Friday, August 17, 2012


Common Valor will feature a common card that embodies strength, cool or panache. Maybe all. Most of all, hopefully it will showcase a card you've never really seen. 

When going through the '85 Topps binder the other day, I came across card No. 472. It's a common but the image is anything but.

Jim Essian was a journeyman catcher who played in parts of 12 years. He managed the Cubs for 122 games in '91. And he's had some great cards that scream "Tough Guy Catcher.''

The '85 especially. Look at him. One tough mother. That helmet looks combat-issued, combat-tested. If Ted Williams is the ideal image of a batter, I'd offer Essian as the prototypical catcher.

I'm talking looks and attitude here, not statistics. Essian's career average was .244, and he hit only 33 homers with 207 RBI in parts of 12 seasons. In fact, Essian never even played in '85; he was released by the A's the year before. So Ess was no Johnny Bench, but who would you most avoid if he was blocking the plate? If this guy was an All-Star or hit a game-winning World Series homer, he would've done shaving cream commercials with two bimbos hanging off him.

This is why I love set collecting. You can look at a year's cards and never quite see them all. Oh, you think you do, but you always find one, usually years later, that you never fully appreciated.

For me, that's Essian's '85 Topps issue. 

Until I discover the next ...

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