Think 1982 Topps Traded set and you probably think of the Cal Ripken card. However, if you think back to that summer, there are plenty of question marks and riddles to ponder. One of Topps’ most unusual decisions involves a card from that set featuring a player most of us have probably forgotten: The 1982 Topps Traded Steve Stroughter card.
Stroughter had bounced around in the minors for more than a decade before finally joining the Seattle Mariners at the start of the 1982 season. While undoubtedly thrilled to finally taste the big leagues, Stroughter did not distinguish himself in his brief stint with the Mariners, hitting all of .170 in fewer than 50 at-bats.
And why is an obscure and almost totally forgotten bench player such an interesting figure in card history? Well, he was the only player in the 1982 Topps Traded Set who was a rookie not to be part of a multi-player card in the regular issue set. The ’82 set featured Johnny Ray, Steve Sax, Jesse Barfield, Tom Brunansky and Kent Hrbek. That was a pretty good rookie crop that year and frankly, Topps did a nice job on getting a second card of all these players into their Traded set, which arrived in the fall but it seems one of Topps’ biggest mistakes was an inclusion rather than an exclusion.
You have to wonder what could have been when you think about the players who could have conceivably had cards in the 1982 Topps Traded Set. Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, Willie McGee, Ryne Sandberg and even perhaps Julio Franco and Frank Viola didn’t show up until a few months later when the 1983 Topps packs hit stores. All made their major league debuts before September 1. We were still in a hobby where rookie cards had some importance and Topps did not make cards for any of these players (or even Howard Johnson) for the ’82 Traded set but they did include Mr. Stroughter.
Was the vaunted Topps scouting staff so enamored of a 30-year-old backup outfielder making his first major league team that they put him on a card over all of these and some other players? Was it a timing issue? A complete lack of knowledge when it came to young prospects? Times sure have changed. Rookies really drive the market now. Look how long it took (one day) for Topps to announce Jon Singleton would be featured in upcoming sets once he made his debut earlier this month. Now that’s smart marketing. In 1982, marketing to the hobby was almost a foreign concept and Topps certainly had miles to go to become competent in that field.
And we featured this a while back so let’s see how our dedicated artists can do. Here are ten players we’d like to see featured retroactively (or in my case at that time) in the 1982 Topps Traded set. Let’s see your best card designs of the following players who made debuts in before 1983 and were not in the Topps Traded set that year. It’s OK if you use a Donruss of Fleer design as well.
So let’s have some fun and if you want to put Mr. Stoughter into a 1982 Fleer or Donruss design that’s fine also.
As always, we love your feedback.