To a kid with just about a year of collecting under his belt, the 1984 Topps set felt super exotic.

There were all those three-headed Career Leaders cards that featured legends like Reggie Jackson, Steve Carlton, Pete Rose, Nolan Ryan, Rod Carew, and … well, Bert Campaneris.

And then there were guys like Campaneris himself, who I’d never heard of and who looked really old on his base card — so old, I thought he was a coach.

There were big-name rookies, like Darryl Strawberry and Ron Kittle (though he made his debut in 1983 Fleer).

Then there were young guys I’d never heard of, who might be big winners someday — Bobby Meacham, Brian Fisher, Andy Van Slyke, Tony Phillips.

And Don Mattingly.

Some strange names (to me) and, like I said, exotic looking cards.

That Meacham card, with his throwing arm at full extension, still mesmerizes me all these years later.

And I remember trying to shoehorn some of those names into a future world where they were stars — how could someone named “Mattingly” be a superstar?

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Or … George Bjorkman?

All I knew for sure was that rookie cards were supposed to be big stuff, and that if you could get in on the ground floor of a superstar in the making, you might be onto something.

So, as I worked through my wax packs that spring, I pulled aside Meacham and Mattingly and Bjorkman and all the rest into my “rookies” pile.

They all had as good a chance as the rest to hit the big time, in my wholly uninformed opinion.

So, while they all got the rookie treatment, I paid more attention to some than to others.

Mattingly, because of his unusual (to me) name.

Meacham because of that action shot.

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And Bjorkman … because of both. He had the name and he had the cool looking card.

Summer sunshine reflecting off his blazing white Astros home uniform, with plenty of Astros rainbow peaking through on his sleeves and in the inset headshot.

How was I to know, really, that he was already 27 by the time he finished his rookie season in 1983?

Or that 27 is really old for a baseball player, at least one that has designs on being a prospect?

Or, especially, that catching kills and that Bjorkman had only part of a couple minor league seasons left in him before it was all over.\?

I couldn’t have known any of that, or at least I didn’t.

And so, I’d pull out those Bjorkman rookie cards every once in awhile and think about how a guy with such a wide, confident stance must have a good shot at stardom.

Certainly as much chance as a guy waiting there at first base for the ball … you know, the one with the schizophrenic mustache — there in the headshot but not in the field?

Yeah, George Bjorkman would surely be that good, at least.


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