As part of the celebration of the 70th anniversary of Topps baseball cards, we've asked fans (as well as our staff) to submit their all-time favorite baseball cards, and we've broken them down by team. We'll be revealing submissions regularly throughout the season, ranging from the famous to the weird, and everything in between.
Eric Chavez, 2008 Upper Deck Heroes
The patch/autograph combo version of this card was sent in by Travis Thompson, a big Chavez fan who was lucky enough to pull it in a pack.
"At the time I got this card, I was a big Eric Chavez fan," he recalls. "I had recently gotten back into collecting cards, and I went down to the local card shop to pick up a couple packs. In my first pack I got this 1/15 auto/patch Chavez with what looks like a part of the number showing."
It's an awesome card, both because of the A's-colored piece of Chavez's jersey that's embedded in it and just for the design, capturing the Oakland slugger photographed during the follow-through of his left-handed swing.
Classic A's rookie card: Reggie Jackson, 1969 Topps
While Jackson sported a few different looks over the years, it usually involved some sort of facial hair, an afro and glasses.
It’s interesting to see how Jackson looked at the beginning of his career, long before he became Mr. October. His rookie card captures that, showing a clean-shaven, short-haired and slightly thinner version of the slugger.
Jackson actually debuted in ‘67, the A’s final year in Kansas City, but Topps didn’t include him in its ‘68 set. By the time he finally made his Topps debut, Jackson had nearly 200 games of experience under his belt.
The ‘69 campaign proved to be a true breakout year for Jackson, who finished fifth in the American League MVP Award race after producing 47 homers, 118 RBIs, 123 runs and a 1.018 OPS -- figures he never topped in any other season.
It was also the final year Oakland used this version of the “A” as its cap logo. The franchise added an apostrophe S to its caps beginning in 1970 to match its primary logo. -- Thomas Harrigan
Mark McGwire, 1985 Topps USA Baseball
The 1984 U.S. Olympic baseball team was as star-studded as they come. Back then, Team USA was comprised of the best college players in the game, and this roster was loaded with future MLB stars -- among them six-time All-Star Will Clark and Hall of Famer Barry Larkin. Another budding star was Mark McGwire, who would go on to hit 583 homers in the Majors.
This card was submitted by our own Angels beat writer Rhett Bollinger, who explains why it holds special meaning for him:
“My dad went to Damien High School and USC at the same time as McGwire, so I always followed his career closely,” Bollinger wrote. “I thought it was cool the card was Team USA, which featured USC coach Rod Dedeaux and future Hall of Famer and fellow Trojan Randy Johnson.”
Johnson was cut from the team before that year’s Olympic competition began in Los Angeles, but he ended up doing alright -- he became a Hall of Fame pitcher who owns the record for most strikeouts by a left-hander (4,875). -- Manny Randhawa
Like the Pirates in the National League, the ‘70s A’s had a lot of different uniform combinations. Seeing multiple combos represented in his card collection was a special thrill for A’s fan Tim Aldridge of Purcellville, Va., who didn’t get a chance to see the club that often on television as a kid.
“The very first pack of cards I ever opened was as an 8-year-old in 1974,” Aldridge wrote. “The very first card in that first pack was Bert Campaneris. I thought [the A’s] uniforms were awesome -- the green and gold with their white shoes.
“When I opened up a pack later that spring and saw this [Holtzman] card with [the A’s] gold-on-gold combination, I was surprised at yet another [uniform] variation [for] what was the most flamboyant team in all of baseball. This particular card shows that and, with what I’m guessing is Billy North in center field in the background, summed up my favorite uniform combination of my favorite team from my absolute favorite set -- ‘74 Topps!” -- Thomas Harrigan
Best A's facial hair card: Dennis Eckersley, 1989 Topps
While it might not be the most recognizable mustache in A’s history -- that belongs to either Rollie Fingers or Mike Fiers, depending on if you’re a traditionalist or a contrarian -- Eckersley’s 1989 Topps card showed off Eck’s famous facial hair that he still rocks to this day. His mustache, combined with his slightly-too-long hair, was an inspiration for highway patrol officers and firefighters for years to come.
