By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Who has the most hits in MLB history? Don’t ask Topps.
Topps baseball cards no longer contain the name “Pete Rose.” Sure, they’ll mention the all-time hit record is 4,256, but they won’t say who has it.
Topps is the only baseball card company with an MLB license, an exclusive agreement they signed in 2009. It was different when we were growing up. In the 80’s, it was Donruss, Fleer and Topps, Then came the boom of the 90’s, and Upper Deck, Classic, and many premium editions like Stadium Club and Leaf (which used to be simply the Canadian version of Donruss), hit the market.
Now, it’s just Topps. Exclusivity like this is rarely a good thing for any product, and this is evidence of it.
Pete Rose did an inexcusable thing by betting on baseball. He made a terrible mistake by taking years to admit what he did. But he existed. He happened. He got all of those hits. Even the Baseball Hall Of Fame, who will not add Rose to a ballot because of the lifetime ban Rose agreed to, has his name and memorabilia all over it.
To erase Rose’s name from the cards is to disrespect Rose, and every person who grew up collecting cards. Every person who sat for hours memorizing the stats on the back of the cards.
Whether this was Topps’ decision alone, or was something Major League Baseball requested isn’t the issue. The issue is that Topps believes it has the right to re-write history.
(Update: Topps seems to be distancing themselves from the decision, saying on their official Twitter account Not our call, we have an MLB license and they are our partner, unable to put Pete in product.”)
Clearly, kids don’t get their stats from baseball cards anymore. It will take more than Topps to make people forget about, or never learn about Pete Rose. But it’s the idea that they’d even try that’s most disrespectful.
Occasionally when I’m at Target or Walmart, and I see cards for sale on the way out, I’ll pick up a pack. I open them up and never know what’s good in the pack anymore, I just enjoy opening them.
But the next time I’m in that situation, I won’t purchase a Topps card. I’ve erased them from my history books.
Fleer was always better anyway.