Topps Baseball Card Of The Day

"We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.'" -- Ben Franklin

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I own every Topps baseball set since 1987. For years I thought long and hard how I could put these cards "to use" aside from sitting in their binders until the end of time. The Card Of The Day was born.

I'd hoped to introduce a new card every single day but that quickly proved impossible under the weight of a regular job and fatherhood—now I'm aiming for 4-5 per week.

 

For years we only profiled Topps cards, but in November 2020 I decided to finally profile Score cards as well; click here to revisit that late, great company. Otherwise, please enjoy randomly-selected Topps cards from 1987-present.

A = Alternate Card  B= Bonus Factory Set Card  F = Factory Team Set  G = Giveaway Set  T = Traded Set  U = Update Set

 

Click on images for larger views.

Topps Paul Molitor
Topps Paul Molitor

12/5/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #463 Highlights, Paul Molitor 3,000th Hit

More 1997 Topps Highlights: n/a

Paul Molitor put up 188 hits in his second big league season, at age 22. In 1982, Milwaukee's lone World Series year to date, he stroked 201 more safeties. But going forward, he battled some debilitating injuries, and despite his famous 39-game hit streak in 1987, Molitor "only" possessed 1,870 hits at age 33.

Fortunately, if you choose to look at it that way, all the time Molitor missed in his 20's preserved his skillz well into his 40's. When he finally rediscovered consistent health, a bevy of high-hit seasons followed, including three seasons over 200 (all three leading the American League!)

Finally, in September 1996, 40-year-old Molitor joined the 3,000-hit club for the otherwise ordinary Minnesota Twins—his hometown team who signed him to a 1Y/$2M deal prior to 1996.

THIS CARD: That #4 was Molitor's staple through Milwaukee and Minnesota (it was taken by Alfredo Griffin in Toronto, and evidently the classy Molitor didn't push for it.)

Imagine the surprise when 17-year-old me ripped open packs of 1997 Topps to find...Highlight cards? Topps had never produced anything like them during my seven years of active collecting to that point. Highlights would appear in some form every year going forward, but these days they're relegated to Update sets and not blurbed; the reverses are Checklists.

In 1997 Topps Series 1, the player's team is under his name. In Series 2, the actual highlight is named.

(flip) Rosado was a pretty good pitcher done in too soon by arm problems. Minnesota went on to lose 6-5 that day, despite a two-run 9th inning comeback which included a sac fly by Molitor.

Today, 32 players have 3,000+ hits, and Ichiro Suzuki has also tripled to reach the milestone.

Molitor did indeed reach 3,200...and 3,300...finishing with 3,319 hits in 1998. He currently ranks 10th all-time, though with a good 2021 Albert Pujols may bump him to 11th.

CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, Highlights

More December 2020 Topps Cards Of The Day

Topps Jason Vargas
Topps Jason Vargas

12/2/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps Update #210 Jason Vargas, Mariners

More Jason Vargas Topps Cards: 2005U 2006 2010U 2011 2012 2013 2013U 2014 2015 2017 2018 2018U 2019

I can't fathom how, out of over 30,000 Topps cards I own, the same player can be randomly selected less than three weeks apart. But...here we are. I'm warning you in advance the last part of this review is copied and pasted from our 11/15/20 review of Vargas's 2013 Topps Update card...my way of sticking it to the Randomizer.

Here, Vargas has just joined the Seattle Mariners in a complex three-team trade with the New York Mets and the Cleveland Indians in December 2008. Vargas, who had been with the Mets, missed the 2008 season recovering from October 2007 elbow surgery and March 2008 hip labrum surgery. He was as low-risk, high-reward of a case around, and his acquisition worked out well for Seattle.

THIS CARD: 2009 Topps is full of warm-up photos like this. I imagine the discussion went:

 

"Okay, Jason. Meet me on this empty, desolate ballfield. In full uniform, of course. I'm gonna give you a baseball and you act like you're about to throw it. Got it? Okay, wait, one more thing. Make sure your expressions look as unnatural as possible. We wouldn't want anyone thinking you're really playing catch, would we?"

