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Sunday, March 6, 2011

1986 Topps: The CMC Players

I recently finished opening the box of 1986 Topps my wife got me for Christmas. I had been opening the packs one at a time, then writing about what I found. Then I realized that, with the box of 1987 Donruss she also gave me for Christmas, that would be 72 different write-ups.

That was a lot. And, it also meant that other stuff would get backed up and I would feel bad getting other cards while I was still holding on and waiting to open those packs.

I've still yet to finish opening the 1987 Donruss packs, but the 1986 Topps cards are done.

And, when I was opening them, I realized something. It made me realize again why I love the 1990 CMC set.

I believe I've explained this before, but the reason I love the CMC set is its player selection. The set came out in the middle of the rookie boom. Collectors were all out going for rookie cards of their favorite player. What's better than a rookie? A Pre-Rookie, that's what.

And that's how the CMC set was marketed, with the phrase "Pre-Rookie" prominately displayed. on the box and packs.

Coming with the phrase was the promise that each of the players in the packs was in the minor leagues and, going forward, they would have a shot at the majors.

But CMC wasn't discriminating in their player selection. They basically threw in each player in AAA in May 1990 into the set, along with a seemingly random selection of single-A and AA players in the ProCards section.

They broke up all those cards, put them in packs and people bought them to starry-eyed kids and adults looking for the next big things.

But, looking back now 21 years later, for every set member like Frank Thomas, Juan Gonzalez and Curt Schilling, who made it big, there were a ton more who made it to the majors for only brief stints or who never made it at all.

Even at the time in 1990, it was obvious that many of these players would never make it. Or, that their "Pre-Rookie" cards were no such thing. They already had rookie cards, major league rookie cards, years earlier.

And the fun of the CMC set is finding out what happened to the vast majority of players that never went anywhere, whose careers only exist in minds of only a few baseball diehards, Baseball-Reference's database and the Google News Archives.

That brings me back to this box of 1986 Topps. This set came out a full four years prior to the CMC set, yet look at all these CMC set members who are in the major league set, or at least in this box that my wife got me for Christmas.

Each of the cards on this post is of a player who went on to return to the minors and be included in the CMC set. There are a couple coaches here, like Johnny Grubb and Bob Bailor, players that retired and went on to coach or manage in the minors. But most of these are players, who worked to extend their career and get that next shot at the majors.

And these aren't even all the players in both the 1986 Topps and 1990 CMC sets. These are just the ones that came in my one box of Christmas cards.

I know that because not in the box was the 1986 Topps Jim Pankovits. I got Pankovits' card as a kid. I also got it autographed back when Pankovits managed the Quad City River Bandits in 1995.

Pankovits is also one of two members of both the 1986 Topps set and the 1990 CMC set whom I've interviewed for this site. The other is Dann Bilardello, whose card is further up.

And those are the official cards. There is also one unofficial CMC set member card in the set. That's this one. Glenn Brummer is not in the CMC set. But the guy he's tagging out is. That's No. 20 on the Yankees. According to Wikipedia, No. 20 on the 1985 Yankees was Bobby Meacham. His regular card is further up. His stealth card is right there.

By the way, that Glenn Brummer-Bobby Meacham photo was taken May 16, 1985 at Yankee Stadium, according to Baseball-Reference. Meacham was tagged out.

It went down in the box score as a failed steal of home, all five years before Meacham's 1990 pre-rookie campaign.

Players from the 1986 Topps I've featured:
13 - Dann Bilardello, Big Moment, 6/24/10, Interview
143 - Darryl Motley, Biggest Game, 8/26/10
165 - Ron Washington, Different Adversity, 3/21/10
269 - Jim Pankovits, This Is Fun, 7/14/10, Interview
278 - Johnny Grubb, Done Everything, 5/9/10
301 - Bryan Snyder, Going to Work, 10/17/10
318 - Greg Walker, Warm Ups, 4/21/10
536 - Greg Booker, Worst Year, 7/29/10
616 - Harry Spilman, Calling (Manny's) Mom, 6/18/10

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