Classic Red Sox card: Clutch Papi

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.

David Ortiz, 2004 Topps Postseason Highlights

This card captures one of the iconic moments on Big Papi's road to becoming a postseason legend.

It's Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, when Ortiz crushed a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th inning at Fenway Park to kick-start Boston's historic comeback from down three games to none against the Yankees.

Ortiz's majestic swing is captured on the card, with Fenway and the Red Sox faithful in the background. The text on the bottom of the card reads: "Ortiz makes Boston believe."

Roger Clemens, 1986 Fleer

This one was submitted by Brian Toney from Forest City, N.C., who likes Fleer’s clean, simple design.

“I still think Fleer made the prettiest cards,” Toney wrote.

The ‘86 season was a big year for Clemens, who won his first Cy Young Award and was named American League MVP. His ‘86 Fleer card features a cool action shot of the right-hander rearing back to throw a pitch at Fenway Park. -- Thomas Harrigan

Carlton Fisk, Cecil Cooper and Mike Garman, 1972 Topps

If you’re a fan of a particular team, it’s always fun when you acquire a card with multiple top prospects. And if one of those prospects happens to be a guy named Carlton Fisk, well … that’s even better.

That’s what Brandi S. of Elkhart, Ind., submitted in our survey -- and as a bonus, Cooper and Garman are on the card, too.

Fisk, of course, hit one of the most famous home runs in baseball history, a shot off the left-field foul pole to win Game 6 of the 1975 World Series between the Red Sox and Reds. The catcher later played for the White Sox in a 24-year Hall of Fame career.

Cooper was a five-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove Award winner at first base from 1971-87 with the Red Sox and Brewers. Garman posted a career 3.63 ERA as a reliever for the Red Sox, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers and Expos from 1969-78.

Brandi has a great story behind this card:

“My favorite cousin bought this card for me when I was in middle school -- I was about 12 years old and my love for baseball was growing,” she wrote. “Carlton Fisk was my favorite baseball player [he always will be]. I had a couple of friends over from the neighborhood playing sports in the backyard, and I was probably bragging about my new baseball card, and when my ‘friends’ left, the card was missing.

“I went straight to Chief Brown, police chief in Osceola, Indiana, and let him know that my property had been taken. The next day, Chief Brown showed up at my house with the baseball card -- I am pretty sure a few tears were shed! I have since named a dog Pudge, my son’s middle name is Carlton and I made it to Cooperstown to see Fisk inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000.”

Whoa. -- Manny Randhawa

Red Sox: Tony Conigliaro, 1970 Topps

“If you were of Italian-American descent from the New England area in the late ’60s or early ’70s, you were a Tony C. fan.”

Ernie D. of Haverhill, Mass., couldn’t have put it better. Conigliaro was a rising star with the Red Sox, a local boy who made his MLB debut at age 19 and reached 100 home runs at the youngest age in American League history at that time. But he was hit in the face by a Jack Hamilton pitch in 1967, which resulted in a fractured left cheekbone, dislocated jaw and -- worst of all for his future in baseball -- severe damage to his left eye.

Conigliaro made a great comeback, but by 1971 was not the same hitter, and he retired from baseball.

What a beautiful card this one is, with a rare Red Sox road uniform that has “Boston” across the front in blue block letters, with a red outline. And Conigliaro is doing his thing, posing mid-swing as if to say, as Ernie wrote, “Put one right here and I'm going to hit it over the Green Monster and onto the Massachusetts Turnpike.” -- Manny Randhawa

Best Red Sox facial hair card: Dwight Evans, 1986 Topps

Fan Marc Chapman of Stafford, Va., who sent in this card, sums it up perfectly: "Dwight Evans: The man, the myth, the mustache."

On Evans' 1986 Topps card, his mustache even matches the black-and-gray Red Sox uniform he's wearing.

