter in Mariners history, leading off as the DH against Frank Tanana and the Angels.  Of course, Dave struck out–thus launching me on a 40-year (ED: so far) “trail of tears” as a long-suffering Mariners fan.  The photo on Dave’s card is that of his ’76 Angels teammate, Bob Jones.  The O-Pee-Chee set has a correct photo (right, above) of Collins.


Bill Beer

Although you may need a six-pack of “Billy Beer” to wash away the memory of this post, I shall forge ahead with a look at the ’93 and ’97 expansion teams in a future post.  Neither “killer” rabbits, vengeful Ayatollahs or a “malaise” can stop my quest.




Barajitas estadounidenses: Donruss Super Estrellas

My sixth post featuring Spanish-language baseball cards released in the United States. I didn’t intentionally plan on posting a bunch of these during Hispanic Heritage Month but the timing just worked out that way. Previous posts are:

  1. Introduction and 1978 Topps Zest
  2. 1993–2000 Pacific and Pacific Crown
  3. Other assorted Pacific cards and oddballs
  4. 1991 Kellog’s Leyendas
  5. 1994 Topps and beyond

After Pacific stopped releasing bilingual cards in 2000, Donruss picked up the Spanish-language mantle in 2002. From 2002–2004 Donruss released a small 100–150 card set* of Spanish-only cards.

*Set count depends on whether you think short-printed “base” cards count as the main set.

Since this is exclusively in Spanish I have fewer comments to make except to note that comparing the Spanish-language abbreviations across all the cards I’ve covered in this series reveals that there’s no real standard in terms of what each stat means. Some cards say “AVG” while others have “PRO.” Some have “D” and “T” versus “2B” or “3B.” It’s clear that part of being a Spanish-speaking baseball fan is to have a certain flexibility for the multiple names that each statistic has.

Anyway the best example for this flexibility is how on previous cards I’ve featured Home Runs have been abbreviated as HR or called cuadrangulares, in this case Donruss has abbreviated them as JR for “jonrón.”

Donruss’s 2003 offering is much the same as the 2002 one. My same observation about stats applies here. Where Topps has used G and P (ganado and perdido) for wins and losses, Donruss uses V and D (victoria and derrota). All equivalent to words that we use in English (wins, losses, victories, and defeats) but as someone whose understanding of the game came from stats I’m kind of amazed now that stats in English are so standardized.

I think the only thing that comes up as a standard variant in English is SO vs K. And yes this variant exists in Spanish as well where Donruss uses K while Topps used P for strikeouts.

Donruss also had inserts in its sets. Surprise surprise this one is called “Leyendas” as well—making it the third different “Leyendas” set I’ve mentioned in these posts.* The text here feels a bit more like it was written in Spanish rather than translated from English and is an example of “cuadrangulares” being used for home runs. Also of note is that where the other Cepeda Leyendas cards have all mentioned him winning the “MVP,” this one says “Jugador Más Valioso” instead.

*Yes I have an Orlando Cepeda card from each of them.

And in 2004 Donruss mailed it in with a third Spanish-language set the indicates how low a priority this set was for them. Yes, this is a completely different card than the 2003 card. No I wouldn’t fault anyone for thinking they were the same.

To be fair, the checklists between 2003 and 2004 aren’t identical. But there’s also nothing new for me to comment on with the 2004 set.

It’s been 14 years now since the last Spanish-language set. With all the #PonleAcento action and Latino fan outreach in the past couple of years,* I’d love to see a new set come out. A checklist like Pacific’s which focused more on the Latino players would be cool but even a 200-card Topps Latino could be fun at this point. I’d be first in line to get it for my kids to help them with their Spanish lessons. And I’d love to add a few more posts to this series as well.

*Though it’s been impressively difficult to actually find a #PonleAcento shirt available for purchase.

