(Check out our other player card posts here.)

Baseball’s offseason is a time when fans of just about every team can get excited …

What moves will your club make? Will any big names land in your town? Will your team finally win something other than your heart?

And it’s all fueled by the trades and free agent signings that either happen or are whispered about from from November through early March.

For collectors, of course, any time a player changes teams, there are hobby implications — from chasing updated pics of all the big names in their new uniforms to adding new names to your master team set.

Now, if you’ve spent much time on this site or picking through our Twitter account (@WaxPackGods), you know that we don’t do much with new cards — they’re confusing, they’re slick, they’re overwhelming. We’re all about old stuff and nostalgia … or at least mostly about old stuff and nostalgia.

Rookie Card Grudge Match

But we’re also baseball fans, which means we follow all of the stuff that’s happening on the field and in the news now. And, there are at least some new cards that look great, even if we don’t understand them.

We also love that baseball is a game that spans the eras, and that it’s easy to see there are strong ties from one generation to the next, from your dad’s era to your era to today’s era, and on and on.

With that in mind, I thought it might be fun to compare the rookie cards of some of the guys who are making headlines this offseason (2018-19) with those of similar guys from years gone by. And by “similar,” I mean the guys who score high on the Similarity Score chart as presented for each player by Baseball Reference.

1985 Topps Sid aBreama

Here’s how this will work …

  • I’ll pick my favorite rookie card for each guy.
  • “Rookie card” will be loosely defined and malleable to fit my druthers at the moment.
  • I don’t know much about modern cards, so I’ll be picking them based almost entirely on aesthetics.
  • I have a deep history with older cards, so I’ll pick them based on aesthetics and the general “feels” they give me.
  • I’ll pit the cards against each other in three categories: front, back, feels.
  • I reserve the right to use value considerations as a tiebreaker, but it doesn’t really matter much most of the time.

Them’s the rules …

So, where to start?

Well, as of this writing, there is a lot of buzz around Cleveland Indians first baseman Yonder Alonso. And who is the most comparable player to Alonso?

That would be none other than NLCS legend Sid Bream.

For Bream, the choice comes down to two 1985 cards — Topps and Donruss.

While I loved the 1985 Donruss set as a kid (and still do) because it was so Donruss-y, I’m going with the Topps card. It’s  shot against a blue spring sky, and Bream looks great in his Dodger Blues.

For Alonzo, there seem to be several 2011 cards from which to choose. It’s probably not a surprise, though, that I’m going with the 2011 Topps Heritage, an homage to the 1962 Topps set.

So that’s our battle: 1985 Topps Sid Bream v. 2011 Topps Heritage Yonder Alonso.

On to the tale of the tape …

2011 Topps Heritage Yonder Alonso

Card Fronts

As mentioned above, the Bream rookie makes me long for Spring and, while the 1985 Topps design was nothing groundbreaking, it’s a solid offering that’s very 1980s in its presentation. And the red and blue colors make the card stand out in a crowd.

The Alonso card, meanwhile, features those classic 1962 Topps woodgrain borders, along with a “2011 Rookie” star in the upper lefthand corner. Both big pluses.

But it’s also cluttered with two more logos, and the pic of Alonso is pretty boring.

Winner: 1985 Topps Sid Bream

Card Backs

The 1985 Topps card backs were a snore for the most part, thought the burnt-red and green color combo does lend a Christmas-y feel. Still, generic trivia questions and a lack of “extra” player info leaves the whole thing flat.

1985 Topps Sid Bream (back)

Topps card backs in the 1960s and 1970s were a lot of fun, generally speaking, and the 1962s were great. With just two lines of traditional stats encompassing the previous year and lifetime totals, these cards don’t have a lot to offer hardcore Sabermetrics geeks. But they more than make up for it with narrative about each player and the little cartoons that no one did or does like Topps.

In Yonder’s case, we learn that he ranked 2nd on his Louisville squad with 31 doubles in 2010 and that the Reds were considering him in left field since Joey Votto had first base locked down for Cincinnati in 2010-11. Fun stuff.

And good enough to make this a clear-cut choice.

Winner: 2011 Topps Heritage Yonder Alonso

2011 Topps Heritage Yonder Alonso (back)

Feels

Full disclosure — I don’t own the 2011 Topps Heritage Yonder Alonso card.

I own, or at least have owned, probably dozens of 1985 Topps Bream cards over the years. It was issued in my collecting heyday, and I was all in for every card I could lay my chubby little mitts on. I know how these cards feel in my hands, I know what they look like, I know what they sound like as they slide across each other.

And I also know what it felt like to watch Bream lumber home from second base on Francisco Cabrera‘s two-out single in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7 of the 1992 National League Championship Series to send the Atlanta Braves to the World Series.

Even though it unfolded at the pace of War and Peace, it was the most excited I had ever been watching a baseball game on TV.

All of that and more comes rushing back when I hold the gray mush of a 1985 Topps Sid Bream rookie card, even today.

Winner: 1985 Topps Sid Bream

Overall Winner

1985 Topps Sid Bream

While Yonder Alonso scores bonus points for having once been a member of the Cincinnati Reds, and while his 2011 Topps Heritage rookie card is niftily retro, it can’t overcome Bream’s history and the nostalgia of actual old Topps cardboard.

Both contenders turned in a strong fight, but in the end, the 1985 Topps Sid Bream rookie card is our champion of the day.

(Check out our other player card posts here.)