It’s Not Funny When Topps Screws Up Your First Baseball Card

Here’s something I learned in 2014: it’s not funny when Topps totally messes up your first baseball card.

I was sitting in the dugout with Rainiers catcher John Hicks. He had been with the team for about two weeks, and we had just finished recording our first pregame radio interview.

Rainiers batting practice was over and the visiting team was hitting, the gates weren’t open yet and the music wasn’t turned up to eleven, and we sat there chatting while watching the field.

I mentioned to him that one of the autograph collecting fans had shown me Hicks’ first baseball card – which pictured him with the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team he has never played for. Hicks was drafted by the Mariners in the fourth round of the 2011, right out of the University of Virginia. He has never played for any other organization.

2011 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects Prospects #BDPP1 - John Hicks - Courtesy of

Hicks said he was excited to have a card – they usually only make them of first and second-round picks, so to get one as a fourth rounder was pretty cool.

But how did they get that picture? Is it even him?

He said it’s a picture from the University of Virginia, and that Topps photoshopped a Diamondbacks uniform onto it. He has no idea why they thought he was drafted by Arizona.

Especially since the back of the card clearly says that he was drafted by the Mariners. It’s right there in the upper-right corner.

2011 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects Chrome Draft Picks #BDPP1 - John Hicks - Courtesy of
At this point I laughed out loud, turned to look at him, and said something like “you’ve got to be kidding.” And that’s when I realized that this was no laughing matter.

Shaking his head with a frown on his face and a sad look in his eyes, Hicks said “that’s not all. Half of the cards say I’m a pitcher.”

Hicks’ disappointment shouldn’t have been a surprise to me. In a series of articles written by an agent for Baseball Prospectus, the author mentions several times how happy his players are when they get their first baseball card.

The Mariners think that Hicks is going to play in the major leagues. When he gets there, hopefully Topps will make a card showing him with the right team. At least they won’t have to photoshop it.


  • I was reminded to write this post by the recent passing of former Topps executive Sy Berger. If you ever collected cards, read Tyler Kepner’s salute to Berger in the New York Times.
  • John Hicks isn’t the only one. Topps had a big disaster with Alex Gordon‘s rookie card in 2006, and this is the story.
  • The Mariners officially announced the previously reported signings of Justin Germano, Mark Lowe, and Carlos Rivero. All are on minor league deals and strong candidates to be on the Rainiers opening day roster.
  • There was a three-team trade between San Diego, Tampa Bay, and Washington. Former PCL star Wil Myers was the key cog in the deal. Jonah Keri looked at the trade from each team’s perspective.
  • The US is loosening its restrictions on Cuba and may lift the embargo – which will be big news in baseball. Nobody knows how this will play out yet, but Cuban baseball expert Ben Badler of Baseball America wrote about it here.
  • Golf is going to be a big story in Tacoma in 2015. Manny Ramirez isn’t very good at golf.

One Response to It’s Not Funny When Topps Screws Up Your First Baseball Card

  1. chaplainmark says:

    I love your posts. This one is another example of players names being misspelled or incorrectly recognized like Eddie Matthews with the Braves. This is a solid, not too funny, story!

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