Classic Rays card: Crime Dog in '98

December 8th, 2021

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.

Fred McGriff, 1998 SkyBox Dugout Access

It seemed that former All-Star after former All-Star joined the Rays in their early years -- Wade Boggs, Jose Canseco and Fred McGriff immediately come to mind.

Here we find a gorgeous card of McGriff, whom the Braves sold to the expansion Rays in 1997 after a tremendous run of slugging in Atlanta.

McGriff was dubbed the "Crime Dog" since his last name sounded similar to "McGruff," the popular cartoon public service announcement dog from the 1990s. Combine that nickname with the high finish of McGriff's unique swing, and you quite possibly will have the perfect McGriff card.

That's what we see with this 1998 SkyBox card, which shows the words "Crime Dog" behind an action shot of the new Tampa Bay star completing his follow through with the bat over his head. -- Manny Randhawa

Johnny Damon, 2011 Topps

You might remember Damon’s stints with the Royals and A’s early in his career. His time with the Red Sox was unforgettable, as he was the poster child for the team’s carefree and fun-loving spirit. Then, he shaved off his beard and cut his hair to join the rival Yankees. After that, though, Damon’s career becomes hazy.

Damon signed with the Tigers after winning the World Series with the ‘09 Yankees, and he played his final season with Cleveland in ‘11. Between those two seasons was a one-year stint with the Rays.

The Rays actually introduced Damon at the same time as his former Red Sox teammate, Manny Ramirez. While Ramirez lasted only five games before testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance and retiring, Damon remained a productive big league regular, hitting .261 with 16 homers and 19 steals over 150 games in what amounted to a 2.5 wins above replacement season (according to Baseball-Reference). -- Thomas Harrigan

Carl Crawford, 2008 Topps Finest

Crawford's '08 Topps Finest card captures the Rays star in between his best statistical seasons and one of the most important seasons in Tampa Bay history.

Crawford batted .315 with an American League-leading 50 stolen bases in 2007. He'd also just led the AL in triples three straight seasons from 2004-06 -- maybe the photo on this card captures one of his three-baggers.

And the year the card was printed, of course, was the year the Rays made their first World Series in 2008.

Wade Boggs, 1999 Stadium Club

Look at this dude. He’s 40 years old and playing for an expansion team that would go on to lose 99 games in ‘98, but he’s still digging for third base like it’s Game 7 of the World Series.

Everything about this card is fantastic. The pure determination on Boggs’ face. His single batting glove and stirrups. The original Tampa Bay road uni with the rainbow gradient type.

Boggs joined the Rays franchise when he was in the twilight of his career, but he still had some gas left in the tank, collecting his final 210 career hits -- including No. 3,000 on a home run, a feat no player had accomplished before -- and batting .289 with a .360 OBP over two seasons with Tampa Bay.
-- Thomas Harrigan

Jim Morris, 2000 Bowman

Sometimes it’s not a particular game, or being inside a store when a shiny pack of baseball cards meets the eye that gets someone hooked on baseball or card collecting. It can even be Hollywood.

That was the case for Adam S., whose ever-expanding card collection began with “The Rookie,” Jim Morris.

“I was 7 years old and had never watched a game of baseball before, and this was my first introduction to the sport,” Adam wrote in his submission. “My family had just gotten done watching 'The Rookie' and immediately after it was over, my dad and I went on eBay and purchased this card. I would go to my first game two months later and watched the Yankees battle the Devil Rays, and ever since then, I have been completely hooked.”

Morris, of course, is the inspiration for the movie, which chronicles his journey from a right-handed pitcher who hurt his arm and retired from the sport, to a high school teacher/baseball coach who made his MLB debut at age 35.

Morris has been an inspiration to many people, but he may not know he was the inspiration that led to a boy falling in love with baseball cards. -- Manny Randhawa

Dan Johnson, 2011 Topps

The final day of the 2011 regular season was one of the wildest and most dramatic days in recent memory, culminating with Evan Longoria hitting a walk-off, extra-inning homer for the Rays minutes after the Orioles came from behind in the ninth inning to walk off the Red Sox in Baltimore. The sequence gave Tampa Bay the AL Wild Card and sent Boston home.

It wouldn’t have been possible without Johnson, who socked a game-tying, pinch-hit solo homer off the Yankees’ Cory Wade with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to cap the Rays’ comeback from a 7-0 deficit and send the game to extras.

To commemorate the 10-year anniversary of one of the greatest days in Rays history, here's Johnson's card from the 2011 Topps set.

Wade Boggs, 2016 Topps Update 3000 Hits Club

Individual milestone moments in the Major Leagues often come in a uniform that the subject player won't be primarily remembered for wearing -- after all, most milestones take place late in a player's career, at a time when he may no longer be with the franchise he is most readily connected with.

That certainly was the case for Boggs when he delivered the 3,000th hit of his career on Aug. 7, 1999. Boggs spent the majority of his Hall of Fame career in the uniform of either the Red Sox or the Yankees. But it was with Tampa Bay that he joined the exclusive 3,000-hit club. This 2016 Topps insert is a beautiful way to capture and commemorate that moment.

Jose Canseco, 2000 Upper Deck

Canseco will be remembered most for his time with the A's, when he teamed with Mark McGwire to form the "Bash Brothers" when Oakland appeared in three straight World Series from 1988-90. But the premier slugger of the late 1980s would later play for the Rangers, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rays, Yankees and White Sox.

Canseco's time with Tampa Bay was brief, but productive -- serving as the club's designated hitter in its second and third seasons of existence, Canseco slugged 43 homers in 174 games, earning an All-Star selection in 1999.

This Upper Deck card notes that Canseco's 34 homers in '99 gave him 30-plus home run seasons for four different teams. -- Manny Randhawa