Back Story: 1960 Topps Baseball

Part II of my series about a neglected feature of baseball cards—the material on the back of the cards—continues with the 1960 Topps set. (For Part I, read here.) To my knowledge, this was the third and final “regular” Topps set where the front of the card was in landscape (horizontal) mode, rather than portrait (vertical) mode; the others were 1955 and 1956. So right away, it’s an unusual set. The card fronts feature a large head shot of the player along with a smaller “action” shot, something that Topps did a few times over the years (also 1954-55-56-63; in 1983-84, the head shot was the smaller one). Here’s the front of card No. 1 in the set, 1959 Cy Young Award winner Early Wynn of the White Sox.

Wynn front

As for the backs of the cards, the 1960 set marked one of the last times that Topps opted to present stats only for the player’s previous year and career, rather than a year-by-year rundown. What makes the set unique was how Topps used the extra space made available by skipping the rundown. Along with a cartoon highlighting something about the player, the 1960 set featured bullet points with highlights from the player’s 1959 season. Here is Wynn’s card back.



Here’s the card back for another of the big stars featured in the set, 1959 National League MVP Ernie Banks.


The bullet point idea worked very nicely for players like Wynn and Banks who had a lot of 1959 highlights. Topps was more challenged finding positive bullet points for players with lesser performances. Sy Berger and company did their best. Leon Wagner, a year or two away from becoming “Daddy Wags,” batted only 129 times in 1959, with 29 hits, but the bullet points on his 1960 Topps card made him look like the star he would eventually become.


Sometimes Topps opted for brevity. In 1959, Carl Furillo of the Dodgers was a little-used sub and pinch-hitter nearing the end of his career. But he had two huge hits that contributed to the Dodgers’ World Series championship, one in the playoff series against the Braves and the other in Game Three of the Series. Those became the only bullet points on his 1960 Topps card—an excellent decision, I think.


But there were cases in the 1960 set where Topps seemed to be a little clueless when it came to digging up highlights from the previous season. Relief pitchers seemed to be a particular challenge. Roy Face of the Pirates had a legendary 1959 season, winning his first 17 decisions on his way to posting an 18-1 record. While Face’s season was an early cautionary note against the value of pitcher wins—several of his 1959 victories came after blowing a save—his season included a number of outstanding performances, such as seven games in which he worked three-plus relief innings without allowing a run. Yet Topps could come up with only three highlights for Face’s ‘59 season, and one of them involved a game in which he came back “after being sidelined 10 days with a cut hand.”


In the case of Jerry Staley (the player’s preferred spelling of his first name, rather than “Gerry”), one of Topps’ highlights was a World Series game in which Staley worked the final two innings to “save” an 11-0 victory. Topps completely missed the performance that every veteran White Sox fan would regard as the highlight of Staley’s White Sox career: his one-pitch outing against the Indians on September 22 that induced a double-play grounder to clinch the team’s first American League pennant in 40 years.


And Topps completely went off the rails with relievers Don Elston and Stu Miller, opting to go with a prose summary instead of bullet points. That seemed particularly short-sighted in the case of Miller, who started nine times, worked over 100 innings in relief, and ranked second in the National League in ERA. Surely there were a few notable highlights in there.


On the other hand, I have to say that the phrase “his ‘junk ball’ slithered enough to keep the senior circuit hitter confused” might top anything Topps could come up with in terms of Stu Miller bullet points.

But sometimes Topps could be forgiven for failing to come up with either good bullet points, or good prose. Consider the player who, in 1959, played in 152 games and had 527 plate appearances, while amassing a total of 12 (!) extra-base hits and 42 runs scored and posting an OPS+ of 43. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the man described by Topps as “a swifty on the bases” (1959 totals: 6 SB, 9 CS) and “a good clutch hitter” (.584 OPS with runners in scoring position): George Anderson, better known as “Sparky.”


Sparky’s managerial career would include plenty of material for bullet points, at least.


The Cards That Made Milwaukee Famous

On January 20, 1953, General Dwight D. Eisenhower became President of the United States. “Ike” and the First Lady, Mamie, scarcely had time to settle into the White House before the Milwaukee Braves debuted on April 13.

