Picking an All-Star roster is an inexact science.

In any given year over the decades, you’ve had a mix of fans, players, managers, writers, and probably other sorts of beings figuring into the mix.

And each brings a different viewpoint about what constitutes an All-Star …

Is he the guy who has been good or great over the course of a few years?

Is he the guy who tore up the league from April through June?

Is he the old guy who everybody thought was done but showed signs of life with a new team?

Or is he the living legend who deserves one last Midsummer Classic appearance in deference to his sustained greatness?

The answer, of course, is “Yes.”

And … “No.”

Depends on who you are … where you are … when you are.

One thing you can count on when it comes to All-Stars is that there will be disagreements, and those tiffs won’t just go down between you and your baseball buddies.

No, even luminary organizations like Topps will disagree with the final All-Star selections. The difference between Topps and you (and me) is that Topps can do something about it.

As evidence, I present 11 Topps All-Star cards from the 1980s featuring guys who didn’t actually make the All-Star team the year before.

Thanks to Topps, though, they’ll always be cardboard All-Stars.

1983 Topps All-Star Pete Vuckovich

1983 Topps All-Star Pete Vuckovich

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At 6’4″ and 215 pounds, and with a hellish mustache straight out of … well … Hell, Pete Vuckovich looked like a bona fide beast on the mound.

And, for a few seasons, he actually was a beast on the mound. Or close to it.

Beginning with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1977, continuing with the St. Louis Cardinals from 1978 through 1980, and wrapping up with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1981 and 1982, the big right-hander went 78-48 with a 3.31 ERA and threw in 10 saves for the heck of it.

His 18-6 record in 1982 earned him a Cy Young award and helped the Brewers get all the way the World Series before the Cards took them down in seven games.

Vuckovich’s accolades and success didn’t land him an All-Star berth, though — not ever.

Still, Topps couldn’t resist his charms and granted him some Midsummer cardboard in 1983.

1983 Topps All-Star Larry Gura

1983 Topps All-Star Larry Gura

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Now, Larry Gura did make an All-Star team.

Once.

In 1980.

And for that, Topps honored the Kansas City Royals lefty with the appropriate All-Star banner on his 1981 card.

In 1982, Larry stayed home all summer (or at least during the All-Star Game).

And yet … there he is with his very starry 1983 Topps All-Star.

*shrug*

Maybe Topps was confused because he won 18 games in 1982, same as when he was an AS in 1980.

1984 Topps All-Star Johnny Ray

1984 Topps All-Star Johnny Ray

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By 1984, Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman was an up-and-coming young player who had never made an All-Star roster.

He had, however, made an All-Star baseball card appearance thanks to the 1984 Topps issue.

Maybe Topps just wanted to squeeze in another card of the man who was sorta The Man in Pittsburgh after Dave Parker left and before Barry Bonds arrived.

Or maybe they were just testing their prognosticatin’ skills in advance of their rookie-extravaganza Bowman relaunch later in the decade.

Because, wouldn’t you know it?

Johnny Ray finally became an All-Star in 1988 — with the California Angels.

1985 Topps All-Star Jeff Leonard

1985 Topps All-Star Jeff Leonard

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Jeffrey Leonard was sorta the poor man’s Dick Allen or Albert Belle — a slugger with occasional attitude issues.

Only, Leonard wasn’t all that sluggerish, and he also came with a side order of Pittsburgh Drug Trials. Still, as San Francisco Giants of the mid-1980s went, Jeffrey and his yearly 21 dingers were monstrous.

He also made the All-Star cut twice — with San Fran in 1987 and with the Seattle Mariners in 1989.

But not in 1984.

So, yeah, Topps gave him an All-Star card in 1985.

Prognosticatin’ again.

1985 Topps All-Star Bob Knepper

1985 Topps All-Star Bob Knepper

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Bob Knepper made the National League All-Star team as a member of the Houston Astros in 1981.

Topps didn’t give him an All-Star card in 1982

Bob Knepper made the National League All-Star team as a member of the Houston Astros in 1988.

Topps didn’t give him an All-Star card in 1989.

In 1984, Bob Knepper finished tied for fourth in the NL with three shutouts.

He didn’t make the All-Star team.

Naturally, Topps gave him an All-Star card in 1985.

1986 Topps All-Star John Tudor

1986 Topps All-Star John Tudor

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In 1985, John Tudor fronted the Cardinals rotation as they pushed all the way to a National League pennant en route to a heartbreaking 7-game loss to the Royals in the World Series.

