Game 1 of the 2021 Major League Baseball World Series between the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros takes place this evening, so I thought it would be cool to talk about a few of my favorite World Series subsets. Topps started including World Series subsets in their regular-issue sets in 1960. They included them every year that decade (other than 1966) and would release one card in each set for each game. The 1960s subsets did a great job laying an excellent foundation for some significant 1970s subsets as well. So here are seven that I find particularly interesting as a collector.
1960 Topps was the first set to include a complete subset of World Series cards. Card 385 was Game 1, and Card 391 was the Summary card with each game depicted in between. I’m not sure Topps would print a card with beer being dumped on a player these days.
Cards 306-313 celebrate the incredible 1960 World Series in the 1961 Topps set, and the Game 7 Mazeroski Homer Wins It card is a true hobby gem. I previously wrote about collecting items related to Mazeroski’s World Series Winning Home Run in September 2020.
Topps only needed a five-card subset (136-140) to celebrate the 1963 World Series in their 1964 Topps set because the Dodger’s strong pitching staff dominated the Yankees in a four-game sweep. The Koufax Strikes Out 15 is one the Sandy’s best cards and a hobby classic.
The 1964 World Series was another 7-game series (cards 132-139) and is hard not to include in a World Series list simply because it features a great Mickey Mantle card.
Many people like the colorful images of the first half of the 1960s vs. some of the photo selections Topps selected in the latter half of the decade, but I find the black and white TV-like images inside the wood grain a nifty call back to sets like 1955 Bowman. The cards are a nice contrast to the colorful pictures of the base set. Cards 151-158 celebrate the 1967 World Series.
Speaking of contrast, the black borders and colorful text look sharp on the World Series subset cards in 1971 Topps. Baltimore beat Cincinnati in 5 games (commemorated on cards 327-332), but this set also features great ALCS and NLCS cards (cards 195-202).
The 1973 Topps subset makes it just because I’ve always loved the action shots across the set, and Topps doubled down on that with the photo they used for Game 2. In 1973 Topps honored the ALCS on card 201 and the NLCS on card 202 before jumping into the seven-game series, with a champions summary on cards 203-210.
For completeness, Topps also produced World Series subsets in their 1962, 1963, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, and 1981 sets, and they all have a few great features and cards. So completing a World Series run between 1960 and 1981 would be a great accomplishment for true baseball fans.
And if you’re curious about the prehistory of Topps World Series cards, SABR Baseball Cards has a great article on the topic.