The best Topps subset cards from the 1990’s

13 09 2016

Subset cards is the topic for my next category of “best of” awards for the 90’s decade.  I’m not treating Olympic, Draft Pick, Future Stars, Prospect or All-Star Rookie cards as subsets.  These are those players’ only cards in that set, which isn’t what I think of when I think “subset”.

I also decided against including tribute cards for Aaron, Ruth, Mantle, Robinson, Clemente, and Ryan.  Those probably are subsets, but they’re retired players and only 1 card per subset.  I could probably have been persuaded the other way, but I don’t consult anyone about posts on this blog 🙂

Feel free to chime a comment in with any you would have included!

Here are the honorable mentions that didn’t quite make the cut:

  • 1991 #392 – Ken Griffey, Jr. AS
  • 1995 T #163T – Mike Piazza / Ivan Rodriguez AS
  • 1997 #464 – Hideo Nomo SH
  • 1997 Eddie Murray SH

10) 1990 Topps #7 – Rickey Henderson RB

1990 Topps Rickey RB

The Record Breakers subset was always one of my favorites. While there are only 3 such cards in the 1990 set, this card is for a pretty cool Rickey record – the most home runs leading off a game.  He broke the record of 35 held by Bobby Bonds in early 1989, but I find it interesting they actually talk about his last one of the season (his 40th) on the back of this card.  I guess at the time, that was the new record.  Kind of like McGwire’s 70th home run ball being more valuable than #62.  It’s a great photo of Rickey going deep.

9) 1998 Topps #479 – Ken Griffey Jr. / Mike Piazza INTP

1998 Topps INTP - front

This card became extra cool this year when Griffey and Piazza went into the Hall of Fame together this year.  I was there – and it seemed like Griffey and Piazza had great chemistry together.  I’ve been a huge Griffey fan for almost as long as I’ve been a sports fan, but I came away a Piazza fan after going to Cooperstown in July.

8) 1993 Topps #409 – Greg Maddux / Roger Clemens AS

1993 Topps best subset Clemens Maddux AS

This card captures 2 of the greatest pitchers of our lifetime.  Of course, you didn’t know at the time they would go on to win a combined 709 games and 11 Cy Young awards.  It’s cool they were both on this same card.

7) 1995 Topps Traded #124T – Hideo Nomo ROYC

1995-topps-traded-roy-contender-nomo

This is where I looked back at my posts and decided I had made a mistake.  I picked the card of Piazza and Pudge Rodriguez as the best subset.  But I didn’t give enough weight to Nomo-Mania!  So the Pudge/Piazza All-Star card didn’t crap the top 10, but this Nomo does.

6) 1999 Topps #461 – Sammy Sosa HR

1999 Topps series 2 box Sosa HR Parade

5) 1999 Topps #220 – Mark McGwire HR

1999 Topps McGwire HR 70

First and second of 3 cards from the 1999 set, which obviously did well as far as subsets go.  The Home Run Record was either the biggest or the 2nd biggest story of the decade – so you’ve got to have the 2 cards that Topps did in honor of that incredible summer of baseball.  These would be higher up if subsequent things weren’t learned about the methods used to reach those records.

4) 1992 #2 – Rickey Henderson RB

1992 Topps Rickey RB 939

This card is awesome, pure and simple; it’s definitely the best subset card in 1992 Topps.  It shows the actual moment (stealing 3rd base in Oakland on May 1 against the Yankees) for one of the coolest records out there.  Henderson has more than 1.5 times as many steals as the 2nd place thief, Lou Brock.  Truly an amazing record.

3) 1999 #452 – Jeter / Rodriguez / Garciaparra AT

1999 Topps All-Topps Jeter A-Rod Nomar

The 3 shortstops that looked to supplant Ripken or Wagner as the greatest of all time.  None of them did, but they sure were amazing when this card came out.

2) 1995 #388 – Ken Griffey Jr. / Barry Bonds AS

1995 Topps AS - front

The best players of the 90’s, on the only Topps base card to showcase both 2nd-generation stars.

1) 1996 #96 – Cal Ripken 2131

1996 Topps 96 Ripken best subset

This was a no-brainer.  When I think of baseball in the 90’s, a few things pop into my head.  The strike, the 1998 home run chase that seems tainted (and I don’t even have it out for steroid guys).  Maybe Griffey Jr.  But Ripken’s streak was the story that resonated the best with Americans, and it’s the one that has lasted.  This is the Topps card that pays homage.

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