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, and every Score baseball card ever made. 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 2-3 per week.

 

I initially planned to include Score cards here, but decided they would over-saturate the 1990's and make it tougher to pull modern players—we don't want to be TOO nostalgic. So please enjoy randomly-selected Topps cards from 1987-present.

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

 

Click on images for larger views.

Topps Frank Thomas
Topps Frank Thomas

4/4/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps #24 Frank Thomas, Athletics

More Frank Thomas Topps Cards: 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008

"Frank Thomas is a big person." wrote one astute publication back in the 1990's. They weren't wrong. With exceptional power and a keen batting eye, Thomas was truly worthy of the "Big Hurt" nickname; he put the hurt on just about everybody through the years.

The former Auburn tight end (1986) was a #1 pick of the White Sox in '89, and in MLB the following season. He reached stardom in, oh, about a couple hours; before long he was winning consecutive AL MVP awards in 1993-94 and guiding the White Sox to first place.

As you'll see on the flip side of this card, Thomas continued putting up incredible numbers thru 1997 when he won the AL batting title. Then came a mysterious drop-off in '98 and a ho-hum 99. Thomas rebounded with a true-to-past-form 2000 campaign...but whether due to age, injuries or both, Thomas would be done as a .300 hitter going forward, though he continued to slug when healthy.

Near the end of his Chicago days he was not healthy often (torn triceps in 2001, ankle break in 2004, foot fracture in the Sox' championship year of 2005). A contentious divorce from Chicago ensued, and Thomas joined the A's on a 1Y/$500K deal (plus hefty incentives) for 2006. He was a force for the resurgent A's, and parlayed that into a 2Y/$18M deal from Toronto...with an option we'll discuss below.

Though Thomas ripped career homer #500 with Toronto, they, too, split on bad terms. Here, Thomas has returned to Oakland for what would be his final 55 major league games.

THIS CARD: Thomas's unmistakable follow-through in which he seemed about 10 feet wide tip-to-tip. Upon first joining the A's in '06, he looked way off in Oakland's green-and-gold—many do—but after homering what seemed like every couple of games, those colors matched him beautifully.

Remember: Rickey Henderson wore #35 in his first go with the A's. Bob Welch took it during the Tony LaRussa era, and when he returned to Oakland to find #34 retired, Dave Stewart briefly switched to #35. Many, many dudes have cycled through it since Thomas.

More from Thomas's 2008 season: it took close to a month for him to go yard with the A's, finally doing so twice against Tampa Bay 5/19. A quad injury sidelined him for June/July, and recurred in September. But Thomas finished hot, going 6-for-his-final-11 in late August.

(flip) The Big Hurt gets a sunset card, one year after Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa did not.

Thomas was a free agent in April 2008? It's true—shortly into the season Toronto decided to make Thomas a part-timer, allegedly due to performance. But an angry Thomas believed he was being prevented from reaching the plate appearances needed to vest his 2009 contract option, so BOOM! Within 24 hours, he was gone.

This Six Degrees Of Mantle can actually be done in three or four degrees, since Thomas played with both Durham and Righetti. And if Mantle were still alive today, we could play One Degree Of Mantle, since both men are in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Every great while, Topps will forget to italicize a league leading stat, but not in this case; believe it or not Thomas never led his league in HR or RBI—not even with the 143 RBI in 2000! He did finish 2nd in homers four times, however, so there's that.

AFTER THIS CARD: Nothing. 2008 was the end of the line for Thomas, who sat out 2009 before retiring in early 2010 as a ceremonial member of the White Sox despite the previous acrimony (they also retired his #35 in August 2010). He was a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, and remains connected to the game through his broadcasting work for FOX and NBC Sports Chicago. You've also probably seen Thomas's commercials pitching Nugenix...the dude hasn't aged at all.

Frank Thomas appeared annually in Topps 1990-2009.

CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps, Oakland Athletics

More April 2020 Topps Cards Of The Day

Topps League Leaders
Topps League Leaders

4/1/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps #224 League Leaders, NL RBI

More 2012 Topps League Leaders: n/a

 

In 2011, Matt Kemp enjoyed his very best year (though 2012 would have topped it had health permitted). He was runner-up in the NL MVP voting, missed a 40-40 season by a homer, and drove in 18 more runs than he did in any other season before or since. As a Giants fan, I got to watch a lot of it up close—Kemp slashed .359/.446/.672 against San Francisco in 2011, and it seemed all of it was critical.

#2 in the RBI race was Prince Fielder in his walk year with the Brewers. After a "down" year in 2010, Fielder was named to his third All-Star team in 2011. Three months into the season, he was ahead of Kemp 69-63 in RBI, but inexplicably went the entire month of July with just seven driven in—needing three in the final five days to even reach that total.

