Thursday, January 21, 2021

Topps 1981 Baseball Achievement Awards Program


All of the information that I have about this program is contained in the two scanned pictures above (front cover on top, back cover below) and the two pictures below.  The eBay listing suggested it was the program given out at an awards banquet, but I've been unable to confirm if there was actually any sort of banquet.  Ultimately, I don't care, I'm just extremely excited to have this little piece of ephemera in my collection.

That 1981 Topps All-Rookie Team is a pretty impressive line-up.  I'm not going to take the time to look, but I'd go ahead and take my chances with that team against any other Topps All-Rookie Team and feel good about my chances.  You've got a couple of Hall of Famers in Ripken and Raines, and no shortage of All-Star appearances between Wallach, Fernando Valenzuela, Hubie Brooks, and Tony Pena.  Mookie Wilson wasn't too bad either.

The biggest take-away from this little program is the paragraph on the back.  It very clearly states that every player on the Topps Rookie Cup Team was sent an actual Topps Rookie Cup Trophy.  That's a question I've wanted to have answered since the first time I saw the little trophy appear on a 1987 Topps card.  This program appears to have answered it.  As a result, I now have a new "white whale" with regards to my Wallach collection.  I'm hard pressed to imagine something that would serve as better center piece to a baseball card collection of a particular player than their Topps Rookie Cup Trophy.  I'm sort of shocked I've never seen one, for any player, show up on eBay or in someone's Twitter feed before.  Here's a look at the inside of the program:

It may be hard to read, but at the bottom of the right hand page (just above), Topps names All-Stars for each level of the minors and there are some pretty big names to be found, including Brett Butler, Terry Francona, Steve Sax, Gary Gaetti, Julio Franco, Ron Kittle, and Kent Hrbek, to name a few.

I could be misreading above, but it seems clear to me that the player and their scout both got actual an actual trophy cup, or plaque.  As my collection stands, my "flex" items (beyond cards) are a game worn batting helmet, and a 1988 Expos road jersey.  Given the nature of my collection, it's not hyperbole to say that the Rookie Cup would pass both of them and take the top spot on that list.  Unlike a Gold Glove or Silver Slugger, I wouldn't feel guilty about bidding on the Cup if it ever showed up on eBay either.  While the latter items I feel strongly belong with the family of players or on display in public places such as stadiums, museums, and similar public forums, the Topps Rookie Cup is ultimately a rather goofy piece of memorabilia arbitrarily created and awarded by a third party.  It's not showing up on anyone's baseball reference page or being mentioned on Hall of Fame plaques in Cooperstown.

If anyone knows anything more about this program, or existence of an actual ceremony or these trophies, please fill me in.  I'd love to hear about it.


  1. This is really strange seeing Ripken because his big rookie year was 1982 - he had only 39 at bats in 1981 with 5 hits. All the other players had decent stats. Ripken no homers or RBIs. Wikipedia confirmed it - Ripken was Topps all rookie shortstop 1981 and 1982. Strange never knew that.

  2. The Reds Hall of Fame had an ASR trophy on display a couple years ago. If memory serves it was Tommy Harper's, but it may have been Lee May. It was not very large.

    JT, The Writer's Journey

  3. Fascinating reading, thanks for sharing. The '82 team probably had a better lineup but much weaker pitching.