In a great irony of the exploding hobby that he, more than any other single player helped build, Mickey Mantle appeared on zero baseball cards in 1995.

This, according to the PSA Mantle Set Registry and copious Google searches, and discounting the porcelain Hamilton Collection of a dozen or so Mantle “cards” …

And, OK, also discounting the sort of confusing array of tins from Upper Deck showcasing “Metallic” versions of their 1994 Mantle Heroes cards. Given that Babe Ruth was UD’s subject for Heroes in ‘95, it’s a good bet these Mantle tins were posthumous add-ons.

And there’s the rub — after appearing on scads of cards each year through the early 1990s while the hobby spiraled away from collectors who just wanted “one of everything,” Mantle was nowhere to be found in packs across the land during his final summer.

As Cal Ripken, Jr., marched toward Lou Gehrig and his Iron Man record for consecutive games played, and as baseball struggled to reconnect with fans after The Strike that tore the game to pieces, Mantle spent most of the year battling liver cancer and trying to recover from the transplant that followed.

He lost that fight in August, about a month after he addressed his adoring public with a cautionary tale: “Don’t be like me,” were that words that echo through the decades.

The next spring, Mantle was back in our packs, just about any kind of pack you could imagine.

There were reprints of his classic cards and tributes in sets that never had classic Mantles and fancy parallels and inserts to satisfy even the most high-end and exotic tastes in baseball cards.

And then, there was something a bit more mundane.

Something that made us feel young and old at the same time, something that plucked the heartstrings of fathers and sons, grandfathers and grandsons alike.

It was a Mickey Mantle base card in Topps Series One:

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You can probably guess the card number, right?

Yeah, it’s #7, same as Mantle’s storied, pinstriped Yankees uniform.

Today, there’s nothing super special about this card from a rarity or value standpoint — it sells for $15-30 even in “perfect” PSA 10 condition.

If you like a bit more glitz and glamor with your cardboard, you can also find a couple of razzle-dazzle parallels.

But, no matter how you dress it up, the real and enduring charm of the 1996 Topps Mickey Mantle base card is that it brought us back to our roots, provided a touchpoint with our history.

Even if ever so briefly, and even if it’s been ironically lost in the glare of The Hobby That Mantle Built.

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1996 Topps Baseball Card #275 Andre Dawson

End Date: Friday 12/08/2023 01:51:20 EST
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