For true fans, baseball pervades all seasons of the year and all seasons of our lives.
We spend all winter pining for a break in the weather so we can play a game of catch, and any whiff of baseball news makes our pulse quicken.
Then, even before the snow stops falling in the north, our heroes head to Spring Training to breathe new vigor into our obsession.
And from Opening Day until the final pitch of the summer, our own lives ebb and flow with the fortunes of our teams. No matter how high they rise or how low they fall, we’re there to share in the glory or wallow in the misery.
But the bottom line of baseball, the goal for 30 teams from their birth in mid-February until the standings or the playoffs squeeze the last breath from their collective bodies, is to win the World Series. Even an appearance in the Fall Classic — win or lose — is cause for celebration and commemoration.
For nearly a quarter century, baseball card collectors had a hand up on the average fan when it came to holding onto our October memories.
Thanks to Topps, we could sort through our new cards each spring and instantly be transported back to that time that Hank Aaron knocked a big bomb against the Yankees, or when Blue Moon Odom was cut down at home plate.
The moments were all there, nestled among our other wax pack gods.
Here, then, is a brief history of Topps’ foray into World Series (and playoff) baseball cards. May they keep you warm as the flurries begin to fly.
1958 – 418 World Series Batting Foes – Mickey Mantle / Hank Aaron
Something very unusual happened in the 1957 World Series — the New York Yankees lost.
It was big news when Hank Aaron and his Milwaukee Braves held off the Yanks in seven games, and Topps decided to celebrate the occasion the following year with their first World Series card.
Number 418 doesn’t mention the Braves’ victory, but it does feature Mickey Mantle and Aaron, “probably the most talented hitter in the majors today.”
This was the only time that Mantle and Aaron appeared on a regular-issue pasteboard together.
1959 – 467 Thrills – Aaron Clubs World Series Homer
Topps didn’t issue specific World Series cards in 1959, but they finally got around to acknowledging the Braves’ 1957 championship with card #467.
Dubbed, “Aaron Clubs World Series Homer,” the card recalls Hank’s three-run shot in the fourth inning of Game 4 in ’57 that allowed the Braves to tie the Series. And that nod to Milwaukee’s eventual Series triumph?
It was this type of clutch hitting that helped the Braves beat New York in the thrilling 7 game series.
1960 Topps (1959 World Series)
In 1959, the “Go-Go” Chicago White Sox caught the country’s imagination with a brand of small ball that emphasized base-running, lock-down pitching, and stellar defense over bang-bang, homer-smacking offense. As a result, the ChiSox finished last in the American League in homer runs, but first in stolen bases, first in team ERA, and first in the AL standings.
Alas, their run-stingy approach couldn’t quite hold up against the National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers, as Don Drysdale, Larry Sherry, Johnny Podres, Charlie Neal, Gil Hodges, and company fueled LA’s first championship.
To celebrate, Topps unveiled their first full-blown World Series subset in 1960, dedicating one card to each of the six games plus a seventh to summarize the postseason.
If you’re looking for the only set to feature Charlie Neal on two consecutive cards, this is your horse.
385 Neal Steals Second
386 Neal Belts 2nd Homer (World Series Game 2)
387 Furillo Breaks Up Game (World Series Game 3)
388 Hodges’ Winning Homer (World Series Game 4)
389 Luis Swipes Base (World Series Game 5)
390 Scrambling After Ball (World Series Game 6)
391 The Champs Celebrate (1959 World Series Summary)
1961 Topps (1960 World Series)
The 1960 World Series was one of the most dramatic in history, with the Pittsburgh Pirates taking on the Yankees in a seesaw battle that was dead even entering the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 7.
Topps captured the magic the next summer with an eight-card subset, again devoting one card to each game of the Series, plus a summarizer.
306 Virdon Saves Game (World Series Game 1)
307 Mantle Slams 2 Homers (World Series Game 2)
308 Richardson is Hero (World Series Game 3)
309 Cimoli Safe In Crucial Play (World Series Game 4)
310 Face Saves The Day (World Series Game 5)
311 Ford Pitches Second Shutout (World Series Game 6)
312 Mazeroski’s Homer Wins It! (World Series Game 7)
313 The Winners Celebrate (1960 World Series Summary)
1962 Topps (1961 World Series)
Compared to the previous few Series, the 1961 Fall Classic was anticlimactic.
The Yankees once again steamrolled the American League during a regular season inwhich Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth‘s single-season home run record with teammate Mantle hot on this heals most of the summer.
In the National League, the Cincinnati Reds were surprise champions, led by an MVP year from Hall of Famer Frank Robinson. The Redlegs were no match for the Yanks, though, and dropped the Series in five games.
