(This is the eighth in our series of posts about the best baseball cards from the 1980s. Check out the rest of those posts here.)

Look, we all know that the 1983 Donruss Cesar Cedeno card is the greatest baseball card of all time.

Or if not the absolute greatest, at least in the top one-and-a-half.

So it’s not really fair to compare the rest of this humble set to the pasteboard of a man who could light up a wet cigarette while standing inside of a fire extinguisher. It would be sort of like picking the best character on The Wonder Years¬†and leaving Winnie in the mix.

Again, not fair.

And besides, I’ve written about this card before (how could I not have?).

1983 Donruss Rod Carew

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In order for this exercise to have any meaning, then, we have to throw out Cedeno (something that happened about 25% of the time in his Major League career) and focus on the other 659 Donruss cards.

Some obviously don’t make the grade, like …

There are others, though, that are quite good and were serious candidates as I whittled things down …

That Yaz card is especially compelling.

So are many others.

In fact, there are a lot of really sweet shots in this set, even if the photos still suffer from some graininess and blurriness.

Still, in this moment I find it hard to get by card #90 of Rod Carew.

When this card was issued, Carew was a little over halfway through his seven-year run with the California Angels and rounding the corner on a Hall of Fame career that would culminate in a .328 average on the strength of 445 doubles among his 3053 hits, with more than 350 stolen bases thrown in for good measure.

I didn’t know much about Carew when I started pulling this card from wax packs that summer, but the numbers on back popped out like my mom’s bad knee … even at an ancient 36 years of age, Carew had hit .319 in 1982 and, at that point, had a .331 lifetime mark. The “CAREER HIGHLIGHTS” on the back of that ’83 Donruss card also told me that Carew hit .388 in 1977 — wow!

But as great as all of Carew’s bona fides are, it’s the card front that solidifies its place at the top of this issue.

1983 Donruss Rod Carew (back)

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For starters, this card is just sunny, much like that glorious Cedeno card. It makes you want to be at the ballpark and would make you smile if Carew himself weren’t so intense.

He’s crouched there in the world’s spotlight, his Angels home white uniform glaring like a snowball at high noon, Angels A-plus-halo hat angled perfectly toward the camera. Veins stand out in his neck as he glares in toward home plate, waiting for the pitch. Carew’s eyes are squinted under the bill of his cap, and his lips are jammed together and pursed just so, as if to say —¬† “Oooooooooo, even I can’t believe how good I am!”.

But Rod Carew probably wouldn’t say that. From all I know about him — admittedly not a whole lot — he seems to be a humble enough guy.

His body definitely speaks, though, and his outstretched, vein-streaked arms and tense shoulders say, “I’m ready.”

Carew looks like a consummate middle infielder, ready to dive or run or throw or whatever he needs to do to get the out. He was a second baseman for so long, it’s hard to remember, and believe, that he spent more time at first base in the long run.

And, even when I see this late-career card, I always think, “second base,” until I hone in on the details for the millionth time and notice that big mitt. A quick glance at the position designation on the bat head confirms that Carew is a “3” instead of a “4” on this card.

Given all that, the 1983 Donruss Rod Carew has to be one of the best baseball cards of a second baseman masquerading as a first baseman ever.

And it’s also the best card of the 1983 Donruss set, non-Cesar Cedeno edition.

(This is the eighth in our series of posts about the best baseball cards from the 1980s. Check out the rest of those posts here.)

 

 

 

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