Sunday, September 30, 2018

Complete sets from Scribbled Ink #1: 1989 Topps

Some of you may recall that the last time I met up with Paul from Scribbled Ink (as well as John of John's Big League Baseball Blog) at a Tigers game late in August, he was nice enough to flip me a couple complete Topps sets he landed on the cheap from a show.  I promised I'd give them their own posts like I did when purchasing sets from arpsmith way back at the beginning of the year, and now I'm doing just that.

Today's post covers set #1, and one of the junkiest of junk wax sets ever, 1989 Topps.  I can't explain my overall negative opinion of this set for some reason, but the design and player selection just never struck a chord with me.  Still, it's filled with lots of players I collect and it puts me that much closer to owning a nice run of complete flagship sets starting from when I was born in 1983.

As you can see in the image the set Paul gave me was a factory version, and an unopened one at that.  Or at least the cards inside were untouched and shrink-wrapped, so I enjoyed busting them open and sorting them (just one of those little collecting things you've gotta love).  Once I'd freed and sorted all 792 cards they didn't quite fit into the original box so I gave them a new home in one sized for 800, and they're resting much more comfortably there.

So with all that out of the way, let's have a look at some 1989 cardboard!
As usual I'll begin with what I selected as the most significant RCs, and this is a pretty nice group overall.  Biggio, Smoltz, and Johnson are all HOFers, and the other guys weren't exactly chipped liver either.

  • Sheffield has a very good case for the Hall but PED accusations and a reputation as a bad teammate have hurt him so who knows if or when he'll make it?
  • Abbott is of course a PC guy for me and I love that the draft picks appear in their college unis in some cases.  The Angels took him 8th overall in 1988 after a fantastic amateur career and he went on to post a notable tenure in the Majors as well.
  • Sandy Alomar the younger was the 1990 AL ROY after getting flipped from the pictured Padres to Cleveland, and the six-time All-Star had a great 11-year run with the Indians that included pennants in 1995 and '97.
  • Bichette (whose first name was Alphonse, I did not know that!) was more significant than his 5.7 bWAR would indicate.  He put up 201 HR in seven productive seasons with Colorado as part of their inaugural club and made four All-Star rosters.
  • Ventura was a White Sox fan favorite (if not as a manager) thanks to 10 quite productive years with the club, and he had a few good seasons for both New York teams to boot.  A terrific career at Oklahoma State--including a 58-game hitting streak--presaged a great MLB run (56.1 bWAR) for Abbott's fellow 1988 top-10 pick and Olympic Teammate.

Now let's have a look at a couple scans' worth of PC guys.  I believe I locked all of these up not that long ago so none were needs, but it's nice to have them in set form all the same.

Maddux, Ripken, and Whitaker all get just one appearance in this set, which is a shame, but the next two guys get a bit more love.  I was puzzled to see Gibby listed as an All-Star since he doesn't have an appearance in that game listed on his Baseball Reference page.  That led to me learning today that he actually declined an invitation to the 1988 version of the game, and maybe that's why he gets the weird "PH" distinction.  Meanwhile, Trammell did elect to play, though Ripken was the actual starter at SS.  I just don't get Topps sometimes.  Anyway, we'll see the 2018 HOFer again a couple more times.
Besides Abbott's RC above, this scan gives us the rest of the set's Michigan Baseball guys in Sabo, Larkin, Leach, and Ontiveros.  Sabo got the coveted All-Star Rookie trophy and made it onto the MLB's version too on his way to a ROY 1988 campaign.  Larkin, too, was an NL All-Star, his first of 12 appearances.  '88 was Leach's last season in Toronto (he was a Giant in '89), and Ontiveros would also be on the move after the season, heading to Philly.

Gwynn is another one-card guy in this set, and that's mainly down to 1988 being the only year he wasn't an All-Star between '84 and '99.  I'm glad he didn't keep that goofy hairstyle forever, but what he did keep up was his excellent hitting, winning his third batting title.

