When I was a Little Leaguer, I thought the coolest thing in the world was to have my own baseball card. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, my league didn’t offer such things in the picture package.
But in 1991, thanks to a Donruss and Milk Duds promotion being held at Oakland-Alameda Coliseum (home of the Oakland Athletics) I finally got my own card, and the good folks hooked me up with Dave Stewart’s awesome 1990 statistics. I was legendary! OK, not quite. Nonetheless, I loved this card. I cherished it. I placed it in a hard case and displayed it with some of the best cards in my collection at the time, most notably my 1985 Topps Mark McGwire rookie.
At the time I was only about four years into the hobby and thought what a cool idea it would be to have cards of present-day stars that showed them when they were my age. I wanted to see what my heroes looked like as kids. And then lo and behold that same year I found a book called “Little Big Leaguers” and it came complete with a sheet of tear-out baseball cards, including this Tony Gwynn, which still sits in my collection.
Over the next two years, Donruss took this concept mainstream and placed in its “Triple Play” set a subset called “Little Hotshots,” which, as you can guess, showed Major Leaguer players as Little Leaguers. Check out this scrawny young Mark McGwire wearing, ironically, an A’s uniform. He actually kind of looks like Kelly Leak from “The Bad News Bears.”
The reason these cards are so cool is that when some kid looks at these, they get to see that all Big Leaguers got their start as kids. None of them came out of the womb with huge muscles and the ability to hit 70 home runs as Mcgwire did in 1998 or hit .394 like Gwynn did in 1994. They had to learn the game, hone their craft and be a kid.
So when Topps came out with the 2010 Topps “When They Were Young” insert set, I was again intrigued because I knew the set would show modern players as kids. The first couple cards I pulled were pretty neat, even if they were of mediocre players.
But then I snagged two cards that really gave me the creeps, those of Alex Rodriguez and Russell Martin.
What on Earth was Topps thinking when it made these two cards showing these pro players as babies? It’s bad enough the baseball card collectors get a bum rap for “collecting pictures of men,” but now we’ve added pictures of babies to the spectrum.
I know there already are cards (1993 and 1994 Classic) that show Alex Rodriguez as a high school player, but why even include him in this set if you’re not going to show him doing something baseball related. Although I will say that we did learn something from the A-Rod card: he ALWAYS had the purple lips.
Shameless plugs: Don’t forget to vote for Cardboard Icons in Upper Deck’s Best Blog contest. Also, sometime this week I’ll be giving away an AUTHENTIC 1958 Topps Hank Aaron/Mickey Mantle card. See details here.