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.
Miguel Cabrera, 2015 Topps (400th HR)
This card commemorates a milestone home run for one of the great players in recent Tigers history. Cabrera's 500th homer will be up next.
Miggy's tenure in Detroit has included a Triple Crown in 2012, back-to-back AL MVP Awards in '12 and '13, four batting titles (the last of which came in 2015, the year of this card), two home run crowns and seven straight All-Star nods from 2010-16.
Cabrera is one of the best hitters of his generation and his best seasons are with the Tigers. That's why Evan O'Dell of Livonia, Mich., sent in this card.
"Being a Michigander, Cabrera has always been a huge baseball icon throughout my life," he says.
Best Tigers facial hair card: Kirk Gibson, 1981 Topps
Gibson was actually sans-facial hair on his 1981 Fleer rookie card, but Topps went with this fantastic picture the same year. Gibson’s 'stache wasn’t as full as it would become, but with the sideburns and flowing locks, the 22-year-old outfielder looks as cool as anything.
Jeff Bortnick of Huntington Woods, Mich., submitted the card, writing:
“I idolized Kirk Gibson as a kid, and this was my first rookie card of his -- 1981 O-Pee-Chee (Canada’s version of Topps), because I grew up in Toronto. I hated it at first because it wasn’t Topps, but I ended up getting all of his rookie cards eventually and this one is now my favorite because it’s probably the rarest of the bunch.” -- Thomas Harrigan
Cabrera, Verlander, Fielder and Scherzer, 2014 Topps Museum Collection
Ah, the good old days for the Tigers. This card, from Topps’ “Museum Collection,” was issued just two years after Detroit reached the World Series for the first time in 28 years. It wasn’t meant to be, though, as the Giants swept the Tigers in 2012 for their second World Series championship in a five-year span.
Still, that Tigers squad was a powerhouse, both on the mound and at the plate. Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer have five Cy Young Awards between them, and each won his first as a member of Detroit’s starting rotation. The lineup featured two of the most feared sluggers of their eras in Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder -- and though Fielder’s stint with the Tigers was only two seasons long, Cabrera has hit 350 home runs and counting in his career with Detroit.
Gavin from Comstock Park, Michigan submitted this card in the survey, and got to the heart of why this is probably a favorite card for many Tigers fans.
“This quad relic of Cabrera, Fielder, Verlander, and Scherzer,” he wrote. “It reminds me of our brighter days as a team. But we’re moving in the right direction so I’m hopeful to find another card similar to this one with our new stars!" -- Manny Randhawa
Kirk Gibson, 1981 O-Pee-Chee
This is one of the harder Gibson rookie cards to find, made by O-Pee-Chee -- a candy company that eventually became, basically, the Canadian equivalent of Topps.
On the card, a mustachioed Gibson stands on the field in his Tigers cap and warmup jacket, framed by a pink and white border with the O-Pee-Chee logo inside a baseball on the bottom right. You can see the Canadian influence on the card in the bottom left corner, where, inside a black cap, is the French word for outfielder, "Voltigeur."
This card was made a few years after the Tigers, Gibson's hometown team, picked him in the first round of the 1978 Draft out of Michigan State. The strike-shortened 1981 season would be Gibson's breakout in Detroit. The then-24-year-old hit .328 with nine homers and 17 stolen bases and placed 12th in the AL MVP voting. A couple of years later, he helped carry the Tigers to the 1984 World Series championship.
Jeff, who submitted this card from Huntington Woods, Mich., has a nice story about it: "I idolized Kirk Gibson as a kid, and this was my first rookie card of his, because I grew up in Toronto," he says. "I hated it at first because it wasn’t Topps, but I ended up getting all of his rookie cards eventually and this one is now my favorite because it’s probably the rarest of the bunch."
Gary Pettis, 1989 Upper Deck
The first Upper Deck set in ‘89 famously features Ken Griffey Jr.’s rookie card, one of the most iconic cards ever. But Steve Tse considers another card from that set to be his favorite, one that depicts light-hitting defensive whiz Gary Pettis.
As Tse notes, the ‘89 Upper Deck Pettis card contains a mind-bending paradox.
“The arrival of 1989 Upper Deck was revolutionary, with sharper photography, upgraded glossy card stock and an embedded counterfeit-proof hologram on each card,” Tse wrote. “My favorite card, which I had to do a double-take each time when I was a teen, is the Gary Pettis card. Gary's 1989 Upper Deck card, features him holding his ...1989 Upper Deck card? Wait, what, how could that be possible? Welcome to the 4th-dimensional baseball card.” -- Thomas Harrigan
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