In spite of the lack of October drama, Topps treated collectors to a six-card follow-up in their classic wood-grain 1962 issue.
232 Yanks Win Opener (World Series Game 1)
233 World Series Game 2 – Jay Ties It Up (World Series Game 2)
234 Maris Wins It In The 9th (World Series Game 3)
235 Ford Sets New Mark (World Series Game 4)
236 Yanks Crush Reds In Finale (World Series Game 5)
237 The Winners Celebrate (1961 World Series Summary)
1963 Topps (1962 World Series)
The Yankees had a tougher time of it in the 1962 Fall Classic, requiring the full seven games to defeat the San Francisco Giants.
It was San Fran’s first appearance in the World Series since moving from New York before the 1958 a season, and the match-up was a reprisal of the franchises’ tilt in 1951.
Topps was back with a seven-card tribute set in their 1963 set, though they ditched the summary card from the mix.
142 Yanks’ Ford Wins Series Opener (World Series Game 1)
143 World Series Game 2 – Sanford Flashes Shutout Magic (World Series Game 2)
144 Maris Sparks Yankee Rally (World Series Game 3)
145 Hiller Blasts Grand Slammer (World Series Game 4)
146 Tresh’s Homer Defeats Giants (World Series Game 5)
147 Pierce Stars In 3-Hit Victory (World Series Game 6)
148 Yanks Celebrate As Terry Wins (World Series Game 7)
1964 Topps (1963 World Series)
The Los Angeles Dodgers of the early-to-mid 1960s featured one of the strongest pitching staffs of all time, and they had little trouble shutting down the mighty but aging New York Yankees.
The next spring, Topps commemorated the four-game sweep — including two wins by Sandy Koufax — with a five-card subset.
And, yes, that means the summary card came back.
136 Koufax Strikes Out 15 (World Series Game 1)
137 World Series Game 2 – Davis Sparks Rally (World Series Game 1)
138 L.A. Takes 3rd Straight (World Series Game 3)
139 Sealing Yanks’ Doom (World Series Game 4)
140 The Dodgers Celebrate (1963 World Series Summary)
1965 Topps (1964 World Series)
The 1964 World Series was a seven-game nail-biter that also happened to be the last of Mickey Mantle‘s career.
The St. Louis Cardinals took the crown after a bloody battle that featured an 10-inning thriller in Game 5 and two victories each by Jim Bouton and Bob Gibson. Though Topps’ eight-card subset in 1965 celebrated the Cards’ victory, the Old Gum Company was able to squeeze in one more Mantle card in honor of the slugger’s clutch home run in Game 3.
132 Cards Take Opener (World Series Game 1)
133 World Series Game 2 – Stottlemyre Wins (World Series Game 2)
134 Mantle’s Clutch HR (World Series Game 3)
135 Boyer’s Grand-Slam (World Series Game 4)
136 10th Inning Triumph (World Series Game 5)
137 Bouton Wins Again (World Series Game 6)
138 Gibson Wins Finale (World Series Game 7)
139 The Cards Celebrate (1964 World Series Summary)
1967 Topps (1966 World Series)
The 1966 World Series was all about the pitching, as the Dodgers and the Baltimore Orioles sported four-men rotations that were the envy of teams from coast to coast.
As it turned out, the O’s needed only one trip through their staff to nail down Baltimore’s first championship, as they swept the Dodgers in four games.
Apparently uninspired by the Dodgers match-up with the Minnesota Twins in 1965, Topps had skipped issuing World Series cards in 1966. They were back with their customary one-card-per-game-plus-a-summary setup in 1967, though. Why they eschewed their stellar base design in lieu of a cheap knockoff of the 1955 Bowman woody TV design is anyone’s guess.
151 Moe Mows Down 11 (World Series Game 1)
152 World Series Game 2 – Palmer Blanks Dodgers (World Series Game 2)
153 Blair’s Homer Defeats LA (World Series Game 3)
154 Orioles Win 4th Straight (World Series Game 4)
155 The Winners Celebrate (1966 World Series Summary)
1968 Topps (1967 World Series)
The 1967 World Series featured another dramatic win for the St. Louis Cardinals and a devastating loss for the Boston Red Sox. The Sawx, of course, suffered a similar fate time and time again over the next 35+ seasons until the 2004 squad finally squashed the Curse of the Bambino.
For their part, Topps stuck with the TV theme for their World Series cards in the 1968 set, this time adopting the pervasive burlap borders of the issue rather than a wooden motif.
