Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Countdown to 2016 Topps #1: Outliers

I was perusing Facebook the other day and found myself reading some comments that others had left on a friend's post regarding the Iowa caucus. One man's comments, in particular, compelled me to jump in. I can no longer access the thread for reference (it was deleted, apparently), but his views basically boiled down to this: stupid people who vote render his vote useless and should not have a right to vote; only landowners should be able to vote; you must past a test in order to vote. Sounds like practices used in Jim Crow south, if you ask me. But anyway,  I asked him how does land ownership equate intelligence. Was he saying all land owners are intelligent? Are there no intelligent people that rent? 'Back in the day you had to own property in order to vote...' was how he started his response, to which I retorted "'back in the day' neither women nor blacks could vote. Be thankful that you live in a country where we can vote, regardless of intellect." 

In case you didn't know, Topps decided to allow the democratic process to take place in electing the player who would occupy the top spot in this year's set, which comes out tomorrow. Congratulations, Mike Trout.

In announcing that collectors had chose Angels outfielder Mike Trout to grace card number 1 in this year's Topps set, David Leiner, VP and GM of North American Sports and Entertainment for Topps, spoke about the historical aspect of the card number. "The first card in the Topps baseball set has historically been given to top players or has been meaningful," he said. "This time around, we wanted our great collectors to be part of the 65th Topps baseball set, and they made their mark by picking one of the best players in baseball today." 

After reading Leiner's quote, I tried to recall any Number 1 cards that featured players who were neither superstars nor, in the case of Andy Pafko (a 5x All Star), at least stars. I could remember cards such as the Record Breakers, World Champion Team Checklists, League Leaders and even ones for baseball executives that have held the top spot, but that was it. Then I stumbled upon an outlier whose name sounded like a professional wrestler.

To tell you the truth, I wasn't very familiar with Rhodes. Other than the heroics he displayed during the 1954 World Series, I couldn't tell you anything about him. Maybe that's because there wasn't much else to his game. He couldn't run and he couldn't field and, apart from the 1954 and 1955 seasons, he didn't hit much, either; his skills were so limited that manager Leo Durocher threatened to quit if the team didn't trade the guy who was basically taking up a valuable roster spot. They couldn't find any takers so Durocher was stuck with Dusty. Leo later confessed how wrong he had been in his assessment of Rhodes. I wonder if he would be singing the same tune if the hard-drinking country boy from Alabama had not helped him win his only World Series title. 

"I ain't much of a fielder, and I got a pretty lousy arm, but I sure love to whack that ball," Dusty once told a newspaper reporter. I find that kind of honesty refreshing- and am glad that Topps chose someone known more for a moment or two in time than for their superior skills. After all, not everyone is an intelligent landowner. 

If you had your choice of electing a player for the top card, who would be your choice? What's your favorite #1 card of All-Time?


  1. "Sounds like practices used in Jim Crow south"

    It's exactly what he was saying. And the idea of democracy is that my vote will cancel out yours and vice versa. He should be thankful that a dimwit like himself has the right to vote.

    1. Get'em, very true though. My dad curses me for cancelling out his vote every year.