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(This is the tenth in our series of posts about the best baseball cards from the 1980s. Check out the rest of those posts here.)

Look … you could give me any one of about 791 different 1983 Topps baseball cards (sorry Bryan Clark), and I’d take my chances against whatever dreck you could put on the table from another set.

This set — 1983 Topps — is gorgeous, by and large, and it was a quantum leap better than the stuff issued around it. Photos are vibrant, it has two (awesome) images on each card front, and it even nails team colors pretty well.

Peruse through Google images for 1983 Topps and you’ll see gems like:

Man, this thing is loaded!

1983 Topps George Brett

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So picking a best card from 1983 Topps is sort of like picking a best scoop of ice cream or your favorite western. They’re mostly variations on greatness.

Last year, for example, when I was running through the best cards from each year from 1960-1989 (though not each set), I landed on the 1983 Topps Reggie Jackson card as top of the heap. That one’s tough to beat, what with Reggie — in the sunshine — coming out of his swing and tracking the flight of the ball. And with headshot Reggie cool as an October breeze watching the whole thing in shades.

But we’ve already covered that one, and, truthfully, you can’t really say it’s head and shoulders above the rest of the set. There is just so much to love here.

So how do we pick?

Mostly, it’s a gut call in situations like this, but a few more objective factors come into play. For instance, a “best” card should …

  • Show some essence of the player in question.
  • Show some essence of the game.
  • Give us a little action instead of a pure pose (usually).
  • Have some historical significance.
  • Nail the color scheme.
  • Be generally visually appealing.

A tall order, but again, 1983 Topps is full of cards that hit most or all of these points.

One that excels across the board is card #600 of Kansas City Royals great George Brett.

1983 Topps George Brett (back)

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In the main shot, Brett is trotting toward the Royals dugout after apparently scoring, maybe on a home run, maybe in a play at the plate judging by the dirt on his pants. Looks like a slide artifact to me.

As he runs by, he and Cesar Geronimo perform some sort of quick congratulatory hand jive. The cameo by Geronimo and his push-broom mustache is part of the extra special something, especially for Cincinnati Reds fans who remember The Chief from his days with The Big Red Machine.

To the lower left, Brett almost smiles in a headshot set against a perfect billowy-cloud sky, part of the ocean-wash of blue that pours forth from this card. Brett looks off to his left (our right), maybe to the Royals 1985 World Series championship … but maybe to something more immediate.

Because, on July 24, 1983, while collectors were still pulling this card from new wax packs, George Brett hit a home run against the New York Yankees.

Then … Yanks manager Billy Martin challenged the home on the basis that Brett had too much pine tar on his bat.

Then … umpire Tim McClelland, after a conference with Joe Brinkman, called Brett out.

Finally … Brett lost his mind.

The Pine Tar Incident has become part of baseball lore, and the image of Brett bursting from the dugout in wild anger is an icon that will linger as long as the game is played.

Somewhere, as Brett was coming unhinged, some young collector was holding that 1983 Topps Brett card, noticing how the two scenes — the one on the card and the one on TV screen — really weren’t that much different.

Each precipitated by some Brett heroic, each revolving around home plate.

Just an inch or two here or there were the difference between ecstasy and meltdown.

In some ways, looking back, that card seems prescient now.

It knew something important would happen surrounding Brett and homeplate.

Or maybe it was a view into what might have been — a happier, calmer ending.

Or maybe … well, maybe it was just a snapshot in time.

Whatever the case, in this snapshot in time, this classic George Brett pasteboard is the best card from the 1983 Topps baseball set.

(This is the tenth in our series of posts about the best baseball cards from the 1980s. Check out the rest of those posts here.)

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