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Bob D’Angelo

Bob is a longtime member of the Florida sports media, having served as a reporter and copy editor for more than 30 years. His true sports passion, however, is the history of the various games, exhibited by his in-depth book reviews and hobby of collecting cards and other sports memorabilia. He blogs for on both subjects, transferring his work for the Tampa Tribune to the realm of cyberspace.

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Topps unveils VIP cards for National

Posted Jun 22, 2012 by Bob D'Angelo

Updated Jun 22, 2012 at 05:56 PM

With this year’s National Sports Collectors Convention set for Aug. 1-5 in Baltimore, it’s certainly appropriate — and a nice marketing touch — for Topps to offer collectors a card of that city’s most famous baseball player: Babe Ruth.

Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays will be part of Topps’ VIP set that can only be found at the National. Collectors who buy the $129 VIP admission package in advance ($139 at the door) will receive a four-card pack of cards modeled in Topps’ 1952 design.

Here’s a different wrinkle, though: each of the players will be shown wearing the minor-league uniform they wore before breaking into the majors.

Ruth is shown in the uniform of the Baltimore Orioles, which was a team in the International League in 1914. Mantle is wearing the uniform of the Class C Joplin Miners, while Robinson is wearing the colors of the Montreal Royals. Mays is depicted in his Minneapolis Millers outfit.

There will be at least two versions of the Mantle card, as a variation shows him wearing a New York Yankees uniform.

That’s a handsome set of cards. I think they look rather sharp, and if you happen to be a VIP in Baltimore, it might be the closest you get to owning a 1952 Mantle card.

The price for a VIP pass may seem costly, but honestly, a collector gets some good stuff.

In addition to the Topps promotional cards, collectors will get a five-card promotional package from Leaf that includes Heisman Trophy Winner Robert Griffin III, heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, Seattle Mariners star Ichiro Suzuki, Baltimore Orioles top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy and MMA star Rory MacDonald.

In The Game and Panini America are also scheduled to have VIP card packs.

Also, as a VIP a collector gets early entry into the convention center on all five days. On Aug, 1, collectors can attend a reception and get free refreshments, plus free autographs from former Orioles/Angels star Bobby Grich and former pitching star Jack Morris.

Plus, collectors will receive 12 free autograph tickets from a selected list of signers that will include Mike Hargrove, Dexter Manley, George Starke, Qadry Ismail, Joe Washington, Chris Hoiles, Milt Pappas, Tom Matte, Roger Wehrli, Don Stanhouse, John Montefusco, Larry Sheets, Brian Mitchell, Ron Hansen, Tippy Martinez, Paul Blair, Ricky Sanders and Al Bumbry.

As you can tell, there is a big emphasis on athletes who made an impact in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., area. Personally, I’d like to chat with and get an autograph from Hansen. On July 30, 1968, playing shortstop for the Washington Senators, he became the eighth player in major-league history to pull off an unassisted triple play — the seventh during the regular season and the first to do it since 1927 — catching a first-inning liner off the bat of Cleveland’s Joe Azcue with runners on first and second.

Interestingly enough, after achieving the triple play, Hansen struck out in his next six at-bats — four times on July 30 in Cleveland and two more times on July 31 against Denny McLain in Detroit.  He was lifted for a pinch hitter in the eighth inning and finally broke the streak on Aug. 1 by drawing a second-inning walk off Pat Dobson. Two innings later, he hit a grand slam off Dobson.

On Aug. 2, Hansen was traded to the Chicago White Sox (the team he played for in 1967) for Tim Cullen (the player he was traded for). So, Hansen and Cullen were traded for one another twice in the same season. Can you name anyone else that has that distinction? Here’s a hint — you can’t.

Talk about a roller-coaster week. That’s why I’d want to get his autograph, and maybe hear him tell those stories again.

Wonder what Hansen would look like in a 1952 Topps card design? He’d be wearing a 1958 Knoxville Smokies uniform, the team he played for before being called up to the majors later that season by — the Baltimore Orioles.

So we’ve gone full circle, from Ruth to Hansen. Interesting.

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