Tuesday, January 5, 2016

As Seen on TV!

I got lots of great baseball card-related stuff for Christmas, but my favorite might just have to be a little something from the golden era of collecting.

That's right...the '90s!

For the longest time, I've been keeping an eye on eBay for the special edition Mets team set that Topps produced in 1990.  Apparently, this set was only available via a special television offer back in those days (though I can't attest to having ever seen these advertised amidst the thousands of hours of television I watched that year).  Thus, the sets have come to be known as "Topps TV."  They were only produced for a few teams, including the Yankees, Cubs and Cardinals.  And, of course the Mets.

The snag is that they're not exactly priced so friendly on the secondary market nowadays.  I'm peeking at eBay right now and I see a Cubs Topps TV set for a Buy It Now price of $59.  In other words, Yikes!

So it was probably a month or less out from Christmas that I found a reasonably priced Mets set with very reasonable shipping.  I immediately sent Mrs. K a not-so-subtle hint via email that this particular little set would make the perfect gift for the Mets fan and card collector in her life.

Luckily, I was pretty good this year and I found the long sought-after set under the tree on Christmas morning! Perhaps not Ralphie's bb gun, but pretty darn close!

The great thing about these sets is they're deep as all get-out.  Deep as in 66 cards deep!  That includes all the players on the 1990 opening day roster plus coaches plus a bunch of minor leaguers that you hadn't seen or wouldn't find on any subsequent Topps cards.  That's, like, nirvana for the team collector.

The design is pretty much standard fare for the era, at least in terms of the cards that Topps produced for the special boxed sets you found at Woolworth or Kay-Bee.  Translation: GRRRREAT!!!  And the card backs are tremendous, as well.

But, rather than gush on and on about how much I love this set, let's take a look at all 66 cards from the 1990 Topps TV New York Mets collector's set.  Set in binder pages, arranged sequentially by card number for your enjoyment.

First things first: the skipper and his coaches.  I think I was unnaturally giddy to get a card of Mike Cubbage, the former third base coach and interim manager for seven games in 1991.

As you can see, most of the photos are from Spring Training shoots.  Also, the players are all sequenced alphabetically by position within the checklist.  We're in the midst of the pitchers on page two.

Wally Whitehurst rounds out the pitchers that were on the opening day roster.  The three catchers occur next, followed by Kevin Elster and the infielders.  I'm especially fond of the Elster and Mike Marshall photos.  Magadan in the warmup jacket is pretty boss, too.

Super pinch-hitter Mark Carreon begins the outfield brigade, which includes Lou Thornton.  To my knowledge, this is the one and only Topps card of Lou as a New York Met.  After all, he only appeared in 16 games over two years as a Met.  That makes Lou's card a real hidden treasure of the set.

In addition, the run of Mets prospects and minor leaguers begins with Shawn Barton.  These players are also listed alphabetically, but not according to position.  Most of these guys never cracked the big leagues and you've probably never heard of them.  Some, like Tim Bogar, will be familiar to many baseball fans.

Everybody on the above page eventually put on a New York uniform, with the exceptions of DeButch, Diaz, Gonzalez and Graves.  Yes, even Manny Hernandez, whose Mets career consisted of exactly one inning of one game in 1989!

The shining star of this page is most certainly Todd Hundley, but maybe the best footnote is Dave Liddell. Another player whose Mets and major league career can fit into a thimble, Liddell appeared in just one game and logged one at-bat as a big leaguer.  It was a pinch-hit single against the Phillies on June 3, 1990.  Not a bad way to spend your lone bullet, I think!  A pretty cool story to pass along to the grandkids, too.

Also of note, Keith Hughes appeared in eight games for the Mets in 1990.  He went hitless in nine ABs with four strikeouts.  That was the extent of his service for New York.  Suffice it to say, both Liddell and Hughes are fantastic gets for the All-Time Mets Project!

For me, the highlight of this page is Craig Shipley, as this card represents Shipley's only Topps entry as a Met. While his Mets career endured all of four games during the '89 season, Craig went to enjoy some pretty decent seasons as a part-time player for San Diego.

Oh, and let us not fail to mention Steve Swisher.  Swish managed in the Mets system for Jackson, Tidewater and Binghamton before serving on the big league staff during the mid-'90s.

Of these three--the final three cards of the set--only Valera played in Queens.  Alan Zinter's biggest contribution to the organization was as the player traded to Detroit for Rico Brogna in 1994.

And there you have it.  An investment that's totally worth it, but only for the die-hard fan and obsessed collector.  I'm both, so I had to have this or I'd simply wilt and die.  Okay, a bit dramatic, but this is a pretty unique offering and one that should be on the completist's radar for sure.



  1. I've been hoping to find the Cubs version of this yet for quite some time; but, as you said, the prices are stuck in the 1990's. These must not have sold very well back in the day.

  2. Awesome set! I'd all but forgotten about the Red Sox version, but your post caused me to scour eBay just now, where I found a copy for just $21! Thanks Mark!

  3. Any set with coaches, forgotten names, and very Moonlight Graham-esque players like Hernandez and Liddell is sure to be a hit with me. Good on Mrs. K for picking this up for you!

  4. I'm pretty sure I have a Jose Canseco like this,so Oakland A's team sets of these are floating around out there somewhere.These are nice,glossy cards.I like em'!

    1. I don't think that there was an Athletics set, but there was an All-Stars set, so possibly your Canseco is from that set.

  5. Absolutely love the Topps TV set. It really stands out among a lot of not-great-looking cardboard of that time. I've only got one Dodger. Will have to find more.

    1. Whoops, totally forgot the Dodgers don't have their own team set in Topps TV, just the Hershiser card. ... Guess I saved myself some money!

  6. As soon as I saw the subject line, I got excited. "Ooh, he got the TV Mets set!" I'm pretty sure I have all the Mets from the TV All-Stars, but I have yet to acquire the team set. I'm as excited about Lou Thornton, Tim Bogar, Mike DeButch, Darren Reed, Keith Hughes, Craig Shipley, Terry McDaniel, etc. etc. as I am about any of the name players in the set. I really need to get my own set...

    BTW, for those who didn't know, Kelvin Torve is one of only two players to have worn the unofficially-retired #24 for the Mets since Willie Mays; the other was Rickey Henderson.

  7. I bought a still-sealed set of these from eBay last year, but the border was a cream colour (English spelling because I'm English), which I thought was correct, but it turns out the white border os correct and that mine had discoloured in the years since being printed. I still love the set though of course, I even scans three or four for Zistle until I decided to leave them to someone with a fresh whilte-bordered set.