1987 Topps Baseball

To be honest, the set that is in the “Retro Review” cross hairs today is so iconic; it really doesn’t need a fun story to tie in. There are tons and tons of “where were you when” stories about this set and I don’t think I have one that can do more justice than any others. When someone uses the term “baseball cards”, this is the set that comes to mind for most everyone that is older than 30 and ever had even one baseball card lying around their house. This is the one! I know girls from my old middle school that thought we were all losers for collecting and they even had a couple of these somewhere around their house. Having something from this set was almost a right of passage to properly crossover from the 80’s to the 90’s.

While no “hook em” story is needed, the set does have me thinking about how many other things are just as automatic when I think of a certain word or phrase. Because the link of this set to the term “baseball cards” is so automatic, what else is like that? So I decided to play a little game. It’s a bit of a cross between Word Association, Think Fast, and What Comes to Mind, if you have ever played any of those. I threw the challenge out to some of my followers on Twitter and asked them to come up with some topics that I would have to quickly associate a memory with. There were some odd ones that I had trouble putting into writing. There were some easy ones that everybody probably had the same answers for. Then there were the ones that I chose; topics that brought quick and fun memories to my mind.

First Job – @BravestarrCards

This may not actually be my first job but the job that comes to my mind when I hear the topic is my time at a rent to own/pawn shop in my town called, “The Trading Post”. I was 16 or 17 when I worked there and I reported for duty every weekday afternoon at 2:30 and every Saturday. My duties ranged from delivery and pick up (repo), cleaning repo’d appliances and stocking the warehouse next door. I saw some really cool stuff come through that store and bought video games and CD’s that never got redeemed. I specifically remember buying my first “Cranberries” CD at that store. One day I’ll get into some of the repo horror stories from that job….not today.

Wiffle Ball – @DJBee73

When I was a kid, we took Wiffle ball sets everywhere we went. We used to play real softball in my Granny’s front yard but my cousin, Dusty, fouled a ball back into her bathroom window one afternoon and in Granny’s words, “that woun’t that up.” So from then on, it was Wiffle. I remember playing in a makeshift neighborhood league that kept stats and records. We would play in different friend’s yards for a home and away feel. Each yard had its own obstacles that we could relate to “The Green Monster” at Fenway and Ivy on the outfield wall at Wrigley. But the #1 memory I have is pitching against my buddy Charlie. He hated it and I loved it. I had a nasty hook and no matter what he did, he couldn’t seem to get the bat on the ball. His nickname was “Force” and he was just that on the basketball court and football field but I owned him on the Wiffle Ball Field!

Best Childhood Present – @ryanhammertime

This is a “hand’s down, no doubter”! The Nintendo in 1989 was the #1 childhood present in my life. I have told the story here before about how my dad faded me all the way through Christmas Eve night with comments about how I could give up on getting a Nintendo. I went to bed devastated and didn’t even care about getting up the next morning. Lo and behold, that beautiful gray console was in my living room floor that morning and all I could muster was a loud, “Nin”! So many memories were made on that system playing games like Contra, RBI Baseball, Double Dribble, Ninja Gaiden, and especially Tecmo Super Bowl! I became a video game nerd that morning and have gone through Sega’s, Super Nintendo’s, Dreamcast’s, PS1, PS2, PS3 and now the PS4; but that Nintendo still lights a fire for me.

Highlight – @RBallis

I could have gone in so many directions with this one, but have to stay true to the game and talk about the highlight that comes to my mind most often and has stuck with me the most through the years. The Georgia Bulldogs created a ton of highlights last year and I could pick so many from that season. I also remember some cool highlights from when I was in high school and our football team dominated. But the highlight that is #1 in my heart will always be the night that “Sid Slid”. I was 15 years old at the time and my entire family was gathered around the television in 1992 when the Braves faced off against their nemesis, The Pittsburgh Pirates, in Game 7 of the NLCS.

