As part of the celebration of the 70th anniversary of Topps baseball cards, we've asked fans (as well as our staff) to submit their all-time favorite baseball cards, and we've broken them down by team. We'll be revealing submissions regularly throughout the season, ranging from the famous to the weird, and everything in between.
Juan Marichal, 1970 Topps
Everything about this card is outstanding -- a Hall of Famer remembered for his distinctive leg kick, the beautiful Giants road jersey, Marichal going into his famous windup as a pose for the photo, and his autograph with the inscription "Dominican Dandy."
Marichal was one of the great pitchers of the 1960s, and while he was overshadowed in some respects by Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson, the right-hander posted a 2.46 ERA from 1962-69, a span over which he was also named an All-Star in all eight seasons.
Colin B. of Newark, Calif., submitted this beauty in our survey.
"I grew up with my dad telling me stories about seeing Marichal pitch back in the 1960s at Candlestick," Colin wrote. "I still miss the 'Stick. He has always been one of my favorite players and still has one of the best deliveries of all time. This is one of the prized cards of my collection."
As well it should be. -- Manny Randhawa
Buster Posey, 2010 Topps Chrome
We've already featured one of Posey's 2010 Topps rookie cards here … how about another?
This one's from the Topps Chrome set, and the card submitted by fan Mike Kesler of Los Angeles is a refractor, too, so it's got a whole rainbow of colors.
The photo of the young Posey is also different than his normal Topps card. This one captures him on the field in his full catcher's gear, mitt on one hand, mask in the other, as he stares out onto the diamond.
Willie McCovey, 1960 Topps
If you have a body of water named after you, I’d say you were a pretty good ballplayer.
McCovey was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1959, an honor he earned despite playing just 52 games. This feat was recognized in his '60 Topps card, as he was named an All-Star Rookie by Topps.
McCovey was one of the greatest Giants to ever don the uniform, and fans for years have recognized the bay behind the right-field wall at Oracle Park as McCovey Cove. “Stretch” went on to win his lone MVP Award in 1969 and was named an All-Star six times throughout his career.
While he was known as a Giant through and through, he spent 2 1/2 seasons as a Padre and half a season across the Bay as an Oakland Athletic before making his way back to San Francisco, retiring after the 1980 season. He was elected into the Hall of Fame as a first-ballot inductee in '86. McCovey’s illustrious 22-year career spanned an astounding four decades, making him one of just 29 players who have achieved the feat.
-- Nick Aguilera
Will Clark, 1989 Topps
Clark’s ‘89 Topps card captures the Giants first baseman’s focus as he kneels in the on-deck circle with a scowl on his face.
Featuring simple borders and a block-script font with a ribbon tail that contains the player's name, the set was released after Clark’s fantastic ‘88 campaign in which he played all 162 games and led the National League in plate appearances (689), RBIs (109) and walks (100) while hitting .282 with 29 homers and an .894 OPS.
“This was my first card of my all-time favorite player, and what made it more special was I sent it to him a few years back and explained what this card meant to me and he signed and sent it back,” wrote Rodolfo Sánchez of Redwood City, Calif., who submitted the card.
The card was also submitted by Denver’s Rob Beard, who wrote:
“This card is what Will Clark is all about: tough, focused, a ‘Will’ to win.”
-- Thomas Harrigan
Best Giants facial hair card: Timothy Keefe, 1887 Allen & Ginter
Keefe was one of the best pitchers of the late 19th century, posting a 2.30 ERA from 1885-88 for the New York Giants and a 2.63 ERA overall in a 14-year career. Not only was he good on the mound, but he looked sharp when he baffled opposing hitters, thanks to a meticulously trimmed mustache. While you can't really tell from the side view that this rare card shows, Keefe sported a curl at the end of each side of the mustache, which was a popular style in his time and has even been brought back by a couple of pitchers in recent years. -- Manny Randhawa
Buster Posey, 2010 Topps
Posey looks so young in his rookie card. Well, he always looks young. But he looks especially young as a 23-year-old who had just made his MLB debut as a September callup in 2009.
