Thursday, February 12, 2009

1980 Topps Superstars #5, Jim Rice

Cheer up, Mr. Rice, you’re in the Hall of Fame! Some thought you’d make it, others held you shouldn’t, and it dragged on long enough that still others debated the debating. I just marvel that your hair looks so good on TV!

Card front (5" x 7")

I read through Jim’s Wikipedia entry to better understand all of the blather and palaver. The last section calls out a bunch of interesting similarities to fellow HOFer Ducky Medwick, who played for the Gashouse Gang in St. Louis. Unfortunately for Rice, people who know the political history of the Hall consider Ducky’s era (and even the Cardinals specifically) unfairly over-represented. Perhaps the linking’s meant to be supportive—their circumstances do align remarkably well—but peripheral issues take you in a different direction.

All this observed, I care much for cards and not so much for the Hall itself, so hey—1980 Superstars! Topps crafted these 5”x7” beauties as an oddball companion to the normal 792-card set. Each paper-wrapped pack contained a handful of big, sharp photos and the checklist includes 59 of the era’s best players…and Sixto Lezcano. (Zing!) Curiously, the back states only the player name and team, a dearth of data drowning in dreary grey newsprint.

Two things bother me about this issue. First, the pictures seem like spring training one-offs. Rice’s pose, a pretty uninspiring shot, looks better than 90% of his competitors. Everyone else is looking away from the camera, caught at odd angles, or just not feeling their best. Hey Topps, how about using all that real estate to show a nice action shot? Second, the card backs say almost nothing, a real waste of 35 square inches of space. How about using them to make a big All-Star roster puzzle like they did with 1977’s cloth stickers? A few strategic changes would’ve made them super Superstars.

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