And a fireman Eck was for the A’s, becoming in 1992 one of only nine relievers to win a Cy Young Award and one of four to win the MVP Award. Eck finished his career with 390 saves -- 320 of which came with Oakland. He did it all after a 12-year run as a starter in Cleveland, Boston and Chicago, having racked up 151 wins during that time. He is the only player in the 300 saves club with more than 150 wins.
As for his 1989 season, Eckersley had one of the best campaigns of his incredible five-year run between '88-'92. He collected 33 saves while posting an ERA of 1.56 across 51 games in just his second season as a full-time closer. He came in sixth in Cy Young Award voting and fifth in MVP Award voting, giving up just 10 earned runs all year. -- Nicholas Aguilera
Barry Zito, 2003 Topps Own the Game
This is a beautiful card of the young Zito, with rainbow blobs shimmering around the A's left-hander as he delivers a pitch, no doubt one of his signature swooping curveballs.
In 2003, the 25-year-old Zito was the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, after going 23-5 with a 2.75 ERA the year before for the AL West champs. He was one third of the A's Big 3 starting pitching trio along with Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder.
In fact, Zito had quite the run in his first seven big league seasons with the A's, posting a 3.55 ERA with 1,096 strikeouts and six straight 200-inning seasons from 2001-06. He was a three-time All-Star.
Reggie Jackson, 1970 Topps
Jackson broke out in ‘69, making his first All-Star team and finishing with 47 homers, 118 RBIs and 123 runs for the A’s.
Topps’ ‘70 set included a subset of cards that commemorated some of the players who were All-Stars the previous year, including Jackson, and featured a unique newspaper motif.
The design was especially fitting for the slugger, who had a knack for grabbing the headlines, both with his play and his personality. Sans facial hair, the 22-year-old Jackson is almost unrecognizable.
The card was submitted by Burke Willis of Newfane, N.Y., who wrote:
“Not only is it just a cool card, but I found it in a pack of 1991 Topps. I was 11 at the time and had just started collecting. Topps had a promotion for their 40th anniversary cards, and they inserted old cards into packs. There were much fewer inserts of any kind back then. I felt incredibly lucky to find it, and it was one of the reasons I've been collecting ever since. I knew even at 11 that that card needed to go right into a hard case. Been there ever since." -- Thomas Harrigan
DiMaggio? In the green and gold? Don’t forget that the Yankee Clipper grew up in the Bay Area -- in fact, his family owned a restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.
DiMaggio played pro ball with the Pacific Coast League’s San Francisco Seals (before the Giants moved west from New York in 1958) before being signed by the Yankees. He actually had a longer hitting streak in the PCL than his record-56-game hitting streak in the Majors -- from May 27-July 25, 1933, he hit safely in 61 consecutive games. The rest is history.
And in the later part of that history, DiMaggio returned to his Bay Area roots to be a coach with the A’s. That’s why we see him in this great card in a classic Oakland uniform -- chatting with, unsurprisingly, Yankees manager Ralph Houk around the batting cage.
And check out those colors on the uniform!
Jason from Reno, Nev., submitted this gem, and along with it, a statement sure to rankle Yankees fans.
“There’s nothing better than seeing him in green and gold,” he wrote. -- Manny Randhawa
Iconic Athletics card: Rickey Henderson, 1980 Topps
For much of the 1980s, there were the three major baseball card companies: Topps, Fleer and Donruss. As a result, many of the top stars of that decade, such as Don Mattingly, Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken Jr., have several rookie cards each. But at the start of the decade, Topps still had a stranglehold on the marketplace, which means collectors have one option when it comes to Henderson rookie cards.
A 1980 Topps Henderson card in top condition can be quite valuable. A Henderson rookie card with a PSA grade of 10 (the best grade) recently sold for $168,000 in a Dallas auction. But Cameron Tran of Westwood, Mass., has no interest in parting with his cherished Henderson rookie card, which depicts the outfielder at the plate in a yellow A’s jersey, his trademark crouched batting stance instantly recognizable.
“My rookie PSA 8.5 Rickey Henderson Topps card that I got from my Mom [is my favorite card],” Tran wrote. “I don't want to sell it as it looks great on my shelf.”