The “Brew City” offered a new, publicly funded stadium (County) located out of the downtown area with acres of parking. Since the Braves would always play “second fiddle” in popularity to the Red Sox in Boston and with financial losses mounting, owner Lou Perini pulled up stakes and headed for the upper Midwest.

However, the final approval to shift the franchise wasn’t given until March 18, 1953. Topps and Bowman had already produced Boston Braves cards. The two companies will have to add Milwaukee cards, but they take different tacks.

53 Topps Crowe

The first eight Braves in the Topps set are painted (like all 1953 Topps) Boston cards and are from “series” 1 and 2. The ’53 set was released in “waves” but not formal series with checklists. George Crowe is the initial Braves card numerically. Interestingly, he is shown with the Yankee Stadium “frieze” in the background, despite never having played in the American League. Spahn, Matthews and Sisti are amongst the others wearing the Boston “B” on their caps.

53 Topps Crandall

Del Crandall is the first Brave to represent Milwaukee — on card #179 in “series” 3. A plain block “M” has been painted on his cap to signify the new city. The six other Milwaukee cards also have the fake “M” insignias. As best as I can determine, there are no cards showing Braves wearing an authentic Milwaukee cap in ‘53.

53 Bowman Grimm Front53 Bowman Grimm Back

Topps’ rival, Bowman, produced a groundbreaking set utilizing color photography for the first time by a major company in ‘53. All the Braves in the set have Boston caps or with the insignia not visible. Perhaps Bowman didn’t want to mare this beautiful set with excessive airbrushing. There are three Braves depicted as being on Boston, with Sam Jethroe being the first coming in at card # 3. Manager “Jolly Cholly” Grimm is the first Milwaukee card at #69. Since this set has no lettering on the front, the back has the only indication of the franchise shift.

53 BW Bowman Cooper

A set of cards with black and white photos was produced by Bowman as well. Bowman may have intended this set as a third series of color cards but decided to save money by not printing it in color. But, the cards are not a direct continuation of the color set, since they are numbered 1-64. All the Braves cards have Milwaukee on the backs, which lends additional credence to the idea that this set was printed last, with the intent to use it as a final series. As with the color cards, the Braves either have a Boston “B” on the caps or the insignia isn’t visible.

54 Topps Crandall   53 Crandall Spick and Span

Since Topps still used colorized photos in ’54, it is difficult to know definitively if the first Milwaukee Brave in the set, Del Crandall, is wearing a real Milwaukee “M.” I speculate that it is authentic, since the “M” font is correct and there were many photos taken of Del in ’53. (The accompanying photo used for the “Spic and Span” set is an example.) The next six Braves cards could possibly be airbrushed, but the speculation stops with card #128: Hank Aaron.

54 Topps Aaron   MJ Aaron Photo

As many of you know, one of the leading authorities on sports images is one of our most well-known committee members: Keith Olbermann. In an exchange of emails, he sent images of Aaron from a March 18, 1953 photo session for the Milwaukee Journal newspaper. The position of the cap and exposed forehead clearly indicates that the Topps card image is from this photo session. Furthermore, I found another image on the Wisconsin Historical Society website that was taken seconds before or after the card picture.

I learned from Olbermann that — to the best of his knowledge — Topps didn’t take their own photos until at least ’56. Instead, they relied on team or press produced shots. This explains how the Milwaukee Journal photo ended up on their 1954 card.

54 Topps Jay

Additionally, Olbermann pointed out that Joey Jay and Mel Roach signed with the Braves in ’53. Their card photos are undoubtedly from ’53 as well.

Logan Bowman 54   54 Wilson Bowman

Bowman doesn’t use the same vivid, color printing process in ’54 as ‘53, resulting in washed-out images. Thus, the “M” on the caps is not crystal clear. However, I believe that card #16, Jim Wilson, was taken during the ’53 season — since several of the Braves cards use photos taken at the Polo Grounds with similar poses and lighting. Johnny “Yatcha” Logan (#80) is definitely from ’53, due to the photo being taken at County Stadium in Milwaukee.

