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.
In the days when baseball card companies had contracts with individual players, Musial had a deal with Bowman that ended in '53. For the next four years, The Man didn’t appear on any baseball cards, despite his status as one of the game’s best and most popular players.
Finally, Topps got the future Hall of Fame first baseman to sign. According to Topps executive Sy Berger in a 2001 interview with USA Today, Topps offered to donate $1,500 to a charity of Cardinals owner Gussie Busch’s choosing if Musial agreed to sign a contract with the company.
Musial’s first-ever Topps card came in the '58 set and was part of the Sport Magazine All-Star subset.
Bob Murphy from Belleville, Ill., wrote in to share his story about how he came to acquire multiple '58 Topps Musial cards:
“I was 11 years old that year,” he wrote. “One day, my mother's Avon lady came to our house with her son, who was about 7, and he had a Musial card. I offered him 50 baseball cards for his Stan Musial card, but he said he did not want to make a trade. Later, I traded a friend an Eddie Kasko Cardinals card for the Stan Musial card.
"A few weeks later, the Avon lady came with her son and said he decided to make the trade. I no longer wanted to do that since I now had the Musial card, but my mother said that since he was a little boy that I needed to honor my original deal with him, so I had to give him 50 baseball cards. Ironically, I never got another 1958 Eddie Kasko card.
For St. Louis’ Steve Engelhardt, the '58 Musial card reminds him of his relationship with his father, who passed away in 2015.
“I bought [the card] for my dad about 30 years ago,” Engelhardt wrote. “He used to see him play at Sportsman’s Park in the 1950s, and always talked about him. I still proudly display that card in my home.” -- Thomas Harrigan
Albert Pujols -- 2007 Topps Moments and Milestones
This isn’t a Rookie of the Year card from when Pujols actually won the award, but it’s a beautiful reminder of where it all began for the future Hall of Famer, one of the greatest right-handed sluggers of all time.
Andrew B. of Springfield, Ill., appreciates that reminder.
“That year was a year to remember for how awesome of a start to his spectacular career he had,” Andrew wrote in his survey response. “That really brings back the memories of what a blessing and talent he was and still is. Miss him very much, and it would have been cool for him to retire a St Louis Cardinal.”
While there was a brief period in which a reunion with the Cardinals was thought to be an outside chance after Pujols was released by the Angels, he is now a Dodger and still has something left in the tank. When his career does come to an end, it will be one of the best a Major League hitter has ever put together. -- Manny Randhawa
Harrison Bader, 2020 Topps
Bader has established himself as an elite defensive center fielder in his five seasons in the big leagues. He could win a Gold Glove any season, and that's why his 2020 Topps card is so appropriate.
Could that photo be any better? It captures Bader right as he makes one of his highlight-reel diving catches, holding up the ball to show the umpires as he kicks up a trail of outfield grass. And that Cardinal red always looks great.
Fan Larkin Krieg submitted this Bader card and writes: "My favorite baseball card is Harrison Bader's because, to me, he is one of the best center fielders out there. His catch that I watched on the MLB App is so awesome that he deserves that Gold Glove."
Best Cardinals facial hair card: Al Hrabosky, 1977 Topps
Hrabosky had a brief run as one of the top relievers in the National League for the Cardinals. From ‘73-76, the left-hander went 31-14 with 49 saves and a 2.54 ERA (144 ERA+) in 337 innings.
Known as the Mad Hungarian, Hrabosky tried to intimidate batters with a menacing appearance on the mound, growing his hair long and combining it with a horseshoe mustache or a full beard.
Hrabosky’s ‘77 Topps card does a good job of capturing his aura. The photo was snapped during the ‘76 campaign, a season in which a handful of clubs wore pillbox caps.
In ‘77, Hrabosky’s facial hair became the subject of a dispute between the pitcher and manager Vern Rapp, who instituted a grooming policy after taking over for Red Schoendienst as the team’s skipper. Hrabosky complied, but he wasn’t happy about it.
“Relief pitching is 75 percent mental," Hrabosky said. "How am I going to scare hell out of the hitters with my new image? How am I going to convince them I'm a dangerous madman if I look like a golf pro?
“I've never been blessed with great ability. My mystique was what made me successful.”
The discord between Hrabosky and Rapp continued to simmer, and the Cardinals eventually suspended the pitcher for “rank insubordination.”
