Sports Museum at UConn Features Trading Cards

By Connor Linskey, The Chronicle

March 29, 2022

For those who dream of earning a paycheck playing the game they love, a benchmark to make it a professional athlete is depicted on a sports trading card.

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And, over the years, University of Connecticut athletes have appeared on trading cards whether they’re hitting a ball with a bat, dribbling it, batting it, or throwing it.

To honor former UConn athletes who achieved this feat, the J. Robert Donnelly Husky Heritage Sports Museum in the Alumni House on the Storrs campus presents a unique exhibit featuring former Huskies who found themselves on scraps of rectangular boxes.

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UConn deputy spokesman Mike Enright is the museum’s curator and said the sports card exhibit was launched to show the success of UConn’s sports programs.

“There are different ways to show success and sports cards are definitely one of them,” he said.

Launched in 2010, the five-panel display is a split sample of the many player trading cards featuring former UConn Husky sports stars.

As many maps are represented in the exhibit, the university has many, many more.

These maps are kept in the university archives.

Through extensive research and with the help of several outside sources, over 120 different UConn big names have been identified as having trading cards and are included in the exhibit.

Former Huskies from baseball, football, men’s ice hockey, men’s soccer as well as men’s and women’s basketball graced the sports trading cards.

The museum display case shows many former UConn athletes on one of their many trading cards, while a number of UConn greats are depicted on multiple trading cards.

And the first UConn Husky to appear on a map was actually from eastern Connecticut.

Moosup native Walt Dropo was the first UConn alum to appear on a sports trading card in 1952. Plainfield’s first baseman and 1950 American League Rookie of the Year were featured on the card as a member of the Boston Red Sox.

This card appeared as part of the 1952 Topps Baseball Card Game, the first modern baseball card game complete with game records and statistics.

This set is one of the most popular sports card sets of all time for collectors, largely due to the popularity of the set’s card featuring Yankees Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle from New York.

Like Mantle, Dropo had a successful career in Major League Baseball.

His career spanned from 1949 to 1961 and he played for the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds and Baltimore Orioles.

In 1952, as a member of the Detroit Tigers, Dropo tied the Major League record of 12 consecutive hits, which still stands today.

Dropo was a three-sport star at UConn, playing baseball, basketball, and soccer.

Walt’s brothers, Milt and George Dropo, were also star athletes at UConn.

“UConn’s first family we call them,” Enright said.

Walt Dropo ended his college career in 1946-47 as the all-time leading scorer in the UConn men’s basketball program.

In 1947, Walt Dropo was drafted in the first round of the Basketball Association of America draft by the Providence Steamrollers. This league later became the National Basketball Association.

Walt Dropo also excelled on the gridiron and was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the ninth round of the 1946 National Football League draft.

The UConn star estimated to have the most different trading cards in circulation is basketball great Ray Allen, NBA Hall of Famer and multiple NBA champion.

Over 1,000 different trading cards featuring Ray Allen have been produced since his rookie year in the NBA, 1996-97.

Other notable former UConn male basketball players whose trading cards adorn the exhibit include Hasheem Thabeet, Ben Gordon and Rudy Gay, among others.

Sports cards featuring UConn women’s basketball legends Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Rebecca Lobo are also included in the exhibit along with many other stars from the program.

UConn’s first-round NFL draft pick Donald Brown also has his trading card inscribed in the exhibit.

In addition to Dropo, other notable former Husky baseball players include former Cleveland Indians pitcher Charles Nagy and current Major League stars George Springer of the Toronto Blue Jays and Matt Barnes of the Red Sox.

Enright said the athletes entered in the sports card show are near and dear to the Husky Nation.

“They are our best student athletes in terms of a professional career,” he said.

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