Saturday, March 3, 2012

Adding Larkin, Clark to '85T Olympics subset

Dairy Queen sort of stole my thunder on these back in 1992, but when the original images crossed my path on the internet a while back, I decided to "add" Barry Larkin and Will Clark to the Olympics subset that was part of the 1985 Topps set.

You'd think that with all the fuss that was made over the '85 Topps Mark McGwire card in the late 1990s, that it would be common hobby knowledge when and where the photos of the Team USA players were snapped. But I only learned recently, after posting these images on one of the baseball card forums that I frequent, that the pictures were taken July 20, 1984, at Cleveland's Municipal Stadium. The occasion was an appearance on the Team USA pre-Olympics summer schedule of exhibitions. In Cleveland they faced a team of "local all-stars."

Besides the DQ cards, there has been a "broder" (unauthorized collector issue) card of Clark in his blue Olympics uniform circulating in the hobby for at least 15 years. 

If your baseball memory doesn't go back 25+ years, you might not realize that baseball was only a demonstration sport in the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. The U.S. won the silver medal, being defeated by Japan in the finals. Chinese Taipei beat South Korea for the bronze. There's no telling how the medal order might have changed in Cuba had participated, but they sat out the '84 Games in solidarity with the U.S.S.R., which called for a Soviet-bloc boycott in retaliation for the U.S. having boycotted the Moscow Olympics in 1980.  

Larkin and Clark were among the players on that Team USA squad that did not appear in the Topps set because they were still amateurs. Both opted to enter the June, 1985 MLB draft, but by then the presses had rolled. 

Both had been drafted in 1982, out of high school. Larkin was the second-round pick of his hometown Cincinnati Reds, while Clark was a fourth-round selection by the Kansas City Royals. Larkin turned down a $50,000 signing bonus to take a football scholarship at Michigan, while Clark spurned the Royals' $35,000 offer to attend Mississippi State.

The rest, as they say, is baseball history.

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