Given the Greek tragedy that is Major League Baseball right now, I needed to do something for me. And the recent volume of baseball card chatter on the Twitter airwaves encouraged me to spend a whopping $12 on three packs this past weekend. Call it FOMO, call it peer pressure, call it the deliriousness brought on by this stay-home order. But no matter what how term it, yours truly is back in the card collecting game at the ripe old age of 36. My wife is thoroughly confused.
Anyway, for my efforts this past Saturday I netted a pair of Ronald Acuña Jr. cards, a Yordan Alvarez rookie card, and a host of other studs like Mookie Betts, Nolan Arenado, Gleyber Torres, Rafael Devers, and more. Maybe the best-looking card I got was a Jorge Soler–the 2020 Donruss Diamond Kings series. And that’s what I know I’ll be into as a card collector. The player is important, but the look of the card is also going to have a huge impact as to what sort of card I choose to keep collecting.
So given that fantasy baseball in 2020 isn’t a guarantee, I figured I’d have some fun with my baseball card wish list. What follows is my current top five, a list of cards I’ll never even come close to owning. But it sure is nice to dream, and it was fun to read into some of the backstory with these pieces of history.
5. Honus Wagner, 1909-1911 ATC T206
Okay, so this isn’t as much about the look of the card as it is the sheer history attached to it. This is the Holy Grail of baseball cards, so valued because of its scarcity. The “ATC” stands for American Tobacco Company, and the scarcity comes from the fact that Wagner asked the card to be pulled from the market for some reason. Maybe he was ahead of his time, and he was against the kiddos smoking? At any rate, only 25 to 200 were put into circulation. Which is why this is a card that has sold for over $3 million. So if you see one lying around your sweet old grandma’s attic, be sure to snatch that sucker up!
4. Roberto Clemente, 1955 Topps #164 (Rookie Card)
Roberto Clemente is an all-time great, so the adoration for this card is partially about Clemente as a player. Clemente played 18 seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates, amassed over 3,000 hits, won an NL MVP, won four batting titles, and was a Gold Glove winner for 12 consecutive years (among many other accolades). Sadly, Clemente also died tragically in a plane crash in 1972, while on his way to Nicaragua to contribute to earthquake relief. A Puerto Rican of African descent, Clemente helped pave the way for Latin American baseball players in the majors, becoming the first Latin American (and Carribean) baseball player to make it into the Hall of Fame. How can you not get behind a trailblazer like that, a man who was involved in tons of charity work during his MLB offseasons? Note the super-sweet horizontal design of this card. It will be relevant again with the No. 1 card on my list.
3. Babe Ruth, 1916 Sporting News
You can’t have a list of iconic baseball cards without Baby Ruth, can you? And how about Ruth being pictured as a pitcher? That’s not quite like picturing Edgar Martinez as a position player, but it’s in the same ball park (yes, pun intended). Anyway, shout-out to Babe Ruth’s 94-46 record and 2.28 career ERA as a pitcher. What a hoss. Anyway, part of what makes this card cool is that this is prior to Ruth’s days as a New York Yankee.
2. Mickey Mantle, 1952 Topps #311
Speaking of Yankees, we can’t leave this one off the list. This card is arguably as noticeable as the Wagner card, at least as far as being recognized in the card collecting community. And for what it’s worth, 1952 was the year Mantle made his first All-Star appearance. I’m not saying that’s why that card is so valuable. I just thought it was a nice caveat.
1. Hank Aaron, 1955 Topps #47
Fun fact, this headshot was the same headshot that Topps used on Aaron’s 1954 rookie card. Also fun fact, this year was the first year Aaron would be selected as an All-Star. Neither have anything to do with why this card is my top choice. I’m a lifelong Braves fan, so it had to be Hammerin’ Hank in the top spot. I grew up watching the Braves and reading any MLB history book I could get my hands on. Among the many tidbits I enjoyed about Aaron were the stories of his frequent nap-taking, as well as his batting cross-handed as a righty (with his left hand above his right). Anyway, I think this 1955 Topps set is my favorite by far. I love the horizontal look, and that year was packed with stars. Aside from Clemente and Aaron, there was also Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax (rookie card), Harmon Killebrew (rookie card), Jackie Robinson, and Ted Williams. What a set!
What say you guys? What cards did I leave off? Any glaring omissions? And how about that Topps set? I’m new to the card game, but is there a set more packed with stars?