151 Brock Socks 4 Hits in Opener (World Series Game 1)
152 World Series Game 2 – Yaz Smashes Two Homers (World Series Game 2)
153 Briles Cools Off Boston (World Series Game 3)
154 Gibson Hurls Shutout! (World Series Game 4)
155 Lonborg Wins Again! (World Series Game 5)
156 Petrocelli Socks Two Homers (World Series Game 6)
157 St Louis Wins It! (World Series Game 7)
158 The Cardinals Celebrate! (1967 World Series Summary)
1969 Topps (1968 World Series)
The 1968 World Series was yet another epic tilt involving the St. Louis Cardinals. Unlike in 1964 and 1967, though, the Cards came up short in ’68 as the Detroit Tigers rode Mickey Lolich‘s three victories to a seven-game championship.
To commemorate the Series from “The Year of the Pitcher,” Topps called on their old friend, The Sporting News, in a newspaper design that stood out well from (yet complemented) the clean design of the base cards.
162 Gibson Fans 17; Sets New Record! (World Series Game 1)
163 World Series Game 2 – Tiger Homers Deck The Cards (World Series Game 2)
164 McCarver’s Homer Puts St. Louis Ahead (World Series Game 3)
165 Brock’s Lead-Off HR Starts Cards’ Romp (World Series Game 4)
166 Kaline’s Key Hit Sparks Tiger Rally (World Series Game 5)
167 Tiger 10-Run Inning Ties Mark (World Series Game 6)
168 Lolich Series Hero Outduels Gibson (World Series Game 7)
169 Tigers Celebrate Their Victory (1968 World Series Summary)
1970 Topps (1969 World Series)
Baseball expanded for the third time in less than a decade in 1969, adding the San Diego Padres and Montreal Expos in the National League, and the Kansas City Royals and Seattle Pilots in the American League.
In conjunction with all this new blood, MLB realigned each league into two divisions, East and West. That meant that, for the first time, fans would have another round of playoffs to look forward to every season, with the division winners squaring off in a best-of-five series for the right to represent their respective leagues in the World Series.
While these moves forever changed the face of Major League Baseball, it was the New York Mets who turned the diamond world on its ear.
Historically terrible since their inception in 1962, the Mets shocked everyone by winning all summer long, eventually sweeping the Atlanta Braves in the first NLCS. New York then dropped the first game of the World Series to the Baltimore Orioles before sweeping Games 2-5 to cap their title run.
Riding a superbly talented young pitching staff, bolstered by a colorful cast of role players, and guided all along the way by the wisdom of Gil Hodges, everybody’s favorite losers had become the Amazin’ Mets in the span of a year.
For their part, Topps fully embraced the new baseball landscape, and especially the extra round of playoffs.
At 720 cards the 1970 set was Topps’ largest issue ever, and they used a ton of that real estate on eight LCS cards and six World Series cards. As in 1969, Topps used a Sporting News scheme for their postseason cards, which feature two Nolan Ryan sightings and plenty of other vibrant Mets moments — even if the photos are in black and white.
195 Seaver Wins Opener! (NLCS Game 1)
196 Mets Show Muscle! (NLCS Game 2)
197 Ryan Saves the Day! (NLCS Game 3)
198 Mets Celebrate: We’re Number One! (NLCS Summary)
199 Orioles Win a Squeeker! (ALCS Game 1)
200 Powell Scores Winning Run! LCS (ALCS Game 2)
201 Birds Wrap It Up! (ALCS Game 3)
202 Orioles Celebrate: Sweep Twins In Three! (ALCS Summary)
305 Buford Belts Leadoff Homer! (World Series Game 1)
306 Clendenon’s HR Breaks Ice! (World Series Game 2)
307 Agee’s Catch Saves The Day! (World Series Game 3)
308 Martin’s Bunt Ends Deadlock! (World Series Game 4)
309 Koosman Shuts The Door! (World Series Game 5)
310 Mets Whoop It Up! (1969 World Series Summary)
1971 Topps (1970 World Series)
The 1970 season saw the first incarnation of the team that would become The Big Red Machine, and those Cincinnati Reds swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NLCS. The Orioles brought out the brooms against the Minnesota Twins in the ALCS to set up a showdown between the two teams with MLB’s top regular-season records.
The young Reds were no match for the seasoned Birds, though, and Baltimore won the Series in five games.
Topps caught all the action in the span of eight LCS and six World Series cards in their 1971 set. Notably, they also dropped the TSN shout-out and went instead with their own iconic/hated/loved/difficult black borders.
