Oddball(s) of the Set
Nothing particularly crazy here. I like that Joel Youngblood, sliding into second base, appears to nearly knock Tim Foli of the Pirates out of the frame of his own card (#246), so that gets an honorable mention. But I think I'll go with Roy Smalley (#570), whose picture is taken from a mile away, and who doesn't have any other humans beside him to provide context, making it look like he got his position and his last name by virtue of belonging to a family of midgets (or, as we prefer in the post-Munchkin era, little people).
Most Aesthetically Pleasing
To my eye, this design was particularly flattering to the Yankees. There's Reggie Jackson taking a big swing (which, of course, is redundant). Graig Nettles poised for whatever might come at him at third base. Oscar Gamble displaying his legendary afro. But I think the nicest-looking card (perhaps showing my bias for veterans and pitchers as well) is that of Jim Kaat (#250). At home in Yankee Stadium, wearing the classic pinstripes, the crafty lefty is shown with his glove hand gracefully extended, about to bring the pitching arm forward in his motion. I like that the photo is cropped to show his entire body (minus the portion of his leg obscured by the team ribbon), which is angled in sympathy with the framing ribbons of the card. And there's the blurry fans-in-the-stands backdrop that fades to darkness as it recedes. Nice.
Favorite Dodgers Card(s)
There are only a couple of action cards in the bunch, with Reggie Smith in mid-stride being the best. The Steve Garvey card has a nice batting cage shot, and Garvey always managed to look like the MLB poster child on his cards. Some find posed portrait cards boring, but I think they're classy and classic, and there are some great examples among the Dodgers veterans in this set: Sutton, Reuss, Hough, Monday. But the Manny Mota card (#104) is my favorite. Appropriately, he's got a bat on his shoulder (despite the "outfield" designation, he had very little use for a glove by this point). And that smile shows you just how much he loved (and still loves) being a Dodger. For the action-minded, the Season Highlights card (#3) is also great. I'm sure players don't like cards showing them pop up, but there's something dramatic about the resulting photos.
My very first favorite player was not a Dodger. It was Carl Yastrzemski. As a result, I can spell his last name as easily as my own (which, outside of Boston, is pretty much a guaranteed bar bet victory). I have to admit that I'm guessing about the reasons for his exalted status in my ten-year-old mind. But, since I don't have Alzheimer's (yet), it's at least an educated guess. I think there are three reasons. The first is that my first little league team, on which I'd played bench-warmer/cheerleader the previous summer, before I even cared about the game, was the Red Sox. The second is that I'm pretty sure one of the first games that grabbed my attention on TV was a Saturday Game of the Week from Fenway Park, called by Vin Scully, and featuring a player the fans obviously revered playing in front of the coolest-looking outfield wall imaginable, with the kid-friendly name of The Green Monster! And finally, I loved Yaz because of this card (#720). He's an All-Star, and his stat line shows that he'd been playing for 19 seasons already, all for the Red Sox. For all I knew, this was the guy who'd invented baseball!
One Final Thought
This 1980 Topps Jose Cardenal (#512) was the first of very few cards (I can't remember any others off hand) that I ever defiled. I did not do so in anger. I had no idea who Jose Cardenal was, and the only thing I knew about the Mets was that they were, by far, the lesser of the two teams representing New York. But (in the pre-internet days, mind you) I needed to come up with pictures to spice up my fifth-grade report on the Big Apple. So I cut Jose off at the waste, just above the autograph, and cut him out in silhouette to be glued somewhere next to pictures of the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. So, at least according to the report that reached Ms. Reese's desk, Jose Cardenal was a towering representative of the cultural capitol of the world.
The Big Picture
Given that these were my first cards, there was nothing to compare them with then. Appropriately, since this is the first set I'm looking at here, there's nothing to compare them with now. So, at least until next time, 1980 Topps currently ranks as the #1 set of my collecting lifetime.