Tuesday, April 23, 2013

1980 Topps: Part III


Vital Statistics

A standard 25-cent pack of 1980 Topps Baseball Cards would get you 15 cards and a stick of gum on your way to assembling a 726-card complete set (and possibly a cavity or two).

In addition to a team photo/manager card and a "Future Stars" card like everyone else, the Dodgers are represented by 25 player cards and a Manny Mota appearance in the Season Highlights set (listed here in the order that I probably would have sorted them into):

#302 Team Photo/Tommy Lasorda MG
#544 Rick Sutcliffe P
#440 Don Sutton P
#170 Burt Hooton P
#318 Jerry Reuss P
#644 Charlie Hough P
#146 Bob Welch P
#521 Ken Brett P
#624 Larrin LaGrow P
#527 Doug Rau P
#605 Terry Forster P
# 51 Joe Ferguson C
#726 Steve Yeager C
#228 Johnny Oates C
#290 Steve Garvey 1B AS
#560 Dave Lopes 2B AS
# 23 Darrell Thomas 2B-OF
#510 Ron Cey 3B
# 75 Bill Russell SS
#191 Ted Martinez SS-3B
#255 Dusty Baker OF
#695 Reggie Smith OF
#127 Gary Thomasson OF-1B
#104 Manny Mota OF
#..3 Manny Mota (Season Highlights)
#209 Von Joshua OF
#465 Rick Monday OF
#679 Joe Beckwith/Mickey Hatcher/Dave Patterson (Future Stars)

That's typical team representation for the set, which emphasizes veteran role players over inexperienced youngsters, as was common for the time (and to my tastes, preferable). As they had been since 1976, All-Stars were noted on their regular-issue cards rather than receiving a subset of additional cards. In this case it is done with an band over the photo below the player's name.

The "key" card of the set is, of course, the Rickey Henderson rookie card (#482) that every collector already has burned into their memory by now. To the extent that I took note of the card at the time, I would have appreciated the distinctive crouch of his batting stance, and the pleasing way the green and yellow of the card design fits in with the A's uniforms. I'm naturally happy to have this iconic rookie card of the greatest lead-off hitter of all time. But, as I've mentioned, the "investor" buzz that surrounds rookie cards has always taken some of the joyful luster off of these cards for me. I tend to get more excited about the veterans, particularly those who've been around for 15-20 years, or who played with one team for their entire careers.

Special Cards

The set includes eight standard-design checklist cards listing 121 cards each against a pale green background. If you didn't make use of them, they made you angry when they took up one of the 15 spots in a pack.

Team Photos/Managers/Team Checklists
These were probably the more useful checklists, listing all of the cards for each team on the back of a team photo with an inset picture of the manager. This kind of card had been standard issue for the past several years. While rarely exciting, I always thought they were a useful addition to a set, particularly if you were inclined to sort your cards by team. However, I prefer for managers to have their own cards, and that counts as a small demerit against this set in my eyes. (By the way, yes, those are elephants from the San Diego Zoo gracing this particularly interesting Padres team card (#356), featuring befuddled and beloved announcer Jerry Coleman in his single season as a big-league manager).

Season Highlights
The first six cards in the set feature highlights of the 1979 season. Card #1 heralds the arrival of veterans Carl Yastrzemski and Lou Brock in the 3000-Hit Club, and makes for one of the set's more iconic cards. In fact, the whole subset is a celebration of hitting... switch hitting, pinch hitting, power hitting, and lots of actions shots (except for a placid-looking Del Unser going through the motions for the camera).

League Leaders
Cards #201-207 are a Topps staple of the era, cards featuring the NL and AL leaders in a handful of statistical categories: the triple crown stats (AVG, HR, RBI for hitters, W, ERA, SO for pitchers), plus stolen bases. I always found it interesting that Topps thought stolen bases were important enough to warrant a League Leaders card, but not important enough to list with the stats on the back of player's cards. I like these. Direct and to the point, and they add to the story the set is trying to tell.

Future Stars
These never excited me much as a kid, for reasons that I've already covered. The first time you saw them, you took them at face value. When you started noticing that 90% of the players Topps proclaimed as "Future Stars" never showed up again in the future, it was easy to become jaded and ignore the cards for a few years until you could pick out which one or two were actually prophetic. Plus these cards make for difficult sorting. Is this Mets Future Stars card (#681) a Mike Scott card or a Jesse Orosco card (with apologies to Dan Norman)? If you're going to do the whole rookie thing, I say give the player a card of their own. These things are a little annoying.

That said, as with all of the subsets in this collection, Topps does a nice job of maintaining consistent use of design elements without it feeling forced. It really does feel like a unified set of cards. I miss managers having their own card. And I prefer that the Post-Season be represented somehow. Here they miss an opportunity to celebrate Pops Stargell and the "We Are Family" Pirates. But, overall, this set does a nice job of hitting most of the key notes.

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