Friday, October 30, 2015

A Golden Opportunity

Not many collectors I know are fans of the 2002 Topps set, but I am. You can call me crazy if you want but the set will always have nostalgia for me. 2002 was the year I reentered the hobby after a 9 year absence of collecting baseball cards. After taking eight long years to figure out what I wanted to major in at the University of Cincinnati, I finally graduated and moved north with my wife from the Cincinnati area to just south of Cleveland, Ohio. It was a rough transition as we knew no one. We eventually started making friends and I happened to stumble upon a card shop in the area. When I dove back into the hobby I decided to chase the 2002 Topps set, busting wax like there was no tomorrow. So why did I choose 2002? Well, 2001 was a great year for baseball. It was a transition period for us as a nation from what transpired on September 11th of that year. Through all the ups and downs of that year, baseball was there for us through the entire journey. In my opinion, Topps created a fantastic set that captured the essence of what was baseball in 2001 as well as continued with tradition that had made some of their vintage sets so appealing.

Gold Borders
Who does that? Aren't card borders always suppose to be white? Sure you have your outlier sets like 1962 Topps, 1971 Topps, 1975 Topps, 1987 Topps, and 1990 Topps but the vast majority of baseball card sets are white. Again, I know that most collectors hate this set, but I think 2001 was a golden year where baseball shone bright in an hour of darkness and I think it works.

Team Cards

I love team cards. Prevalent in the 60s, 70s, and early 80s, team cards vanished from the scene for a while but eventually found their way back on cardboard. Baseball has been and always will be a team sport. No one person can go nine innings alone and win a game. It's a team effort to chalk up a win and it's nice to see a team posing together even though they might not always get along with each other.

Manager Cards

Again, another throwback to cards of a bygone era. While you don't see manager cards much nowadays, unless your collecting heritage, I think they're an important part of the game and deserve a spot in a baseball card set. Sure, kids may cry when they pull some old guy from a pack of cards, but hey...hearts are meant to be broken when you're busting wax. Besides, you never know when one of those managers just might make it to Copperstown one day for the calls they make from the dugout.

Playoff Bound

Card sets are always full of history. What team a player was with, their batting average, you get the idea. It's always nice to see cards honoring the history of the game and these playoff bound cards do just that. I realize that I can find out anytime I want on the internet what teams made the post season in 2001, but what if one day the internet broke and we had no way of finding out that information. Not to worry because it's forever enshrined on a 2 1/2" by 3 1/2" piece of cardboard.

United We Stand

I still remember to this day that period in 2001 when baseball was cancelled. I never imagined a time, unless it was from a player's strike, that we wouldn't have the national pastime in the waning months of summer. It was an eerie feeling that week, but when baseball did return it provided an opportunity for us as a nation to remember those that were lost, enjoy a sport that's as american as apple pie, and to remember that we stood united together in a time of uncertainty and tragedy.

Another Home Run Chase
Love him or hate him, you can't deny that what Barry Bonds did during the 2001 season wasn't short of spectacular. I was always a McGwire fan (even though he sported the Cardinal uniform) so it was with mixed emotion when I witnessed the unlikely march of Bonds toward the single season home run record. I was in Phoenix for training in late July and was fortunate enough to make it to the ballpark on July 26th to witness Barry going yard not once, but twice off Curt Schilling. Truly a fantastic feat and one that I was proud witness 2 of the 73 that he knocked in that year.

So there you have it, my reasons for what makes 2002 Topps such a great set. I recently purchased the base set of 719 cards, but I still have 72 variants of card #365 (Race to Seventy) to chase. It'll take a while I'm sure to track them all down, but I'm sure I'll enjoy the chase as much as I enjoyed the 2001 baseball season.

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