The first true Met for life
There were few constants for the Mets of the ’60s and ’70s. Between some of the worst teams in baseball history and two World Series teams (one winner and one loser), the ups and downs could not have been any bigger. What all of those teams had in common though was Ed Kranepool. Kranepool was called up to the majors in 1962 at age 17 and stayed with the Mets until he retired almost two decades later. More than half a century after his debut, Kranepool remains the only retired Mets all-star to spend his entire career with the Mets. In fact, Kranepool’s longevity in Queens gave him many franchise records, some of which are just starting to be overtaken by David Wright. Ed Kranepool was never a superstar player; Baseball-Reference puts his career value at a mere 4.2 Wins Above Replacement, less than David Wright’s bWAR from his injury-shortened 2013 alone. Still, he was a big part of Mets history and deserves some cardboard commemoration.
Kranepool’s cards from his playing years all predate the demise of the Topps monopoly. Through the expansion of the hobby in the ’80s and the product diversification of the ’90s, his only cards were in various team issues or specialty sets. That all changed in 1999 when he appeared in the first great retired player autograph set in Fleer’s Sports Illustrated Greats of the Game. He looks hungry.
Kranepool’s game-used memorabilia history includes cards in several of the great memorabilia insert sets of the 2001-2005 era. Between bat cards in Upper Deck’s 2001 Vintage and 2001 Legends of New York and jersey cards in 2002 Topps Super Teams and 2005 Topps Pristine, he had a decent variety of material for a lesser player who hadn’t appeared in a game since the ’70s.
In addition to the game-used, Kranepool also had several base cards and autographs in products from 2001 to 2005. One of the more interesting was 2004 UD Timeless Teams, a product that shares a name with the memorabilia insert set in 2001 UD Vintage that also featured Kranepool. The 2001 version included bat cards (and a quad bat card) from Kranepool and teammates Nolan Ryan, Ron Swoboda, and Tommie Agee. The 2004 version included autographs from Kranepool and teammates Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, and Jerry Koosman.
Sadly, changes in the hobby after 2005 kept Ed Kranepool from appearing in cardboard until 2011, when Topps Heritage issued this coin card to commemorate Kranepool’s rookie year.
2012 had much more Kranepool in store. With autographs in Topps Archives, Topps Tier One, and Topps Update, it was a big year for Ed Kranepool. 2013 was a bit of a down year with only autographs in Panini Golden Age. Despite the years, Ed Kranepool’s signature hasn’t changed since I first got his autograph in person more than 20 years ago. I didn’t know who he was back then, but I’ll be better prepared when I see him on Saturday at the 2014 Queens Baseball Convention and get a chance to re-live a part of my childhood.