Chico Cardenas was a bonus.

See, back in 1962, Topps rolled out a baseball card that has mesmerized collectors for six decades (and counting).

Card #18 in that woodgrained beauty of an issue was titled “Manager’s Dream” and featured a smiling Willie Mays and a maybe-smiling Mickey Mantle, each wearing a glove on his hand and with other All-Stars milling about in the background.

There was more baseball talent and lore wrapped up on that swatch of cardboard than you might find in a hundred or more mere mortal baseball cards.

Perhaps seeking to recapture the magic of that moment, Topps was back for more in 1968, gracing collectors with another Manager’s Dream card, at #480.

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By that point, Mantle was in a fairly steep decline and Mays was entering his late 30s, showing the slowdown in footspeed and hand-eye coordination you might expect even from the greats as they move out of their peak years.

Also by that point, Tony Oliva and Roberto Clemente were hot commodities in the game.

The Twins superstar had won the 1964 American League Rookie of the Year and copped batting titles in 1964 and 1965.

“Bob” Clemente, meanwhile, had four National League batting titles under his belt, including three of the past four, along with the 1966 NL MVP award.

And, while there was no song celebrating “Roberto, Tony, and Mr. Tiger” as great rightfielders (lumping in Al Kaline here) as there had been for Willie, Mickey, and the Duke (Snider) in centerfield a decade before, Clemente and Oliva were undoubtedly baseball royalty.

And then there was Chico Cardenas.

The Reds shortstop was neither a rightfielder (obviously) or a hitting star, having led the NL in anything just three times: games played (163) in 1964 and intentional walks in both 1965 and 1966.

Cardenas was, however, a three-time All-Star with a Gold Glove for his work at shortstop in 1965 to his credit by the time this burlap Manager’s Dream found its way into collectors’ hands.

He also showed uncharacteristic pop for a middle infielder in the 1960s, banging a career-high 20 home runs in 1966 and reaching double digits on two other occasions (1965 and 1962).

Still, Cardenas was no Clemente or Oliva, and he was already 29 by the time this card was issued.

So how did the man they called Chico (Leonardo Lazaro Cardenas was his full given name) end up between the two superstars?

Was he just in the right place at the right time?

Was he in that background crowd at the All-Star Game and decided to turn around at just the right time to photobomb Oliva and Clemente?

Or maybe the Topps photographer was a fan of Mr. Automatic, or of the Reds’ sweet 1960s uniforms?

Could have been any of the above.

Or it could be that Chico Cardenas really was a manager’s dream, a guy you could put out there at one of the most important spots on the diamond, secure in the knowledge that he would handle whatever came his way, and that he would do it all season long.

And, you also knew he could handle the stick and deliver some bonus power every now and again.

So, if Topps was going to grace us with a bonus player on their 1968 Manager’s Dream card, doesn’t it seem fitting that it would be Leo Cardenas who provides that little something extra?


Hobby Wow!

If you’re really into the burlap splendor of 1968 Topps, you could spring for a complete graded set, like this one offered up on eBay …

I mean, sure, that’s minivan money, but it’s still fun to look at, right?

You can do that with the original listing on eBay right here (affiliate link).

1968 TOPPS BASEBALL CARDS SEALED X-MAS RACK @@ SUPER RARE @@

$129.94
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LOT OF (200) DIFFERENT 1968 TOPPS BASEBALL CARDS (VG to VG-EX)

$104.50 (3 Bids)
End Date: Saturday 01/29/2022 21:03:13 EST
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1966-1968 Topps Baseball Cards (125 Cards in Total)

$99.99 (0 Bids)
End Date: Saturday 01/22/2022 22:27:42 EST
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