April 7, 2006

It’s been 25 years since one of the greatest baseball card sets ever was out on the market. The 1981 Topps set was full of cards that contained some of the worst photos ever taken. Whether the cameraman got way too close to his/her subject, forgot to focus in, or just took one pointless, non-action shot after another, many of the 700-plus cards look like Topps hired a fourth grade class to take the photos for the ’81 set.

And that’s the beauty of it. Once Topps and other companies started getting it "right" in the 1990s, the pictures actually became boring and repetitive. There was no longer the fun of laughing at a guy’s photo or wondering what the photographer was possibly thinking. The innocence of the whole thing was perfect. No one will ever get nostaligic over a glossy, perfectly photographed, limited edition card from the 21st century, but I guarantee many folks will yearn for their childhood when  picking up one of these classic ’81 Topps cards:


Joe Pettini:

I’m still convinced that the photographer asked Pettini to put on one of those Groucho Marx glasses/nose/mustache things before taking this photo.

Pettini now actually coaches with the St. Louis Cardinals, but has not donned his Marx disguise in recent years.



Steve Trout:

Gotta wonder how Topps chose this photo to make it on Trout’s  ’81 card. Was there no action shot available?  Did Trout just wake up and the photographer snapped a shot before he could even put his hat on his head?

The photo also has an eery similarity to the Nick Nolte DUI photo from a few years back. Unfortunately for Trout, the sunglasses weren’t enough to disguise his true identity.



Gene Richards:

Amazing that Richards didn’t sue Topps after his card was released in early 1981. It’s as if the cameraman was hiding on the ground and then just jumped up right in Richards’ face and snapped a quick shot.

Some people credit this photo with damaging Richard’s ego, which subsequently led to his demine (61 steals in 1980, only 21 in 1981) and found him out of baseball by the end of 1984.

Ross Grimsley:


Just a classic photo that says it all about the 1981 set.  This kind of hair, along with the mustache, will never be duplicated again. I just wish I appreciated these things more back in the early ’80s.

Makes you wonder if we’ll be laughing at Manny Ramirez’s hair 25 years from now, or even possibly 25 days from now.

And finally, three guest celebrities also appeared in the 1981 set.




1 Comment

Haha Klayman, this is great. Me and my friends all did this many many years ago. We assembled an entire set of funny cards from the 80’s. I wish I still had them. One of my all time favorites, Rusty Kuntz was #1 in our checklist.

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