Parents had to hate Squirt soda in 1981, right?

I mean …

If you were a kid growing up in the early 1980s, you took your thrills where you could get them.

Now, don’t get me wrong … we had great fun back then, and I wouldn’t trade that childhood for any other (probably), but there weren’t a lot of “extras†to go around.

So, when you had the chance to pick up a play thing for free by just coercing your parents into buying some product that might hold a tenuous, tangential interest for them anyway, why, you coerced away.

And so it was that, when eight-bottle cartons of Squirt soda began showing up on grocers’ shelves in that strike-torn summer of 1981, parents across the land soon found themselves chugging down more grapefruit-flavored soda than they ever thought possible.

The joint venture by Topps and Squirt was ingenious … combine baseball — kid magnet — with the heaviest items in the store, relegated to the bottom shelves and right at kids’ eye level, and you had a can’t miss.

The cards themselves were pretty kid-amazing, too, what with their bold green-and-yellow slanted backgrounds, the red Squirt logo, and the player’s head and shoulders poking right into the sweet spot of a cloudy baseball.

Find Squirt cards on eBay (affiliate link)

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Yep … kid perfection!

Stack those cards on the vertical into two-player panels and top them with a ring for hanging around a bottle top, and it was like shooting rookie cards in a wax pack. Or something.

Player selection was pretty great, too, with future Hall of Famers like Rod Carew and George Brett rubbing cardboard elbows with young hotshots like Joe Charboneau, Chet Lemon, and Steve Kemp.

Steve Kemp, you say?

Oh, yes, indeed!

Leftfielder Kemp was right there with Lance Parrish, Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, and Jack Morris as the core of a young Tigers team everybody thought would do great things.

And, coming off two consecutive 20-homer, 100-RBI campaigns heading into his age-26 season, Kemp was already doing great things, even before most of his young teammates really got on track.

For his efforts, Kemp snagged an All-Star nod (in 1979) and landed coveted spots in sets like this one and the Drake’s Big Hitters classic in 1981.

Alas, Kemp’s streak was struck down by the strike, and he never again would hit 20 home runs in a season, or drive in 100.

He did manage to stick in the Majors in some fashion until 1988, though, not bowing out until May 24 at age 33.

Along the way, Kemp appeared on a goodly number of cards, and he’ll always be one of only 33 dudes to have a grapefruit-soda card.

You just can’t take away that sort of swagger, and besides … have you ever seen Kemp and Steve Guttenberg in the same room at the same time??