Ryne Sandberg and the Phillies were victims of timing, at least from a cardboard standpoint, and at least the first time around.

It would be almost unheard of these days, for instance, for a player to make it through four minor league seasons, post bigger and better numbers as he rose, and actually appear in the Major Leagues without scoring a rookie card in at least one major set.

And it’s been that way for quite awhile, too. At least since the mid-1990s, when Bowman started to really go all in on the rookie card front.

But back in 1982, things were a little more hit-and-miss when it came to card companies squeezing rookies into their sets.

Donruss wouldn’t debut Rated Rookies until 1984 (or 1983, depending on if you count back-only RRs), and Fleer didn’t reserve any special real estate for rooks. That left base cards from those two and Topps, which usually only featured young players after a full(ish) season or more in the majors, and the yearly Topps “Future Stars” deals.

In 1982, the Phillies’ Future Stars card went to Mark Davis, Bob Dernier, and Ozzie Virgil, not bad selections given that all three achieved some degree of success at the game’s highest level.

But that swath of cardboard would have also been prime real estate for Sandberg, who had hit .293 at Triple-A Oklahoma City in 1981 before earning a late-season promotion to the Phils.

In later years, Ryno might have even landed a solo card or three in 1981 or before, while he was still climbing the ladder.

Of course, by missing out on an RC in 1982, Sandberg also missed out on appearing as a Phillies player on a baseball card. Philly, you might remember, traded him with Larry Bowa to the Cubs in exchange for Ivan de Jesus in January 1982, just as the new cards were about ready to make kids of all ages hungry for summer again.

Or, at least, that’s what we thought — that we’d never see cardboard Ryno in a Phillies uniform.

But then, the unthinkable happened … Sandberg retired at age 34 in June 1994!

It was a shocking development that sort of got swallowed up by the strike that followed a couple months later, but one that left fans and collectors planning for Sandberg’s early Hall of Fame election, which we figured would come in a scant five years.

Topps must have been thinking along the same lines, because, when their year-end Traded made its way into the hobby, we found something unusual:

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Yep, Topps had cut their roster of actual traded players and rookies down to 129 cards, and devoted two cards to Sandberg — one with the Cubbies, and one with the Phillies.

(Number 132 was a checklist card, as usual.)

And, just as with Sandberg himself, that 1994 Topps Traded set represented the end of an era, as it was the last of a 14-year run during which the Traded set was available predominantly as a factory set (with some limited wax pack dabbling thrown in).

Thus, with one fell cardboard swoop, Topps closed a gap that seemed like it could never be filled, and gave us a back-to-the-future glimpse of o what it might look like if Ryno ever ended up on a Phils uniform again.

You know, hypothetically.

Hobby Wow!

Sandberg remains one of the most popular players of the 1980s and a stone cold Cubs legend, so it’s no wonder lots like this one still draw a lot of interest in the hobby:

That’s a game-used Sandberg glove from early in his career.

Check out the full listing on eBay right here (affiliate link).