February 25, 2007

Some Thoughts on Topps’
Josh Gibson Home Run History

I was reading Stale Gum’s year-end summary yesterday and I noticed Chris is as put off by Topps’ Josh Gibson Home Run History insert as I am. Seriously, it’s a good idea and all, and Topps has been moving more and more in the last ten years or so towards the inclusion of Negro Leagues stars in its product, but why do an insert set, especially one where each card represents an actual, individually quantifiable quantity of something (in this case home runs), when for the longest time no official records were kept? The closest I think you can get is the very vague wording from Gibson’s Hall of Fame plaque: “Power-hitting catcher who hit almost 800 home runs in league and independent baseball during his 17-year career.” Does this mean that Topps is gearing up for a nearly 800-card insert set? I’ll be surprised if Gibson’s insert set doesn’t draw more attention as the summer progresses.

And as long as Topps is keen on continuing the Home Run History trend, what about an insert set for Sadaharu Oh (868 home runs in professional Japanese baseball)? Why stop at the Black Babe Ruth when the Japanese Babe Ruth waits in the wings? And why not top it off with Babe Ruth himself (714 home runs)? Then Topps could put all these cards—in addition to the Mantle and Bonds sets already in the process of being issued—together in a few years time to form one mammoth, Home Run History set. They could just forget the regular set.

Click here to view the Topps 2007 Series 1 Sell Sheet from Topps.com. Be sure to notice that they say that Gibson hit "800+ home runs" while his HOF plaque clearly states he hit "almost 800". Granted, Gibson was elected to the Hall in 1972, and I'm sure records were uncovererd between then and now that might refute that total. But that figure, "almost 800", has been ingrained into the public consciousness, so you see what I mean about needing to represent an actual, individually quantifiable quantity? I'd like to meet some of the Topps historians and hear their side of this.

Now if Topps really wanted to put out a limited-edition Home Run History chase set, they should do one of a player like Ozzie Smith. He only hit 29.

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