Bip Roberts, the nephew of NFL running back Roy Shivers, was known for his speed. He was always a threat to move up the basepaths, turning a single into a double by swiping a bag. He was also known for several other things: Wearing a sombrero in the dugout; having a name inspired by sound effects in the 1960s Batman television show; and making Pedro Martinez mortal.
His most famous hit arrived in a 1995 game between his San Diego Padres and Martinez’ Montreal Expos. Martinez had been on fire, pitching a perfect 9 innings before the Expos finally scored a run in the top of the 10th inning. This was only the second time a perfect game had entered extra innings and its 1959 predecessor had not survived intact. Roberts led off the bottom of the inning and immediately launched a double down the right field line. Perfect game over. No hitter over. Bip on second, right where he belongs.
Bip Roberts + Baseball Cards = Fun
Bip Roberts and baseball cards are always a good match. That should be evident from a 1995 MLB commercial in which he and teammate Tony Gwynn are perusing a baseball card price guide in the San Diego dugout. Roberts turns to the camera to tell viewers that his rookie card is worth $275 and could be potentially worth thousands of dollars in the years to come. A disbelieving Gwynn corrects him, pointing out that Roberts has mistakenly looked up the 1940s rookie of pitching great Robin Roberts rather than Roberts’ own cardboard typically found in dime boxes. The ever-optimistic Roberts then begins to talk up condition premiums for his rookie. Sure, the card pictured is some sort of make-believe Broder style creation and price guides would never put cards of Robin and Bip side by side, but the ad is still hilarious.
Bip shows up a lot in lists of fun cards on a regular basis. Perhaps the most well known of these cards are ones featuring him in a sombrero borrowed from a Mexican dance group visiting a Padres game.
Of course, those photos were all taken at a singular point in time. A constant that lasted the entirety of Bip’s career was sliding head first into the next base. Rickey Henderson popularized the move in the 1980s, saying he was inspired by the movement of landing aircraft, and Roberts took the same approach. In just about any given year of the 1990s you could pull a card from a pack showing an airborne Roberts impersonating a cruise missile on the basepaths.
As part of the innaugural Topps Finest set in 1993, Roberts did not disappoint. He’s depicted with an outstretched arm and eyes focused on the base in front of him, possibly in the act of avoiding a pick-off play. The card’s photo is very different than the others in the checklist, setting it apart in an already noteworthy group of cards. The only way it could be any better is if he were wearing a sombrero.
Fun fact: It’s not just sombreros – Bip Roberts seemingly always wears a hat. All but one of the cards produced over the course of his career shows him in the primary photograph wearing a ballcap, batting helmet, towel, or some other headgear. The only exception is the 1991 Studio issue shown below.