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1986 Topps oddballs

When I dove into collecting baseball cards at about ten years old, I collected everything I could get my hands on. There were nearly as many oddball sets as there are parallel sets today, and I grabbed as much as I could. Here are a few of the offerings that bore the Topps name.

Glossy Send-Ins

Cobra 1986 Topps glossy

These cards did not come in packs. You had to collect a certain number of “offer cards” from regular packs, then send them in along with postage to receive them. I never did order them directly from Topps but picked up a few in trades.

Mini League Leaders

1986 Topps Mini League Leaders

Before, we relied on baseball cards stats to know who the best players were. In 1986, Topps issued a set of mini “League Leaders.” The back of this card reveals that Mario Soto finished the 1985 season second in the National League with 214 strikeouts, tied for 6th in games started, tied for 6th in complete games, and 7th in innings pitched.

Quaker Chewy Granola Bars

1986 Topps Quaker Chewy Granola Parker

Baseball card companies partnered with food products often in the olden days. Post Cereal, Kellogg’s, and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese were just a handful of the food products that featured cards in products. Quaker Chewy Granola bars was another, and Dave Parker was one of the more common Reds players to show up in these sets from 1985-1988. These cards are usually found in very good condition, so I assume they were available through mail-order rather than included in the box itself.

Topps Tattoos

1986 Topps Tattoos

Topps Tattoos were sold in packs, but I don’t recall ever seeing them in stores. I picked up a few featuring Reds players through trades. The full sheets featured several players; this particular sheet included not only Tony Perez, but fellow Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith and a player with one of the greatest nicknames in the history of baseball: Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd. Right next to Perez is the late Donnie Moore, who tragically took his own life in 1989.

Let’s flip the image to see what it would look like if you applied it to your skin:

1986 Topps Tattoos

I’m so used to seeing them reversed, flipping it just looks weird.



Are O-Pee-Chee cards oddballs? Sold in packs in Canada, but singles always traveled south and into the hands of American kids. I loved cards like this Bill Gullickson, showing the original Topps photo but new team designation.


My first complete set

I started acquiring baseball cards in 1985.

I started collecting baseball cards in 1986. The first packs I remember opening were 1986 Topps. I received some cards here and there in 1985 but didn’t really know what I was doing at all. In 1986, though, that all changed. Not only did I open packs, but I also traded with friends. I read box scores. I researched card prices in Beckett. I became a fanatic. Finding Reds cards of Eric Davis, Tony Perez, Mario Soto, Dave Parker, and Buddy Bell became an obsession.

Bell 1986 Topps

My parents gave me the complete factory set of 1986 Topps ordered from the JC Penney at Christmas, and I was over the moon. Seven hundred ninety-two pristine, gem mint baseball cards. This was before the era of graded cards, and I knew little about printing defects or off-centering. All I knew was that I had the complete factory set in the yellow box.

Rose special

Pete Rose was likely a big reason for my initial interest in baseball. In 1985 he was chasing Ty Cobb‘s all-time hits record and every Cincinnati news outlet covered the milestone. He was a Cincinnati kid, he epitomized the value of hustle and hard work. Topps honored Rose with a special subset in the 1986 base set. The legend was featured on card #1, while cards #2-7 showed all of Pete’s base cards through the years. Topps also featured him as a manager on a separate card (#741), featuring a checklist of all the 1986 Topps Reds cards on the back. And then there was the Record Breaker” (#206).

That’s nine different cards of one player. Complete insanity at the time. Also completely worth it to honor such a legend. Bear in mind this was a couple of years before the whispers of gambling and betting on baseball. To Reds fans, Pete Rose could do no wrong.

There is one other card Topps produced for Rose in conjunction with their standard set, but it was not a part of the complete factory set. Rather, you had to be one of the last kids buying a pack at the convenience store to get this card.

1986 Topps Pete  Rose box bottom

The box bottom cards were not easy to come by. Most stores, after selling all the packs, would pitch the box in the trash. If you knew about the special cards you could cut out then you could ask for the box but if it wasn’t close to empty, most store clerks would deny your request. It was difficult to cut the cards out properly because of the thickness of the box and the fear of getting caught with Mom’s good scissors.

There may not have been a lot of great rookie cards in the 1986 Topps set, but it will always hold a special place in my collection and in my heart.

Horror Fun Cards: 1986 Topps Ray Cameron

1986 Topps Night Of The Creeps Ray Cameron

Purchase Night of the Creeps!

Fun Cards: 1986 Topps Todd Frazier

1986 Topps Frazier

The third-place, sub-.500 Cincinnati Reds have not given fans much to cheer for this year. Injuries to key players, no run support for fantastic pitching, a generally awful bullpen…this is not a team setting the baseball world on fire. There was hope last year, after Dusty Baker was dismissed, but Walt Jocketty’s non-activity during the offseason gave many fans pause. No upgrades from last year’s team, and in some cases some major downgrades.