In '86, the veteran right fielder helped lead Boston to within a game of a World Series championship. Evans batted .259 with 26 homers and 97 RBIs in the regular season, and he hit .308 with a pair of homers and nine RBIs against the Mets in the Fall Classic.

Jim Rice, 1977 Topps

Rice didn't take long to become one of the American League's premier hitters, finishing third in the MVP voting as a rookie in '75 and helping Boston reach the World Series.

The slugger took it to another level in '77, making the All-Star team for the first time and recording an AL-leading 39 homers with 114 RBIs and a .320 average.

Rice's card from the '77 Topps set was submitted by Mike Barry from Hillsdale, Mich., who appreciates the simple, classic design as well as the backdrop of Yankee Stadium.

Rice would go on to win the AL MVP the following season, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009. -- Thomas Harrigan

Carlton Fisk, 1977 Topps

Action shots are great for baseball cards. But there are action shots, and then there are action shots.

The 1977 Topps Carlton Fisk is the quintessential example of an action-packed play caught on a card, with Fisk awaiting a throw with a Yankees runner trying to score. Fisk, of course, is most well-known for his walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, but he was a great backstop as well, and this card captures that in a vivid way.

The photo itself is complemented very well by the design of the set -- the team name is printed bold and large, and since it’s the Red Sox, the red pops quite a bit. And you can’t get much more classic than having the player’s position inside a pennant, along with the player’s signature at the bottom.

This is just an exquisite card all around, and it’s no wonder Rich from New York City submitted it in our survey, calling attention to a subtle detail that adds the cherry on top.

“[My favorite is the] '77 Fisk card due to the angle of the action shot and a symbol of a rivalry that includes All Stars from both teams.”

The Yankees' runner is Willie Randolph, who had a good year in ’77, but apparently not a great moment on this play, because Pudge appears to have him out at the plate. -- Manny Randhawa

Bruce Hurst, 1989 Upper Deck

The picture on the front is menacing: Hurst, staring down off the mound mid-windup, about to deliver the pitch.

The one on the back is graceful: Hurst captured perfectly after his release and follow-through, glove tucked, left arm dangling in front of his body, leg high in the air.

That's the beauty of Upper Deck's 1989 rendering of Hurst, who had just pitched his final season for the Red Sox, ending a tenure that included him stymying the Mets more than once during the 1986 World Series. The card features two photos of the veteran left-hander, one on each side of the card, capturing two perfect moments of pitching.

That's what hooked Leslie Ryan, who submitted this card all the way from Prague: "The extra photo on the back of Upper Deck cards was groundbreaking. And the back of Bruce Hurst's 1989 card still amazes me."

Wade Boggs, 1983 Topps

Coming off a strong 1982 rookie season in which he hit .349 over 104 games, Boggs first appeared on baseball cards in ’83, with his rookie cards being included in the Topps, Fleer and Donruss sets.

The Topps version was submitted by Jim Kiniris of Sacramento, Calif.

One of the most valuable cards in a set that also featured rookie cards for future Hall of Famers Tony Gwynn and Ryne Sandberg, it shows Boggs on base with his hands on his knees awaiting action. Before moving to the hot corner full time in 1983, Boggs split his time between first and third base in ’82, so the card includes both positions.

It also has an inset headshot of the future Hall of Famer in the lower right-hand corner, giving fans a good look at the famous mustache Boggs would sport throughout his career. The inset photo was a stylistic quirk of that year’s set, invoking memories of Topps' 1963 set.

The 1983 season saw Boggs win the first of his five batting titles with a .361 average in 153 games. He also led the Majors in on-base percentage (.444) and finished 12th in the American League MVP Award voting.

Boggs ended up spending 11 years in Boston before signing with the rival Yankees. He ranks second in Red Sox history in career batting average (.338), third in OBP (.428) and fifth in hits (2,098).

Boggs joined the 3,000-hit club with Tampa Bay in 1999, becoming the first player to homer for his 3,000th hit.

