Now that we’ve counted down the Topps top 60 of all time and even added a bunch on to that, I think it’s fair to acknowledge that there are some amazing cards that were, in fact, not produced by Topps.
At the risk of completely beating the baseball card theme to death and then some, I want to point out some of the sweet Mets cards by other companies, all of which have since been banished. And it’s better than reading more about Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo.
This isn’t a countdown and is by no means exhaustive, but just some of the finest work from Topps’ vanquished rivals – part one.
1991 Score Dream Team Frank Viola and 1992 Upper Deck Bret Saberhagen.
Sweet Music Viola and Saberhagen were the two most heralded Mets hurler acquisitions prior to Johan Santana. Viola delivered, by and large, becoming the last Mets pitcher to win 20 games. Saberhagen, arrived in New York with two Cy Young Awards on his mantle, and well, didn’t add a third.
But both posed with big apples to show at least the appearance of devotion to our favorite city. Viola’s a New Yorker by birth and Saberhagen, well, likely did what the photographer told him to do.
True story: When people work for my newspaper for 10 years they are asked to pose for a photo that is used to make a little cutout figure that lines the walls of the cafeteria. I noticed that one employee posed in his Mets jersey with a big apple, a shot that might have been inspired by these cards.
2007 Upper Deck Endy Chavez
Endy’s NLCS Game Seven act of superhuman fielding is possibly the most glorious catch in Mets history, with apologies to Mr. Agee and Mr. Swoboda. Too bad Yadier Bleeping Molina had to go and ruin things. Topps used the photo for one half of a postseason card, but Upper Deck gave the moment the attention it deserves.
1984 Fleer Darryl Strawberry
To their credit, the folks at Fleer knew how to keep a design nice and simple, and not detracting from the photo. Sadly, the photos were often kind of lacking. But this card of a youthful Straw in his first full year is darn near perfect.
1986 Donruss Gary Carter
No design was too busy for Donruss, however. Sometimes it worked well, and the 1986 set was one of the company’s best. For some reason, the photos seemed particularly crisp. I love the lighting on this action shot showing Kid at the tail end of his swing, watching the flight of the ball before chugging down the basepath.
2008 Upper Deck Goudey Tom Seaver
I like retro sets, in theory. But some of the ones that have artwork instead of photos are pretty nasty, almost as if the task was delegated to Mrs. Jackson’s third-graders on finger-paint day.
But when the companies decide to make a set special, and not just something to justify the inserts, the results can be spectacular. This Tom Terrific card from Upper Deck’s Goudey set hits the mark and then some.
2007 Upper Deck Goudey Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado
Upper Deck had a good run with these sets. A year before the Seaver gem, the company used most of the artwork in the backgrounds. The Beltran card recalls the old-school ballparks. The Delgado card goes one step beyond, with the pose, the smile, the sun illuminating his face.