Topps again issued a 132-card “Traded” set in 1994 the same as previous years; cards were numbered separately from the base set with a “T” suffix as #1-132. The set contains cards of rookies, draft picks, free agents and traded players (no new managers this year) and a 2-card tribute to Ryne Sandberg, who retired in the middle of 1994. The design is the same as the base set.
The set was issued again as a factory set, but the box design was no longer quite as square – this year it was only available in a colorful blue and black flat box with 3 rows for the cards once you opened it. There were actually 140 cards in the box – there was an 8-card “Topps Finest” insert set of 6 MVP and 2 Rookie of the Year candidates. They did OK in “guessing” these – they got Raul Mondesi for the NL RoY and Frank Thomas for the AL MVP, while Griffey (2nd) and Lofton (4th) were up there in the final MVP tally. But they missed on the unanimous Jeff Bagwell for NL MVO, while Matt Williams was close (2nd) but Maddux (5th) and Piazza (6th) weren’t really. They also missed on Bob Hamelin for Manny Ramirez. Ramirez was 2nd, but it wasn’t a close vote. I like that the Maddux card shows him batting.
After a lot of cards in the previous seasons, there is only one cards of Reds 1990 World Champion members.
- Chris Sabo signed as a free agent with Baltimore in the 93/94 offseason.
There are 3 Hall of Famers in the set.
- As mentioned, Ryne Sandberg retired in the middle of 1994 and had a 2-card tribute set. This was pretty cool – they had him pictured as a Phillie for the first time on a Topps card. The backs of the cards match the front – his Phillies stats are shown on the first card and his Cubs stats on the 2nd card.
- After being sent from the A’s to Toronto and contributing to the Blue Jays’ second straight World Series title, Rickey Henderson signed back with Oakland in the offseason for his third stint with the team.
- Eddie Murray signed as a free agent with Cleveland in the 93/94 offseason. He would have 2½ solid seasons as the Tribe’s DH, and he picked up his 3,000th hit with the team in 1995.
There’s also an NFL Hall-of-Famer – see anatomy of a trade cards below.
Topps didn’t feature players from Team USA after doing so in the previous 3 Traded sets. They did have a number of Draft Picks from the 1994 summer draft. Paul Wilson was actually given the #1 card. I didn’t know that Ben Grieve had a brother drafted the same year as him – kind of interesting. Ben was in high school, while his brother was 4 years older, so that’s what led to this.
There are also some other “rookie” players worth showing here. The biggest by far – and the only one that really gives this set any “value” – is the Paul Konerko rookie card. He’s starting to get into borderline HOF territory – and I remember when the Reds had him very briefly! Jason Schmidt has a rookie card – it’s the only card dressed as the Top Prospects subset in the Traded set. The biggest rookie at the time was probably Chan Ho Park. I remember when he was a big deal – the first Korean born pitcher to make the big leagues. Park pitched in the majors last in 2010 for the Pirates. He pitched in Japan last year and issigned to pitch in the Korean major leagues next season.
There were some big free agent / traded players in this set. I remember Will Clark being the biggest name – though he only had a couple of good seasons in Texas and left in his career. Palmeiro and Vizquel had the most left – it will be interesting to see if Omar hangs on for another year (he’s 150 hits from 3,000). Ellis Burks and Bret Boone both had some near-MVP seasons left, though Boone’s best came when he went back to Seattle. And the Reds got Gant for very cheap in the middle of 1994 after he was hurt in a motorcycle accident and the Braves got out of the big contract he’d just signed. He won the Comeback PoY and helped them to the 1995 playoffs.
There were also the typical guys who were really hanging on to long – though El Presidente did have a couple of decent seasons with Cleveland and Lee Smith did the same with Baltimore.
Topps added a few subsets to this Traded set – like the Sandberg, Draft Pick and Prospects cards shown above. They also had one Future Stars card of Paul Shuey, who didn’t end up fitting that bill. The most interesting subset was the “Anatomy of a Trade”. This was 2 cards that looked at trades between Montreal/Los Angeles and Cincinnati/Atlanta. It’s interesting – both were trades that helped each team, though the DeShields trade wasn’t nearly as good for LA in the long run. And if Pedro had become as dominant in LA, they would have had a much better chance signing him long-term. I remember when the Reds got Neon Deion – it was pretty exciting.
Lastly, Shawon Dunston is in this set with the Cubs. I find this interesting because he doesn’t fit the bill for a Traded set in any way. He played for the Cubs in 1993, and he was still with them in 1994.