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June 14, 2012

Wezen-Ball

Topps Big's Favorite Hobbies

by Larry Granillo

Topps Big was a ridiculous baseball card set that was produced from 1988 to 1990. The cards were large, glossy, and colorful. Each included a giant headshot on the front next to a too-small action shot of the player. Apparently seeing players actually doing something wasn't as important to 1989's children as large, non-smiling faces. The backs of the cards featured the typical statistics and biographical information, but that wasn't all. They also featured large, colorful comics detailing the players' career highlights and life stories. Picture the "getting to know you" conversations from Jeopardy drawn in bright, cheesy, racist comic panels. It's great.

The problem with these kinds of "fun" details is that not all players are very interesting. It's easy for, say, a Cal Ripken or Roger Clemens or Dwight Gooden card to have captivating facts on the back. Mention their postseason awards, their record feats, their All-Star starts, their best games—it'd be hard *not* to say something interesting about superstars like that. But what about the Larry McWilliams or Mike Dunnes or Gary Wards of the world?

The solution, apparently, was to highlight—over-and-over again—the various hobbies each player had. Take a look at a few random examples:


Andres Thomas: What man doesn't love soap operas? Also, I wonder if he ever met Cal.


Bill Doran: The most interesting thing about Bill Doran is that he likes taking trips to Cincinnati. Sounds like an exciting guy.


Bryn Smith: The golf ball out of Olympic Stadium actually sounds like an interesting story, but it pales next to panel two. Bryn Smith is a Rush fan?! I like to think that Smith answered "Rush!" to every question on the "Getting to Know You" questionnaire the Topps Bigs guys sent out.


Candy Maldonado: Pisa and Paris beat Cincinnati, that's for sure.


Dale Sveum: One of many players to get the "What sport do you play in your spare time?" treatment on these Topps Big cards.


Doyle Alexander: First tennis, now racquetball...


Jose Lind: ...and now, um, teammate jumping?


Juan Samuel: A ballplayer likes going to the movies? He's just like me!


Lance McCullers: It doesn't appear that McCullers ever played for Tony La Russa, but I bet the famous manager would approve of his hobbies.


Larry Herndon: I bet if Larry Herndon and Juan Samuel had a night out on the town, they'd have just a swell time.


Mike Dunne: You know you're a star when your Topps Big card includes not one but two hobbies on the back. I wonder what he thought when he finally pulled this card out of a pack.


Mike Lavalliere: I'm actually a bit surprised that this is the first mention of fishing or any other nature activities. Maybe I picked the wrong subset of players to check out.


Milt Thompson: I really hope that Milt is listening to some Perry Como or Lawrence Welk in that picture.


Tim Wallach: More racquetball!


Tom Henke: Building construction and trapping?! He must come up with some really elaborate traps.


Tom Herr: And I thought for a minute that we wouldn't have many nature-loving examples. Whew!

3 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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swarmee

Nice childhood retrospective. Did Tim Wallach hit a HR in his first minor and major league AB? How rare is that?

Jun 14, 2012 06:43 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Larry Granillo
BP staff

That really confused me about Wallach's card too, so I looked into it. He did indeed hit a homer in his first minor league appearance and in his first major league at-bat. Technically, he walked in his first major league PA, so the "at-bat" is important.

Jun 14, 2012 07:05 AM
 
Michael
(736)

Inspired by the Lance McCullers comment and armed with baseball-reference.com, I thought I'd look up number of saves in first x games to start one's MLB career. McCullers is tied for second. Salome Barajas in 1982 switched from the Mexican League to the Chicago White Sox and saved the first 5 games in which he appeared for Chicago.

Jun 19, 2012 14:16 PM
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