The 1978 Topps set marked the end of a five-year run of four-player rookie cards that packaged maximum potential in a tiny cardboard package … and, boy, did Topps make the most of their last rodeo!
Not only did they stack the deck with four Hall of Famers in their quad-rookie cards — Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, Paul Molitor, Lou Whitaker (yes, Sweet Lou will get in, soon) — they also treated us to a Lance Parrish RC and a second consecutive tiny Dale Murphy head appearance.
Oh, and Rick Sweet’s sweet pinball flippers.
But not every rookie had to share space on their 1978 Topps card.
Eddie Murray is probably the most famous single-dude RC in the set, and that one carried the set, value-wise, for years.
And then, the best ace-level pitcher of the bunch also nabbed a solo rookie card, even though he’s sort of been lost in the glare of all those Cooperstown denizens I listed out up there.
No not Paul Moskau.
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I’m talking about Moskau’s Cincinnati Reds teammate, the great Mario Soto.
Yes — great.
In the early 1980s, Soto was one of the top five or so pitchers in the game, though hardly anybody ever said that because the Reds were so putrid during his peak — 1982 and 1983.
Back in 1978, when this card was issued, Soto was just 21 years old but had been in the Cincy organization for four years. He watched the Big Red Machine from the cozy confines of the minors, then broke in as part of the next generation in 1977.
Soto did get to play a part in the Reds’ 1979 NL West crown, as a reliever, and he was a workhorse in the rotation by the time of the 1981 split season debacle.
Then, magic on the mound, and crap on the rest of the field.
Then then, by the next time the Reds were good, in 1985, Soto was starting to struggle. a bit. That season, he made a career-high 36 starts but surrendered a league-leading 30 home runs.
The accumulated workload of throwing that fastball and circle change of his for hundreds of innings every season wrecked his shoulder, and Soto dropped off to 105 frame in 1986. He never touched triple digits again.
The Reds released him in June of 1988, when Soto was just 31 years old.
Now, there are some rumors, and even some supposed photographic proof, that Soto signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers … and donned the Blue … and pitched in one game for the Bakersfield Dodgers that summer.
But that never happened.
I mean, how could a guy whom Topps hand-picked as a member of the next Big Red Mahcine rotation (I repeat, not Paul Moskau) end up in Dodger Blue?
The universe simply would not allow such an atrocity.
And, for sure, Soto did not appear with the Dodgers on a 1989 Score card (affiliate link). I mean, that would be grounds for an entire card line to just cease operations.
So, you definitely won’t find these things on eBay (affiliate link)
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