Sunday, March 06, 2011


Topps Baseball Cards-2011

My hands always tremble a little when I open my first pack of cards from a new issue. While checking out of the local Target store, I happened to spot a rack of trading cards near the news stand.

There was the usual mix of sport and non-sport cards. Surprisingly, there were packs of Upper Deck Series Two hockey cards. Included in the packs were Stanley Cup winner Patrick Sharp from the Black Hawks and the Leafs Nikolai Kelemin. The Hawks are in a dog fight just to make the playoffs this year in the seriously competitive west. The Leafs are making some waves, but have a mountain to climb before they decide on the parade route on Yonge Street.

I was surprised to find Donruss hockey cards as well, making their first appearance in several years. I only purchased a couple of packs, but netted a card of Dwayne Roloson, a veteran goalie who played a year with the Belleville Bobcats. David Booth, a spectacular young forward with the Florida Panthers, was in the second pack I cracked. Mike Smith, who has almost as many relatives in “The County” as Tod Lavender, is captured in his Lightning uniform with a picture of “Storm” from the X-Men movie on his mask. Storm as you will recall, was played by Halle Berry, never a bad thing.

Topps has been marketing baseball cards for 60 years. The 1952 series is the one most treasured by card collectors. The Mickey Mantle card in that series has truly driven the hobby for many years. Part of the mystique arose from Mantle’s prowess on the field. He played for the New York Yankees, who dominated baseball when Mantle roamed the outfield.

The Brooklyn Dodgers can rightfully be considered the main competitor of the Yankees during that period. Sadly, one of the great Dodger players passed away this past week. Duke Snider, a member of baseball’s Hall of Fame, became a fan favourite of Canadians following his storied career. He worked with Dave Van Horne on Montreal Expo broadcasts.
Personally, I really enjoyed rain delays during the Expo games. That gave Duke a chance to spin a yarn or two about the game. He was informative, humourous, and easily related wonderful stories about the game and its players. He had played for the Montreal Royals in the International League before joining the Dodgers.

Jackie Robinson also played for the Royals before moving up to the Dodgers. He was the first African American to break the colour barrier. A replica of Robinson’s 1952 topps was included in the packs I opened. Naturally, I would have preferred the original, with a value of several thousand dollars.

On the back of Jackie’s card, there is a wealth of information. He was the Rookie of the Year in 1947, when he played 151 games as a first baseman. In 1949, he was the league’s MVP, and an all star for the next three years, but as a second baseman. He led the way for so many other truly great African American players, and was a first ballot Hall of Famer.

Stephen Strasburg, the towering fireballer with the Washington Nationals, is pictured on card # 10. On the back of the card are the words: “Steven may miss 2011 as he rehabs from elbow surgery.” You may strike the word “may” from that sentence. He had “Tommy John” surgery, effectively eliminating him from play this season. The Senators, in effect, the transplanted Expos, will struggle again this season. They look forward to the arrival of Bryce Harper, the first overall draft choice out of Nevada.

Harper will start in the Nationals’ farm system, as he has yet to celebrate his nineteenth birthday. He does bring hope to the woeful Nationals, and every baseball fan will be watching his progress carefully.

Less than a month from now, the rosters will be filled, and the games will begin-all 162 for every team. In the meantime, I will enjoy four March games here in Fort Myers.

James Hurst---March 5, 2011

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