One of the best things in sports is the element of surprise. An underdog beats Goliath during March Madness; a 5'7 guard defeats the Human Highlight Film for the Slam Dunk Competition; a trade following their 4th Stanley Cup in 5 years sends the Great One to SoCal. Today we are at number 25 in our countdown to 2017 Topps.
Following two disappointing seasons marred by injuries and inconsistencies at the plate, no one expected Andres Galarraga to do the things he did for the first-year Colorado Rockies. Despite missing 40 or so games with injury, El Gato Grande flirted with .400 much of the season before taking the N.L. Batting Title with a .370 mark- the highest for any right-handed hitter since Joe DiMaggio led the majors at .381 during the 1939 season. Galarraga would never hit for that high of an average again (who would?), but subsequent years would prove that '93 was no fluke.
Pulling a card of Galarraga from a pack of 1994 Topps would bring with it an element of surprise. The defending batting champ was also a slick fielder, so one would expect to see a photo of the former Gold Glove first baseman picking a low throw from third or stretching to grab a ball just before a runner crosses the bag. Collectors would be even more likely to expect a photo of the Cat at the plate, unleashing his fury upon a 92 MPH fastball. But instead, Topps threw us a curve in a fastball count and gave us this photo of Andres sliding in to third base. But upon further reflection, perhaps the photo selection wasn't so strange. Though not a burner, the large man did possess surprising speed for his size and finished his career with 128 stolen bases, with a career high of 18 coming during the 1996 season.
When watching football, we are not surprised to see a very large athlete who possesses a lot of speed. In fact, it's almost a given these days that a defensive lineman will run a low-5/40 during the NFL combine. But, for some reason, a large slugger with 'sneaky speed' is unheard of. And that's the beauty behind this 23 year-old piece of cardboard.