Why doesn’t Topps baseball cards list the position?

19 of 62 Topps base card designs do not include position on front

All baseball cards have the position listed on the front of the card, right? Nope. Of the 62 base sets that Topps has produced, 19 do not feature the position on the front of the card.

Traditionally, Topps would include the player’s position on the front of the card. For the first 35 years of Topps cards, only two sets didn’t feature the position. 1952 and 1972.

1972 topps - Joe Torre - no position listed

For 19 consecutive years Topps placed the position on the front of the card. For some odd reason the 1972 design broke that streak. Perhaps Topps was too distracted that year by their most hideous design ever with the projecting 3D text.

After 1972 Topps returned back to tradition placing the position on the card for 14 straight years, then came the 1987 set.

1987 topps - mike aldrete - no position listed

A faux wooden background was featured on the card. I like me some faux-wood. I feature it on my site and in my infographics. However, this year Topps started a trend of forgetting to put the player’s position in the design. Perhaps Topps wanted to make their designs more simple. However, I don’t see what’s so hard about include a simple two-character designation somewhere. It’s really simple. P, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, OF, or C. Done.

For 35 years nearly 100% of their designs included the position. For the next 27 years, it fell off a cliff down to only one-third. Topps would forget the position 17 times.

  • Before 1987: 94% of the sets featured the position (33 of 35)
  • After 1987: 37% included the position (10 of 27)

Perhaps Topps thinks that fans don’t care what position players play. Or maybe Topps thinks that fans already know all the players. Topps either think fans are too stupid or too smart to care.¬†Today I fall into the “stupid” camp as I barely know any of the players. But many fans, including myself do care. We want to know the positions. I’d say I don’t know baseball players as much today because I don’t collect cards as much as I did in the 80s.

Baseball cards helped me learn the player’s position.

Perhaps Topps thinks that it’s good enough to list the player’s position on the back of the card. But who looks at the back of the card? When you display a card on your bulletin board, do you have the back showing? No. When you see baseball cards online, do you see the back of the card featured? No.

Topps needs to return back to their traditions and include the player’s position on the front of the card. Do you want to see the position return to the front of the card? If so, please leave a comment below.

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Erik Maldre
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I agree with everything you said. It should be the exception and not the rule to remove players’ positions on card fronts. It’s just plain lazy when a standard content element is removed from a design.

I like your info-graphic. It presents the concept very clearly.

Greg Raport
Guest
Greg Raport

Topps also seems to have a problem getting positions right, by listing players at positions they did not play or barely played at. [Such as listing Randy Ready as 3B-OF when the only positions he played that season were 2B and OF, or Von Hayes as OF-1B when he did not play 1B at all that season]. If they have access to the rest of a player’s statistics, one would think that they would have access to the number of games a player appeared at a position, then pare it down to the top two or three. Donruss, Score, and Fleer seem to be somewhat more accurate.

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