On to my longest post for the 1996 set – or at least the ones with the most pictures! I like this set much more than the previous year’s version. I think I’ve read some dislike for it is the inclusion of sepia-ish reproduction of the player’s face at the bottom. I don’t find it too offensive – and, like the 1995 set, the good thing about the design is it leaves lots of room and keeps the focus on the picture. I like the even borders much more than the perforated stuff from 1995, and the font of the player’s name is better, too. My biggest gripe with this set isn’t the design – it’s the # of cards getting bumped down to 440!
First off, there’s another tribute card – actually, there’s two. After Hank Aaron in 1994, and Babe Ruth the year before, Mickey Mantle was the overwhelming theme from this set after his passing away in late 1995. Topps “retired” #7 in honor of the Mick – they’d never have another card #7 in the base set (actually, they’d later just put Mantle in that #7 slot). Cal Ripken also got a deserving tribute card for passing Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game record.
From there, I’ve got some of my standard card scans that I do for a lot of the different sets. First, I’ll show off the first card from each series. Topps had Tony Gwynn and Kirby Puckett as their promoters for this set – they were featured on the box fronts and pack fronts. So, naturally, they led off each series with the Star Power subset of these 2 guys.
Next up is my standard post of my 2 favorite players – that’s Griffey (plus his subset) and Rickey. As usual, these two guys have really good cards.
Another grouping I’ve usually posted on occasion – the pitching trio from the Braves. This is photos from the year they got that one World Series title.
Next up, I’ll show the lineup they stifled in the 1995 World Series. It’s amazing this group never won a World Series title!
Next up – let’s go with some of the more interesting pictures. I’ve noticed that Topps demands to have either some Brewers or Royals in a night-time pose with the Stadium in the background. I do really like the Darryl Hamilton with the close up of his name on the bat. It’s done better than the Nilsson one.
Here’s some of my favorite photos from the set. The Grissom one may be my favorite – just from his facial expression, it looks like he didn’t end up safe on this one. The shot of Nails and his dirty uni is great, and I just like the way the background for the Mondesi card. Also, the Riverfront stadium wall in the background for the Blauser and Boone cards.
Here’s a few more I liked. I’d like to think Grace is playing that game where you flip the ball onto the mound and see if it stays.
I love these, too. This is a great photo of Big Daddy, who actually had a decent season in 1995.
Unlike the 1995 set, they didn’t have a ton of photography tricks, though they did have just this one that I noticed. I wish they’d leave that to Upper Deck – who seems to do it a little better.
From there, here’s some of the prospects featured in this set. Two of the biggest cards I actually don’t have yet – that would be Sean Casey’s rookie card in the Draft Pick subset, and the Andruw Jones / Vladimir Guerrero prospect card. So those got featured below.
Next up are some of the guys further along in their career – the young stars who’d just started showing some promise.
Next up, we’ve got the game’s established best hitters.
I showed some hitters, so why not show off some pitchers, while I’m at it, too.
OK, from the guys above, here are some of the older players who’d been around for a while by now. Though still productive, clearly they were starting to head closer to the end of their careers than the beginning. Or at least, for the bottom 3 – that’s what we thought. Considering this is around when McGwire admitted to taking steroids, it’s hard to not see it from this photo.
Last but not least – here’s full circle with the guys who really were near the end of their careers. Sandberg got back into this set after coming out of retirement. This would be the last Topps card for a lot of these guys – Mattingly retired the year before the Yankees won it all. Puckett’s career was cut short by glaucoma. Ozzie retired in 1996 and didn’t have a card in 1997. Smith had a couple more seasons, but this was his last Topps card.