Scott Efting of San Jose, Calif., acquired his Henderson rookie card in a fortuitous swap.
“When I was about 10 years old, I traded an Amos Otis card for this Rickey Henderson card,” Efting wrote. “Might go down as the best trade ever!”
The 1980 campaign was when Henderson arrived as a true superstar, hitting .303 with a .420 on-base percentage, scoring 111 runs and leading the Majors with 100 steals. Henderson ended up spending 14 seasons with the A's over four separate stints. MLB's all-time leader in runs and steals and a member of the 3,000-hits club, Henderson was inducted into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot in 2009. -- Thomas Harrigan
Bert Campaneris, 1967 Topps
Thanks to Ted House for submitting this Campaneris card from the 1967 Topps set and sharing his memories of the time period.
“Even before [owner Charlie Finley] eventually was permitted to break our hearts and move our beloved A's to Oakland after the 1967 season, everyone in Kansas City who loved the A's knew that this core of very talented young players would someday soon comprise an outstanding team. … But of all the young talent, my favorite was Bert ‘Campy’ Campaneris. For a team without much to brag about, Campy had led the American League in stolen bases three years in a row. I can remember sitting in the grandstand with my father and brother wondering how anybody could run so fast. The kid could fly. He wasn't Mickey Mantle or Carl Yastrzemski or Harmon Killebrew. But he was ours and we loved him.
“In my opinion, the 1967 baseball set is the most attractive design Topps has ever produced. I would beg my mom for a nickel to buy a pack of Topps baseball cards when we went to the grocery store. Many times my friends and I would ride our bikes to the dime store to buy cards. I didn't want Yankees or even the cross-state Cardinals. I wanted to open the pack and see those green and gold uniforms. The Campaneris card in 1967 was No. 515 so I couldn't get my hands on it until later in the summer. I would trade a half-dozen Mickey Mantles for one Dagoberto Campaneris. The Cuban-born Campy was our guy and he was really exciting and we loved him. Of course, the A's had a winning season their first year in Oakland in 1968. Catfish Hunter pitched a perfect game and no one in Kansas City was surprised when within seven years of leaving Municipal Stadium the A's had won three World Series championships. By then the Royals had won our hearts, but we were happy for Campy and the gang who had come of age.”
Campaneris is perhaps best known for playing all nine positions in a single game in 1965, becoming the first player in AL/NL history to do so. But he was a steady contributor for the A's for many years, making six All-Star teams, leading the AL in steals six times and providing strong defense over his 13 seasons with the franchise. -- Thomas Harrigan
Error cards are fun, but this one is a doozy -- if you believed the stats on the back of it, you'd believe Reddick won 1,371 games as a pitcher.
Since Reddick is an outfielder and has pitched exactly two-thirds of an inning in his career -- and that came on July 10 when his D-backs lost to the Dodgers, 22-1 -- that doesn't seem right. And of course, it's not. Even if you didn't know Reddick was an outfielder, the 1,371 wins seems a bit excessive since Cy Young holds the all-time record with 511. But in any case, it's fun!
Thanks to Ari B. of Lawrence, New York, for submitting this card in our survey.
Surf the internet and I don’t think you will find a card that screams 1990s baseball cards quite like McGwire’s 1991 Fleer card. An airbrushed portrait of Big Mac? Check. An American flag in the background for no particular reason? Check. A pose that highlights the Bash Bro’s biceps? Double check. There’s a little something for everyone on this piece of cardstock.
The card must have put a jinx on McGwire, as he set a career low in homers for a season where he played more than 50 games with 22 the following year. He also hit just .201 with a .714 OPS that season, yet still made the All-Star team. Of course, his career wasn’t defined by that one year and he went on to sock a few dingers afterwards. -- Nick Aguilera
Crisp tried his best Oscar Gamble impression in 2014, letting the 'fro grow to maximum volume. The card gives off some old school vibes, as nowadays, it’s rare to see a player pictured out of the batter’s box or in the dugout.
