Treating the Mets like it’s 1963
Topps Heritage has turned out to be the most long-lived retro/specialty product in baseball history. Now in its 12th year, the formula is simple and everlasting – take the Topps product from 49 years ago, replicate it with current players, repeat next year. Last year we finally got to the set that introduced the first Mets cards, so there was plenty to satisfy any Mets fan. The party’s over in 2012 Heritage, as Topps treated the current team as if it had just turned in a 1962 performance and barely acknowledged that a team called the Metropolitans even exists.
I’ll be honest, the 1963 design isn’t one of my favorites. It seems to be quite popular, but the simplicity of geometric shapes and primary colors just doesn’t work for me. And that yellow back… I’m all for readability, but it looks like these got dropped in the toilet. It is what it is though; this is a retro set, so we’re stuck with the design.
Ten Mets cards make up the base Mets team set. There are no real surprises here; most of these guys will look familiar from last year’s set. As he did in Topps Series 1, Schwinden gets the RC designation here. We also get a team card, which is always nice. A few notable players are missing, but there are SPs coming up later that should cover all of them, right?
Four Mets appeared on multiple player cards. Reyes once more gets recognition for his batting title, though the card is a bit ambiguous when it comes to who came out on top (sure looks like Kemp won from this card). Chris Schwinden inexplicably shows up on a quad rookie card after getting his own card elsewhere, so, um, that’s another card. Josh Satin quietly makes his debut in another quad rookie card, and then Chris Schwinden rounds the group out with, um, another quad rookie card? What the hell, Topps? Three Schwindens? This had better he a reference to a Mets rookie who appeared on three cards in the 1963 set, otherwise this is just stupid. Actually, it looks like they did this with a few players. Not enough rookies to pad out the set?
Finally, the SPs add some star power with Ike Davis, David Wright, Frank Francisco in his first Mets card (not really a star but I’ll give him a pass for being new) and Oh come on Topps, Jason Freaking Bay??? He’s a lost cause, but Topps showcases him as one of only three Mets in the Opening Day set and now makes him an SP in Heritage. Did somebody at Topps not get the message that, short a miracle, this guy will be a platoon player at best by the end of the year? These are your New York Mets, missing only the bulk of the rotation (Niese, Pelfrey, and Gee) and a center fielder. It’s not the best mix, but this is a specialty set, so you can’t expect to get everyone. Heritage always has lots of fun variants and parallels, so there should be plenty more to see.
Or not. No Mets were featured in any of the multitudes of variant sets. No errors, no color swaps, no store exclusive bordered cards, not one single chrome or any chrome parallels… Last year there were 37 cards in this category. This year: 0. Hey Topps, tell us what you really think of the Mets.
Luckily, the Mets weren’t shut out in the insert category. The annual Clubhouse Collection Relic set featured two Mets, David Wright and Jose Reyes? This is really getting old. Wright also appeared on a little sticker. And that rounds out the current player inserts. Maybe getting nothing would have been better.
But wait, there’s more! The Real Ones Autographs insert set has been a treasure trove of forgotten player autographs, with last year’s set giving us four (three and a half?) players from the 1962 team. This year, we get one more original Met, Craig Anderson! … Craig Anderson? He, um, led the Mets pitching staff with 50 appearances in 1962. And didn’t do much afterward. There you have it, your vintage Mets representative, Craig Anderson!
If you’re underwhelmed, well, you should be. Look, I’m ecstatic to get a 1963 reprint autograph of ANY Mets player. These are the guys who started the club, going from the standard for futility to World Champions in less than a decade. Without them, we would be stuck with the Yankees and their dozens of championships, and who wants that? I hope every one of them who can still hold a pen can get Topps to make some cards for them to sign. But when your team’s only representative is a guy who lost a bunch of games in 1962 and then fell off the map, somebody isn’t trying hard enough.
Topps, I’ll give you a hand here. There’s a guy out there who, as a Met, was named a Topps All-Star Rookie in the 1963 set. He went on to get a World Series ring with the Mets in 1969. He is still active in the Mets organization mentoring young players and representing the team. You may have seen him in uniform at Spring Training this year. He has never been featured as a Met on a certified autograph card. His name is Al Jackson and he should have been in this year’s Heritage Real Ones Autographs set.
Maybe I’m just making a big deal out of nothing. Maybe Jackson won’t sign cards anymore. Maybe he’s just too busy working on building the next Mets championship team. But was there really nobody else from the 1963 Mets team set who was available? Three other former Mets did sign on cards showing them with other teams – Hobie Landrith, Chico Fernandez, and Ed Bauta. Of the three, only Landrith was on the team in 1962 and only Landrith would have a career after the Mets (he was traded for Marvelous Marv partway into the 1962 season). We still got autographs from four ’60s Mets players, so maybe things aren’t that bad.
No, they are that bad. 23. That’s how many Mets cards were in Heritage this year. Last year is was more than 80. The product as a whole seemed to be a bit less exciting than last year’s product, and 1962 was a big year for the team, but the Mets should still have been good for at least 30 cards. This is after all a product with well over 1,200 cards when you consider base cards, SPs, variants, inserts, etc. (everything except 1/1s and box toppers). Hopefully there’s more to come later in the year with Topps Chrome.
For the consolation prize, there were a few Mets cards featured in the box toppers that have become standard in Heritage. First are the ad panels, three-card blocks that feature a rotating lineup of players. This year, Jose Reyes (NL Batting Leaders) and Johan Santana made the cut, with panes showing them in all three positions, for a total of six cards.
Original 1963 Topps cards with a special foil stamp accounted for the second box topper. These included well-known Mets like Choo Choo Coleman, Marv Throneberry, and Al Jackson. In fact, there was probably a better variety of Mets players here than in the actual Heritage product.