But Todd Frazier has been tearing the cover off the ball. His slugging is up nearly one hundred points from last year, and he leads the team in home runs (9) and RBI (27). No, those aren’t earth-shattering numbers, but when Jay Bruce and Joey Votto are not playing up to par, it’s nice to have someone else picking up a little bit of the slack.

The other bright spot on offense has been Devin Mesoraco, who despite only playing 19 games so far, has hit five homers and driven in 18, all while batting .406. It will be interesting to see if he can keep hitting at such a clip as the season wears on.

If Frazier and Meso keep it up, they just might see their first All-Star berths this year.

George Foster’s Career in the Eyes of Topps (and a couple of fun cards to boot)

Inspired by Wrigley Wax’s Tile Tuesday series, I decided to feature all of George Foster‘s Topps cards from his career (excluding subsets such as League Leaders) in tile form…

Foster Topps

Foster began his Topps career in 1971 as a “Rookie Star” with Mike Davison, whose final big league game was in October of 1970. After being traded to the Reds for Frank Duffy and Vern Geishert, Foster became an integral part of the Big Red Machine, primarily manning left field but also spending some time in right and center. His 1977 MVP season was one of the best of the decade, hitting 52 home runs (when 50 actually meant something) and driving in 149, compiling an 8.4 WAR in the process. Foster was traded before the 1982 season to the New York Mets for Greg Harris, Jim Kern and Alex Trevino, but he was a shadow of his former self in the Big Apple. In August 1986, Foster was released by the Mets and signed eight days later with the Chicago White Sox. He played only fifteen games in the south side, and Topps failed to produce any cards of the once great slugger in a White Sox uniform.

There have been a handful of custom cards made by bloggers to represent Foster as he might have appeared in the 1986 Topps Traded set. I made a pathetic attempt in 2008. Steve at White Sox Cards did a much better job using an actual photograph in 2009, though the only photo he could find was tiny. Dick Allen Hall of Fame went above and beyond with his Photoshop skills last year.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a couple more photos of Foster wearing the White Sox uniform, so I decided to do a new 1986 Topps Traded as well as a 1987 Topps Final Tribute.

1986 Topps Traded George  Foster

1987 Topps George  Foster

Now had I thought of it earlier, I would have also included Foster’s appearance in Topps’ 1990 Senior Baseball set in the tile. Oh well, at least I thought to link to it before hitting the “publish” button.

(BTW, to give credit where credit is due, that 1987 Topps font comes courtesy of The Phillies Room.)

Fun Cards Submissions: First pitches (part 1)

TWJ contributor Patrick asked if I considered making “fun cards” out of the ceremonial first pitch photos I had posted the past couple of weeks. I told him it had crossed my mind, but if he wanted to tackle that project, go for it! He didn’t disappoint, using some of the photos I posted and finding a few others, like Sandy Koufax below.


Today and tomorrow I will post those that I had already shown you, and on Wednesday I will show you some that he dug up that I hadn’t seen yet in my searches. Hit the jump to see the first few.

Read the rest of this entry

Fun Cards: 1986 Topps “Record Breaker” Billy Hamilton

Minor League Stolen Base Record
Photo credit: AP

Reds prospect Billy Hamilton broke Vince Coleman‘s single-season record for most stolen bases in the minor leagues last night when he stole third base in the third inning for his 146th of the season. Coleman set the record in 1983 while playing for the Class A Macon Redbirds; Hamilton has split this season between the Advanced A Bakersfield Blaze and the AA Pensacola Blue Wahoos. Most expect a September call-up for Hamilton, but waiting until then would make the speedster ineligible for the postseason (unless the team exploits one of the loopholes in the rules).

The card above is, of course, a “fun card”…a custom creation that does not exist outside the virtual world. I used the 1986 Topps “Record Breaker” template and flipped it horizontally, making some other minor adjustments to the design.

Click here to see the video of Hamilton swiping base #146.

Fun Cards: 1986 Topps Aroldis Chapman

1986 Topps Aroldis Chapman the Cuban Missile

It’s time for your daily dose of Aroldis Chapman, this time in the form of 1986 Topps. I started collecting baseball cards in 1985, but in 1986 my parents gave me the complete factory set for Christmas, along with Lester the dummy and Scott Trakker and T-Bob from M.A.S.K. I still have the 1986 Topps set and Lester. Scott and T-Bob…might be in a box in the basement.

Fun Cards: 1986 Topps Traded Barry Larkin

Kurt Stillwell wore #11 for the Reds in 1986 and 1987; Barry Larkin donned #15 until 1988, when Stillwell was traded to Kansas City for Danny Jackson. Lark appeared in 41 games for the Redlegs in 1986, starting in 36, but that wasn’t enough for Topps to include him in their year-end Traded set. He even played three games at second base, the only time in his MLB career he took a defensive position other than shortstop.

I’m still waiting

For some reason, I still have a 1986 Topps Rob Picciolo card in my account, with no pending trade offers for a 1985 card…any 1985 card. It could be Kirby Puckett or Gary Pettis or Wayne Krenchicki…it doesn’t matter to me! So make me an offer and get me one card closer to 1952!

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