The last thing for me to do in the posts I’ve planned for finishing up the 1980′s is to count down the best cards of the entire decade. This isn’t just the best photo. It isn’t just the best card design. It isn’t just the best players. It isn’t just the most notable card. This is the best card. Period. So to make my list here, I considered all of those factors. It’s a personal list, made up of the cards I think are the best. So how I weight those factors is quite dependent on the perspective I had. And I must admit, that perspective is very skewed by how I first viewed many of these cards – from a 7 or 8 year old’s eyes who had just found himself interested in baseball and baseball cards.
Honorable Mention - #401 – Mark McGwire OLY RC
This card is actually the hardest for me to classify as far as this list. It is extremely significant. There was a time where this was probably the most valuable card from the entire decade – Topps or any other. In a time way before Bowman started getting rookie cards before they were even rookies, Topps Traded was the earliest a player would get a card – and that would be a 1985 rookie getting a 1985 card. But McGwire got this card 2 years before his true rookie season, as a member of the 1984 Olympic team (when baseball was a demonstration sport – meaning it didn’t work toward the medal count). He would go on to break the most treasured record in all of sports, and then have one of the larger falls from grace we’ve seen in baseball. The significance and story behind the card make it pretty cool. And it’s pretty cool that it shows him in a Team USA card. But I have no special love for Big Mac (that’s true about the player and the burgers, actually), and it isn’t the greatest photo. So this card is just outside of my top 10 list.
10) 1985 Topps #570 – Darryl Strawberry
Beating out McGwire for my best card from that set (when I did the 1985 post), and making my top 10, is Darryl Strawberry’s card from 1985. What can I say, this card has a lot of the factors I mentioned above. It isn’t particularly significant, but in 1985 or 1986 you sure wouldn’t have minded pulling this from a pack. It’s a great shot – I put it in as an honorable mention just as an action shot alone. I think the Mets’ pinstripes uniforms were great in the 80′s. Darryl looks like he just connected, or maybe just fouled a pitch off. In the days before the drugs hampered his career, this card really shows his height and captures how intimidating he could be for pitchers in the mid 1980′s.
9) 1986 Topps #206 – Pete Rose RB
This was my favorite Reds card from the decade, and my second favorite subset from the decade. I guess I’m being kind of inconsistent by putting this card in the overall top 10, and excluding the ’88 Murray record breaker (which was my #1 subset) from the list. But I think for this list I’m factoring in the significance of the card – and this is the record breaker of all record breaker cards.
This was my second favorite card from the 1986 Topps set. I’m also being inconsistent there – because I’m not putting the Schmidt card on this countdown either. I did the 86 Topps post almost two years ago, and I’m allowed to rethink my position on these things, dammit!
8) 1983 Topps #550 – Carl Yastrzemski
Again, this card is a really good example of something that has a bunch of factors working for it. It’s a star player – Carl Yastrzemski. It’s 1983 Topps, one of the best designs of the decade. It’s even got some significance; it’s the last Topps card for Yaz, who I think is forgotten as one of the best ever. And it’s a very cool photo – him around the batting cage, hitting grounders or fly balls to somebody, almost as if he’s already moved on to become more of a coach than a superstar.
This card was my top card from the 1983 set. That’s saying something.
7) 1980 Topps #400 – George Foster
I just did this card; it won my best “pose” of the decade. I don’t feel like writing up something new about it – what I said yesterday fits the bill.
I love this photo. It looks like he’s not really in the background, kind of like a 1970′s television show opening intro. And it’s a Big Red Machine member. And he’s got bad-ass sideburns.
The one thing I’d add – I love the 1980 design. Maybe more than the 1983 set and as much as the 1987 design. This was my second favorite card from the 1980 set. Stick around, you might be interested to see where I put the best card from that set…
6) 1984 Topps #10 – Robin Yount
This was another card that made one of my previous countdowns. The Yount card was third in my favorite action shots – based solely on the photo. So it’s established as a great picture that works with the design. But it’s also of a hall of fame shortstop (eventually turned center fielder) and has become one of my favorite cards while I did this project. I had this card higher initially, though I guess the fact that Yount isn’t a personal favorite of mine and since this card isn’t of “notable significance” or whatever I called that factor above, I moved it down a tad bit. That, and the fact that it’s the 1984 set, which isn’t one of the better designs from the decade (though it’s also not a bad design, I’ll grant).
That’s the first half of the top 10. I’ll do cards numbered 5 through 2 in tomorrow’s post.