As a follow-up to the 10th annual “Topps Pack Opening Day,” I was studying the 2012 Heritage proof sheet by pals there were nice enough to provide. A familiar face showed up:
Last year, after a lot of hard work and a willingness to change what he had done all his life, the former collegiate superstar finally lived down his reputation as a man most famous for one of his baseball cards, and is now “just” a top flight hitter on what might quickly become a tremendous offensive machine in Kansas City, and this is “just” what his 2012 Topps Heritage Card #51 is going to look like.
Even most non-collectors remember the brouhaha six years ago at this time when cards of Gordon appeared in the 2006 Topps and 2006 Topps Heritage sets – even though the MLB Players Association had recently codified the rules about who could and couldn’t be in big league card sets. It was comparatively simple: if you hadn’t already played a major league game, you couldn’t be included in a major league set. Topps, either accidentally (or many critics say, deliberately) got confused because that one rule meant Gordon – with 0 major league games under his belt – was eligible to be included in one of its brands, Bowman, but not eligible for its two others, Topps and Topps Heritage.
Gordon cards were made for all three sets and the MLBPA screamed bloody murder and just before the sets were released, the cards were supposedly pulled out of the packs of Topps and Heritage. The regular Topps set was released first, and cards of Gordon with a two-inch square hole in the middle started appearing in the packs (a ‘punch’ of some sort being used to destroy the inner portion of the cards while they were still on the uncut sheets, and the sheets were still stacked at the printers’). Not long after, full versions of the card appeared, some of them in packs shipped to PXs at American Military Bases in Germany.
If you think the thing with the Skip Schumaker “Squirrel” card is crazy, it pales in comparison to L’Affaire Gordon. I bought a few of the cards at four-figure prices on eBay, on the premise that this was the first regular Topps card ‘pulled’ from circulation since at least 1958. I was actually accused of being some sort of shill for the thing, because I consult on Topps’ retro issues; in point of fact I learned about the card’s scarcity on ESPN’s website, weeks after it came out. Topps estimated that maybe 50 to 100 of the Gordon cards got out, and maybe an equivalent number of ‘cutout’ cards. In the spring, however, a longtime dealer friend told me he’d been offered a large quantity of them. “I can get you 500 of them if you’ll pay the price.” Needless to say, I didn’t. As of this writing, there’s exactly one of them on eBay, but I’m confident that the number in circulation is closer to 1,000 than it is to 100.
Weeks later, Topps Heritage hit the stores and sure enough, the #255 Alex Gordon appeared – but only in cutout form. This frame-like card still shows up at times, although only a few of the fragments from the cutout parts ever hit the hobby.
You can see from the little Frankenstein-like assemblage of parts here that there must’ve been a third “fragment” there bearing Gordon’s face. This was the only time Topps ever actually issued a jigsaw puzzle kind of card (although they experimented with a set of them in the early ’70s – and it bombed). One wonders if somebody opened a pack of 2006 Heritage and found these little pieces of junk without realizing what they were, and tossed them.
In any event, six years and five Alex Gordon Topps Heritage cards later (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012), a full uncut version of the #255 2006 Heritage has never turned up. But I think it’s time for me to confess that I have one – sorta. We end as we began, with the fact that Topps indulges my long-standing fascination with their production process by donating the occasional proof sheet or printout to my Unintentional Museum.
So, for awhile now, I’ve had a paper proof version of the uncut 2006 Heritage Gordon. You’ll notice it looks different than the issued card – the proofs had red outlines, a “Rookie Card” logo, and the position designation had not yet been coordinated with the original abbreviations from the 1957 Topps set on which the Heritage cards were based. But, if you’ve ever wanted to see what the ’06 Heritage Gordon was supposed to look like… Ta da: