The 1976 Topps set is unlike the company’s previous offering in that it doesn’t generate quite the collector interest or boast nearly the overall rookie card power found in its 1975 release. In fact, the only Hall of Fame rookie card in the set belongs to Eckersley (#98) and his Topps debut remains one of the keys along with cards of Hank Aaron, George Brett, Pete Rose, and Nolan Ryan. This set would be Aaron’s final appearance on cardboard as an active player after 23 seasons of home run hitting. For those looking to assemble a high-grade set, the problem for many of these cards is centering, which alone prevents many examples from PSA Mint 9 or Gem Mint 10 eligibility. This is no different for Eckersley’s first Topps issue, which is a lot like the 1979 Topps Ozzie Smith in that regard. In addition to the challenging centering, the Eckersley rookie is often found with a smattering of print defects along the face of the card to complicate matters.
Dennis Lee Eckersley (October 3, 1954-) made an excellent transition from starter to closer mid-way through his career and is the only pitcher to amass 100 saves and 100 complete games. Eck began his career with the Cleveland Indians (1975-1977) where he no-hit the California Angels in 1977. Dennis was traded to the Red Sox (1978-1984, 1998) then moved to the Cubs (1984-1986), the A’s (1987-1995) and the Cardinals (1996-1997). In Oakland, legendary manager Tony LaRussa converted Eck into one of the dominant closers in either league. From 1988-1992, Eckersley finished first in saves twice and won the1992 American League Cy Young and Most Valuable Player Awards after posting 51 saves. The six-time All-Star selection was named the AL Rolaids Relief Man of the Year, given to the top relief pitcher of the year and was a member of the 1989 World Series champion Oakland A’s. During his final ten seasons, Eckersley walked only 86 batters in more than 600 innings. Dennis Eckersley retired with a 197-171 record with 2,401 strikeouts, a 3.50 ERA and 390 saves over his career. Dennis Lee Eckersley was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004.