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By 1987, we were starting to feel pretty smug about how sophisticated the hobby was getting.

Not only did we have three traditional(ish) card companies instead of just one, but we also had Sportflics making us all seasick but greedy with their Magic Motion magic.

And then there were the Fleer glossies and Topps Tiffany and super-scarce 1987 Fleer and 1987 Donruss base issues, not to mention Update, Traded, and The Rookies sets.

They were heady times, and we were starting to think we had moved past the dark ages of the hobby and the foibles of our un-enlightenment — the marked checklists, the massive runs of error cards, short prints, double prints, miscuts, wrong backs … airbrushing.

I mean, sure, we still got a brush job here and there, but it was time to put away such antiquities — and we were confident Topps was working hard on that, what with all the competition, and all.

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But just when we thought those wood-grained 1987 Topps beauties might be holding their own with the Donruss and Fleer super sets that spring … WHAM!

We pulled card #321, Mike Laga.

And Mike Laga’s airbrushed Cardinals cap.

And Mike Laga’s pink “Cardinals” shirt.

It was hideous. It still is.

And the real heck of it is that it was wholly unnecessary.

For one thing, Laga had been around the Majors since 1982, and he played with the Detroit Tigers off and on until they traded him to the Cards in September of 1986.

Donruss graced us with Laga cards in both 1984 and 1986.

Topps didn’t chime in until their 1986 Topps Traded set … where they showed him as a Tiger.

So, two-plus months after Detroit traded Laga away, he showed up in that 132-card boxed set with his first Topps card, but for the wrong team.

Now, September is pretty late in the season to reasonably expect a guy to end up with his new team in a set that comes out around Thanksgiving, but at that point, wouldn’t it have made more sense for Topps to just focus, like, really hard, on nabbing a shot of Laga in Cardinals togs for their 1987 set?

After all, it seems Donruss was able to pull off the feat with no problem, and with no finger paints:

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You have to wonder why The Real One couldn’t manage the same. Or at least just go on ignoring the dude for one more season.

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