Saturday, August 29, 2020

Topps Cards That Should Have Been: The Hall of Famers of 2008

Topps SHB #7: 2008 Frank Thomas, Oakland Athletics
 As I do this project, I enjoy finding the players who've fallen through the cracks, the middle relievers, the once-strong infielders, the players who Topps figured they'd be alright without, but...sometimes, Topps, for one reason or another, makes a big omission and tries to rectify it with no avail.

In 2008, two Hall of Famers, both definite first-ballot HOFers for sure, were playing their final seasons, and ended the year in uniforms different from the one on their Topps flagship card. In both cases, Topps would make a 'sunset issue' the following year in 2009 Topps, one being genuine and the other being greatly airbrushed for some reason, but the 2008 Update set didn't feature this sort of finality.

It's most jarring in Frank Thomas' case. Thomas was released by the Toronto Blue Jays in April 2008, as his Topps card on the Jays was heading to shelves. Four days later he signs with the Athletics, a team that gave him a monster comeback season in 2006, with 39 homers and 114 age 38. The A's remembered what he did for them, how he led them into the postseason, and they re-sign him. In return, Thomas, now 40, gave them 55 games, 5 home runs, and a .263 average.

How Topps didn't put him in Update boggles the mind. Even if they did a 2009 Topps A's card, he's still Frank Thomas, he was still contractually on Topps' docket, and he still could have used a Topps Update card. But Topps was more interested in giving a card to Yamid Haad, a veteran minor league catcher who was about to take over as catcher for the Indians before they signed Sal Fasano.

Yamid Haad played 0 games in the 2008 season and got a Topps card. Frank Thomas played 55 and didn't.

And before you go 'oh, they wanted to reward a career minor leaguer', Mike Hessman never got a Topps card with Atlanta, New York or Detroit. He's on my list, for the record. Wladimir Balentien is also on my list. Yamid Haad is a fluke.

Anyway. This next one actually has a reason to not be in 2008 Update:

SHB Topps #8: 2008 Greg Maddux, Los Angeles Dodgers
Greg Maddux was traded by the Padres to LA on August 14th 2008, after the cutoff date for Topps Update. So he at least has an excuse.

But his 2009 Topps card is badly filtered, slightly airbrushed, and not a great final sendoff for the landmark, legendary starter.

So I made this one, which is more indicative of Maddux's second half for the Dodgers, where he pitched into the postseason and helped this team stay alive amidst series' with Chicago and Philadelphia. In the regular season, Maddux went 2-4 with a 5.09 ERA in 7 starts. In the postseason, Maddux worked in a relief role with a 0.00 ERA over 4 innings, and 3 strikeouts. Not bad for a 42-year old.

Maddux and Thomas deserved better final releases, and even if Thomas got a good one in 2009, they still needed their 2008 chapters marked by Topps. Which, I guess, is what I'm here for now.


  1. They both look great. I am embarrassed that I do not have any 2009 frank thomas cards in my fi nal tribute collection. I'll have to correct that.

  2. You did a great job on these. Big fans of both of these guys... and the 2008 Topps flagship design.

    1. Then you're probably going to like the next bunch of these, cause I just knocked out a ton of 2008 ones.