Longtime baseball fans and collectors know that Fred Lynn did something in 1975 that had never been done before — he won BOTH the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards in the American League that season.

And, if you somehow didn’t get that message at the time or weren’t following baseball or collecting baseball cards, Topps and Kmart were there to catch you up in 1982:

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Of course, since Topps was doing the old four-rookies-are-better-than-one schtick back in 1975, that’s not Lynn’s real rookie card.

No, he was just a face in the crowd back on his Chiclets RC:

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So Topps whipped up this baby (the special box-set thing up there, that is) just for the purpose of that Kmart set, the one that celebrated all the MVPs that had come down the pipe in the department store’s 20-year history up to that point.

And, like the other mini cards in that set, the Lynn “rookie” has taken on a sort of celebrity status in the hobby thanks to that Kmart entry.

Sorta like seeing the hero (or villain or UFO or sasquatch) of the week on the cover of the National Enquirer while standing in line down at the local Grub & Lube.

Now, it turns out there were *not* 40 MVP cards in the Kmart set as you might expect — 20 years x 2 league MVP awards per year.

Nope … there were 41.

That’s because, in 1979, Willie Stargell and Keith Hernandez tied in the voting for the National League MVP award, while Don Baylor took home honors in the A.L.

And, yes, all three of their 1979 Topps cards went on to become hobby famous, thanks to that Kmart set:

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But, as recognizable as that trio is now, they weren’t all the 1979 Topps set had to offer.

Indeed, when those three Topps cards were fresh and new and popping out of similarly fresh and new wax packs, dusted in bubblegum gold, so was another card.

A card that doesn’t much see the light of day here in the third decade of the 21st century …

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Yeah, it’s another Fred Lynn card.

His fifth base Topps card, and his fourth solo base Topps card (there’s a joke about a bass solo in there somewhere).

It’s not much to look at, really, other than that monstrous raccoon perched atop Lynn’s head. The man’s coiffurial talents seldom get their due, but they do here.

Otherwise, though? And from a baseball perspective?

This is about as boring a card as you could dream up.

Still …

You could make a decent case that THIS card, this mid-career, hatless, expressionless Fred Lynn should be at least as tabloid famous as the MVP trio up there.

Because, guess who led the majors in WAR that season (1979, that is).

Go head, guess.

It was Fred Lynn, at 8.9.

Now, I know … WAR didn’t even exist in 1979.

But Lynn did plenty good by traditional baseball standards, too: .333, 39 home runs, 122 RBI, 116 runs scored, a third Gold Glove in centerfield.

That batting average won him the hitting crown, the homer total was tied for second in the A.L., and the RBI mark was fourth.

It was that last, the RBIs, that probably cost Lynn the MVP award. After all, Baylor drove in a whopping 139 to lead the league while his Angels pushed to their first division title.

On the WAR side, Lynn held an advantage of 8.9 to 3.7.

But it was 1979. Those were RBI. Lots of them.

And, so, Fred Lynn finished fourth in MVP voting (just like with the RBIs), which made some sense by the standards of the day. I mean, his Red Sox finished in third place, 11.5 games back in the American League East.

You couldn’t very well give an MVP award to a guy from a team with that sort of lowly finish, even if they did win 91 games.

For proof, just look at the National League, where the Cardinals finished 86-76, in third place and 12 games back of the eventual World Series-winning Pirates.

You couldn’t very well give the MVP to Keith Hernandez, right? I mean, despite his 116 runs scored and batting title, on the strength of a .344 batting average? And his 7.6 WAR and Gold Glove at first base?

He played for those lowly Cards, after all.

But, evidently you could give him half an MVP award.

Which makes you wonder — could Lynn have claimed his half by simply moving a few strands of that mane down to his upper lip?

Basked in a bit more of that Blue Light Special blue light?

Sounds like tabloid fodder for the ages.

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Do you think any of these MVPs — or near-MVPs — make the cut among the most valuable 1979 Topps cards? Find out in our rundown on YouTube:

1979 Topps #308 Ozzie Newsome Browns RC

End Date: Wednesday 08/21/2024 01:59:22 EDT
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