Tuesday, December 6, 2022

1981 Topps Leon Durham


The front: For a brief time, this was considered one of the key rookie cards in the set. Young Leon is seen posing near the first base dugout with the Shea Stadium scoreboard in the distance.

The back: If your name is Durham, your nickname is going to have to be "Bull". Or maybe "Raleigh", I suppose.

The player: Outfielder Leon Durham played well in his rookie season with the Cardinals, hitting .271 with 8 HR and 42 RB in 96 games. After the season he went to the Cubs in the Bruce Sutter trade. He blossomed into a young star in the Wrigley outfield, making the 1982 and 1983 All-Star teams. In 1984, the Cubs traded Bill Buckner to Boston and moved Durham to first. Durham set career highs with 26 HR and 93 RBI as he helped lead the Cubs to the playoffs for the first time in decades, but made a huge error in the fifth and decisive game of the NLCS, allowing a ground ball to go through his legs to set up the Padres' winning rally (foreshadowing Buckner's famous error two years later). He continued to be a power threat in the ensuing seasons, topping 20 HR in the next three seasons, but was done as a major leaguer by 1988.

The man: Durham's career ended prematurely in large part to his battles with cocaine and alcohol addiction. He was able to get these issues under control and had a long career as a minor league coach. He now appears to be retired.

My collection: I have 44 of his cards, from 1981 to 1990. I would be interested in trading for 1981 Coca-Cola Cubs #4.


  1. I wasn't familiar with him, but it's always interesting to find about cards that were hot at one time or another, no matter how brief it might've been.

  2. Although I never put Durham's cards into my star stacks... I do remember wishing I had his Topps rookie card (thinking or hoping he'd one day reach superstar status). I had his Fleer rookie in my set and either pulled his Donruss rookie from a pack or traded for it (with a friend).