By Peter Schwartz
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One man was responsible for bringing joy to generations of kids and collectors.
The other was responsible for bringing joy to Yankees fans of all ages for 20 years.
That's why Topps is set to honor Sy Berger, the father of the modern-day baseball card, with two special sets and former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter as part of its traditional 2015 set.
Berger passed away in December at 91. In the 1950s, he introduced Topps baseball cards and now the company is set to issue its flagship product for the 64th year.
"Sy Berger was a legend not only at Topps, but he was a legend throughout the game of baseball," Topps vice president of product development Clay Luraschi said. "We want to do anything that we can to carry on his legacy."
Topps is honoring Berger with two postcard-size sets of Red- and Blue-Back cards featuring a combination of retired and current players. A card of Berger is in each set.
The cards mimic the 1951 design, Berger's first baseball card that he created for Topps, and each set is numbered through 99. In addition, there will be 10-by-14 posters available for each player in the set.
Fans can order the sets on Topps.com and they can get a look at the cards here.
Berger came up with his landmark 1952 design while sitting at his kitchen table. While cards have evolved over the years, he created the prototype for what kids and collectors still love today as he added never-before-seen elements like the logo, player's name, facsimile signature and stats.
"Those designs that he created are timeless," Luraschi said. "We still issue a few of them every year in some of our archival brands. They'll be remembered forever."
Today's cards continue to have the basic content but over time there have been new wrinkles added. The photos, stats and logos have been joined by autographs and pieces of jerseys, but it was the creativity and vision of Berger years ago that created a new era of baseball cards.
"That's what Sy started and that's what we're carrying on," Luraschi said.
While Topps is honoring Berger for his contributions to the baseball card industry, retired Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is being honored for his contributions on the field as part of Topps' standard 2015 set.
When it comes to baseball cards, there is a very special honor that Topps has shown over the years. Jeter wore No. 2 on his jersey, but he'll forever be No. 1 in the hearts of Yankees fans who enjoyed a playing career that included five World Series championships.
And now Topps agrees that Jeter is deserving of being tops.
"Card No. 1 was always a huge tribute dating all the way back to the '50s," Luraschi said. "This year's card No. 1 will be Derek Jeter because it will be his last card in Topps, so we're honoring the captain with a No. 1 spot."
Jeter's card will be part of Series 1 that will be released on February 4. The base set has 350 cards that will feature veterans, rookies, future stars and league leaders. Combined with Series 2 that comes out in June, the 2015 set will have 700 base cards, the largest set for Topps in a decade.
Don't worry, Mets fans! Topps didn't forget about you as Jeter won't be the only prominent New York player highlighted in the 2015 set.
A hot card in the set will feature 2014 National League Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom.
"We weren't able to capture him on too many baseball cards," said Luraschi. "Many collectors and fans will be seeking that Topps card of Jacob deGrom."
The Mets are also represented in the First Pitch feature that commemorates celebrities who threw out first pitches in 2014. That's right! There's a card for 50 Cent's infamous wild first pitch at Citi Field this past season.
Collecting baseball cards has been a tradition in the U.S., with sets being handed down from generation to generation. I loved collecting and trading cards as a kid and now my kids are collecting cards from all sports -- and I'll certainly pass my collections onto them when they're old enough.
We all have Sy Berger to thank for creating the modern-day baseball card. He's getting his just due with the special sets that Topps has created in his honor.
And while Jeter is five years away from baseball's greatest honor of being inducted into the Hall of Fame, he's getting the highest tip of the cap that Topps can give a player this year.
Let's face it. They're both No. 1!
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