He finished the year at 21-8 with a league-leading 10 shutouts — good enough for second place in the Cy Young vote but not good enough for an All-Star selection.

In fact, Tudor never made an All-Star roster.

He did, however, score a 1986 Topps All-Star card.

1987 Topps All-Star Tony Bernazard

1987 Topps All-Star Tony Bernazard

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In 1986, Tony Bernazard turned in a career year for the Cleveland Indians.

The diminutive switch-hitting second baseman clocked 17 homers, drove in 73 runs, scored 88 of his own, and stole 17 bases.

All of that amounted to a 3.0 WAR but wasn’t good enough to make the American League All-Star roster.

Topps liked what they saw plenty, though. Enough, in fact, to grant Bernazard his only All-Star card.

1988 Topps All-Star Shane Rawley

1988 Topps All-Star Shane Rawley

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Shane Rawley was what you might call a Professional Pitcher, clicking along with about 10 wins a year and an ERA around 4.

He even threw in a few saves here and there, finishing with 40 over his 12-year career.

Overall, Rawley went 111-118 with a 4.02 ERA for the Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees,  Philadelphia Phillies, and Minnesota Twins.

Along the way, Rawley posted a few winning campaigns, including 1986 when he went 11-7 for the Phils and made his only All-Star cut.

For that Topps honored Rawley with an AS card — but not until 1988.

1989 Topps All-Star Kirk Gibson

1989 Topps All-Star Kirk Gibson

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Collusion clubbed Kirk Gibson in both knees after the 1985 season, but he landed on this feet with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1988.

That season, Gibson helped lead LA to the National League West title, a performance that eventually earned him National League Most Valuable Player honors.

Before he could collect that hardware, though, the Dodgers downed the New York Mets in the National League Championship Series to set up a World Series row with the might Bash Brothers version of the Oakland A’s.

That’s when Gibson went all Roy Hobbs on us, hobbling off the bench to smack the walk-off home run that handed Game 1 to the Dodgers. They would eventually take the whole thing in a relatively uneventful — other than Gibson’s heroics — five-game series.

But for all the legendary footsteps Gibson laid down that season, he didn’t make the NL All-Star team.

No matter, though, because he made the Topps All-Star team and landed a 1989 AS card.

So there!

1990 Topps All-Star Jeff Ballard

1990 Topps All-Star Jeff Ballard

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What has 41 career wins (18 in one season), a -1.0 career WAR, a few Cy Young votes, no All-Star appearances, but one All-Star card?

Well, considering you’re in the “1990 Topps All-Star Jeff Ballard” section of this post, it should come as no surprise that the answer is Jeff Ballard.

In 1989, the 25-year-old lefthander posted an 18-8 mark to help deliver the Baltimore Orioles from the land of historically bad teams, where they’d dwelt in 1988, to the realm of mere also-rans.

Outside of that one shining season, Ballard’s record was 23-45 over six years, including two comeback campaigns with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the early 1990s.

For his work in the summer of 1989, though, Ballard garnered a sixth-place CY finish and a slot in Topps’ 1990 All-Star set, even without a “real” All-Star berth.

1990 Topps All-Star Joe Magrane

1990 Topps All-Star Joe Magrane

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Big Joe Magrane worked his way quickly through the St. Louis Cardinals farm system after they drafted him in the first round out of Arizona in 1985.

By 1987, he was in the Major Leagues and looking for all the world like the next frontline Cards starter, finishing third in NL Rookie of the Year voting on the strength of a 9-7, 3.54 ERA.

In 1988, Magrane led the National League with a 2.18 ERA even though his record was just 5-9, and then he broke out in 1989.

At age 24, the righty went 18-9 with a 2.91 ERA and finished fourth in Cy Young voting.

He didn’t, however, make the All-Star team.

At least until the next spring, when Topps included him in their 1990 All-Star subset.

Magrane’s on-field fortunes took a downturn from there, and his 10-17 record in 1990 marked the last time he reached double-digit victories.

After stints with the California Angels and Chicago White Sox, Magrane retired in 1996 with a 57-67 record and a 3.81 lifetime ERA over eight seasons.

Of course, since then Magrane has enjoyed a successful run as an analyst for MLB Network, so the game has apparently treated him well overall.

And, hey, he’ll always have those cardboard All-Star bragging rights!

 

 

 

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