Cheap Thrills, Part 1

As noted previously, I can barely keep up with, much less collect, all the post-career cards of my favorite players. I can’t even say I window shop. However, there are occasions where certain cards unexpectedly but decidedly grab me. Such was the case when I ran across this gem from the 2010 Topps Heritage set.

See, here’s the thing. The 1961 Topps “Baseball Thrills” cards on which this Robinson is based is one of my favorite Topps subsets ever. Flip through this ten-card collection and you’re not just treated to some gorgeous cardboard; you’re also reminded of some of the most amazing feats in baseball history. (Okay, small quibble. I wouldn’t have gone with “GEHRIG BENCHED…” as my headline for his amazing consecutive games streak.)

As for the Topps reboot nearly 40 years later (or nearly 60 years later if I go by when I learned about it), I have to say I am 100% impressed.

Let’s start with the five cards that are more or less clones of the originals, give or take a Heritage watermark and the need to rebrand the National League as N.L.TM on the Hornsby card.

At first I was disappointed to see these spots on the checklist wasted. However, that was before I realized that most pack-openers in 2010 would not have had the originals in their collections and very likely wouldn’t have even seen them before. If we’re looking to tell the story of baseball, circa 1900-1960, it’s hard to imagine doing so without Ruth, Hornsby, Gehrig, Mathewson, and Johnson. Besides, the new versions are a helluva lot cheaper than the old ones, and let’s just acknowledge here that cheap thrills are sure better than none at all!

With three of the other cards in the set, Topps simply filled in other highlights of that time period that would have been right at home in the original set, at least mostly so. I say “mostly” due to the sabermetrically pleasing but nonetheless anachronistic hit total on the Cobb card.

The Mantle card in the 2010 set warrants a special look alongside its 1961 predecessor.

On one hand, one of Mantle’s least satisfying cards (or if you prefer, Griffith Stadium’s best card) is replaced with a Mickey Mantle card that among other things includes a picture of Mickey Mantle. On the other hand, the “new and improved” clashes artistically with the rest of the cards, making it the one card in the 2010 edition I wish Topps had a do-over on.

But the Jackie card? This is utter perfection in my book, so much so that I’ll gladly show it again!

Note: It’s NOT your imagination if that image looks familiar to you. Here it is 60 years earlier.

1950 Bowman Jackie Robinson

Of course, beyond being a great looking card, the Robinson also sets the record straight. A listing of baseball’s greatest achievements (1900-1960 or so) that omits the breaking of the color barrier is an incomplete list indeed. I’m not sure what prompted Topps to omit it in 1961, but my Jackie Robinson collection thanks Topps for at least getting it right in 2010.

That said, neither the original set nor the reboot included what I grew up believing (from books and broadcasts less than independent thought) to be the greatest feat of them all. Rather than send this article on a massive detour, I’ll save that topic for a Part Two.

Author: jasoncards

I mainly enjoy writing about baseball and baseball cards, but I've also dabbled in the sparsely populated Isaac Newton trading card humor genre. As of January 2019 I'm excited to be part of the SABR Baseball Cards blogging team, and as of May 2019 Co-Chair of the SABR Baseball Cards Research Committee.

9 thoughts on “Cheap Thrills, Part 1”

  1. The first graded card I ever bought was that Mantle highlight card of his 565 foot homer. At the time it may have been the oldest card in my collection, and it was an inexpensive “Mantle” card because he wasn’t pictured on it.

    A better version of the 2010 card would have kept the original picture but put a floating head Mantle in the center of the card. Though that would have been a year off as I don’t think the floating heads were around until 1962.

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  2. And now I’m trying to figure out why Topps chose Christy Mathewson’s 267 strikeouts in 1903. Rube Waddell struck out 302 the very same year; the next year he struck out 349, which was still the modern record (post-1893 pitching distance change) in 1961. Even to this day there are only 5 single season strikeout totals higher than 349, and by only three pitchers (Koufax once, Ryan and the Big Unit twice each).

    I’m guessing the choice of Mathewson over Waddell comes down to one of two things. Topps went with the more famous player (Mathewson) and wanted a reason to include him or Topps couldn’t reach an agreement with the Waddell estate for his likeness.

    Topps could have gone with Mathewson’s three shutouts in the 1905 World Series and chosen any number of other things for Walter Johnson (struck out his 3000th batter, struck out his last batter, his 110 shutouts).

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  3. I love the original Mantle 565-foot homer card ’cause it’s Griffith Stadium, where I saw my first league game. By far the worst aspect of the updated card is that the 565-foot homer (actually originally estimated as 563 feet by the Yanks PR guy) is that Mantle is batting left-handed, for gosh sakes, and this homer was the longest he ever hit right-handed. Ouch. But it is a nice overallupdate by Topps.

    Liked by 1 person

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