Not visible is Vargas's uniform #38, which puts him in decent Mariners company; Danny Tartabull, Mike Jackson, early Raul Ibanez and Joel Piniero also wore #38. Not exactly Ruth, DiMaggio and Mantle but hey, it's the Mariners.

(flip) That month of May, 2009 included two relief appearances and four starts for Vargas; his best game, naturally, was against my Giants. On 5/22 he allowed two hits and a run over seven innings vs. SF but received no decision.

I'm not looking up Vargas's final minor league ERAs—they shouldn't have changed much, if at all—but I'll tell you Vargas had a career 4.29 ERA at the end of 2019, when he last played.

Initially, I was not going to detail the Trade With Mets (And Indians). Then I decided I was going to. Now, after realizing the complexity of the deal one more time, I'll just direct you to Baseballreference.com for trade details.

Apple Valley is located 68 miles NE of Los Angeles, as the crow flies.

AFTER THIS CARD: Vargas split the rest of 2009 between starting and relieving, then became a Mariners rotation mainstay from 2010-12. After going 14-11, 3.85 in 2012, the Mariners swapped Vargas to the Angels for 1B/DH Kendrys Morales—evidently, since both were pending free agents, Seattle felt it needed the bat more than the arm. 

 

Vargas spent a lone, injury-shortened season with the Angels, then Kansas City came calling, signing Vargas for 4Y/$32M in November 2013. After a quality 2014 year with the eventual AL champions, Vargas was unable to contribute on-field to the Royals' 2015 World Series title, as UCL surgery knocked him out from July 2015 to September 2016.

 

The veteran lefty bounced back in 2017 with a league-high 18 wins and his sole career All-Star berth, then signed a 2Y/$18M deal with the Mets in February 2018. Vargas began that year 2-8, 8.75 before turning things around in August; he also missed extended time with hand and calf injuries. In 2019, Vargas—despite shutting out my Giants in June—made more news off-field than on, and was traded to the Phillies at the deadline.

As we noted, Vargas went unsigned for 2020, and at 37 may be done.

Jason Vargas appeared annually in Topps and/or Topps Update 2005-19, except 2007-08 and 2016.

CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps Update, Seattle Mariners

Topps Checklist
Topps Checklist

12/3/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1998 Topps #275, Checklist

More 1998 Topps Checklists: n/a

Topps Checklist cards were heading toward extinction by 1998; they hung around for the 1999 set before disappearing from sets for about a decade. 

As an 18-year-old collector who didn't yet have Internet access or the ability/patience to buy factory sets with checklists printed on the box, I needed in-set checklists. Before the strike, I always knew I was getting 792 cards (or more) in a Topps set; for years after the strike, I didn't know what I was getting without the Checklists cards.

Here, the 1998 Topps Checklist has increased by eight cards over 1997, thanks to a couple of subsets dedicated to the newly-introduced Interleague Play. Still, given the times, I took what I could get from the Company.

THIS CARD: Even after gloss was introduced to Topps cards in 1994, I filled out my Checklist cards...until the 1997 set, whose "checklist" was just a list of names with no box to check. As you see, Topps fixed that in 1998, but as you also see, I didn't bother filling them out anymore. 

Honestly, I'm not sure how I tracked my collecting in 1998-99.

Names on that list I guarantee you forgot (if you ever knew): Roger Bailey, Rich Loiselle, Kevin Polcovich. The latter two were one-and-done in Topps and Bailey may as well have been.

(flip) It took me longer than it should have to find this card in my album because Topps omitted the card number. On both Series 1 Checklists, in fact. That was corrected for Series 2.

Names on that list I guarantee you forgot (if you ever knew): Kevin Orie, Mike Holtz, George Williams. The latter two were one-and-done in Topps and Orie may as well have been.

At least in 1998, stars still received the 0 and 5 card numbers, evidenced by #100 Mike Piazza and #150 Randy Johnson.

CATEGORIES: 1998 Topps, Checklists