As a rookie in 2010, Posey stole the show. He was the runaway NL Rookie of the Year, hitting .305 with 18 home runs and 67 RBIs. And most important, he led the Giants to a World Series title, the start of their even-year magic that brought home three championships in 2010, '12 and '14.
This card takes you back to Posey's beginnings, before he was one of the best catchers of his generation, a six-time All-Star and the 2012 NL MVP.
Gianluca Valente of Montreal, who sent in this card, says: "Buster is by far my favorite player of all time, and to have his rookie card is amazing. It was one of my first cards, too, which makes it so much more valuable to me. It might not be the most valuable card ever, but to me, no matter whatever card I get, nothing can beat it."
Hoyt Wilhelm, 2001 Topps Archives
Wilhelm was the first knuckleballer to be enshrined in Cooperstown, and he may also be the only Hall of Famer whose rookie card depicts him with his eyes closed.
It’s unclear what Wilhelm is doing here (was he mid-blink?), but that makes the card more memorable.
The card was submitted by David Dembeck of Garden City, Mo., who wrote:
"It was my first Topps autograph of any kind. It was also his rookie card. Hoyt passed the following August. I placed the card on a stand on a bookshelf in remembrance. It stayed there for over a year until my spouse got sick of looking at it and strongly hinted that I 'rotate' it out for something else."
Willie Mays and Willie McCovey, 1967 Topps
Talk about a card with two of the most iconic players in a franchise’s history. This “Fence Busters” card features the “Say Hey Kid” and “Stretch” McCovey, a pair of Hall of Famers who struck fear into the hearts of National League pitchers throughout the 1950s and ’60s.
What’s great about this card, among other elements, is that it shows the two standing next to each other with bats in their hands, surely talking hitting. Imagine being a fly on the wall for that conversation.
McCovey towers over Mays but is keenly interested in whatever it is the legend is saying, and Mays’ face indicates he’s likely discussing a topic of serious focus in the realm of slugging.
The design of the card is simple and the aesthetic is beautiful with the “Fence Busters” at the bottom appearing in green, and the only visible orange and black is in the uniforms themselves. -- Manny Randhawa
Iconic Giants card: Willie Mays, 1952 Topps
Before "The Catch" in the 1954 World Series, before the 660 home runs, before being considered one of the best all-around players in baseball history, Mays was a rookie. And this 1952 Topps card shows Mays with an expression of focus for a man who knew he had something to prove. He certainly went out and did that in a 22-year Hall of Fame career.
Mays made his MLB debut in May of 1951 for the New York Giants, and after a rough start, he recovered to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award. The "Say Hey Kid" hit 20 homers that first campaign and then spent most of the 1952 season and all of the '53 season serving in the United States military.
Upon returning to the Majors in 1954, it was as if Mays never left. That season was a big one for both Mays individually and the Giants as a team -- Mays was named NL MVP after launching 41 homers and leading the Majors in both batting average (.345) and slugging (.667). And the Giants swept the Indians in the World Series.
Mays outdid himself the next year, blasting 51 homers and adding 13 triples to lead all of baseball. The rest, as they say, is history. But the 1952 Topps card of Mays, with its simple design of having the player's autograph printed inside a rectangle bordered with stars, is a beautiful reminder that they were all rookies once, even the greatest of them. And how about that classic Giants logo?
Owen S. of Boston was one of the survey respondents who submitted this card, and he underscored just how aesthetically pleasing it is.
"Technically, it is my father's, but I like to say it is mine," Owen said. "It is my favorite not only because it is very rare, but the card is a beautiful work of art."
It is, indeed, rare -- according to PSA Authentication and Grading Services, a mint condition Willie Mays in the 1952 Topps set is valued at $250,000.
Willie Mays, 1957 Topps
In 1957, Topps made the switch to full-color photographs, and the result was this absolutely gorgeous set that featured many of the sport’s all-time greats, including Mays.
