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Sunday, January 30, 2011

1986 Topps: Good Times

Sammy Khalifa had just finished his second major league game in June 1985, and he was showing every bit of the promise he did when the Pirates drafted him seventh overall in the 1982 draft.

In his debut, Khalifa collected three hits. In this second game, he collected two more.

"I was a little more relaxed tonight," Khalifa told The Beaver County Times. "I'm having a good time."

It was probably one of the bests times of Khalifa's short career. Khalifa went on to get 71 more hits that season in 95 games, according to the back of his 1986 Topps card.

That meant his batting average came back down to Earth at .238. It was the best average of his three-year major league career.

Khalifa is also likely watching the events in Egypt right now. He lives in Arizona, but his late father was from Egypt and Khalifa was the first player of Egyptian heritage to make the majors, according to Baseball-Reference's Bullpen.

Khalifa's card was among those coming in my sixth and seventh 1986 Topps packs. Among the other cards was one Hall of Famer, three CMC set members, a checklist and a couple with interesting Topps facts.

This is the Hall of Famer, Tony Perez. Perez was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000, after a 23-season major league career. The photo shows Perez appearing to have a good time with Eric Davis at the plate.

I've been waiting for this card to come up because Bo over at Baseball Cards Come To Life! had a great interview in December with Topps photographer Michael Ponzini where he discusses this card. Apparently the Topps art department thought it was confusing. The sports department just thought it was a great shot. The sports department won. The full interview: Interview with former Topps photographer Michael Ponzini.

Two out of the three CMC set members I've covered. The third, this guy Rich Thompson is yet to come. Thompson pitched in 57 games for the Indians in 1985. He didn't get back to the majors until 1989, for 19 games with the Expos. His major league career ended the next season with one more game with Montreal.

Johnny Grubb was covered back in May. In 1990, he was a coach for the Richmond Braves. On his 1986 Topps card he was nearing the end of his 16-season major league career. Covered in his May feature was his two-run double in Game 2 of the 1984 ALCS, sending his Tigers to a 2-0 series lead. It was his first post-season game and he was 36 years old.

Greg Walker came back in April. In that feature Walker's 1988 collapse with a life-threatening seizure. He came back from that, playing two more seasons in the majors with the White Sox and the Orioles.

Here's my first checklist from the box. I post it because checklists rarely get any run. Maybe I should start keeping track of the cards I've gotten so far. Or maybe not. I was never a checklist checker. The card is No. 394, the third to last card on the checklist. Note on the front, it's constructed "Checklist." On the back, however, it's "Check List," two words.

And, by the way, you'd think they could have gone ahead and prechecked that one. Because I would think it's assumed that you have the checklist card, if you're holding it.

These last two cards are here, not because of the players themselves, but for the "Talkin' Baseball" anecdotes on the backs.

Billy Hatcher's card cites the last Cubs pitcher to steal home. That was Hippo Vaughn. He did it against the New York Giants Aug. 19, 1919.

Tom Niedenfuer had the infinitely more interesting piece of trivia. The player cited was Dick Nen, a first baseman who played seven games for the Dodgers in 1963.

The piece of Trivia? Nen was "the first player in Dodgers history with a palindrome name."

A palindrome, according to Wikipedia, is "a word, phrase, number or other sequence of units that can be read the same way in either direction."

I assume the name Topps is referring to is not Nen's entire name, just his last name.

Nen went on to play for the Senators and the Cubs, according to Baseball-Reference. No word is given on if those teams previously had players with palindrome names.
318 - Greg Walker, Warm Ups, 4/21/10
278 - Johnny Grubb, Done Everything, 5/9/10

1986 Topps Pack 6
46 Billy Hatcher; 72 Shawon Dunston; 123 Greg Walker; 150 Joaquin Andujar; 172 Jerry Reed; 188 Bob Dernier; 214 Randy Bush; 243 Johnny Grubb; 266 Keith Moreland; 316 Sammy Khalifa; 426 Brewers Leaders; 456 Braves Leaders; 507 Steve Ontiveros; 595 Dave Parker; 729 Jim Beattie

1986 Topps Pack 7
56 Tom Niedenfuer; 71 Ken Schrom; 85 Tony Perez; 138 Mark Davis; 182 Bobby Brown; 242 Rich Thompson; 264 Darren Daulton; 271 Dave Collins; 353 Keith Atherton; 394 Checklist; 396 Red Sox Leaders; 457 Mickey Tettleton; 526 Charlie Lea; 598 Jim Presley; 610 Ron Guidry

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