If you’re a player collector, you’ve probably been trying to complete the set of that player’s entire career, and each team they’ve played on (or briefly was under contract for).
Some players had tenures so brief that no card could have been thought of (Rollie Fingers’ weeklong stint as a Cardinal), or tenures that were aborted so quickly due to a Bowie Kuhn void (Fingers with the Red Sox) or a player refusing to report (Dick Allen with the Braves in 1975, and Jackie Robinson with the Giants in 1956).
Thankfully, due to creative collectors in the Photoshop world (check out @wthballs on Twitter, the “When Topps Had Balls Blog), online art has been made of these player arc voids. They are great and all, but you’ll run into novice collectors who think they are real. True story: A friend once alerted me of a 1973 Topps card of Randy Poffo on the Cardinals that he saw online. Not true, “Macho Man” Randy Savage never had a baseball card, despite playing minor league ball before going on to a pro wrestling career.
Having the “Real McCoy” is awesome, but sometimes they just aren’t going to happen.
Several veteran MLB stars of the past actually did have cards for teams they briefly played on, but they may not be Topps cards; they often are team-issued postcards, oddball issues, or other localized sets. Some appear in unlicensed sets, such as Dave Kingman’s 1978 MSA Whiffle Ball card with the Padres, and Ken Holtzman’s extremely rare 1976 chicken bucket lid as an Oriole from East Coast chicken joint English’s Chicken.
In some instances, a player may have appeared in a “legends” or “tribute” set wearing a uniform of a team they weren’t known for being on – and such a card is the only instance of that player being featured on that card. Robin Roberts appears in the 1990 Swell Baseball Greats set pictured as a member of the Chicago Cubs. Kingman has a few Yankees cards (from his brief stint in 1977) in tribute sets issued much later.
In other instances, a player may have appeared as a small speck on a Topps team card, which was issued from 1957 to 1981 (save for the ill-fated 1969 set) – and in that instance, it was the only time they appeared on a baseball card wearing a certain uniform. 1940s/1950s All-Star Mickey Vernon appears on the 1960 Topps Braves team card and nowhere else, Willie Davis appears on the 1980 Topps Angels team card, and nowhere else. Team cards also are good ways to get star players who became coaches in later life: Examples include Bobby Doerr with the Blue Jays in the late 1970s, Don Zimmer on the 1972 Expos team card, and Red Ruffing on the 1963 Topps Mets team card.
There are even instances where a player has a card on a team they never played for. The 1970 Topps card of Curt Flood (Phillies) is the most infamous example of such. Top pitching coach Dave Duncan has a White Sox card in the 1977 Topps set, but never played for them. Stretching further is the example with the 1983 O-Pee-Chee card of one-time Cy Young winner Randy Jones, shown as a Met, “Now with Pirates” stamped on the card, and never played for the Pirates.
Then there’s the strange case with the 1977 Topps card of .299 career hitter Rico “Beeg Boy” Carty:
(Follow along closely …)
• Carty played for the Indians in 1975 and 1976, shown as an Indian on his 1976 Topps card
• Shown as a Blue Jays player on his 1977 Topps card but didn’t play for them in 1977.
• Was selected in the expansion draft by the Blue Jays, was traded back to the Indians for Rick Cerone before the 1977 season began
• Shown as an Indian on his 1978 Topps card
• Was dealt to the Blue Jays and played games for them early in 1978
• Was dealt to the Athletics for the rest of 1978
• Shown as an Athletic on his 1979 Topps card
• Plays his final season with the 1979 Blue Jays and is properly pictured as a Blue Jay on his 1980 Topps card
With all of the trading Carty was around during the 1970s, the only team that he played on in which he never had a baseball card for was the Cubs, for whom he had a brief mid-season stint with in 1973.
I have compiled a list (as best as I could) of retired players during the Topps era (post-1951) with 300+ home runs, 1K+ RBI, 200+ pitching wins, and a career .300+ average for those who qualify who – do not have a card with a certain team they played for, either from that season OR in post-career commemorative and tribute sets.
Note that I did NOT include players who had multiple stints for a team in which they had at least one card while on that team in either stint (see Carty example above).
Here’s the list … Enjoy, and perhaps this will save you from painstakingly searching for such cards.
300+ home runs
Willie Horton, Athletics (1978)
Dick Allen, Athletics (1977)
Willie McCovey, Athletics (1976)
Lance Parrish, Indians (1992) … Parrish does appear on 1 Dodgers card from 1993, despite not playing for them
Joe Adcock, Angels (1964-66) … Adcock can be seen on Angels team cards from Topps during those years
George Foster, White Sox (1986)
Gary Gaetti, Red Sox (2000)
Jim Edmonds, Brewers (2010) … the oddest entry in this list as card companies often picked up on this stuff by then
Andres Galarraga, Angels (2004)
Dave Kingman, Angels (1977) … the year he appeared on 4 teams, see above for more info
Those with 1,000+ RBI not mentioned above
Bret Boone, Twins (2006)
George “Boomer” Scott, Royals (1979)
Tommy Davis, Angels (1976)
Willie Davis, Rangers (1975) and Angels (1979) … Willie does appear on team cards for both
Vic Wertz, Twins (1963)
Bob Elliott, Giants (1952) and White Sox (1953)
Del Ennis, White Sox (1959)
Mickey Vernon, Braves (1959) … Vernon does appear on the 1960 Topps team card
Enos Slaughter, Braves (1959) … Slaughter does NOT appear on the 1960 Topps team card
.300+ career average
Harvey Kuenn, Phillies (1966)
Hal Morris, Tigers (2000)
Bob Dillinger, White Sox (1952)
Johnny Pesky, Senators (1954)
Barney McCoskey, Reds (1951) and Indians (1951-53)
Billy Goodman, Colt .45s (1962)
200+ pitching wins
Lew Burdette, Phillies (1965)
Jerry Reuss, Reds (1987)
Joe Niekro, Padres (1969) … Joe does appear on the 1970 Topps team card
Note: Bobo Newsom appears on 1 Topps card, from 1953, but was well-traveled during the 1930s and 1940s to not appear on several cards while on several teams.
Note 2: A prior posting of this list on social media includes Frank Tanana on the Yankees in 1993. This is incorrect, as he appears as a Yankee on the 1993 Select Rookie/Traded set.