The Braves trailed 2-0 in the bottom of the 9th when Terry Pendleton led things off with a double. It would take a Jose Lind error on a Dave Justice grounder, a walk to Bream, and a sac fly by Ron Gant to eventually lead to Francisco Cabrera pinch hitting with the bases loaded and 2 outs in the 9th. The Braves trailed 2-1 and Cabrera smacked a base hit into left field to Barry Bonds. Dave Justice scored and Bream got waved around third with Bonds coming up throwing. And then time stood still……..you know the rest of the story. If I had to pick a second to this, it would be Christian Laettner’s turnaround jumper in the 1992 Regional Final vs Kentucky.

Gameday – @GundersonNathan

This is something that is getting ready to take over my life again. In 2 short weeks, the Bulldogs will get back to playing football in the greatest city in America; Athens, Georgia. What comes to my mind when I think of game day is Red and Black. I always wear my school colors on game day, whether I make it to a game or not. Game day also makes me think about the beautiful landscape in Athens in the fall. The trees on campus are awesome, the downtown buildings are iconic and there are no finer looking people in the land than those that can be found in Athens on game day! I see tailgating, kids throwing footballs, TV’s set up with pregame shows and I see the Redcoat Band lining up for the Dawg Walk. I’ve got chills just typing this paragraph! It is great to be a Georgia Bulldog!!

Baseball Cards – @DubMentality

So what is that iconic set that comes to mind whenever someone utters the words, “Baseball Cards”? Of course, it is none other than 1987 Topps and the awesome woodgrain border! As overdone as the set feels in 2018, there really is no baseball card set that feels more like home to collectors of my generation. We all had stacks of these cards in our collection, no matter what year we started. And we all clamored for the Bonds RC when it was hitting triple digits during the 1990’s! For better or worse, nothing says “baseball cards” like this iconic set. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and remember this beauty for what it was then, not what it has become.

Toploader Display Stand – Small

Toploader Display Stand – SMALL. 2-1/2 x 3-3/8 x 2″ (W x H x D). Made of crystal clear Lucite. Holds Single Card Lucites, Screwdowns, and Toploaders (not included).

Here is the amazing wood grain design that we have all come to know and love. And even those who have grown tired of its “overuse” in recent years have to admit that the original cards really hit you in the feels if this hobby means anything to you. And of course, Topps was airbrushing the heck out of those traded players in the 80’s! This Mike Laga was an absolute beauty!!

Look at this collection of pitchers! Pitchers like Seaver and Niekro were winding down their careers while guys like Clemens and Gooden were just getting fired up. Nolan Ryan and Mike Scott kept the Astros in games while Tom Henke closed them down for Toronto. There are a lot of wins and saves in this picture!

The battery mates for the pitchers is never a long list but I did manage to pull 3 very nice catchers in this cello box. You really can’t beat Pena in the old Pirates uniform!

The infield was just as loaded as the pitchers mound. Veterans like Don Baylor, Eddie Murray, and Pete Rose were making room for young superstars like Cal Ripken, Don Mattingly, and Wade Boggs. I had to include Sid here because I just discussed his impact on my youth. If you can make your way past the wood grain design for a minute, check out these jersey’s! Gallaraga for the Expos, Bream in the pillbox hat, Guillen for the Sox, and Alvin Davis with the Mariners Trident are all classic looks.

I hate to sound like a broken record but the outfield was loaded too. 1987 was a tremendous year for checklists. Mookie, Vince, Rock and Rickey were three of the fastest guys in the league while Barfield, Bell, Strawberry, and Murphy were among the leagues most powerful. As much disdain as I carry around about the Twins, even I love all of the old Puckett cards with the mid 80’s Twins uni’s. Lastly, check out the veterans Griffey, Dusty, Rice, and Reggie!

The list of managers was even super impressive in 1987! Pete Rose has the rare player card and manager card in the same checklist. This is a nice mixture of legends like Whitey Herzog, Earl Weaver, and Sparky Anderson and Legends in the Making like Tom Lasorda, Jim Leyland, and Lou Pinella. Jimmy Williams gets inclusion here because he is the third base coach that waved Sid Bream home in the 1992 NLCS!

The American League All-Stars covered young players and veterans pretty well. I was never blown away by the ’87 All-Star design but it wasn’t horrible.

The National League All-Stars had one of my favorites of all time, Ozzie Smith. And Fernando Valenzuela was so good during the 80’s, he deserves a double mention here.

Here are a few of the Record Breakers from ’86. Clemens was just being Clemens while Ruben Sierra was paving the way for a Chipper Jones in the switch hitting category.