Crisp came over to Oakland in 2010 and immediately became a fan favorite. The Los Angeles native was able to play in California for the first time in his career and he looked rejuvenated, stealing 30 or more bases in three straight seasons after arriving, including a career-high 49 in 2011. The 15-year veteran spent seven years with the A’s, swatting 69 homers, stealing 169 bags and even receiving some AL MVP Award love from the voters in 2013, tying for 15th place on the ballot. -- Nick Aguilera
1990s throwback card: Rickey Henderson, 1991 Upper Deck
Multiple exposure cards were an Upper Deck specialty in the company's early years, and this was one of the best examples, showing Henderson starting to break toward second base.
It was submitted by Todd P. of Chicago, who listed two reasons why the card stands out to him.
“It features great action photography of Rickey being Rickey, but on top of that it was printed when Rickey had 936 stolen bases, 2 shy of Lou Brock's then-record," Todd wrote. "There's just a really cool sense of inevitability about the card and it captures my all-time favorite player in all his glory.”
Henderson surpassed Brock to become the all-time stolen base king on May 1, 1991, when he stole third base in the bottom of the fourth inning against the Yankees. -- Thomas Harrigan
Jose Canseco, 2020 Topps Sterling
Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Canseco was arguably the best position player in baseball. He became the first 40-40 man (40 or more homers and 40 or more steals in the same season) in 1988, and smashed 204 homers for Oakland from 1986-91.
Imagine being a huge Canseco fan, and someone tells you that in 30 years or so, you'll have the knob from a bat he used in a game? Tanner J. from Tomball, Tex., would probably have been shocked to hear that.
"I am a collector of Jose Canseco baseball cards," he wrote when submitting this card in our survey. "While I have all kinds of stories for each card, this one is my current favorite Topps offering. Plain and simple, it is beautiful, and features a knob from a bat that my childhood hero swung during an official MLB game. Everything about it is perfect!"
And there you have it: the magic of relic cards, which have been among the most popular cards in the industry since they were introduced in the late 1990s. -- Manny Randhawa
Mike Piazza, 2007 Topps Trading Places
This is a two-for-one "He played there?" card because it features Piazza in both a Padres and A's uniform.
The Hall of Famer only played a season apiece for each of those teams, and they were his last two in the big leagues at age 37 and 38.
In his final 83 games in Oakland in 2007, Piazza hit eight home runs to bring his career total to 427.
This card was submitted by A’s fan Mark Ambrose, who offered up three reasons why he likes it so much, writing:
“First, '71 is one of the most striking designs Topps ever came up with, with its then unheard of black border and its cartoonless back, featuring instead a headshot of the player, distinct from the front photo. To me, this design is second only to 1965. Second, the front photo of this card shows a genuinely smiling Blue striking a typical faux-pitching pose, but with a difference: it's easy to imagine he's not pretending to be pitching, but waving to us or flashing a victory sign, or something like that. Third, the timing: 1971 would of course be the year the sophomore Blue would win both the Cy Young and the AL MVP after winning 24 games, striking out 301 batters and leading the league with an amazing ERA of 1.82.”
While Blue debuted in the Majors in ‘69, this was actually his first solo Topps card. The left-hander was included in Topps ‘70 set on a rookie stars combo card with long-time battery-mate Gene Tenace. After throwing 38 2/3 innings of 2.09 ERA ball that season, Blue delivered the finest year of his career in ‘71, as Ambrose noted. -- Thomas Harrigan
Carney Lansford, 1991 Fleer
Lansford was just a solid baseball player. He was part of some great A’s clubs in the late 1980s and was always a key contributor, even with the “Bash Brothers,” Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, grabbing the headlines with their prodigious power.
Jennifer K. of Vallejo, Calif., submitted this card of her favorite player growing up.
“I played third base in softball, just to be like him,” Jennifer wrote. “I always used his down-and-ready, glove-on-the-ground stance. I even wore No. 4, just to be like him! Sadly, I was never as good at hitting or fielding as Captain Carney was!”
Not many were -- Lansford was a career .290/.343/.411 hitter, as well as a solid defender at the hot corner for the Angels, Red Sox and A’s from 1978-92, helping Oakland reach three straight World Series from 1988-90, and win it all in ’89. -- Manny Randhawa
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