The small number of cards isn't the only thing that makes this set unique, however. Here are some other details:
- It was produced and marketed in the United Kingdom.
- The cards were sold in a box as a complete set, and also in individual packs (5 cards, 1 stick of bubble gum).
- Here in North America they're referred to as "Topps UK Minis", but over in the UK they were sold as "Topps American Baseball".
- The cards are in fact mini. They measure 2-1/8 inches by 3 inches.
Here are some of my favorite cards in the set:
Good, simple design. The yellow color bar across the bottom is eye catching, and highlights the player name and position well. Using each team's official wordmark across the top instead of the same standard font for all teams is a really nice touch, too—especially for the UK market.
Here are three top-notch hitters who've just connected. Tony Gwynn almost resembles a cricket batsman with the way he's following through there. As for Rickey, he didn't hold back, did he?
The photography in this set isn't spectacular, but for Topps in the year 1988 I'd say it was a little bit above average. And that does have some importance, as surely some of the UK kids opening these packs didn't know a whole lot about the sport and its stars.
At the time, there were 26 teams in Major League Baseball. All 26 were represented in this set. That's another check-mark for the designers. You'll find more good design on the card backs.
I'm impressed with the amount of information here. The player name really stands out. Same goes for the card number, which is surrounded by stars—a nice tie-in to the star design on the front. Next you've got a simple one-season stat line, with career numbers too. That's fine with me, considering the market Topps was going after with this set. Besides, that leaves more room for what we find underneath.
There's a baseball graphic on the right, with the player's facsimile signature and bio-type information printed on top (notice the weight listed in stone!). On the left, you've got a classic Topps cartoon that shares some information about the player. Below that, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the card.
Topps really nailed it with the Talkin' Baseball box. Each box describes a baseball rule or action which would seem far too rudimentary for those of us who grew up watching baseball here in North America, but served a great purpose for the market in the UK. Just think about how helpful a Talkin' Cricket box would have been if you were opening a pack of "Topps UK Cricket" cards when you were a kid.
Continuing with the fronts now, we've got two legendary Orioles surrounding Kirby in the Homer Dome. I have a feeling some of the Twins and Cardinals photos used in this set were taken during the 1987 World Series. The catcher and player (or bat boy) in the background of Kirby Puckett's card here seem like Cardinals.
Here's Nolan in that classic Astros jersey, Ryno with a mustache(!), and Ruben with a strong swing. On the back of Sandberg's card, the American spelling of "favorite" is used, not the British "favourite". I wonder if that was just an oversight. Other copy is a little bit more British. For instance, the cartoon on Dave Stewart's card mentions how he signed his first professional "pact" as a catcher. We'd have used the word "contract" instead.
You can see that the set features a nice combination of headshots, players in moments between game action, and action shots. It also includes a good amount of pitchers (20).
Have a look at the red, white, and blue bunting in the background of Frank Viola's card here. Another World Series shot? In the middle, Robin Yount swings for the fences. And on the right, the final card of the set, which is a checklist. Another nice touch.
I'm happy to have completed this one. There are 9-pocket pages designed for smaller cards, and I'm thinking this set might look nice displayed in a binder. I'd only need 10 pages, after all.
Have you ever collected trading cards that feature a sport that's more popular outside of North America? Did the cards themselves help you learn about the sport?
Share in the comment section, and thanks for reading!