Cardinals: Mark Whiten, 1994 Fleer Golden Moment
“Hard-hittin’ Whiten.” Whiten certainly lived up to his nickname on the day that this Fleer “Golden Moment” card commemorates, when the Cardinals outfielder smashed four home runs and tied the MLB record with 12 RBIs in a single game. On Sept. 7, 1993, Whiten accomplished that in the second game of a doubleheader against the Reds at Riverfront Stadium.
Roy R. of Dallastown, Pa., submitted this card, and as a Cardinals fan he described why it was so special that it is his favorite baseball card despite not featuring his favorite player -- Stan Musial -- on it:
“This is my favorite card because it commemorates two Cardinals players who share a record that no other two players in the history of Major League Baseball hold.”
The other Cardinal Roy is referring to here is Jim Bottomley, who is the only other player to record 12 RBIs in a single game, doing so for St. Louis on Sept. 16, 1924, against the Brooklyn Robins. -- Manny Randhawa
David Freese, 2012 Topps -- 2011 World Series Game 6 card
This card commemorates one of the most legendary postseason performances of all time: the David Freese Game.
With the Cardinals down to their last strike against the Rangers in the 2011 World Series, Freese's two-run triple off closer Neftali Feliz tied the game in the bottom of the ninth. Two innings later, his walk-off home run to center field forced a Game 7 and sent the crowd at Busch Stadium into a frenzy. The Cardinals would win that game and clinch the World Series.
Freese's heroics made him an instant legend in St. Louis. This card, printed the following season, captures Freese as he approaches home plate following his 11th-inning walk-off, as his teammates get ready to mob him in celebration.
Matt Crawford of Sesser, Ill., submitted this card with memories of that game in mind: "That night, I was very emotional with so much excitement, when he tied the game in the bottom of the ninth and won the game in the bottom of the 11th. His heroic act helped the Cardinals win their 11th World Series title. To this day, David Freese will always be one of my favorite baseball players."
Charlie James, 1964 Topps
James only played six seasons in the Majors and hit .255 with a .652 OPS, but man, was he happy to be there. At least, that's the sense you get from his '64 Topps card, which shows James flashing a million-dollar smile.
That smile was the first thing Cardinals fan Monte Plourde saw when he opened his first-ever pack of cards at 8 years old.
James may not have been a star, but getting a Cardinal as his first card in his first pack is something Plourde will never forget.
Curiously, the outfielder was identified as "Charley James" on his '60, '61, '63 and '64 Topps cards, but "Charlie James" in '62 and '65. -- Thomas Harrigan
Iconic Cardinals card: Bob Gibson, 1968 Topps
If you could have a Gibson card from any year (other than a rookie card), what better year than 1968, Gibson's finest and one of the most dominant single seasons by a starting pitcher in baseball history? That's what two of our survey respondents submitted for their favorite card -- a 1968 Topps Bob Gibson.
Mike B. of Fresno, Calif., and Steven P. of Rudy, Ark., each submitted the same card, and each has great memories of watching Gibson in the 1968 World Series against the Tigers, when he set a World Series record with 17 strikeouts in Game 1.
"In 1968, I was just starting to play organized baseball in Little League," Mike wrote. "The Cardinals had been in the World Series in both '67 and '68. I was learning to pitch and Bob Gibson was the best. I also had asthma as a child and Bob was a spokesperson for Primatene Mist, which I used regularly. I always pretended to be Bob Gibson. To this day, I am still a die-hard Cardinal fan."
Steven, meanwhile, wasn't as big of a Cardinals fan then as he is now, but Gibson's performance left him awestruck, nonetheless.
"The Cardinals played Game 1 of the World Series against the Detroit Tigers. Future Hall of Fame pitcher, the late, great Bob Gibson, threw a complete-game shutout and struck out a new World Series-record 17 batters," Steven wrote. "It was an extraordinary feat. Although I was not then as big a Cardinals fan as I am now, I was certainly aware of the game and amazed and impressed with Gibson."
Gibson was one of the most intimidating pitchers of all time, throwing hard inside when the opposing hitter had too much of his plate. He was a two-time National League Cy Young Award winner (1968 and '70) and was so dominant in '68, when he posted a 1.12 ERA, that he also won the NL MVP Award. Gibson also won nine NL Gold Glove Awards and was named MVP in both the 1964 and '67 World Series. Talk about a legendary career.
The 1968 Topps card with Gibson's face on the front is a classic, with a bold yellow circle at the bottom right with his position and "Cards" affixed to it. There's something to be said about "Cards" cards. And the way Gibson is positioned in the photo, the cardinal perched atop the bat on the front of his uniform looks as though it's actually perched on the yellow circle, giving it nice symmetry.
