I would like to begin this edition of Let’s Remember Some Guys by noting that I was right. Not about the many decisions I made as a youth and young man that led me to remember not just who Tom Brunansky and Juan Nieves are in 2019 but even/also a few things about what kind of baseball players they were. I was not right about any of that, but those mistakes are lost to the past, now. I cannot change them, and I cannot forget the things that those choices have left me to remember here in this present. I just mean that I was right about Topps Big Baseball cards.
More specifically, I was right that Topps Big Baseball cards were in fact big, or at least slightly bigger than the standard baseball card. While our howlingly unscientific attempt to prove as much in the video suggests otherwise, a 2018 story in Sports Collectors Digest confirms what I remembered—each card was two-and-five-eighths by three-and-three-quarters inches, which was respectively one-eighth and one-quarter inches Bigger™ than the usual. The set, when it debuted in 1988, was Topps’ first attempt to capitalize on the gathering trading card bubble; that Topps’ response to that burgeoning demand was to print a metric buttload of cards that were both more expensive to produce and too large to fit into conventional card-collector sleeves tells you a great deal about how well the company and the industry would deal with that short and silly boomlet to come.
And yet the experience of ripping a pack of 1988 Topps Big Baseball in 2019 reveals that the cards, which I faintly remembered buying/shoplifting with the sort of blind zeal that I brought to those endeavors at that age, were indeed pretty cool. They were a riff on Topps’ classic 1956 set, both in terms of their horizontal layout and the artful three-panel cartoons on the back, although their deeply troubling neon aesthetics are on some extremely 1988 shit. The product line would only last for three years, with the ’88 packs that Lauren and I opened here easily the best of those. By 1990, the aesthetics had devolved into...well, just imagine what 1990 looked like and then plug like a photo of a grimacing Kent Hrbek into the equation.
But the 1988 set really was pretty cool, give or take the broader puffy-paint vibe. The cartoons on the back were lively and the fun facts they dealt in were, at least in this pack, decently fun. The subject list for the set was significantly shorter than the usual—remember, this collection of hypertrophic Double Dare-ass collectibles was a Luxury Set—and yet this pack still included a number of doofs that veteran Guy-Rememberers will recall from past episodes. There is no cartoon of Oddibe McDowell paying his water bill, but we’ve already established that the set wasn’t perfect.
Of all the goofball packs we’ve opened on Let’s Remember Some Guys, this might have been my favorite, in large part because they were better than I remembered. (We have already established which was the worst.) Lauren, who ordinarily has no time for this old dork sorcery, seemed similarly charmed. The cartoons on the back really were kind of fun, the layout was, uh, at least paying homage to a much better-looking set, and Tom Brunansky in any form is a blessing forever. And they were just big enough to make you wonder if they were actually any bigger than normal. That honestly is not a lot, but remember the context, here. The industry didn’t know how to have good ideas yet, and as bad ideas go, a cartoon mentioning that Montreal Expos starter Bryn Smith was a fan of the Canadian libertarian rock outfit Rush is honestly pretty solid.