Last year I did some comparisons of certain players from the current Gypsy Queen set to the tobacco set from 1887. I’m going to do that again – but I don’t want to spend quite as much time. So I’m copying the same comparisons – but I’ll modify where appropriate :). I did 10 last year, so I’ll do 10 again this year – but in 3 or 4 posts instead of 10 (I’m betting 4, but we’ll see – the later ones are longer and might take more time for me). The first 3 are today, the next 7 are over the next few days.
What I’ll do here – copy what I said last year for each item, then update for what I think is the appropriate comparison here. Enjoy!
The Best Player in Baseball
In today’s game – hands down this is first baseman Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals. In the mid-late 1880’s, this could have been one of three players – Dan Brouthers, Roger Connor or Cap Anson. Anson doesn’t have a Gypsy Queen card, and I’ll use Connor for another comparison. Pujols just led his team to a disappointing 2nd place finish in 2011 – the Detroit team for which Brouthers played finished just out of first in the National League in 1886, though they would go on to win the pennant and take the World’s Series over the AA Champion in 1887. Brouthers was a 5-time batting champion who won all 3 triple crown categories at various stages of his career – but never all at once. He briefly held the career HR record. Pujols has also won all 3 triple crown categories over his career, and he could very well hold the career HR record that was once that of Brouthers. Of note: the St. Louis Browns club that won the 1886 World’s Series is the same Cardinals franchise that Pujols plays for today (well, at least for this season).
Wow. I’ve done the “Best Player in Baseball” across my whole lifetime Topps thing. It’s always been based on, not just who is hot. Not just who is hot this year. But, who is, as of now – as of the last 3 or 5 years – the best player in the game. This will probably lead, when I get to it – to an incredible range by Barry Bonds. And, with Albert Pujols, he’s had such a great run. But as of right now, it’s hard to argue, based on the last 3 years, that anyone other than this guy…
is the best player in baseball. If Pujols had not been quite so bad to start 2012. And if Kemp hadn’t been quite so good in 2011, or 2010, or even 2009. Well, none of that is applicable. Matt Kemp. Your new – BEST PLAYER IN THE GAME!
All Time Home Run Kings
If Dan Brouthers (from my last post) wasn’t the best player in baseball, it was probably Roger Connor of the New York Giants. Connor was the best slugger in pre-1900 baseball. He retired with the career triples and home run record. His 138 home runs would last as the career record until the end of the dead ball era, when another New York slugger obliterated his record. That same New Yorker would change the game, start the success of a franchise that was unparalleled in American Sports. Like Pujols and Brouthers from the first post, both Connor and Babe Ruth won all 3 “jewels” of the triple crown, but never in the same season. Connor’s Giants featured a number of Hall of Famers, but for most of the 1880′s, they could never get past Chicago or Detroit in the National League. They finally broke though, winning consecutive NL Pennants and the Dauvray Cup of the World’s Series in both 1888 and 1889. Ruth came to the Yankees in 1920, but wasn’t able to secure a World Series title until 1923.
Ruth held the single season home run record for 42 years. He hit 29 in 1919, then broke his own record 3 more times before finally setting the standard at the magical 60. This record stood until 1961, when Roger Maris famously broke this record. Maris’s Gypsy Queen card appears to capture the swing that smashed #61. Back to Ruth’s 29 – this broke the record of 27 set by Ned Williamson in 1884. Williamson had set the doubles record the year before – both records were primarily attributable to the short dimensions at Chicago’s Lakeshore Park, which was about 200 feet down the line. Prior to 1884, balls hit over the wall were considered doubles, but for one season in 1884, they were counted as home runs. Of Williamson’s 27 home runs, 25 were hit at home that year. Before this year, only one National League player had ever hit over 10 home runs. In 1883, future Hall of Famer Buck Ewing, the catcher and teammate of Brouthers on the New York Giants passed the double-digit barrier to lead the National League. This was the only time Ewing ever reached double digits in Home Runs in his Hall of Fame career.
Well – the single-season home run record is still the same. And it isn’t Maris or Ruth. It’s held by the same guy, but he wasn’t in the 2011 or the 2012 set. But – both Ruth and Maris were, so here’s their cards!
The Highest Paid and Most Controversial Star
Next, the most famous athlete of the era. Mike “King” Kelly was a future Hall-of-Famer who had been the best player in baseball, but was a few years past his prime in 1886 and 1887. He played a large part of his career for the Chicago White Stockings (the Cubs’ franchise), the “evil empire” of the National League in early baseball. Kelly was the highest paid player in the game; he was sold from Chicago to Boston for an exorbitant sum, earning the nickname “$10,000 Kelly”. He wasn’t just a ballplayer, he was a celebrity. After the deal to Boston, he had a brief career as an actor, he was the basis for the first pop song in American culture, “Slide Kelly Slide”, and is believed by some to be the subject for “Casey at the Bat”. Finally, he was known for skipping second base when the lone umpire wasn’t looking. Who is he most like in this set? My wife actually guessed this one correctly! The highest paid player in today’s game arrived in Pinstripes via a blockbuster deal. He was once the best player in the game, but his best years are a little behind him. After dating Kate Hudson and Cameron Diaz, he’s become a little bit of a celebrity himself. And finally, he has been known to cause a stir for skipping second base.
Hard to argue anyone has taken over A-Rod for weirdness. He’d done the Super Bowl, grapes-with-Cameron-Diaz-thing already at the time last year. But… it’s not like some other baseball players has done anything more to become more like King Kelly. And, he’s still the highest paid player – $30 million for that .433 slugging percentage*! So Alex, you still get the 2012 play here. I actually don’t have A-Rod’s card for 2012 Gypsy, so I had to gank it from the interweb.
*For comparison purposes – King Kelly had .488 slugging percentage in 1887 – during the dead-ball era where 10-15 home runs would lead the league.