Next up is my favorite (and longest) post for each set – scans of the base cards. The 98 Topps design was different – they went with a gold border. Now they put gold borders on cards, stamp a black number on the back and call it a “parallel”. But, I do have to give Topps credit for trying something different. They don’t seem to do that any more with the base set.
First off, there’s another tribute card – after Aaron, Ruth, Mantle, and Jackie, Topps went with Roberto Clemente as card #21 in honor of the 25th anniversary of his passing. Since I didn’t pull this card in series 1 – I had to snag a photo from the internet!
Next is my standard scan of the first card from each series. Tony Gwynn got card #1, while Tino Martinez got card #284 – the first card of series 2.
The last card is of this guy.
This is easily the most notable card in the set. It’s card #504, which is the last card in series 2. It was clearly a late addition by Topps – it falls after the two checklists at 502 & 503. Super-agent Scott Boras had kept A-Rod from signing with Topps in all his great wisdom, so this was his first Topps card. You could have found Upper Deck, Fleer, Pinnacle or Donruss cards of A-Rod in the past – but not Topps until this card. They must have gotten something done just in time for the series 2 release.
Next up is my standard picture of my 2 favorite players (non Eric Davis) – that’s Griffey and Rickey. But wait – there’s only Griffey in this set. For some inexplicable reason, Topps did not include the all-time base stealer in their 1998 set. Weird. But this is a cool card of Junior. What card isn’t?
Another grouping I’ve usually posted on occasion – the pitching trio from the Braves. Gotta love Glavine in the jacket rounding the bases. One of the best hitting pitchers ever.
And these guys are a good twosome to put together in 1998 Topps – when you’d have bought these cards, these two guys were in the midst of a battle for the home run record and baseball history.
The other big news from the start of the 1998 season was the Marlins’ fire sale after their 1997 World Championship. Here’s some of the guys who were no longer in Florida uniforms after that title.
A big selling point for 1998 Topps (and probably other products) was the inclusion of expansion players from the Diamondbacks and Devil Rays. Topps had some cards with a slightly different design as a bit of a “subset” for these teams. The two first overall picks from the expansion draft were included on their own cards:
(as mentioned in the last post, that AS Rookie Cup is an error)
And there were some other Diamondbacks and Rays of the veteran and prospect variety.
As you can see, Matt Williams actually has two base cards, as shown (series 1 with Cleveland and series 2 with Arizona).
Speaking of prospects, I’d also like to show off the Boone brothers (second year they were in the same Topps set together), with Aaron featured on a prospect card and Brett sliding into second. Both were with the Reds organization at the time!
There are some interesting photos in the set. They seemed to have a lot of pictures with props in 1998 Topps. This is kind of cool, but also seems like Topps was copying off Upper Deck from the early-mid 1990’s. I’ll give them credit for trying here. There’s a golfer, a couple of fireman shots (though Montgomery won the Rolaids Fireman award in 1993 and Wagner wouldn’t win his first until 1999). Mondesi taping up his wrist, a juggler, Vlad with a corny but cool-looking pose, and Brian Jordan attempting to capture the Bo Jackson magic from 1990 Score (though it’s not comparable in my opinion). I love the Jose Guillen by the Clemente statue – in a year where they were honoring Clemente, this was a cool card to get into the set. That may be my favorite card of the set.
Here’s a few more interesting cards of the “pose” variety. The Cowboy just doesn’t look right in a Cardinals uniform, butt Jeff King is rocking a money mustache!
Here are some more of the best pictures in this set – these are of the action variety. The first two (Edmonds and Merced) are my favorites.
Here’s some subset cards. Topps brought back a subset they’d had many years ago – highlights of the World Series, but this time with some foil technology. There were 2 different interleague subsets – one in each series. And there is a Season Highlights subset too that I liked. The 3 best ones to me were Big Mac hitting 50 homers 2 straight years, Clemens winning the triple crown, and Nomar breaking Santiago’s hitting streak for rookies.
Some more subset cards – of the prospect variety. This was actually a pretty decent set for guys with their first Topps card. Draft pick cards of Lance Berkman, Vernon Wells and Jayson Werth – all guys who’ve had very successful careers (and 2 of whom have signed fairly large, but disappointing, contracts). And there are prospect cards featuring the first Topps card of Kerry Wood, Bib Papi and the big one – Doc Halladay. Those are the first Topps card for Fuentes and Pavano (but not for Richie Sexson).
Chris Carpenter also had his first Topps card in this set, as did the guy who was the newest Japanese phenom at the time – Hideki Irabu. The card for Abreu isn’t his first Topps card (it’s actually his third), but it’s his first featuring him with the Phillies, where he had his biggest level of success.
From the prospects to the younger stars who’d made their impact on the majors by now.
Next up, are the game’s established best hitters. First of the slugger variety and also of the great hitter variety. I particularly like the Biggio. I was missing the card from his counterpart (Bagwell) at the time – so he doesn’t make it into this post.
And I can’t leave the great pitchers of the day out. Clemens and Pedro were the reigning Cy Young winners at the time, and interestingly this was Pedro’s first Red Sox card while it was the first Topps card featuring the Rocket out of a Sox uni – after 13 years of Topps cards showing him that way.
Here’s some “super-veterans”, a few of whom I look at and say “he played for them”?
And, last but not least – the Hall of Famers from the set (excluding Gwynn and Clemente who I showed earlier). Of course Deion Sanders is a Hall of Famer of a different variety!