Like Kemp and Fielder, Ryan Howard is perennially high on the RBI leaderboard, having led the league thrice between 2006-09. Howard's 116 RBI in 2011 actually represented the second lowest figure of his six full seasons to that point. 

 

 

THIS CARD: This is our first 2012 Topps League Leaders selection. And you knowing that does not benefit you or me in any way.

Kemp is shown driving one away from Dodger Stadium; he accumulated exactly 63 RBI home and away in 2011.

In 2010-11 Howard was in transition—no longer dominant as in the 2000's, not yet a liability as in the mid-2010's. You can tell which Ryan Howard you're getting by his body type; here, you've got the "good" Ryan Howard because he's a still little chunky. (The "dominant" Ryan Howard was a lot chunky.) The "B" patch on his jersey is for late co-owners Whip and Jim Buck.

(flip) There should be no red on a NL Leaders card.

This was Tulowitzki's first and only time over 100 RBI, and only appearance on an RBI leaderboard.

Pujols dipped below 100 RBI for the only time in his first 12 seasons. Today he's just 222 behind Hank Aaron for first all-time.

2011 was Morse's career year; he never had more than 62 RBI in any other season.

AFTER THIS CARD: Kemp drove home 25 runs in his first 23 games of 2012, then didn't appear high on any RBI leaderboards until 2015-16, when he ranked 4th and 3rd in the NL, respectively. The free agent is currently hoping to continue his career at 35.

Fielder, who'd racked up as many as 141 RBI with the Brewers, came back down to earth somewhat after signing with the Tigers (opportunities were fewer with Miguel Cabrera in that lineup). Still, he placed 5th in AL RBI in consecutive years (2012-13) and 9th in 2015. His career ended after neck surgery in 2016.

Howard, as you may know, shredded his Achilles in the 2011 playoffs. He was never the same player again, maxing out at 95 RBI in 2014 (a year he hit .223). His career ended during the 2017 season, as MiLB contracts with the Braves and Rockies led nowhere.

CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps, League Leaders

Topps Curt Schilling
Topps Curt Schilling

4/2/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Topps #569 Curt Schilling, Orioles

More Curt Schilling Topps Cards: 1990 1992 1992T 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2000T 2001 2002 2003 2004 2004T 2005 2006 2007 2008

Depending on your viewpoint, Curt Schilling is either one of the underrated pitchers of any era who should have been enshrined in Cooperstown years ago, or he's an idiot blowhard who's keeping himself out of Cooperstown by not shutting up.

What all Schilling supporters and detractors must agree on, however: in the year 1990, Schilling was not yet on the fast track to greatness. He was originally a Red Sox draft pick who joined Baltimore via 1988 trade; after two short trials with the Orioles, his ledger read 0-4, 8.29, 1.949 WHIP...ouch.

Here, Schilling—still just 24—got an extended look with the 1990 Orioles after being recalled 6/29. Working exclusively out of the bullpen, he went unscored upon in his first six games and earned his first three major league saves. Each one ranged from 2.1 to 4.0 innings!

 

 

THIS CARD: Schilling was one of those guys who seemed real chunky, but really wasn't, as you can see here.

That's #43 on Schilling's back; other notable O's with that number include Sidney Ponson and Jim Johnson for several years each.

The young righty fires off either his 90+ gas, splitter, effective slider or excellent changeup. He also had a curveball but I'm not sure if he had it in 1990.

(flip) For those K totals to be so relatively low (except 1987 Greensboro), Schilling must not have had his splitter yet. Or the organization might have limited his usage of it.

That trade sent Schilling and outfield prospect Steve Finley to Baltimore in exchange for SP Mike Boddicker. 

I was surprised at the long list of Yavapai College alumni in MLB. Schilling's 1990 teammate Bob Milacki was one; active players from that school include outfielders Willie and Kole Calhoun plus closers Ken Giles and Kirby Yates.

AFTER THIS CARD: Blah blah blah trade to the Astros, lecture by Roger Clemens, trade to the Phillies, 300-K seasons, some injuries, trade to Arizona in 2000, more 300-K seasons, trade to Boston, three 20-win seasons in four years, bloody sock in 2004 World Series, 216 wins lifetime, 70% of 2019 Hall of Fame vote, ESPN Sunday Night Baseball gig, lots of political and controversial tweeting.

Curt Schilling appeared annually in Topps 1990-2008. He's also got 1992, 2000 and 2004 Traded cards.

CATEGORIES: 1991 Topps, Baltimore Orioles