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 Gonzalez, 1990 Topps
After Gonzalez debuted at the age of 19 in September 1989, his rookie card was included in the Topps set the following year. It wasn’t until ‘91 that Gonzalez became a big league regular, but once he did, he gave Texas one of the most feared sluggers in the Majors.
From 1991-99, "Juan Gone" averaged 37 homers and 117 RBIs per season while hitting .296 with a .922 OPS. He was named the American League MVP in both ‘96 and ‘98.
Jonathan Soliz of McAllen, Texas, wrote in to share why Gonzalez's Topps rookie card, and the Rangers in general, hold a special significance for him.
“Baseball is a family heirloom," Soliz wrote. "My personal family heirloom is a 1990 Topps Juan Gonzalez Rookie Card. It is not the interesting color scheme or the fact it is the rookie card of a two-time American League MVP that makes this card valuable. It once belonged to my grandpa and was recently discovered while going through old boxes. It was in a small stack of cards held together with a rubber band.
“My grandpa was a Rangers fan, therefore I am a Rangers fan. Juan Gonzalez was his favorite player from the 1990s Rangers teams. As my Grandpa aged, he developed Alzheimer’s and it became more and more difficult for him to remember. However, whenever I turned the TV on to a Rangers game, he always knew it was baseball and watched intently. For a few hours, it was as if we had our grandpa back. It has been almost three years since he passed away, and my family and I continue to watch the Rangers and cheer them on. When I discovered the Juan Gonzalez card, it was like finding another piece of my grandpa to treasure.” -- Thomas Harrigan
Rangers: Nolan Ryan, 1992 Fleer
What’s more Nolan Ryan than a smoking baseball?
So when it comes to a great Rangers baseball card, this one is a great choice. The 1992 Fleer set, with its turquoise borders and bold lettering for player names is aesthetically pleasing, and there are some select cards that feature artwork rather than a photo.
That’s the case with this Ryan card, which has him holding a smoking baseball with his back to the viewer but his head turned toward the viewer. He’s also standing in front of a wall with a tally being kept of all his strikeouts.
Eric P. of Tualatin, Ore., submitted this card, and he pretty much summed it all up with his description of it:
“Captures the essence of Nolan Ryan. The smoking ball, the strikeouts adding up on the wall and his face. His face says so many different things, but mainly ‘you think you can hit my fastball?’”
The answer for most Major League hitters during Ryan’s era was “not a chance.” That’s evidenced by his Major League-record 5,714 strikeouts and seven no-hitters. That triple-digit fastball certainly made it seem like there should be smoke rising from its surface. -- Manny Randhawa
Iconic Rangers card: Ivan Rodriguez, 1991 Score Rookie/Traded set
This was submitted by Christian Kline of Austin, Texas, who wrote:
"Having thousands of baseball cards from all eras, I consider my collection to be top notch for only being 24 years old. I have an extreme passion for the sport of baseball, with the Texas Rangers being my personal favorite team. With that being said, my 1991 Ivan 'Pudge' Rodriguez rookie card rated a perfect 10 in mint condition by PSA is one of my most treasured cards. Pudge was one of the greatest catchers behind the plate in the modern era of baseball. I was lucky enough to be in attendance when the Rangers retired his number and inducted him into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame. It is a memory I will always remember and cherish."
The 1991 season was Rodriguez's first in Major League Baseball. He debuted that June, beginning a run of 12 seasons with the Rangers during which he hit 215 homers, made 10 American League All-Star teams and won 10 Gold Glove Awards.
Texas retired Rodriguez's No. 7 in 2012, and he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame five years later. -- Thomas Harrigan