The Cincinnati Reds were a pretty exciting team to follow in the mid-1980s, what with Pete Rose coming home to lead a group of emerging young stars like Eric Davis, Kal Daniels, Barry Larkin, Tom Browning, Kurt Stillwell, and others.

And then there were the veteran dudes like Dave Parker, Buddy Bell, Mario Soto, Tony Perez.

Those Reds teams could never quite get over the hump to win a division title, and then Rose self-destructed in 1989, but then — boom! — it all came together under Lou Piniella in 1990.

World Series title!

That, with the help of another batch of exciting youngsters — Paul O’Neill, Chris Sabo, Mariano Duncan, Todd Benzinger, Hal Morris.

And even then, Reds fans knew we had at least one more hot young talent on the way to the Riverfront in the person of Reggie Sanders.

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There had been rumblings about Sanders since the Reds drafted him in the seventh round in 1987, and he really made his presence felt in 1990, smacking 17 home runs and stealing 40 bases for Single-A Cedar Rapids.

By 1992, Sanders was in the Majors for good, and he locked down the Reds’ starting right field job the next summer.

Mostly, Reggie would live up to his billing over a 17-year career spent with eight teams (eight seasons with Cincinnati).

His lifetime numbers included 1666 hits, 305 home runs, and 304 stolen bases, making him one of just eight guys in the 300/300 club.

Pretty awesome, heady stuff.

That all makes for one collectible dude, especially if you’re a Reds fan.

But Sanders’ big league career ran from 1991 through 2007, which means the number and variety of cards he appeared on is pretty overwhelming, making it tough to even identify something simple like the … “Reggie Sanders rookie card.”

In fact, if you run that search through your favorite web looker-upper, you’ll find some Upper Deck stuff, some Fleer stuff, some Topps stuff, some fluffy-shiny stuff, some 1991 stuff, some 1992 stuff, some 1993 stuff … and some 1974 stuff … and some 1975 stuff.

Say what?

Say 1974 and 1975, I do!

Because, as it turns out, Reggie Sanders wasn’t the first Reggie Sanders.

Nope, Reggie Sanders, first baseman, actually made his Major League debut way back in 1974 for the Detroit Tigers.

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And, that was his swan song, too.

But he was in Motown long enough — 24 games — and came with a big enough minor league reputation (double-digit power with lots of strikeouts) that Topps gave him rookie cards in their 1974 and 1975 base sets.

First, there was the ‘74 Rookie Infielders offering (#600) that lumped him in with Ron Cash, Jim Cox, and perennial batting title contender Bill Madlock.

When Sanders stuck, but only for 26 games, in 1974, Topps brought him back on card #617 in 1975, another Rookie Infielders card, this time inhabited by the likes of Mike Cubbage and All-Stars Doug DeCinces and Manny Trillo.

So, if you want a true Reggie Sanders master set, you’ll have to go back a few years, and take on a few guys you didn’t even know you needed.

But, really, can you ever have too much cardboard?


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