The World Series subset also features one of the silliest and most recognizable cards (#331) of the decade. “B. Robinson Commits Robbery!” shows Brooks Robinson on his hands and knees in the dirt from a vantage point that is at least a mile away from the play.
What and whom is Robinson robbing, exactly?
Hard to say, but chances are there is a cactus and some sun-worn, dead man’s boots involved.
195 Powell Muscles Twins! (ALCS Game 1)
196 McNally Makes It Two Straight! (ALCS Game 2)
197 Palmer Mows ‘Em Down! (ALCS Game 3)
198 Orioles Celebrate! (ALCS Summary)
199 Cline Pinch-Triple Decides It! (NLCS Game 1)
200 Tolan Scores For Third Time! (NLCS Game 2)
201 Cline Scores Winning Run! (NLCS Game 3)
202 Reds Celebrate! (NLCS Summary)
327 Powell Homers To Opposite Field! (World Series Game 1)
328 World Series Game 2 – Buford Goes 2-For-4! (World Series Game 2)
329 F. Robinson Shows Muscle! (World Series Game 3)
330 Reds Stay Alive! (World Series Game 4)
331 B. Robinson Commits Robbery! (World Series Game 5)
332 Celebration! (1970 World Series Summary)
1972 Topps (1971 World Series)
In 1971, the Orioles again swept their way to the World Series, this time downing the Oakland A’s in the ALCS. Meanwhile, the Pirates made a return trip to the NLCS, where they were able to put the bad memories of ’71 behind them by defeating the San Francisco Giants in four games.
The World Series was a streaky affair, with the O’s taking the first two games before Pittsburgh won three straight. Baltimore took Game 6 to tie the thing, and then the Bucs won a 2-1 squeaker in Baltimore to take the title.
As usual during those years, Topps chronicled the postseason in their 1972 set, but their enthusiasm for the LCS had apparently been tempered by the third go-round. The ALCS and NLCS got only one card each, though the Fall Classic received the full seven-plus-one(summary) treatment.
221 Pittsburgh Pirates (NLCS Summary)
222 Baltimore Orioles (ALCS Summary)
223 Dave McNally – Orioles/Pirates (World Series Game 1)
224 World Series Game 2 – Orioles/Pirates (World Series Game 2)
225 Manny Sanguillen – Orioles/Pirates (World Series Game 3)
226 Roberto Clemente – Orioles/Pirates (World Series Game 4)
227 Nelson Briles – Orioles/Pirates (World Series Game 5)
228 Orioles/Pirates (World Series Game 6)
229 Steve Blass – Orioles/Pirates (World Series Game 7)
230 Pittsburgh Pirates (1971 World Series Summary)
1973 Topps (1972 World Series)
The A’s were back in the postseason in 1972 after another American League West division title. Unlike in ’71, though, Oakland squeaked out a five-game victory over the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS and moved on to face the Reds in the World Series. Like Oakland, Cincinnati barely made it to the Series, beating Pirates in a tight five-game NLCS.
The Fall Classic was another nail-biter, with the road team winning five times. That included Game 7, where the A’s took over Riverfront to win the game (3-2), and the Series (4-3).
Topps jazzed up their 1973 base design with a garish yellow and red baseball to commemorate October of ’72. As they did the year before, TCG produced one card for each of the LCS and then seven-plus-one for the World Series.
201 Hendrick Scores Winning Run (ALCS Summary)
202 Foster’s Run Decides It (NLCS Summary)
203 Tenace the Menace (World Series Game 1)
204 World Series Game 2 – A’s Make It Two Straight (World Series Game 2)
205 Reds Win Squeaker (World Series Game 3)
206 Tenace Singles In Ninth (World Series Game 4)
207 Odom Out At Plate (World Series Game 5)
208 Reds’ Slugging Ties Series (World Series Game 6)
209 Campy Starts Winning Rally (World Series Game 7)
210 Oakland World Champions (1972 World Series Summary)
1974 Topps (1973 World Series)
In 1973, the A’s became the first repeat champion since the 1961 and 1962 Yankees. To get there, they first outlasted the Orioles in five games in the ALCS.
Oakland’s opponents in the World Series were an uninspiring Mets team who won only 82 games during the regular season but bested the Reds in five games in the NLCS.
Despite the disparity in their records — Oakland won 94 games that summer — the two teams played a hard-fought seven-game Series, with the A’s finally emerging victorious on the strength of Reggie Jackson‘s first big World Series performance.
Topps replayed all the action the next Spring with a 10-piece subset that included two cards for the LCS and eight for the World Series.
