Sunday, December 05, 2010
Countdown of top Topps cards continues with No. 10 and Mike Piazza
The top 10 cards in the top Topps cards of all time require special consideration, so we're going to address them one at a time, starting with:
No. 10, 2003 Mike Piazza
There are quite possibly more cards of Mike Piazza than there are of any other Met. And most of them are pretty bland.
That’s not Piazza’s fault. His Mets tenure happened to coincide with card companies pandering to investment types, and issued dozens of small sets filled with insert, or “chase,” cards that were supposedly would fund everyone’s retirement.
The sets were typically around 90 cards, though there could be two or three times that number of inserts. If limited to 90 cards, the companies included only two or three players from each team, usually the biggest stars and rookies.
Since all the attention was on the inserts, it seemed to me that the base cards were treated an afterthought, with just about any old photo slapped on there.
Since Piazza was the biggest name on the Mets, he was included in just about every set.
Not that he wasn’t worthy, of course. A debate over who is the team’s best non-pitcher would likely come down to Piazza and Darryl Strawberry. Straw didn’t seem to match his potential, but Piazza was everything we had hoped for when he arrived in 1998.
He certainly was the most feared by opponents, especially Roger Clemens, who sought to injure Piazza with both ball and broken bat.
Seems like most Piazza cards show him batting, but I think his 2003 card from the main Topps set is his best.
The design recalls the outstanding 1983 and 1984 sets with the small headshot in the corner and a large action photo. The blue border works perfect for the Mets’ colors, and the shot shows Mike out of the crouch and chasing a ball, with a look of determination.
I like the 2004 card, too, showing Piazza being mobbed at home plate after a big hit surrounded by teammates and coaches, seeking fist-bumps and high-fives. Don Baylor, a coach at the time, makes what is likely his only appearance on a regular-set Mets card.
Piazza caught the last pitch at Shea and the first pitch at Citi Field, and the Mets haven't issued his No. 31 since his departure. I'm speculating that means he'll be joining his batterymate on those two occasions among the retired numbers on the left field wall after he joins him in Cooperstown.