Dwight Evans, 1987 Topps

On April 7, 1986, Evans crushed a home run on the first pitch of the very first MLB game of the season, setting a record for the earliest homer ever. (The record was later tied by the Cubs’ Ian Happ in 2018.)

The next year, Topps commemorated the moment with this card, which was submitted by Rob Kelley of Hingham, Mass.

“My favorite baseball card may not hold the highest value,” Kelley wrote. “In fact, it is nowhere near the most valuable baseball card in my collection, but it still means the most to me. It is a 1987 Topps Dwight Evans Record Breaker card, featuring Dewey hitting the earliest home run ever to begin a season. The 1987 set is really where I began my collection, and Dewey was my favorite player, and I still maintain to this day that it is a travesty that he is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Anyway, I always loved this shot, and the fact that I got to meet Evans at an autograph event to get it signed makes it even more special to me. Topps really began my love of baseball cards, and 1987 is when it truly started.”

Mike Greenwell, 1988 Topps

This card has so much going for it -- the graceful pose Greenwell strikes while leaving the batter's box, the bold "Red Sox" above his head as part of the 1988 Topps design, the Topps "All-Rookie" Trophy at the bottom-right corner with a solid background. Just ... wow.

"My favorite player growing up -- I had pages and pages of this card," wrote Jason S. of St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada. "I just think it is a beautifully colored card, with the Topps All-Star Rookie cup in the bottom corner, just a great looking card. The design of the 1988 Topps product is in my all-time top three or four."

David Ortiz, 2019 Topps Museum Collection

This sleek-looking autographed card of Big Papi looking intimidating while jogging around the bases comes as a submission from Jackson Starbuck of Fresno, Calif.

"My favorite card is a 2019 Museum Collection David Ortiz framed auto because he is one of my idols and pulling his card was amazing," Jackson writes.

Pedro Martinez and Nolan Ryan, 2002 Upper Deck

Usually, you’d be thrilled if you pulled a card with one game-used jersey swatch from a pack. This one has two, and they happened to have been worn by two of the most intimidating pitchers ever to step foot on the mound, a pair of aces with nearly 8,900 strikeouts combined.

The card was included in Upper Deck’s 2002 set, and it was already clear at that point that Martinez would one day be joining Ryan in the Hall of Fame. -- Thomas Harrigan

Jason Varitek, 1992 Topps Traded

Varitek was one of MLB's best catchers and an influential captain for the Red Sox during the early 2000s, leading them to a curse-breaking World Series victory in 2004. Over a decade before that career-defining moment, Varitek had his first Topps card produced as a member of the USA national collegiate team while he was with Georgia Tech. But, unknowingly at the time, that would be Varitek’s only Topps card for the better part of 15 years.

Varitek did not appear in Topps products to start his career, as he did not have a contract with the company to use his likeness. That means there is no Topps rookie card for one of Boston’s most beloved leaders. He finally got his first Topps card in 2007, and by that time, he was already an established veteran with two All-Star nods, a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger. But, as the old saying goes, better late than never. -- Nick Aguilera

Dustin Pedroia, 2006 Upper Deck

When Pedroia made his MLB debut with the Red Sox in 2006, little did Boston know what heights he'd reach in his career. The scrappy second baseman went on to win the 2007 AL Rookie of the Year Award while helping the Red Sox win their second World Series title in four seasons, was named the 2008 AL MVP, won four Gold Glove Awards and was named and All-Star four times. He also helped Boston win another title in 2013.

After all that, however, injuries derailed the remainder of Pedroia's career, and he retired in Feb. 2021. Still, he was one of the greatest players in Boston's storied baseball history, and will forever be remembered in New England for his tremendous contributions in the greatest era of Red Sox baseball since the early 1900s. -- Manny Randhawa

Carl Yastrzemski, 1968 Topps

Yastrzemski's 1967 season was an iconic campaign in Boston sports history, as the outfielder won the Triple Crown, led the Red Sox to the pennant and was named AL MVP. It was influential for fans in their formative years such as Robert Marquis of Haverhill, Mass., who submitted Yaz's Topps card from the following year's set in our survey.