“This was his best looking card, in my opinion,” wrote Joe Matrisciano, who submitted this card in our survey. “It was the first year Topps used color photos. It was also the final year Willie appeared in a New York Giants uniform. The rest of his cards pictured him as a San Francisco Giant.”
Indeed, the 1957 season was the Giants’ last in New York. The club moved to the West Coast for the 1958 season, and Mays spent the majority of his career representing San Francisco. -- Thomas Harrigan
Orlando Cepeda, 1959 Topps
Cepeda, known as the "Baby Bull," had a tremendous career for the Giants from 1958 -- the first year the club played in San Francisco -- to 1966, when he was traded to the Cardinals. He was the 1958 National League Rookie of the Year, and in his nine seasons with San Francisco, he had a slash line of .308/.352/.535 and 226 homers.
Cepeda continued to be prolific at the plate after his trade to St. Louis -- in 1967, his first full season with the Cards, he was named NL MVP after posting a .923 OPS (164 OPS+) with 25 homers and a league-leading 111 RBIs. He played seven more seasons after that, also suiting up for the Braves, A's, Red Sox and Royals.
Colin B. of Newark, Calif., submitted this beauty in our survey, and the reason why is pretty simple:
"Just a great Cepeda headshot and a blue ink autograph," he wrote.
Alvin Dark, 1953 Topps
This card was submitted by Tom Shillinglaw of Santa Fe, N.M., who met Dark at one of the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Cooperstown during the late 1990s.
“At the time I worked in Corning, N.Y., so my wife and I would often drive to Cooperstown for the ceremony. I saw Dark sitting there, and I happened to have his card with me, so I went up to him and told him that as a kid my glove was an Al Dark Spalding autograph model (which I still have in fact). He asked ‘Were you a hard-hitting shortstop?’ (His position, of course). I said ‘No, as a kid I was a weak-hitting second baseman.’
Dark had a nice run as the starting shortstop for the Giants in the 1950s, producing 87 homers, 367 RBIs and a .296 average from '50-54. His power at his position was unrivaled during that time -- no other AL or NL shortstop had more than 72 homers in that five-year span.
-- Thomas Harrigan
Tim Flannery, Roberto Kelly and Hensley Meulens, 2012 Topps Emerald Nuts
Let's give the coaches some love, shall we? The Giants famously won three World Series titles in five years, crowned champions in 2010, '12 and '14. Manager Bruce Bochy and his coaching staff were rightfully heralded as huge factors in San Francisco's incredible run, and these three -- Flannery, Kelly and Meulens -- were at the center of the franchise's success in that span.
Flannery served as Giants third-base coach from 2007-14, after coaching in the Padres organization from 1996-2002. Prior to that, he had an 11-year career as a player from 1979-89 with San Diego.
Kelly was a two-time All-Star outfielder in the Majors from 1987-2000 with the Yankees, Reds, Braves, Expos, Dodgers, Twins, Mariners and Rangers. He then became a Minor League coach and manager in the Giants' organization, being promoted to first-base coach with the Major League club in 2007. He moved over to the third-base coaching box after Flannery retired in 2014.
Meulens was a corner infielder and left fielder in the Majors for parts of seven seasons from 1989-98 with the Yankees, Expos and D-backs. After his playing career, he became a coach, eventually being named Giants hitting coach in 2010, the year the franchise won its first World Series championship in 56 years. Meulens was promoted to bench coach in 2018, and remained with the Giants through the 2020 season.
There's a pretty cool story behind this card, particularly due to how long it took to obtain the signatures of each coach.
