Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Why We Love '93 Topps Traded: A Clubhouse Retrospective

About a year or so ago, I was able to find a 1993 Topps Traded factory set on eBay for a mucho reasonable price.  And, well, naturally I snatched it up.

But, because I kinda ran out of space in my 1993 Topps binder, the 132-card set has been sitting inside a little cardboard box all this time feeling neglected and unloved.  A real crime if you're familiar at all with the set and the type of rookies and vets that call this set home.

So let me atone for that sin this very moment.  Twenty years after '93 Topps Traded was born, let's take a look at the 10 cards from the set that gave me pause while shuffling through the set recently.  These 10 aren't necessarily the most valuable or universally memorable cards, but I think I like these the best.

The first card in the set, and a very fitting one at that.  The first card of Barry Bonds in a SF Giants uniform. Yes, I realize Bonds is an apostate of Hell and we're all supposed to hate him.  But his significance during the era and the fact that he still looks like a proportionately built human being on this card more than withstands any slings and arrows.

You knew this one had to be in the mix.  One of the best pure hitters of his generation, Helton's rookie is one of many iconic Team USA cards featured throughout the history of Topps sets, and perhaps the most important first-year card contained in this set.  Well, almost...

I'll contend that this rookie of Mike Piazza is the card to own from '93 Topps Traded.  And, of course I'd feel that way considering I'm a Mets fan and Piazza is one of my all-time favorite sluggers.  It also happens to be a great photograph of Mike.  Speaking of the photo, if it looks familiar it's because a nearly identical shot of Piazza was used for his card in the '94 Topps set. A few shutters of the camera are all that separate the two.

If you were shown just a silhouetted version of the photograph you see on this card, you'd still automatically know it was Wade Boggs.  The trademark batting follow-through of Boggs is always a welcome sight on cardboard, plus this is the first Topps card of the Hall of Famer as a Yankee.  Both very good reasons to recognize this one.

Nestled back-to-back with Boggs on the set's checklist, Paul Molitor is yet another Hall of Famer sporting new threads.  The long-time Brewer was a wise free-agent investment for the Blue Jays, as Molitor earned World Series MVP honors after leading the Jays to a six-game triumph over the Phillies in the '93 Fall Classic.

While he directly follows Boggs and Molitor in numerical checklist sequence, Turk Wendell's imprint on Major League Baseball wasn't the stuff of an immortal.  Unless, of course, you're measuring legendary status on a scale of 1 to 10 whoopee cushions.  Turk was one of the true free spirits during his time in the bigs, and he wasn't too shabby as a relief pitcher either.  Wendell was a key bullpen cog for the Mets when they won the pennant in 2000.  This card happens to be his stand-alone rookie (he made one of those "Top Prospect" cards in the 1992 set).

The first of many cards of Greg Maddux in a Braves uniform; it doesn't get more vital than that.  I'd have to say Maddux was the best pitcher I ever had the honor of watching.  Yes, he played for a team I vigorously detested, but you had to respect the way he went about his craft.  A surgeon in stirrups.

This is just a smooth-looking card of a smooth HOF player.  After helping the Blue Jays capture their first World Series title in 1992, Dave Winfield was granted free agency and signed with the Twins during the subsequent offseason.  At 41 years old, the Minnesota native collected his 3,000th career hit late in the '93 season.

There were a few other big-name players in this set who were featured in new uniforms, but I chose Paul O'Neill over the likes of Andres Galarraga or Gary Sheffield because his card is more important.  Mainly because he was every bit a vital piece in the Yankees' late '90s dynasty as Jeter, Rivera or Bernie.  Plus, even though I was conditioned to despise him because he was a Yankee, I loved the way he played every game with unabashed intensity.

Andre Dawson in a Red Sox uniform is always a strange sight.  Ditto for his later donning of Marlins rags. Retirement was right around the corner for the Hawk at this point and most of his potent days were far behind him.  But, this is such a terrific photo of Dawson, who was still showing the physique of a man 10 years his junior.

Each of the Topps Traded sets from the late '80s and early '90s may have decent claim to being the best or most interesting among its peers, but 1993 Traded undeniably takes its place at or near the top.  It perfectly captures a snapshot of the game as it was about to transition into a new era.  The '93 design is also pretty underrated. Or, at least I've always underrated it.  Revisiting this set has certainly given me a new appreciation for its allure.



  1. Totally agree about the '93 design. I'm more than a little biased, but in my opinion, the '92 and '93 designs are my favorite of the Topps designs from the 90's, and the only ones I've liked since then have been '11 and '13. No love for Gene Harris' first card as a Padre? I guess it's alright, since you included future Padres Greg Maddux and Mike Piazza.

    Anyways, good post, glad to see '93 Topps getting some deserved love.

  2. Great pickup, Mark! I've found it hard to find much from the '93 Topps Traded set for some reason. I'd love to find a copy of that Piazza one of these days.

  3. 86 Traded has always been my favorite, but 93 is a close second. I do have to take a slight issue with one statement. There is no argument that could ever be made that 1990 Topps Traded has a decent claim to best or most interesting among its peers. Unless you happen to be a fan of Kevin Maas, I guess.

    1. *GASP* Kevin Maas, yes. But have we forgotten John Olerud, Todd Hundley, Carlos Baerga, Sandy Alomar Jr., Cecil Fielder, Travis Fryman... I mean, I could go on and on!! I love 1990 Traded. I shall debate you any time, any day, good sir!

    2. Fair enough, I too think the 1990 design is awesome and you forgot the Dave Justice rookie on your list. All I was saying was that if you took the best card out of 1990 and put it into 86, 87, 88, 89, 91, 92, 93, or 94 then it would no longer be the best card in the set.

      I guess I take it a little bit personally because the 1990 Traded set was my very first card investment. I bought 7 sets at $8 each when they first came out and I don't think they ever went over that $8 price after that. I still have 6 of those sets. hehe

    3. Haha, well, I see where you are coming from! I guess I can't blame you for being a tad bitter. I think the '90 set has it charms, but, yeah I don't think it stands shoulder to shoulder with some of the others. That's OK with me though; they're all great!

  4. Fantastic post, really loved the cards and the insightful write-up, great set.