"I was 7 years old in 1967 and Carl Yastrzemski's Triple Crown performance and the 'Impossible Dream' season cemented me as a Yaz and Red Sox fan for life," Marquis wrote. "By the design of the cards, my favorite Yaz cards are the 1962 and 1968 Topps cards. I chose the 1968 card because it has the Triple crown stats and comments on the back."

Keith Nough of Northborough, Mass., also submitted Yaz's 1968 Topps card and pointed to the 1968 design, which is recognizable by its burlap-colored borders and colorful circles with team names contained within. -- Thomas Harrigan

Mo Vaughn, 1990 Topps

They called him the "Hit Dog," and boy, could he hit.

Vaughn spent eight seasons with the Red Sox, smashing 230 home runs while hitting .304/.394/.542. This 40th Anniversary Topps card shows a rookie Vaughn, with his bulging arms giving us ample reason to believe he was a monster at the plate from the beginning.

The slugging first baseman's best stretch came from 1995-98 with Boston, when he combined to post a .986 OPS with 158 home runs, three All-Star selections and a 1995 AL MVP Award.

Thanks to our own Keegan Matheson for this great submission. -- Manny Randhawa

Tom Seaver, 1987 Topps

Think of Tom Seaver, and you probably picture him in a Mets or Reds jersey. Perhaps you even recall his time with the White Sox. He was with Chicago when he won his 300th game, after all, and those mid-'80s uniforms were a thing of beauty.

But Seaver’s career didn’t end there. During the ‘86 season, the White Sox shipped Seaver to the Red Sox for Steve Lyons, which means that, for a brief time, Boston’s rotation included both Seaver and Roger Clemens.

Seaver was 41 years old at that point, but he still gave Boston 16 starts of 3.80 ERA ball. Seaver became a free agent at the end of the season, but Topps’ ‘87 set depicted the right-hander in a Boston uniform. -- Thomas Harrigan

Phil Plantier, 1992 Fleer Rookie Sensations

One of the really fun elements of baseball is the unique and often quirky batting stances we see over the years. One that definitely falls into that category is Plantier’s.

Plantier was an outfielder in the Majors from 1990-97. His drastic crouch in the batter’s box was always a strange sight, but certainly a signature snapshot for Plantier, who belted 34 homers with 100 RBIs for the Padres in 1993.

Just how great is this card? A Yankees fan who despises the Red Sox submitted it.

“Although I am a die-hard Yankees fan, and loathe the Red Sox, this 1992 Fleer Rookie Sensations Phil Plantier card is a treasure in my collection,” wrote Dewayne P. of Knoxville, Tenn., who submitted this card in our survey. “His unorthodox stance, on a ‘limited insert’ spoke to me as a 14-year-old. Plantier may not be a Hall of Fame-worthy player, but he will always be a hero to that little kid.”

That’s another great thing about baseball -- heroes are made for all different kinds of reasons. Even an unorthodox batting stance. -- Manny Randhawa

Carl Yastrzemski, 1973 Topps

“The Simpsons” television series has made numerous references to baseball over the years, even basing an entire episode (“Homer at the Bat” in '92) around a group of Major Leaguers joining the Springfield Power Plant company softball team.

Yastrzemski, or more specifically, his ‘73 Topps baseball card, joined that list in ‘91. In the episode “Three Men and a Comic Book,” Milhouse asks Comic Book Guy for the Yastrzemski card from ‘73, “when he had the big sideburns.” -- Thomas Harrigan

Ryan Maki of Mountlake Terrace, Wash., sought out the card for that reason.

“Being a fan of both card collecting and The Simpsons, I had to go out and buy this card since it was referenced in an episode,” Maki wrote. “I will cherish my mutton chop Yaz card.” -- Thomas Harrigan