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.
To begin the series we'll be looking at one iconic card from each team.
Iconic Tigers card: Mark Fidrych, 1977 Topps
For Tigers fans who collected cards in the late 1970s, the Mark Fidrych rookie card was a must-have.
Doug McCready from Grand Rapids, Mich., Eric Rass from Beverly Hills, Mich., Mark Wendt from Westminster, Calif., and Jon Paslean from Oxford, Mich., all submitted it as their favorite card.
“There can only be one choice: 1977 Topps Mark Fidrych,” McCready wrote. “It signifies two major things in my life -- my newfound obsession with baseball cards, as 1977 was my first year collecting, and my desire to get the most polarizing, exciting player the Tigers had ever had. Scrolling through a pack and seeing the bold brown letters of ‘TIGERS’ along the top and the most amazing red All-Star ribbon at the bottom still gives my heart a shot. Throw in the rookie cup and you have the perfect card.”
A lanky righty with a mop of curly blonde hair, Fidrych took the Majors by storm as a 21-year-old in 1976, going 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA in 250 1/3 innings, making the American League All-Star team, winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award and finishing second to the Orioles’ Jim Palmer in the AL Cy Young Award race.
"The Bird" also captivated the baseball world with his quirky personality, as he would strut around the mound after outs, talk to the baseball and himself, aim the ball like a dart and crouch on the mound to fill in cleat marks.
Rass summed up the experience of being a young fan in Detroit during that time: “As a kid growing up in the 1970s in metro Detroit, ‘The Bird’ was a rock star, and every kid wanted to be like Mark. I saved up enough money to buy 10 grocery trays (30 packs) of 1977 Topps and got the card I wanted, the Fidrych RC. I was so excited to show my friends that I stuck it in my back pocket and jumped on my bike to go to a friend's house. When I got to my friend's house I was devastated when I took the card out of my back pocket, as it had a big crease right in the middle of it from me sitting on it! I kept the card for a long time, however, I have no idea what eventually happened to it.”
“Opening that pack as an 8-year-old and seeing your favorite player was unforgettable,” Paslean wrote. “It's a great-looking card -- [I] still have it. [I] still remember where I was when I finally opened one up. I was in my grandparents’ driveway. It was multiple packs of '77 Topps that year before I finally got the Fidrych card.”
Injuries took their toll on Fidrych after his rookie year, and he threw only 162 innings for the rest of his career. He passed away tragically in a truck mishap at his home in Northborough, Mass., in 2009. However, the memory of his unique brilliance in 1976 lives on. -- Thomas Harrigan