Rogers Hornsby, 1961 Topps
Bob Williamson of Suffolk, Va., submits this amazing card of Hornsby, autographed by the Hall of Famer himself.
The 1961 card is a throwback itself, with a painted portrait of Hornsby commemorating his 1924 season with the Cards, when he won the batting title by hitting .424.
The 1968 season was known as the “Year of the Pitcher,” and no hurler was more dominant than Gibson, who registered a 1.12 ERA over 304 2/3 innings to win the NL MVP and Cy Young Awards. He went on to pitch three complete games in St. Louis’ seven-game World Series loss to the Tigers.
This Gibson gem, submitted by Bob Rutan of New Jersey, is from Topps’ set the following year.
“I started collecting in 1965, but it was '69 when I really began to follow baseball,” Rutan wrote. “Even though I was a Mets fan, I became a huge Gibson fan. Something about Gibson's '69 card -- the pose, the look, the photography, it just became, for me, the perfect baseball card. In the early 80s I sold my collection for far too little money. A few years later I wandered into a card shop in NYC to get out of the rain. They had a '69 Gibson on display. I bought it on a whim. It started me collecting again, which I have continued to do to this day.” -- Thomas Harrigan
Yadier Molina, 2014 Topps Postseason relic
Even though they didn't win it all like they did in such dramatic fashion two years earlier, the 2013 season was a memorable one for the Cardinals, who won the National League pennant but lost to the Red Sox in the World Series. Molina was, naturally, a huge part of St. Louis' success, and hit .304 in that year's Fall Classic.
What a cool thing to pull a card with part of Molina's jersey from a postseason game -- especially when it's a piece that features one of the Cardinals perched on the bat on the franchise's classic home uniform.
Thanks to Austin from Fortuna, Calif., for submitting this beauty. -- Manny Randhawa
Yadier Molina, 2008 Upper Deck
Molina in his red Cardinals catcher's gear fills the frame of this landscape-oriented card, a beautiful shot of the great backstop making a play behind the plate.
The 2008 season was Yadi's first Gold Glove season in St. Louis. He's now won the award nine times, including eight in a row starting with that '08 campaign.
Adam Wainwright, 2011 Topps
Wainwright as an outfielder? He’s never played any other position besides pitcher, but this card from Topps’ 2011 Opening Day set identifies him as such.
The error stuck in the mind of Jake Hunnius of Plainfield, Ill., who submitted the card in our survey.
The card is also notable because it was released shortly before the start of the 2011 season, a year in which Wainwright did not participate because he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. -- Thomas Harrigan
Ozzie Smith, 1982 Topps Traded
There’s nothing quite like a baseball card from the first year of a Hall of Famer’s career with the team for whom he played the longest. The Wizard was a Cardinal for 15 of his 19 MLB seasons, beginning when he was traded to St. Louis by the Padres in 1981.
Smith would go on to win 13 Gold Glove Awards at shortstop with the Cards and was a 15-time All-Star. The 1982 season was special for many reasons, as explained by the fan who submitted this card in our survey, Jeffrey C. of Macomb, Ill.
“The year of my birth,” he wrote. “The Wizard’s first year as a Redbird. A world championship season!”
Doesn’t get much better than that. -- Manny Randhawa
'90s throwback: Mark McGwire, 1999 Topps HR Record #70
Let's throw it back to the great home run race of 1998, when McGwire outslugged Sammy Sosa and smashed Roger Maris' single-season home run record by hitting 70 for St. Louis.
The next season, Topps came out with a series of cards commemorating each of Big Mac's 70 homers. This is the one for home run No. 70, with all the details on the back of the card.
Matt Carpenter, 2019 Topps Five Star
While some cards are relevant due to their historical significance or precious memories, this Matt Carpenter card from 2019 Topps Five Star is important for its rarity. In fact, it is the only one of its kind that exists.
The card includes a very familiar logo patch, which came straight off of Carpenter’s back. The 1-of-1 card features an autograph from the man himself as well. To give you an idea of how rare it is, one of these cards only comes in about one out of every 418 boxes.
Over the years, card collecting has separated itself from the hobby it was in the 90’s. Instead of chasing stars and rookies, many chase the rarest cards possible. While chasing rookie cards is still a staple, chasing veteran base cards has given way to finding memorabilia cards. But let’s face it, would you rather have a plain ol’ Carpenter card or this piece of history? -- Nick Aguilera
Yes, Davis was a Cardinal! For 150 games between 1999 and 2000, Davis was wearing a different red uniform than the one we most remember him for in Cincinnati. While injuries derailed a potential Hall of Fame career, Davis still showed glimpses of his former self in his later years with several different clubs.