The Eisenhower era of the ‘50s was a “brave” new world in many respects, including the shifting of long established franchises to new cities. The Browns, Athletics, Dodgers and Giants all followed the Braves gambit. The nation liked “Ike” (not Delock), and I would like you to prepare for the next installment in my quest to pin down the first card for each transplanted team.

Please let me know if you have evidence that disproves any of my speculations. The cards that made Milwaukee famous may have made a fool out of me.





The Say Hey Kid: There Isn’t A Thing That Willie Mays Can’t Do

In my last post, I went through Willie Mays’s Topps and Bowman baseball cards from the 1950s, to determine what a young kid of the time would have learned about Mays from the cards. I suggest you go read that piece now before we continue into the 1960s.

1960 Topps

Mays60Front     Mays60Back

Although I did not mention this last time, in 1959 Mays’ reported height and weight both increased, putting him at a solid 5’11” and 180 pounds. His season statistics had become more of the same by this point, but in 1960 Topps simplified things (for all players) by simply highlighting some of his better games. In a game that did not make the cut: on September 17, with the first place Giants just a single game ahead of the Braves, Mays was 4-for-4 with a walk against Milwaukee including a three-run home run. Fun fact: Warren Spahn, going for his 20th win, failed to retire the first four Giants and was removed from the game.

Topps returned with a cartoon in 1960, and it is a classic. This is what kids lived for back then — a sliding Mays joking/trashtalking the poor baseman. Honestly, I sort of assumed that this actually happened.

Mays1960MasterMentorFront     Mays1960MasterMentorBack

As you can see, Bill Rigney gets the starring role on the back of this card, with his big star rating only a handful of words at the end. True, its not like Mays did not get enough ink at Topps.

Mays60AllStarFront     Mays60AllStarBack

Pretty standard fare at this point. If anything the prose (“Possibly”) pulls its punches a bit from previous seasons. I will say that he looks more menacing than usual in the cartoon.

1961 Topps

Mays61Front     Mays61Back

As you all know, Topps often took photographs of players without their hat on, and later used these photos if the player got traded and they didn’t want to show the old hat. I prefer this to the airbrushed hats, which were often comically rendered. Here the hatless photo is not necessary, but is nonetheless welcome. Mays is about to enter a period where he always smiled in his photos, a look he pulled off with aplomb. This card might be the most fearsome pose of all his cards. By all accounts a gentle man, he looks like he could pick me up and throw me over the moon. Which he probably could have.

Mays61BattingLeadersFront     Mays61BattingLeadersBack

This is the year Topps introduced “Leaders” cards, first for HR and batting average and later adding RBI. Mays was a regular on these cards of course, and you will be seeing all of them. I hope the Norm Larker family hoarded this one.

Although Mays is having one great season after another, it is worth pointing out that his “baseball card numbers” (that many of us grew up with and therefore revere) underrated him considerably. Over the first 10 years of his career he won a single batting title and a single home run title, both of which Topps mentions regularly over the years. But because he did everything on a baseball field so well, he is better served by a stat like WAR, which tries to measure all of his contributions. Mays led the NL — which during his career boasted one of the greatest collections of superstar talent ever assembled — a ridiculous 10 times in’s version of WAR. Six times he put up 10.0 WAR, a feat managed not a single time by Henry Aaron, Frank Robinson, or Roberto Clemente, his justifiably revered peer group. In fact, during Mays’s entire career, only one other National League player ever managed the feat — Ernie Banks in 1959.

Never forget: Mays was the King of Kings.

Mays61MVPFront     Mays61MVPBack

A rather dull subset I think, never repeated, showing a handful of players who had won MVP awards in previous years. The hat is blackened presumably because he had won the MVP in New York and he was now in San Francisco?