"These three are legendary World Series-winning coaches and also all former players," wrote Colin B. of Newark, Calif. "It took literally eight-plus years to get all three of them to sign it. Hensley Meulens I got at a Fanfest, my card buddy got Flannery to sign it at a gig in Santa Cruz, and Kelly through the mail." -- Manny Randhawa
Larry Jansen, 1952 Topps
Jansen was a solid starter for the Giants from 1947-54, earning two All-Star nods and coming in second place in 1947 Rookie of the Year Award voting to Jackie Robinson. You might assume that with the fairly successful career, him holding up seven fingers in his 1952 Topps card might be signifying an accomplishment on the field. Maybe he had just struck out seven batters. Or maybe he had just tossed seven straight shutouts.
Nope. Jansen was actually holding up seven fingers to honor the number of children he had at the time. It’s sweet if you think about it. Slight problem though: Jansen went on to have three more kids. Maybe Topps can issue a digitally-altered version to recognize his youngest trio. -- Nick Aguilera
1990s throwback card: Barry Bonds, 1995 Topps
Bonds played his first four seasons in the 1980s, but the ‘90s were when he truly blossomed into one of the best players in baseball.
The slugger won his first three NL MVP Awards in 1990, ‘92 and ‘93, joined the 40/40 club in ‘96 and posted an OPS over 1.000 in each of his final eight seasons during the decade.
The 1995 Topps set had one of Bonds’ best-looking cards, showing the slugger confidently dropping the bat and following the flight of the ball after what was likely a mammoth blast to right field at Candlestick Park.
-- Thomas Harrigan
Randy Johnson, 2009 Topps Update
The Big Unit spent only the very last of his 22 big league seasons with the Giants, but he picked up a huge milestone with San Francisco: his 300th career win.
This Topps card from that final 2009 season commemorates the moment, and provides the rare photo of Johnson in that Giants uniform.
Johnson also struck out 86 batters with the Giants to bring his career total to 4,875. It's only a shame he didn't stick around one more season for the start of the Giants' even-year championship magic in 2010.
Minton made appearances with the Giants in ‘75, ‘76 and ‘77, but he only pitched in 16 games during that span, so it’s possible Topps didn’t have access to a picture of the right-handed reliever.
Mike Siebenaler, who submitted the card, has a lot of questions about it that may never be answered.
“I have spent hours staring at this card and equally as many hours asking my siblings and friends to look at it too,” Siebenaler wrote. “It is the only card in that era that looks like a painting instead of a photograph. From the background to Minton’s teeth, the whole card looks like a painting. I could never understand why, if it is a painting, did Topps release this painting? Did he miss photo day with the Topps crew? Why not use an extra photo from last year? Did they damage the original and had to use a portrait? I may never understand Stonehenge or other mysteries of this world, but I am still perplexed by this card.” -- Thomas Harrigan
Tito Fuentes, 1972 Topps
When you have a card that’s actually labeled “In Action,” you know you’ve got something special. The 1972 Topps set, already a perfect snapshot for the era with its design, had these descriptive cards, which, if you think about it, really are very appropriate for baseball cards -- an action shot? Name it an action shot!
Fuentes was a staple on the infield for the Giants in the early 1970s, and this photo captures him either catching a high throw, or trying to complete a double play while the runner barrels in trying to break it up.
Midair during a play on the old AstroTurf surface of Candlestick Park? Talk about a classic. -- Manny Randhawa
Gary Carter, 1990 Topps
This is one of those “he played for that team?!” cards, which makes it very cool. Carter will always be remembered most for his years with the Expos and the Mets. He made his MLB debut with Montreal in 1974, at the age of 20, and was a fan favorite and six-time All-Star with the club.
The Expos traded the future Hall of Fame catcher to the Mets after the 1984 season, just in time for him to catch the young phenom, Dwight Gooden, and help lead the Mets to a World Series title a year later.
Howard H. of Richmondville, N.Y., explains why he submitted this card and the significance of the one season Carter played for the Giants:
“I love Gary Carter's 1990 Topps card,” Howard wrote. “The Mets had just released him, and his 1990 season with the Giants would end up being a great bounce-back year that also included him setting the NL record for games caught, which still stands. It just seems to capture Carter well.”
Indeed it does. -- Manny Randhawa