2013 TOPPS ARCHIVES DWIGHT GOODEN
No one likes to be around someone out of control yet at a distance there’s almost something poetic about someone or something obliterating the boundaries of what’s possible. In the Jefferson Airplane song Wild Times, there’s a lyric that goes: “I’m doing things that haven’t got a name yet.” How very psychedelic.
Without a doubt, the equivalent in the baseball card industry was the 1972 Topps set. It marked the fourth straight year that Topps had upped the ante, in terms of set length. The 1972 set came in at an unheard of 787 cards. It was quite a change from 1968, which checked in at a rather modest 598 cards.
And if a collector had stepped away from the hobby after 1968 and came back in 1972, he would also find a whole bunch of other things for which he was not prepared. There were In Action cards, Boyhood Photos of the Stars, Awards and Trophy cards, ones with the word TRADED stamped across the players bodies, World Series cards in color, cards whose backs formed a puzzle, cards that offered scoring questions, card backs that teased upcoming releases and more.
And the fronts were revolutionary. For the first time ever there was a curved line around the photo. The team names jumped out in 3-D type lettering. And the cards had stars on them. How very psychedelic.
Unfortunately, Topps pulled the reins in after that. The 1973 set had big, boring white borders and a puny 660 set length. And while there were some terrific action shots in the set, there were just as many that left one scratching his head trying to figure out which player the card was actually for.
But collectors will always have the 1972 set.
In a way, it makes perfect sense to have Dwight Gooden in a card with the 1972 design. He was brilliant, he was awesome and his starts were events. Early in his career he was pushing the boundaries of what was possible and what we could expect from a modern pitcher. In his magical 1985 season, he had a lower ERA than Tom Seaver ever had and posted the lowest mark for a pitcher since they lowered the mound in 1969. Cooperstown was a foregone conclusion
Among other things, his psychedelic lifestyle caught up with him and he was never the same. Sure, he had many outstanding years. Most pitchers would kill to have a year like Gooden’s 1988 or 1990. Shoot, even 1993 was a strong campaign. But when you put up an epic year like Gooden did, everything else starts looking like the 1973 Topps set.
But Gooden fans will always have 1985. And now we can merge these two greats together. How awesome is this card? When I first saw a picture of it I went out and got in on ebay – the first card I purchased in over 10 years.
May at some point again we find ourselves with another person or thing that challenges what’s possible, no matter how fleeting it might be. Until then, I’ll have to make do with this Topps Archives Gooden card.