Man, Pete Rose entered the 1981 season sitting on top of the baseball world.

Not only had Rose’s Phillies won their first ever World Series title in his second season with the team in 1980, but Pete also came into the new campaign with 3557 hits, within hailing distance of Stan Musial’s National League record of 3630.

And, not only that … Charlie Hustle was a 400-home run man.

Don’t believe me? Well, just take a look at his 1981 Topps card.

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No, not that one.

That’s the one where Pete is telling somebody off camera what’s what, in his peri-warmup intensity.

Here’s what the back of that card has to say …

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Right, 155 long balls.

But it’s a different story if you take a gander at the other 1981 Topps Pete Rose baseball card — #205, celebrating yet another record-breaking performance:

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This one was a tribute to Pete’s durability and longevity, his having just surpassed 600 at-bats for the 13th consecutive season. See …

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Sadly, the 1981 strike would snap Pete’s streak, but he’d be back above 600 for the last time in 1982.

Still, I can hear what you’re thinking — “uh, what about the 400 home runs?”.

Oh, right.

Well, look at the front of Rose’s RB card again:

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A standard shot of Charlie, Hustling out of the batter’s box.

But, who’s that behind him, in the on-deck circle?

The #20 … the willy-worm lip adornment … the 70s/80s bottom-of-hat hair mop …

Why, it’s none other than Rose’s slugging teammate and then-reigning National League MVP Mike Schmidt!

Here’s how the future Hall of Famer looked on his 1981 Topps card:

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It’s a classic shot of the third baseman that would gain further acclaim right alongside Schmidt’s 1980 Topps card in the 1982 Kmart set after he copped another MVP award in 1981.

And here’s the back of that card:

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And this is where the magic happens, because, as you can see, Schmitty entered the 1981 season with 283 home runs.

Between them, Rose and Schmidt had smacked 155 + 283 = 438 long balls entering that doomed campaign.

Voila!

Collectors suddenly had a Pete Rose card featuring more than 400 career home runs:

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Yes, we had to go a long way to get here, but it was worth the trip, especially when you consider the vintage cardboard scenery along the way.

And, speaking of cardboard scenery, guess which card followed Rose’s Record Breaker, at #206? Yeah, the same on-deck guy:

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And, if that World Series run, and Rose’s ABs, and Schmidt’s home runs, and Schmidt’s and Rose’s combined home runs hadn’t philled your Phillies tank to the brim, you could scroll back a few numbers, to Philly’s leadoff RB (#202):

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You have to assume that Topps bumped up their 1982 set to 792 cards just to account for the eventuality that Phillies accolades would soon swell well beyond the confines of a mere 726.

And, with Von Hayes and the Wheeze Kids waiting just a couple years down the road?

Well, Pete Rose and his 400 dingers needed all the cardboard space they could get.

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Bet you don’t know which Pete Rose cards sold for the highest prices during the last quarter of 2021 … but we do. Check out our rundown over on YouTube:

1981 Topps #246 Ed Ott DP - NM-MT

$0.99
End Date: Saturday 12/03/2022 12:55:33 EST
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1981 TOPPS #400 WALTER PAYTON NRMT

$0.99 ( 1 Bid)
End Date: Thursday 12/08/2022 20:28:04 EST
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1981 Topps #530 Steve Garvey - NM-MT

$1.50
End Date: Saturday 12/03/2022 12:55:27 EST
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1981 Topps Traded Baseball - Pick A Player

$0.99
End Date: Thursday 12/29/2022 06:33:30 EST
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1981 Topps Chuck Muncie • Error MISCUT

$1.99
End Date: Sunday 01/01/2023 08:45:53 EST
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1981 Topps Robert Newhouse • Error MISCUT

$1.99
End Date: Sunday 01/01/2023 08:45:53 EST
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