I always enjoyed the Team Leader cards. I don’t know why I liked the white cloud border inside the wood grain but I did. This is also one of the rare 80’s cards that featured Yogi Berra. One of my favorite Braves cards from the 80’s was this photo of Glenn Hubbard and Rafael Ramirez.

These “Turn Back The Clock” inserts turn up all the time in modern day repacks. These appear in some of the Topps Archives sets today as well. I remember as a kid, feeling like I had something vintage when I pulled one of these. Sadly, I was mistaken. These are vintage now though, aren’t they?

Perhaps one of the most underrated aspects of 1987 is the rookie checklist. Some of these cards may not necessarily be first cards of these players but they are treated as rookies in many circles. McGwire was first found in the 1985 set in his Olympic Uniform. But he wasn’t in the 1986 set and this was his first Topps card in the A’s uniform. Will Clark was found in the ’86 Traded Set. Some people may not remember how dominate Bobby Thigpen was but he once had 57 saves in a season (1990), which is still good enough for 2nd best of all time.

Who can forget these two iconic designs within the set? First, we have the Topps All-Star Rookie of Pete Incaviglia with the “Rookie Cup” in the corner. Then we have the awesome rainbow “Future Stars” logo on this Rafael Palmeiro. Both of these designs have remained popular with Topps over the years.

Then we have my three favorite cards from the set as a kid. I loved Jose Canseco and this All-Star Rookie was always on the first page of my binder. I didn’t own the ’86 Donruss until much later in life so this was the closest I got to a Canseco RC as a kid. I still love this card today! For some reason, the green and yellow pop for me with the wood grain design.

While Barry Bonds was never one of my favorite players, I always coveted this rookie in my collection. It was quite valuable at one time and it remains one of the most valuable cards in the set today. But value for a set in 1987 is much different than value today.

Finally, we have my favorite card from the set. This could possible be my favorite card of all time but I’d have to really sit down and weigh it against a couple others. This card is just absolutely beautiful. The wood grain design gives way to the outfield fence and Royal Blue uniform; while the rainbow logo just sets it off perfectly. This card is truly flawless in my opinion. I was thrilled to pull this card in my break!

A lot of card designs have come and gone over the last 30 years but only a handful have stood the test of time. None of those have survived better than that of 1987 Topps. Some of my favorite Braves cards are those with the 1987 wood grain border. It’s amazing how the design on the baseball card can be looked back on so fondly, as opposed to the same design on those 80’s station wagons. You can love or hate the design here in 2018 but we all owe this set a tip of the cap because it is a part of all of us in some small way.

It encapsulates an entire industry to some of those who never got into collecting as kids because it’s the only design they remember. It may be the poster child for “junk wax” to some younger collectors and it may be a design that Topps turns to more than we would like today but that just cements its place in our history, in my opinion. An icon is loved and hated by the masses but it is always remembered. This set will never be forgotten and I think that is great. Not only is the design iconic; the checklist is superb, the rookie class is strong, and the Bo Jackson is one of the best looking cards of the 80’s. If you really break it down, there isn’t much to dislike about the old set. Some people just don’t give it much of a chance because it is old hat.

For $25, you can rip a cello box just like I did and I think there are much worse things you could spend $25 on in the hobby today. I give the set a “5” on the Dub-O-Meter due to its importance in the history of the hobby, the checklist, the price, and yes, even for the design. What say you about 1987 Topps?


Scoring Scale

  1. Let me be the sacrificial lamb so you don’t have to buy these cards.  Just read the post and thank me later.
  2. There is worse but there is much better – not worth the effort though.
  3. Middle of the road – I wouldn’t talk you into buying these but I certainly wouldn’t talk you out of them.
  4. You should probably go out and buy a box and enjoy the rip – I did!  It has some downside but worth the ride.
  5. Stop reading and find a box to buy and get to Breaking!  What are you waiting on?

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MUSEUM GRADE Trading Card Storage Box. Holds 660 cards. 3-3/4 x 2-3/4 x 11-3/4″(inside)​. Made from Black Conservation Grade board that is acid-free, lignin-free and approved by the Library of Congress for Indefinite storage.