Davis hit .283/.376/.418 in his two seasons with St. Louis before playing the final season of his 17-year career with the Giants in 2001.
Thanks to Tyler of Wooster, Ohio, for this submission. -- Manny Randhawa
Bob Uecker, 1965 Topps
Before he was the golden voice of the Brewers, Uecker was a wise-cracking, soft-hitting catcher for several teams, including the Cardinals. One thing in particular that stands out about Uecker’s 1965 Topps card is his batting stance. Uecker successfully fooled the photographer into thinking he was left-handed despite being a righty his entire career. It made it all the way down the production line and has now become a collector’s item for Uecker fans everywhere.
Mr. Baseball hit just .200 across his six seasons in the Majors with 14 home runs, but he made his homers count as he sent long balls out against Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax, Gaylord Perry and Fergie Jenkins. Uecker himself is a Hall of Famer, not as a player, but as a broadcaster. He was inducted into the Hall in 2003 as a recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award.
But if you ask Uecker, he’d tell you he should’ve made it for his merits on the field. -- Nick Aguilera
Gibson was one of the more popular submissions among the Cardinals players mentioned in our survey. This particular card, which captures what it might have looked like to step into the batter's box against the fearsome right-hander, was submitted by multiple fans, including Douglas Bugger of Hamel, Ill.
“For numerous reasons, I think of Topps 1965 No. 320 Bob Gibson as a standout card,” Bugger wrote. “First of all, it included the 1964 stats and noted Gibson’s performance in the Cardinals’ World Series victory over the New York Yankees. 1964 also happened to be the year I was born. My two brothers were seven and 10 years older than me, so they brought me into the collecting hobby right away. Since they had been collecting for years before I was old enough to get involved, our house was full of great cards dating back to the 1950s. Coming of age during the Cardinals’ mediocre run during the 1970s, I found it fascinating to be able to see cards from years our favorite team actually won championships! The blue hat from the front of the card stuck out to me, as the Cardinals exclusively wore red caps in the 1970s. And, of course, the card was memorable because it was BOB FREAKIN’ GIBSON!”
While Bugger didn't come across the card until years later, Dave Gerleman of Pleasant Hill, Calif., remembers pulling the card from a pack in the summer of '65.
“I started following baseball in 1964 as an 8-year-old watching the Cardinals and Gibson became my idol," Gerleman wrote. "Then at age 9, I started collecting baseball cards and became so excited when I finally pulled his card mid-summer. I've never forgotten that moment.” -- Thomas Harrigan
Do you remember the first baseball card of your favorite team that you ever pulled out of a pack?
It’s special, especially if you end up becoming a life-long collector like Jeff H. of St. Louis, who wrote that he has nearly every Cardinals card issued since 1948(!). In Jeff’s case, that first card was of Ken Reitz, a third baseman who spent eight of his 11 Major League seasons in a Cardinals uniform.
“I was just beginning my lifelong love of baseball and I remember opening my first pack of baseball cards,” Jeff wrote. “I was lucky enough a few years ago to meet Ken Reitz and he signed the card I pulled out of that first pack,” Jeff wrote. “So even though the 1948 Enos Slaughter Bowman card, '62 Topps Stan Musial, and '64 Topps Ken Boyer cards are special as well, my favorite card is still my first Cardinals card, the 1976 Ken Reitz - ‘The Zamboni!’”
Such a cool story. -- Manny Randhawa
Iconic Cardinals rookie card: Albert Pujols, 2002 Topps
This card commemorates Pujols' sensational rookie season in 2001 -- you can see the Rookie of the Year trophy emblazoned in the top-left of the card, just under the Cardinals logo. But we won't blame you if your eyes are drawn to the iconic swing that a young Pujols had even back then.
In his first year in St. Louis at age 21, Pujols hit .329 with 37 home runs and 130 RBIs to run away with the NL Rookie of the Year Award -- he was also a Silver Slugger, All-Star and fourth-place MVP finisher.
Cardinals fan David Kunkleman of Columbus, Ohio, has a great story about why he loves this card: "I bought a pack of Cardinals cards back in 2002 when I went to Cooperstown to see Ozzie [Smith] inducted to the Hall of Fame," he writes. "And lo and behold, I got his card!! Of course I wasn’t looking for it -- I barely knew who he was." -- David Adler
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