If you were a baseball general manager in 1983 or 1984 and wanted to win the National League East title, you had to build your team around two ingredients — Gary Matthews and Bob Dernier.
Well, Matthews and Dernier were both with the Wheeze Kids Phillies in ‘83 when that squad took the East and then took down the Dodgers to reach the World Series. Heck, Sarge (Matthews) even won the NLCS MVP award.
And then, in March of 1984, the Phils traded Matthews and Dernier — and Porfi Altamirano — to the Cubs in exchange for Bill Campbell and Mike Diaz.
Just like that, six months later, the Cubbies won their first-ever division title with Dernier taking up regular duty in center field and Sarge becoming a Windy City legend in left.
The Phillies? Uh, fourth place … 15 1/2 games off the Cubs’ pace.
So, hardly mattered that Altamirano was done in the Majors by early June.
For their efforts in front of the ivy-covered walls of Wrigley Field, Dernier finished 17th in MVP voting, while Sarge finished 5th and might have done even better had teammates Ryne Sandberg and Rick Sutcliffe not eaten up so many votes in front of him.
Oh, both dudes — Matthews and Dernier, that is — also scored cards in a nifty “little” Topps test issue the next season, too — the 1985 Topps Mini set.
These things aren’t seen too often, but they’re pretty sweet when they are — exact replicas of the base set, with the same numbering, but ten percent smaller in actual card size and printed on bright white card stock.
There’s only 132 cards in the set, too, which means skip-numbering, and who doesn’t love a little frustration when trying to put together a complete run that really can’t be completed? Of course, considering that this is usually thought to have been a very limited edition distributed mostly (or entirely) in Canada, chances are you wouldn’t have completed it, anyway.
But if you’re looking to finish off your Sarge Master Set (or your Dernier Master Set or your Sutcliffe Master Set, but not your Sandberg Master Set), then you’ve got to find a way to snag one of these diminutive dandies.
Failing that, you could always try soaking your regular-size 1985 Topps cards in hot water and then hoping they shrink in the dryer. What’s the worse that could happen?
(But you shouldn’t do that, because baseball cards don’t like water and heat, generally speaking. And they might seek revenge in some fashion. So … you know … don’t.)