Completed insert set – 1990 Topps Batting Leaders

9 04 2015

I’m going to spend all of April, and some of May, covering completed insert sets.  I got way behind on those at some point over the past year, and while spending every other day for a month won’t catch me back up, it will at least help!

This is one of those inserts where I just have to say – FINALLY!  I started the 1990 portion of my Lifetime Topps Project back in 2011, and I had finished the base set, and every other insert associated with 1990 Topps, in the middle of 2012.  Except for this very difficult, somewhat oddball, insert set called Batting Leaders.

I always thought of the ’93 Topps Black Gold set as Topps first ever insert set.  But of course there were glossy inserts from the 80’s and inserts like stamps as far back as the early 60’s.  And then in 1989 and 1990 there were these Batting Leader cards that have become fairly tough to find – at least at a reasonable price.  I finished the 1989 set in April of last year, while I finished up this set last December.

Info about the set:

Set description:  22 standard-size cards with a forest green border on the front, with a pair of blue gloved hands holding a bat on one side.  There is a trophy that says “Top Active Career Batting Leaders” on the other side.  The blue backs show the player’s career batting average and the number of at bats he’s had.  The 22 veterans with the highest lifetime batting averages with 765 minimum games played (conveniently equal to Kirby Puckett’s total at the end of 1988).  The cards were distributed one per Topps blister pack sold exclusively through K-Mart stores.  They are numbered in order of average.

Set composition:  22 cards

Inserted: K-Mart blister packs of 1990 Topps.  1 per pack.

Hall of Famers: 9

Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, Kirby Puckett, George Brett, Paul Molitor, Jim Rice, Robin Yount, Eddie Murray, Rickey Henderson

How I put the set together:

Thoughts on the set:  Love it.  It has a theme and is numbered in order according to that theme.  I wish this was an insert Topps had done (and still did) every year – you could see people fall in and out of the set based on the season they’d had, or if a younger guy had gotten eligible with enough at bats.  It’s hard to come by – and it costs some money, too.  Between 1989 and 1990 – it cost me over $250 to finish the 2 sets!

Card that completed my set:  #5 – George Brett

Brett and Jim Rice were Sportlots buys back in December of last year.  I had been sitting 2 cards short for over a year, and finally just ponied up $10 for the Brett, which I hadn’t been able to find for a cheaper price anywhere.

Highest book value:  #5 – George Brett

Best card (my opinion):  #21 – Rickey Henderson

In 1989, I went with Boggs because he was the #1 card.  But Rickey’s card is a great shot of him with the A’s.

My Favorite Reds card:  There are none.  That’s OK.  We won the World Series in 1990!

1990 Topps Batting Leaders

1990 Topps Batting Leaders_0001

1990 Topps Batting Leaders_0002

Any other tidbits: I tried to look at any comparisons with the 1989 set.  As far as order goes, there were quite a few changes.  Kirby Puckett passed Don Mattingly, who was starting to decline due to his back injuries.  Paul Molitor jumped Jim Rice (who retired after the 1989 season) and Keith Hernandez.  But Rice actually jumped Hernandez, so he stayed at card #9.

Julio Franco jumped 3 guys who had all been at .295 with him the year before, and Carney Lansford moved up the most of anyone – 8 slots – after a .336 average in the 1989 campaign.  Dave Parker was jumped by both of those guys, but he moved ahead of both Willie McGee and Eddie Murray to maintain card #13 in the set.  Murray dropped the most – he moved down 6 spots to 17th.  It’s interesting that McGee and Murray had off seasons in 1989 – because they bounced back to end 1-2 in the NL batting race the next year.

Robin Yount moved up 6 slots after his 1989 MVP campaign, while Tony Fernandez and Phil Bradley moved over the games played threshold to make this list in 1990.  Lonnie Smith hit .315 in 1989 to move up and make the set.  All of those guys passed Rickey Henderson, who dropped 6 spots when he hit .274 (he still led the league in runs stolen bases and had a .411 OBP).  Kent Hrbek also dropped 6 slots to take the last card in the set.  Willie Wilson, Pat Tabler and Alan Trammell all dropped below .290 and out of the set when they had sub-par seasons.

For the 2nd year in a row – Topps had a bit of a clerical error.  Ken Griffey Sr. wasn’t in the set despite the fact he had a lifetime average of .297 at the end of the 1989 season.  I’m not sure why he wasn’t included – he did have Topps Traded cards both of those seasons and thus would have had a contract with Topps.  He wasn’t in the regular Topps set, which probably had something to do with it.

The parentheses below show their average and place the year before (if different).

  1. Wade Boggs, .352 (.356)
  2. Tony Gwynn, .332 (.331)
  3. Kirby Puckett, .323 (4th, .320)
  4. Don Mattingly, .323 (3rd, .327)
  5. George Brett, .310 (.312)
  6. Pedro Guerrero, .308 (.307)
  7. Tim Raines, .303 (.305)
  8. Paul Molitor, .300 (10th, .299)
  9. Jim Rice, .298 (.300)
  10. Keith Hernandez, .298 (8th, .300)
  11. Julio Franco, .298 (14th, .295)
  12. Carney Lansford, .294 (20th, .290)
  13. Dave Parker, .293 (.295)
  14. Willie McGee, .292 (12th, .295)
  15. Robin Yount, .292 (21st, .290)
  16. Tony Fernandez, .292 (not eligible for ’89 set)
  17. Eddie Murray, .291 (11th, .295)
  18. Johnny Ray, .291 (.291)
  19. Lonnie Smith, .290 (not in ’89 set – .287)
  20. Phil Bradley, .290 (not eligible for ’89 set)
  21. Rickey Henderson, .290 (15th, .292)
  22. Kent Hrbek, .290 (16th, .292)

The set generally uses the same picture as 1989, with a few exceptions.  Parker is shown with Milwaukee after being with Oakland in the 1989 set.  Henderson is shown with Oakland after he had been with the Yankees the previous set.  Keith Hernandez is shown with Cleveland, where he played his last season, after being with the Mets the year before.  Eddie Murray (Dodgers) and Julio Franco (Rangers) also both have different photos, though they didn’t change teams.




2 responses

9 04 2015

Wow, great job on an ultra-tough insert set to amass. I have three of these cards — Lansford, Keith and McGee. I got them out of blister packs from K-Mart back in the day. And, because I was 9 or 10 at the time, I didn’t do a great job of keeping them pristine. Still, they are in decent enough shape and I’m glad I have ’em! If I didn’t already have the Hernandez, I would def be jonesing for it today!

9 04 2015

Thanks Mark! This was definitely a tough one. When it’s all said and done, I may do a post ranking the hardest sets to complete. And the 2 batting leaders will certainly be up there!

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