And Tram gets his second of three appearances, though the third will have to wait until the last scan because I done goofed.  This is his regular base card, though, and the stats on the back paint a picture of a guy who'd quietly put up some very good numbers in Detroit, with more on the way.
And now we get into the not-as-fun stuff:  the 1988 Detroit Tigers of '89 Topps.  Hernandez and Anderson are the only remnants of the '84 champs in this scan, and the former ace closer was decent out of the pen but gave way to a guy we'll see in the next scan.  Fresh off his excellent second half for the Tigers Alexander was fine as well, but he'd play just one more season, and then Detroit fans would rue acquiring him for John Smoltz forever.  Terrell was the team's worst starter and would depart after the season, then return in 1990 for three more years of Walt "Terrible".

Pettis was also in his first of two tours with Detroit and was one of the more valuable guys on the team that year, though that's not saying much.  I'm not sure why anyone thought Searcy was a "future star" but he dispelled that notion quickly.

King was a decent arm out of the pen (and another guy who'd leave and then return in the early 90s, what's up with that?) while the late Robinson was a serviceable fifth starter.  Sheridan's at least interesting to me because although he never put up good numbers, he's an Ann Arbor-born MLBer who went to Eastern Michigan (and won a ring with the '85 Royals).
This scan has a few other players I still like to collect.  The versatile Brookens and Lemon were also '84 holdovers, though both were a couple years from retiring.  Henneman, as I'm sure I say every time I mention him, was one of the best closers in team history.  Nokes was only with Detroit for parts of five seasons but the young catcher was one of my favorites when I was growing up, especially after his excellent '87 season.

As for the guys I wasn't so high on, we'll start with Lynn, who wasn't that great in parts of two seasons in Detroit while at the tail end of his career, and also ended up costing the Tigers catcher Chris Hoiles, another Eastern Michigan alum.  Another notable guy known for a different team, Ray Knight, didn't make the cut for the set for whatever reason despite appearing in more than 100 games during his sunset season.  Walewander and Lusader had super cool last names but their careers are barely worth mentioning, and neither was that of reliever Don Heinkel.  Finally, utility guy Salazar at least enjoyed a career that lasted for more than a decade, but spent just one moderately productive season in Detroit.
Here we'll start with the negatives and then finish up on a high note.  Paul Gibson is one of those guys you always seemed to pull out of junk wax, and if you were me you weren't excited.  I don't know what earned him the Topps All-Star Rookie trophy, but regardless he never lived up to any of that billing.  Murphy came to Detroit from Oakland where he enjoyed several productive seasons, but in '88 he was a year away from retiring and hadn't been useful for a few years.  Heath was at least a serviceable backup behind the dish, but also heading towards the downswing of his career.  And Power's one season in the Detroit pen was unremarkable.

And that leaves us with a few more reminders of the glory of '84.  Tanana put up yet another decent season in the rotation, and the Detroit native would be around for a few more years to boot.  The late Bergman chipped in at 1B and in the OF with a career-best batting average and would also stick around for a while longer.  Morris, of course, was the team's ace, leading the bunch with 15 wins as his dominant decade neared a close, a stretch that finally earned him his Hall of Fame nod.  And finally we have the horizontal team leaders card, one I forgot also includes Trammell during a mound visit between Tanana and Heath.

And that's the 1989 Topps set as I see it.  It may not be my favorite but there's still plenty that interests me while remaining the set I identify most with my early childhood.  I think I've mentioned this before but I believe as kids my brother and I had complete (factory?) sets of '89 Donruss and Topps, but I also recall playing around with them, which probably explains why they didn't remain complete in my possession for long.  No worries, though, as one is once again part of my collection!

Next time we'll be going forward a few years and scoping out 1992 Topps.


  1. Not a huge fan of the 89T design... but it's better than the 1988 Topps (IMHO). The Abbott is one of my favorites in the set.

    1. Yeah, Topps was kind of rough for a while there. Nostalgia-wise sometimes I get interested in reprints and homage sets but the actual cards aren't great.

  2. You know there are a couple different versions of that Sheffield based on gold chain position on the front. I'm pretty sure one retails for $0.11 and the other for $0.115!

    1. Please find me all of them on TCDB and I'll give you $0.13 per--a tidy profit for you!