by Drew Pelto, AKA *censored*

Once again, let’s fast forward through the countdown.  I’ll eventually make these all public in some way either in blog or book form.  Mostly since I really like a bunch of these sets.

#24. 1973 Topps
#23. 1992 Topps
#22. 1963 Topps
#21. 1999 Topps
#20. 1982 Topps
#19. 1960 Topps
#18. 1980 Topps
#17. 1961 Topps
#16. 1974 Topps
#15. 1967 Topps
#14. 1975 Topps
#13. 1958 Topps
#12. 1959 Topps
#11. 1965 Topps

And so, as the 2011 World Series begins today, We will kick off the Top 10 of the countdown with… well, set #10 of course.

#10. 1983 Topps

The last set to come out before I was born (well, technically not; 1984 Topps came out a few months prior, but let’s not split hairs here) was a strong effort from Topps. When was the last time before this that a Topps set had three Hall of Famers’ rookie cards in it?

Wade Boggs, pre-Margo

First off, the 1983 set has a solid design. Action shot as the main picture, round headshot inset as a salute to 1963, team colored frames, white border. Classy, stylish, but not even close to being over-the-top in its effort.  It’s solid.

Second of all, a bumper crop of elite players. You get the standard 80′s Hall of Fame crew of Henderson, Carlton, Sandberg, Bench (his last card), Rose, Sutton, Sutter, Carew, Jenkins, Gossage… and that’s just in the first 250 cards.  Besides Bench, Gaylord Perry and Carl Yastrzemski have their last cards here too (aside from multi-player highlights cards in the 1984 set, which I don’t count).

Third, rookies galore. Gwynn, Boggs, Sandberg. Wow! There is no set in the past 30 years that has a group of rookies like this one.  There are even a couple solid non-HOF rookies here in Frank Viola and Willie McGee. Not greats, but still both are award winners (Viola with the Cy Young in 1988 and McGee the 1985 MVP). Jim Eisenreich, Bud Black, Dave Dravecky, and Gary Gaetti debut as well.  Best of all, Topps finally got rid of the multi-player rookie card in 1983, keeping it out of sets for nine years.  I mentioned a while back how idiotic the “Rookie Stars” or “Future Stars” tag can be.  Because really now, how many of those guys ended up as stars?  I did the math in a previous post and don’t feel like counting and calculating again, so let’s just go with 5%.  Just find some good ones, give them their own card, and be done with it.  Topps did it in 1983 and hit it pretty well. Only seven rookie cards, but included were three HOF’ers, three other guys who played at least 10 years each, and one guy who had his career tragically derailed by cancer but wrote a couple of excellent books chronicling his battle. If you haven’t read it, Dravecky’s book Comeback is definitely worth a read.

Willie McGee, who once called a press conference to tell the world he did not use steroids. We never suspected you, sir. But thanks anyway?

Fourth, Topps returned to putting cards of managers in the 1983 set.  The last set to have them was in 1978 (unless you count the inset photo with the team cards from 1980). I’ve always liked putting managers in sets. I’d even put coaches in if it were up to me (last time it was done: 1977), but I can see how some wouldn’t like it. I think putting the manager in is a good middle point between having full coaching staves (strange plurals FTW!) and having none of them.

Usually I’d take this moment to explain the negatives of whatever set I was ranking (or in the case of the lower sets, the few positives).  Now that we’re in the Top 10, it’s hard to find any negatives. The Top 10 sets all are, in my mind, perfect.  It just comes down to which ones I prefer and which ones are, well, “more perfect” than the others for lack of a better term.

A Trammell that was a treasure (Bad Religion puns FTW!)

By the way, the last Topps set with 3 or more Hall of Famers rookie cards in it? 1966 with Hall of Fame pitchers Jim Palmer, Ferguson Jenkins, and Don Sutton making their debuts. The last set with three Hall of Fame position players rookie cards was… A set that we’ll get to later.

1983 was part of a strange streak in the 1980′s where the even years were bad (except for 1980 and 1982), the odd years were good (except for 1981 and 1989), and Topps finally started taking cards somewhat seriously again now that Fleer, Donruss, and Score were competing with them. The 1983 set was the first part of a brief return to greatness that we hadn’t seen since the 1950′s and 60′s.

About the Author: Drew Pelto wishes he was born in 1983 so he could share a birth year with an awesome set instead of the pile of crap that was released in 1984.  He lives in Texas and is the only person in the state not watching the World Series (BLASPHEMY!) as a protest against MLB’s current lack of a salary cap.