The single coolest Topps baseball card from each year: the 1950s
In honor of National Baseball Card Day on Aug. 11, we're selecting the coolest baseball card from every year since Topps' first set in 1951. Rather than simply focus on the most famous or valuable cards, we asked some of the best minds in baseball to provide us with their favorite. It could be because of a great photo, a hilarious story, or just a personal memory they have with the card.
It's not hyperbolic to say that Topps changed the course of American history in 1952. Though they came out with a card set in 1951, it was the next year's set that marked the start of the modern baseball card.
These were gorgeous painted cards with facsimiled signatures, team logos and -- gasp -- statistics and biographical information on the back.
Broadcaster Bob Costas is probably the person most closely associated with this era of cards (at least, among people whose faces didn't grace the cardboard), and it's thanks to the 1958 Mickey Mantle All-Star card that he keeps in his pocket.
"That's the one that I've carried since I was a little kid," Costas told MLB.com over the phone. "And the story, which people have heard before, is that like so many zillions of kids, you keep your baseball cards in a shoebox and you separate them by team, by league, by rank of stardom, by position, by whatever it is, you've got it all catalogued. And then maybe you stop collecting baseball cards when you're 12 years old, 13 years old or are getting ready to go to college. Your mother cleans up the closets, says 'This is nothing,' and throws it away."
That happened to most of Costas' collection. "Somehow, surviving the purge was that Mantle." After his broadcast partner, Tony Kubek, shared the story on the Game of the Week, the story blew up.
Though he's been gifted that card dozens of times over the years -- from friends and strangers -- all baseball cards remain a big a part of Costas' life. He still remembers how he once traded a Don Drysdale for a Norm Sieborn to complete a set -- "As general manager, you'd hate to give up a Don Drysdale for a Norm Sieborn, but you had to do it," he said laughing.
So, what cards made his list of the decade's best? Find out below: