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Notable Facts from Pope John Paul II’s Various Topps Cards

John Paul II’s card from a 1988 Topps set released only in Europe.

The Topps Company has long made a practice of publishing notable facts about players on the reverse sides of their baseball cards. It’s by way of these brief, but revealing, sentences that collectors (ardent or otherwise) have been able to gain some insight into who their heroes are as men, and not merely as athletes — by learning, for example, how right-hander Jim Slaton spent most of his time (on a boat) and for whose construction firm, specifically, Rob Deer worked (his father’s).

With the revelation recently of long-forgotten video from 1987 of Pope John Paul II taking purposeful cuts at a California-area indoor batting cage, we are reminded that he was once among the Italian baseball league’s top players. As such, Topps issued cards for the Pope annually as part of Italian card sets aimed at European consumers.

The present author has located a number of such cards. Here are notable facts from five of them:

• John was influential in the production of Vatican II, the long-awaited sequel to the original Vatican.

• John speaks Polish — or, at least, what sounds like Polish.

• John works for his father’s construction firm, metaphorically speaking.

• Gilbert Gottfried is John’s favorite comedian.

• John is infallible.