If you were going to make a baseball card set featuring big hitters in 1987, chances were you would have to at least consider including Kent Hrbek on your checklist.
After all, the young Minnesota Twins first baseman was coming off a then-career-high 29 home runs in 1986 and had established himself as a consistent 20-homer guy and perennial All-Star candidate.
(That Hrbek only actually made one All-Star team, in his rookie season of 1982, sort of boggles the mind now and speaks to the depth of the American League in those years.)
So it was really no surprise to see Hrbek’s name there on the back of the Boardwalk & Baseball boxed set that the Florida amusement park issued in conjunction with Topps during that summer of 1987.
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The theme was “Top Run Makers” and slotted Hrbek right there among the greats of the time like Mike Schmidt, Eddie Murray, Don Mattingly, and Rickey Henderson.
Each of the players featured was, indeed, a run maker of some sort, and a top one at that.
But if you had this set at hand and were hunkered down to watch the World Series that October, it was card #28 that took center stage in the sixth inning of Game 6.
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That’s when the Twins were still down three games to two against the favored St. Louis Cardinals.
That’s when Minnesota had fallen behind early but hung in, scratched back, then busted out the sticks in the fifth inning to take a 6-5 lead in the game.
That’s when the Twins loaded the bases but at the cost of two outs in the home half of the sixth.
And that’s when their strapping young slugger walked to the plate, fresh off 34 home runs in the regular season but struggling in the World Series after batting .150 in the American League Championship Series.
The Cards were already tearing through their bullpen, but manager Whitey Herzog wasn’t about to allow his third pitcher, Bob Forsch, a righty, to face the lefty-swinging Hrbek.
In came Ken Dayley … and out went the baseball, a southpaw-off-southpaw grand slam to put the Twins up 10-5 and all but seal the deal.
The next day, the Twins would complete their comeback and take home the title on the strength of four runs scattered throughout the game, plus lockdown pitching from Frank Viola and Jeff Reardon.
Hrbek would go 0-for-3 in the finale, and his World Series line read .208 with one home run and six RBI.
It was modest output for a star, but with that one swing, Herbie let the Twins breathe, and his Boardwalk & Baseball card took on new meaning.
Top run producer, indeed.
Wow! Wax of the Day
Once upon a time, 1987 Donruss and Fleer wax packs were as rare as hen’s teeth — most collectors couldn’t find them anywhere that spring and summer. These days, well, you won’t have much problem coming across eBay lots like this one …
That’s a complete box of 36 unopened packs, which would have felt like a gold mine 33 years ago but can be had on the relative cheap these days.
Check out the full eBay listing here (affiliate link).