Did you know that Frank Robinson found a loophole for Topps’ “No Career-Capper Cards, Ever” rule?


You say you don’t even know what Topps’ “No Career-Capper Cards, Ever” rule is?

Well, the gist is that, at least in the old days, Topps never, ever issued a card of a player they didn’t think would be on a big league roster during the season that card would be released.

Sure, this was an unstated rule, at least publicly, but you could see it play out like clockwork when a legend retired, and when everyone knew he was retiring.

Happened with Willie Mays in 1973 — no base Topps card for Say Hey in 1974.

Happened with Hank Aaron in 1976 — no base Topps card for Hammer in 1977.

Happened with Stan Musial back in 1963 — no base Topps card for The Man in 1964.

But you know who it didn’t happen to?

Right, Mickey Mantle.

Because, even though everyone pretty much knew The Mick was done after 1968, he didn’t announce the fact until Spring Training Eve in 1969, well after Topps’ planning stage was behind them. And, if there was a chance Mickey Mantle was going to play baseball, and if you made baseball cards for a living, then you had to include the Commerce Comet.

What’s all this have to do with Frank Robinson and his loopholes, you ask?

Glad you asked … thanks for getting us back on track.

See …

Robinson retired after the 1976 season, which means that Sy Berger or someone else in the Topps Checklist Planning Department had a chance to practice their evil laugh as they struck another name from their proposed 1977 checklist.

But this was the era of Topps Team Cards, when they released a card dedicated to each MLB team, in full horizontal format with all the guys and staff lined up like the kids of your school’s chapter of the Future Crypto Misunderstanders of America Club in that old yearbook you dust off from time to time.

And, in a corner banner on each of those team cards, Topps plopped down a headshot of the team’s manager from 1976.

Go ahead … guess who Cleveland’s manager was in 1976.

Right, it was Frank Robinson, the Tribe’s player-manager.

Hence …

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F. Robby wins, creating his own career-capper card — sans batting statistics.

It’s not just that headshot where Robinson wins, either, because the future Hall of Famer and former Triple Crown winner also appears right smack-dab in the middle of the front row.

And if you think that team shot looks familiar, well, it’s all in your head. Topps would never, ever reuse a photo, and especially not a team photo, and double especially not from one year to the next.

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All in your head, I tell you.

If Topps had been tempted to reuse a Robinson-Indians photo, say in their 1978 set, that temptation was snuffed in the bud when Cleveland fired their living legend in June 1977.

But, if Topps had turned their record-breaking sites for the next year inward, you can bet Lou Brock would have lost his hold on the #1 slot in the 1978 set in favor of …

“Most Cardboard Loopholes, Season: Frank Robinson.”

1977 Topps #500 Dave Kingman

End Date: Saturday 05/11/2024 23:01:10 EDT
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