The last thing for me to post with respect to finishing up the 1990’s is to count down the best cards of the entire decade. This isn’t solely the best photo. It isn’t just the best card design. It isn’t just the best players. It isn’t just the most notable card. All those things go into that – but this is for the best card, period. So to make my list here, I considered all of those factors. It’s a personal list, made up of the cards I think are the best. So how I weigh those factors is quite dependent on the perspective I have.
Honorable Mention A – #1 – Nolan Ryan
I listed this card as my second favorite of the 90’s, and it’s my favorite 90’s card of the strikeout king. He’s fresh of his sunset revival in Texas, and Topps put him as card #1 – followed by a few tribute cards from his other 3 teams. I have a special affinity for this set – it grew on me over the years. Even though it was a strange reaction to the kind of borders Score and Donruss were putting out there, it generally works. Particularly for this great card.
Honorable Mention B – #146 – Jose Guillen
This is a great card with Roberto Clemente’s statue in the background outside of 3 Rivers Stadium. It goes particularly well since Clemente was the “retired player honoree” of the 1998 set. If it was the picture alone, this card would probably be in the top 10. This is one of my least favorite card designs, though, which keeps it to an honorable mention.
Here’s a hint – this was not my favorite card from the 1993 set, which means there are 2 1993 Topps cards, and that means at least one set didn’t make the cut. This is a contrived photo that features Puckett posing with a giant baseball bat. It was the same photo that Sports Illustrated used when it put Puckett on the front cover of its 1992 baseball preview issue. I put this in the top 10 over the cards above and a few others because of its notoriety. It’s instantly recognizable by baseball card fans.
9) 1991 Topps #170 – Carlton Fisk
This card won the prize for my “Best Action Shot” of the decade, and when I went through I was a bit surprised when I went through this exercise it didn’t come out higher. Any of the cards in this post are interchangeable, though – I do think the top 5 stand apart for me. So it could just be a matter of my mood at the time I ranked them.
8) 1991 Topps #530 – Roger Clemens
Going back to back with 1991 Topps. Bodes well for the card I picked #1 in that set. This is another instantly recognizable card. Any time you get the Green Monster in a shot, it’s good. The creativity here was awesome – such a welcome improvement from what Topps had done photo-wise from 1984 through 1990.
7) 1992 Topps #50 – Ken Griffey Jr.
This was the only Griffey card that made the countdown, but he had a few that could be honorable mention. This card goes really well with the design of the set – I think the horizontal cards work the best with 1992. The effect where his head is covering the border is really effective.
6) 1992 Topps #40 – Cal Ripken
This is actually the first card in the countdown that I picked as best in its particular set. All the rest are from here on out. Tough competition to get this card down to #6. When I think of baseball in the 1990’s, this is what pops into my mind first. At least it’s the good thing that comes to mind first. Ripken’s respect and reverence for the man whose record he was chasing was always something I thought was very cool.
That’s the first half of the top 10. I’ll do cards numbered 5 through 2 in my next post. The early part of the decade seems to be cleaning up, and I can promise that will continue.