(This is the 29th in our series of posts about the best baseball cards from the 1980s. Check out the rest of those posts here.)

The 1989 Topps baseball card set offered up a few things to distinguish it from its competitors.

First, as always, Topps “treated” collectors to mushy brown cardstock rather than the upgraded white stuff the other manufacturers were using by that point.

Next, we knew right out of the gate that Topps cards would be common as dirt. With the other sets, there was some hope for scarcity, but we knew where we stood with Topps.

Maybe most significantly, Topps was the only company — except for Score — to not include a rookie card of Ken Griffey, Jr., in their base set. No matter how much advance press Junior got, it seemed, he would have to wait for Topps Traded to make his debut with The Old Gum Company.

1989 Topps Sandy Alomar

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Now, I realize all of those distinctions sound negative for Topps, but they did do some things right.

For one thing, the 1989 Topps design was pretty solid. Nothing earth-shattering, but a clean, simple layout that kind of hinted at 1965 Topps in a whispering sort of way.

The pinkish card backs were distinctive, too, and definitely had that Topps-y feel we all know and love.

And, while they missed out on Griffey, Topps did manage to nab plenty of solid rookies for their 1989 base set.

Among those first-year players who generated excitement, either in 1989 or later on, were Bill Bene, Darryl Hamilton, Monty Fariss, Ramon Martinez, Rob Dibble, Jack Armstrong, Gary Sheffield, Ricky Jordan, Andy Benes, Chris Sabo, Jim Abbott, Willie Ansley, Randy Johnson, Brady Anderson, Dante Bichette, Robin Ventura, and Steve Avery.

That’s a solid bunch of players, regardless of how many of each card Topps produced — some of them shone early in their careers, some late, and some pretty much all the way through.

You might even recognize a couple of award-winners among the group, as well as one oversized Hall of Famer.

To that list, you can also add Gregg Jefferies, who wasn’t a rookie but made his base-set Topps debut with a “Future Star” card.

That’s a really solid pasteboard and something of an icon for a set that never gained a huge collector following, but there is at least one card that’s even better overall.

That would be card #648 of Sandy Alomar, Jr.

Like the Jefferies and Sheffield cards, the Alomar rookie is dubbed a “Future Star.”

And, unlike the Jefferies, the Alomar rookie card is just that — a rookie card.

That is, it’s Alomar’s first base Topps issue, and it’s a really nifty one.

There is young Sandy in his chocolate San Diego Padres uniform with his catcher’s mitt extended, ball just lodging itself into his palm. Alomar appears to be jawing with whoever threw the horsehide, a slight smile on his face lending a light air to the whole scene.

1989 Topps Sandy Alomar (back)

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Overall, this card is a striking visual of a guy who would win the American League Rookie of the Year award with the Cleveland Indians in 1990 en route to a 20-year Major League career.

Will Sandy Alomar ever pick up a Hall of Fame plaque?

Nah, not as a player, anyway.

But he’s already picked up the honor of appearing on the best 1989 Topps baseball card.

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(This is the 29th in our series of posts about the best baseball cards from the 1980s. Check out the rest of those posts here.)