In honor of the upcoming December 25 festivities – and, no, I'm not talking about Rickey Henderson's 53rd birthday – here's a look at a very well-done baseball/Christmas mash-up from the Topps Company.
In 2007, everyone's favorite baseball card monopoly created an 18-card Santa Claus set. The cards feature colorful, detailed pictures of Santa (and his many variations) in classic Topps baseball designs. The 1952 Topps Santa card is his rookie card, with the rest of the set featuring memorable designs from 1953 through 2007 (including some of my favorites in 1973, 1975, 1987, and 1988). There are even two winks at the current trend of baseball card collecting, with a Santa Claus autographed card ("Topps Santafied Autograph") and a relic card – a "Genuine Piece of Santa's Suit" – available.
Each card includes some kind of biographical information about Santa's height, weight, hometown, etc. alongside a (somewhat) detailed history about that particular Santa (or St. Nick or Father Christmas or…). Some are more fun than others. For example, the 1975 Kris Kringle card tells us how Santa is known by so many names both around the world and here in the United States. It's a nice piece of trivia to know, but the 1952 card is a bit more fun:
Santa had a truly outstanding breakout year for the Antlers at the plate last year, but it was while patrolling the field that he made the biggest impact. Many baseball-watchers say they've never seen anyone, much less a rookie, steal as many home runs at the wall as Santa has. With his trademark flick of the nose, Santa would oftentimes shoot almost straight up into the air to snag anything threatening to leave the park in his vicinity. Unfortunately, one bad landing has sent Santa to the DL with a sprained knee and the future of his baseball career is in doubt. Sources close to the rookie say the time off has already taken its toll at his waistline, which has ballooned alarmingly during his time in recovery.
Other topics covered by the set include the North Pole, Santa's team of "eight (sometimes nine, depending on the weather)" reindeer, his elves, and Mrs. Claus. The best part of the set, though, is the ever-changing list of teams featured on Santa's cards. From the Anchorage Antlers to the Hohohos to the Svalbard Reindeer, every name is perfect. I've included each team name, as well as the different biographical information, from each card below.
Finally, of the eighteen cards in the set, only three have statistics of any kind listed. Of those, the 1952 rookie card is the only one that includes baseball stats. For his first year in the majors, we see that Santa was a .267 hitter who managed to slug 13 home runs in 341 at-bats. His lifetime minor league average is a bit better, though, at .357 and 44 homers in 1,008 at-bats. The defensive stats – 135 put-outs in the bigs with a .959 fielding pct. – don't seem to agree with the narrative included above.
The 1955 card include stats on "Christmas Eve Delivery Records", such as Houses Visited, Nice Children, Naughty Children, Stockings Stuffed, and Cookies Eaten. "Santa Claus' Mall Record" is shown on his 1981 card, with stats such as Number of Malls, Toys Requested, Kittens Requested, and Times Santa's Beard Was Pulled. For the record, there were 1,346,991 kittens requested and only 1,346,990 puppies requested in 1981.
As you can see, it's a pretty solid set of cards. Nice work by Topps. (And I'm not just saying that to avoid a lump of coal in my stocking this weekend!) See below for the full list of cards. Clicking on an image will take you to a site that gives you the best view of the back of each card.