Griffey in Topps next year – excitement and a little sad

29 11 2011

Topps made a pretty surprising announcement yesterday that it has signed Ken Griffey Jr. and will include his cards in its 2012 products.  This is a pretty big deal – right up there with adding the notoriously difficult signer Koufax last year – for a few of reasons.  One is that it’s kind of hard to get Griffey signatures through means not facilitated by Upper Deck – the best way in the past has been by purchasing something from Upper Deck Authenticated or on an Upper Deck insert card – I don’t know of him ever signing at a show or anything.  So his autograph is pretty valuable, period.  Also, this is the first time you could get a Griffey card in a Topps product.  The biggest reason is just what Griffey represents – to baseball card collectors, Ken Griffey Jr. IS Upper Deck.

I think I’ve got a bit of a unique perspective on this – I’m a huge Ken Griffey Jr. fan.  Griffey wasn’t the first athlete I idolized, but he’s my favorite.  When I was 12, I remember staying up late to watch his at bats every chance he was on TV.  When I went to college, I hoped against hope that it would be him and not Mark McGwire in 1997 and 1998 that would break Roger Maris’s record.  I have a 3-year old Dachshund named Griffey, most because I don’t think my wife would be OK with me picking that name for our first-born son. 

I can remember the excitement when he was traded “home” to Cincinnati.  To have your favorite player traded to your favorite team is pretty awesome.  I still have the article in the Cincinnati Enquirer that describes the trade and compares it to the Babe Ruth Sox-Yankees deal.  Obviously nothing on that level materialized, but I appreciated being able to watch him play for nearly a decade and seeing about 10 of his 630 home runs live.  Even when he was older and produced less, I didn’t want the Reds to trade him.  There’s something about having your childhood hero on your hometown team (even after you’re not a kid any more) that even trumps giving that team the best chance to win.   

So, on that level, I’m really excited that I can find Griffey Jr. in next year’s products.  Plus, the card above looks amazing!  I hope they do some cards with him in a Reds uniform, but I also hope Topps doesn’t go completely overboard – having too many Griffey cards could make me go a bit overboard.

In another way, though, this is a little sad.  Griffey’s rookie card is one of the most iconic cards in all of sports history.  If you asked me, it’s behind only the ’52 Mantle and the T-206 Wagner as the most influential baseball card of all-time.  A surprise pick as the #1 card in a fledgling set that changed the game (kind of like Topps said it’s going to do in 2012 :}), and a photo that captures the essence of “the Kid”.  This kind of signifies the nail in the coffin to Upper Deck’s run in baseball – and I’m sure that fact isn’t lost on Topps.  From everything I’ve read, Upper Deck kind of deserves it, but as someone who collected their products in the mid-90’s, I can’t help but be a little sad.

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