Mays61AllStarFront     Mays61AllStarBack

This subset, on the other hand, was glorious. I preferred the 1960 All-Star backs, with the big cartoon, though a kid of 1961 would have had all this text to chew on. The last sentence, suggesting that Mays made multiple spectacular catches in the 1954 World Series might be an oversell. I think it was just one, though it was quite a thing.

Apropos of nothing, twenty-three years and change ago I got married here. My vows consisted of explaining the significance of Willie Mays’s 1954 World Series catch in Jane and my subsequent childhoods (neither of us were born at the time of the catch). Truth. The closer was my claim that on this day I was “making the greatest catch of all time.” Corny perhaps, but it fit the informal mood of the festivities, which also featured Bob Dylan, Laura Esquivel, Roger Angell and James Brown.

But enough about me.

1962 Topps

Mays62Front     Mays62Back

The front of this card is simply spectacular, one of the most attractive photographs of his career. On the back, its is telling again how Topps relies on his batting title and home crown from years earlier as his most impressive accomplishments. In point of fact, Mays could have won the previous eight MVP awards.

Mays1962ManagersDreamFront     Mays1962ManagersDreamBack

The first time the game’s two most popular and famous players ever shared a card (they would do so one other time), and it is a spectacular shot taken at the 1961 All Star game at Boston’s Fenway Park. As a bonus, Henry Aaron shows up to the far right. (Elston Howard and John Roseboro are also pictured.) Topps makes it seem on the back that these two stars get together regularly to discuss baseball philosophies, though this might have been limited to their many All-Star game appearances.

Mays62HRLeadersFront     Mays62HRLeadersBack

A pretty solid group, though I was never a fan of the floating head look Topps used for many subsets this season. For several years in the 1960s Topps used the back of their leaders cards to list the top 30 or 40 players in the specific category. I can’t express how cool it was in the late 1960s to see a guy with a .211 batting average make the leaders card.

Mays62AllStarFront     Mays62AllStarBack

Topps had All-Star cards (a full lineup for each league) every year from 1958 through 1962, and of course Mays made it all five years. Also going 5-for-5 were Henry Aaron, Mickey Mantle, and Luis Aparicio.

Although his 1962 text continues to emphasize his 1954 and 1955 seasons, it does highlight the four-homer day he had the previous April.


1963 Fleer

Mays63FleerFront     Mays63FleerBack

In 1963 Fleer tried to enter the baseball market with its own set of current players, but after a single series they were stopped in court by Topps. Fleer’s 66 cards included Mays as card #5. No earth-shattering new information on the back, though their mild apology for Mays’s .304 batting average (despite 49 home runs) is rather amusing.

1963 Topps

Mays63Front     Mays63Back

Here is Willie in the middle of a typical Candlestick Park fog.

On several of his cards, Topps touts Mays’s play in the All-Star game. Records are made to be broken and all that, but its hard to imagine Mays’s resume in the mid-summer classic ever being assailed. He played in 24 games, possible because there were two games per year from 1959 to 1962. He started 18 and played 11 complete games. Although he finished 2-for-21 over his last eight games, he still ended up over .300 (23-75) thanks to so many big games in mid-career.

Mays63PrideofNLFront     Mays63PrideofNLBack

For Musial’s final season, Topps got him together with Mays for this great card. Stan seems to be passing the torch to the younger star, who is now 32 years old but still the best in baseball.

Mays63HRLeadersFront     Mays63HRLeadersBack

Five Hall of Famers on the front of the league leaders card ain’t bad. Anyone doubting the tremendous disparity of the two leagues at this time should just take a look at the AL version of this card, which features Leon Wagner, Norm Cash, Jim Gentile, Rocky Colavito, Roger Maris and Harmon Killebrew. Who chose these sides?

But if you are Ramon Mejias, you might consider framing the back of the NL card.

1964 Topps

Mays64Front     Mays64Back

A fantastic card because Mays looks relaxed and unaware of the camera. The back of his cards have subtly shifted to placing him among the best to ever play the game, rather than just a star of the moment.

