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The 1985 Topps Alfredo Griffin baseball card is one of those rare swaths of cardboard that drips with artistic irony.

If you were a baseball fan back then, you might have noticed that Griffin made the American League roster at the 1984 All-Star game, played in San Francisco’s Candlestick Park.

By the time his ’85 cards came out, you might have even still remembered that Griffin played three innings in that Midsummer Classic as a sixth-inning replacement for Cal Ripken, Jr.

And then, when you came across #361 in the 1985 Topps set, you might have assumed that Griffin made his All-Star appearance at least partly on the strength of his bat. I mean, defensive metrics were pretty much nonexistent in 1984.

Unless you were Ozzie Smith, you just didn’t make the All-Star team on glove wizardry alone.

And besides, Griffin was holding a bat on his 1985 Topps card, in a picture presumably snapped during that 1984 season. So, yeah, it all made sense.

Griffin. Bat. All-Star. Good numbers coming your way when you turned the card over.

1985 Topps Alfredo Griffin

But …

Alfredo Griffin started life in the Big Leagues with a bang, winning the 1979 American League Rookie of the Year Award as a shortstop with the Toronto Blue Jays. OK, he tied for the award with John Castino of the Minnesota Twins, and Ross Baumgarten of the Chicago White Sox probably should have taken the hardware home.

Still …

Griffin was an up-and-comer with a bright future, with a .287 batting average and .697 OPS. Not world-beating, but decent for a 21-year-old shortstop.

There was time, and Griffin would improve.

But he didn’t.

The next few seasons saw his batting average drop below .250 and his OPS+ tumble from a nervous 89 to an awful 48 … in 1984.

So, yes, the year that Griffin made the All-Star team for the first time — for the only time — he was a putrid offensive “force” who produced at a .241/.248/.298 clip with modern defensive numbers that suggest he was subpar even in the field.

The very weapon that Topps chose to showcase on Griffin’s card the next spring, then, is the same weapon that should have precluded him from All-Star honors.

Just how in the heck did Alfredo find himself on a windy Bayside diamond that night in 1984, then?

1985 Topps Alfredo Griffin (back)

Well, as the story goes, Major League Baseball in those days paid for every All-Star to travel to the game with a guest (does MLB still do this?). As luck would have it, Blue Jays second baseman Damaso Garcia made the team fair and square and decided it would be swell to have his double-play partner onhand for the festivities.

Griffin was Garcia’s plus one, in other words.

Then, as bad luck would have it, Detroit Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell hurt his arm in the days before the game and couldn’t suit up.

American League manager Joe Altobelli needed a replacement shortstop to backup Ripken, and, wouldn’t you know it? Alfredo Griffin just happened to be on hand!

As author John Feinstein explained it:

Making the All-Star team the hard way: Major league baseball pays the expenses for each player here and for one guest. In most cases, players bring wives or girlfriends. Damaso Garcia, the Toronto Blue Jays’ second baseman, brought his shortstop, Alfredo Griffin. When the Tigers’ Alan Trammell hurt his arm and could not play tonight, Manager Joe Altobelli named Griffin to the team, partly because he’s a fine player, but mostly because he was here.

And so, when Trammell heads to Cooperstown later this month, we’ll have even more to thank the new Hall of Famer for.

After all, if it weren’t for the 1984 World Series MVP, we couldn’t giggle every time we see Alfredo Griffin — and his prop bat — on a 1985 Topps baseball card (eBay listing).

(Check out our other player card posts here.)