470 A.L. Playoffs (ALCS Summary)
471 N.L. Playoffs (NLCS Summary)
472 World Series Game 1
473 World Series Game 2
474 World Series Game 3
475 World Series Game 4
476 World Series Game 5
477 World Series Game 6
478 World Series Game 7
479 A’s Celebrate (1973 World Series Summary)
1975 Topps (1974 World Series)
Oakland was up to their old tricks in 1974, becoming the first team to win three consecutive championships since the Yanks took five straight from 1949-1953. The A’s had an easier time of it in ’74, too, winning the ALCS in four games against the Orioles before downing the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games in the World Series.
Topps held up their end of the bargain, treating collectors to eight cards of postseason goodness in their colorful 1975 set.
459 A.L. Championships (ALCS Summary)
460 N.L. Championships (NLCS Summary)
461 World Series Game 1
462 World Series Game 2
463 World Series Game 3
464 World Series Game 4
465 World Series Game 5
466 World Series Summary
1976 Topps (1975 World Series)
In 1975, the Reds blossomed into The Big Red Machine, steamrolling the NL West with 108 victories before sweeping the NLCS over Pittsburgh. Oakland was back in the ALCS, but the Red Sox swept them off to their winter homes.
The ensuing World Series was one of the greatest ever played.
Though the Reds won in seven, perhaps the most indelible mental image is that of Carlton Fisk waving his Game-6-winning homer fair for the Boston.
Apparently, Topps wasn’t too impressed with any of it, as they pared down their 1976 postseason offering to just two cards: one for the ALCS and NLCS (together), and one for the World Series.
461 NL & AL Championship (LCS Summary)
462 1975 World Series (World Series Summary)
1977 Topps (1976 World Series)
The Reds slayed all comers again in 1976, sweeping the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS and the Yankees in the World Series. New York had to go the full distance against the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS for the right to be eviscerated by Cincy in the Classic.
To celebrate the Machine’s second victory, Topps dropped LCS cards from their 1977 issue and expanded their World Series offering to three cards.
1978 Topps (1977 World Series)
In his first season with the New York Yankees, Reggie Jackson took the stage at the 1977 World Series and transformed himself into Mr. October. After a disappointing performance (two hits in 16 ABs, no homers, one RBI) as the Yankees again defeated the Royals in a five-game ALCS, Reggie hit .450 and smacked five homers in the Fall Classic against the Dodgers. Three of those dingers came in the Series-ending Game 6.
Reggie’s legend was cemented.
Before they got shellacked by the Bronx Bombers, the Dodgers had taken down the Phillies in a four-game NLCS.
The next year, Topps dedicated one card each to the ALCS, the NLCS, and the World Series.
411 A.L. Championships (ALCS Summary)
412 N.L. Championships (NLCS Summary)
413 World Series – Reggie & Yankees Reign Supreme
1981 Topps (1980 World Series)
Topps gave zero cardboard love the the Yanks’ second championship, in 1978, and to the “We Are Family” Pirates who copped the crown in 1979.
But when the Phillies put it all together in 1980, Topps came back for one last post-season subset with their 1981 set. All told, there were four cards, including one for each LCS and two for the World Series.
To gain that cardboard honor, the Phils needed four extra-inning tilts to take down the Houston Astros in the NLCS. In the ALCS, the Royals overcame years of near misses by sweeping the Yankees.
The Series featured four one-run games, but Philadelphia won in six and took Game 6 by a score of 4-1.
Now, if you’ve been around this card game for awhile, you might find it interesting (as I did) that Topps brought back the October glory when they did.
Not only did 1981 happen to be the year that Topps lost its slot as the only player in the cardboard game, but Philadelphia also just happened to be where Fleer was based. And Fleer, in case you don’t remember, is the gum company who won the antitrust lawsuit that knocked Topps down a peg or two and ushered in the modern era of card collecting.
Mighty peculiar, mama.
401 A.L. Championships – Royals Sweep Yankees (ALCS Summary)
402 N.L. Championships – Phillies Squeeze Past Astros (NLCS Summary)
403 Phillies Beat Royals in 6 (1980 World Series)
404 Phillies Win First World Series – Tug McGraw (1980 World Series)
And that was it for Topps and World Series cards during the wax pack era. In dropping postseason subsets, Topps missed chronicling a ton of unforgettable moments throughout the 1980s …
No Bill Buckner‘s wobbly wickets.
No one-legged home run from Kirk Gibson.
No Don Denkinger.
No Harvey. No Wallbangers.
But, hey, with over 100 classic offerings from the the golden years of baseball cards, it’s hard to complain about Topps’ legacy in this area.
I mean, it just doesn’t get any better than “Tenace the Menace,” right?