Mays64GiantGunnersFront     Mays64GiantGunnersBack

This photograph was undoubtedly taken within seconds of the one above (ED: this is false, and obviously so), showing the Giants’ other great hitter. Although Willie McCovey would eventually surpass Cepeda as a star, Orlando was the better player until he hurt his knee in 1965 and Willie took a huge step forward. Of note: Cepeda did NOT win the 1961 NL MVP award, despite Topps’ claim. Frank Robinson did.

Mays64TopsInNLFront     Mays64TopsInNLBack

Certainly one of the greatest cards of All-Time. Of note is the fact that Aaron, who would become the All-Time home run leader, is praised for his batting averages and base stealing ability while Mays is the great slugger. If Aaron was underrated as a player it is because he shared a generation and a league with Willie Mays.

Mays64HRLeadersFront     Mays64HRLeadersBack

Another ridiculous card (AL version: Killebrew, Dick Stuart and Bob Allison. LOL). Gene Oliver has bragging rights on the back, but the most surprising name is probably Carl Willey, a Mets pitcher immortalized for his July 15, 1963 grand slam off Houston’s Ken Johnson at the Polo Grounds.

Mays64GiantFront     Mays64GiantBack

I wrote about the Topps Super set a couple of years ago. Every card is beautiful, and Mays might be the most beautiful. I haven’t dealt with oddball cards in these articles because they usually don’t have learning material on the back. This time Topps went all out with the text, most of which we have read before.

Until next time, when I push onwards to 1965.





Barajitas estadounidenses: Topps

My fifth post featuring Spanish-language baseball cards released in the United States. Previous posts are:

  1. Introduction and 1978 Topps Zest
  2. 1993–2000 Pacific and Pacific Crown
  3. Other assorted Pacific cards and oddballs
  4. 1991 Kellog’s Leyendas

After Pacific’s 1993 Spanish-langauge release, Topps decided to release its 1994 set in a Spanish-languague version as well. From what I’ve seen, the Topps cards were only released as a set and came with a special 10-card insert set of Topps Leyendas featuring various Latino baseball stars.

First, the Leyendas insert set. The less said about the front design the better but I do like that this is one of the only sets with bilingual fronts. The back though is wonderful. There’s some peak-90s fonts and colors but I love that everything is translated. Compared to Pacific’s preference for English-language statistics this is a wonderful change of pace. Some stats like At Bats, Hits, and Home Runs are (or can be) the same in both languages but most are not.

The base 1994 Spanish cards featured the exact same fronts as the regular ones. Even the Future Stars and Rookies cards are the same. So the only thing worth commenting on is the backs.

As in 1978 and the Leyendas cards, Topps has bilingual statistic headings. Does it make things a little busy? Yes. But it makes these cards that much more accessible to everyone. The only thing that still confuses me is trying to figure out what “JS” translates to for “Games Started.” I’d understand “JE” or “JC” but the only way “JS” makes sense is if “Start” gets borrowed into Spanish.

I also like how Topps uses izquierda in the bats/throws information but switches to zurdo in the bio information. Izquierda is definitely the word I learned in school. Zurdo on the other hand is one I’ve learned through watching and reading about sports.

Anyway this is a solid effort at bilingual cards and makes me wonder what might have been had there been no strike. Would Topps have continued releasing bilingual cards in the following years? It would’ve been very cool if they had.

Instead, from what I’ve been able to tell, we’ve been limited to Spanish-language variants. There have been a few Spanish-language Topps Now cards from the World Baseball Classic which I won’t cover on this blog but Topps has referenced its Venezuelan issues a few times.

While the Topps Heritage Venezuelan variants seem to only focus on print differences between the US-manufactured and Venezuelan-manufactured cards, Topps Lineage in 2011 had a Venezuelan insert set that resulted in Spanish-language versions of the main Lineage cards.

Unfortunately, Lineage’s backs are pretty boring and just feature a biographical paragraph. The translation is fine, if a bit literal, but doesn’t offer much to comment on. Still, it’s nice to see that Topps didn’t completely give up on the market after 1994.