Thursday, May 9, 2013

1982 Topps: Part III


Vital Statistics

The 1982 Topps set expanded to 792 cards by eliminating the practice of double printing 66 cards, which had been done each year since 1978. This would remain the standard set size for more than a decade. Once again, the set was appended by a 132-card Traded set, though no longer numbered as a continuation of the base set, which brought the total number of cards up to 924.

The World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, sorted by position, with players no longer with the team at the start of the new season taking up the rear:

#311..Dusty Baker/Burt Hooton (Team Leaders)
#510..Fernando Valenzuela P
#345..Fernando Valenzuela (All-Star)
#6....Fernando Valenzuela (Season Highlight)
#710..Jerry Reuss P
#315..Burt Hooton P
#82...Bob Welch P
#14...Steve Howe P
#213..Dave Stewart P
#444..Terry Forster P
#674..Dave Goltz P
#642..Mike Scioscia C
#477..Steve Yeager C
#75T..Jose Morales C-1B
#179..Steve Garvey 1B
#180..Steve Garvey (In Action)
#103T Steve Sax 2B
#410..Ron Cey 3B
#411..Ron Cey (In Action)
#279..Bill Russell SS
#5T...Mark Belanger SS
#375..Dusty Baker OF
#114..Ken Landreaux OF
#247..Pedro Guerrero OF
#348..Derrel Thomas OF-2B
#577..Rick Monday OF
#774..Jay Johnstone OF
#84T..Jorge Orta OF
#681..Mike Marshall/Ron Roenicke/Steve Sax (Future Stars)
#609..Rick Sutcliffe P
#48...Bobby Castillo P
#740..Dave Lopes 2B
#338..Dave Lopes (All-Star)
#741..Dave Lopes (In Action)
#545..Reggie Smith OF
#546..Reggie Smith (In Action)
#166..Fernando Valenzuela (& Len Barker, Strikeout Leaders)

Lots of cards featuring the champs in this set. And I'm going to show plenty of them here, without apology. Not many championship seasons to enjoy over the past three decades. They've got a couple of All-Stars here, a League Leader and a Season Highlight. Even Reggie Smith gets an "In Action" card, despite being relegated to pinch hitting duty all season due to injury. But it sure seems like there's something missing...

Special Cards

Mustard yellow, turquoise, purple and red is the color scheme Topps chose, making these even more disposable than ever.

Future Stars
Same drill. Three players featured on a card for each of the 26 major league teams. Hardly a ho-hum affair with this set, which features the Cal Ripken rookie card. You've all seen that one a billion times already, though. And the Dodgers Future Stars card (#681) is no slouch. In fact, during this era it was usually not hyperbole to label Dodgers prospects as future stars. Steve Sax would become the fourth straight Dodger to take home Rookie of the Year honors, following Rick Sutcliffe, Steve Howe and Fernando. Mike Marshall didn't quite live up to the Albuquerque-stat-fueled hype, but he was a middle-of-the-lineup presence throughout the decade. And Ron Roenicke would become a part of the Dodgers-in-exile Mike Scioscia camp of future baseball managers. The card design is solid. I particularly like the use of green for the stripes. All of the Future Stars cards would use this same color scheme, which gives the subset a more unified feel. And the photos this time seem to be of a higher quality than recent Future Stars efforts.

Season Highlights
Cards #1-6. Back to highlights after a year of Record Breakers. There are some nice ones here. Records include National League career marks for pitcher strikeouts (Steve Carlton) and hits (Pete Rose). There's a card commemorating Nolan Ryan's fifth no-hitter. And cards featuring a couple of extraordinary rookies, Tim Raines and Fernando Valenzuela. The Fernando card (#6) is probably my single favorite card in the set, though I'm going to feature something different as my favorite Dodgers card(s) later (which can't possibly make any sense at this point, but I'm not sure anyone cares). Decent design, though I'm not sure why one pink stripe at the lower left makes any sense. Why not stick with the red, white & blue motif? Or maybe go with the green from the Future Stars design? Topps just couldn't get enough pink at that time...

League Leaders
Cards #161-168. Okay, there were teams other than the World Champion Dodgers to play baseball in 1981, so I'll ease up a bit on the Think Pink... er... Blue... theme for a while. The League Leader cards in this set look really nice. Despite the pink and purple and turquoise (did the Topps president's six-year-old daughter get to chose the color palette?), these look pretty great because lots of space is left for the photos to dominate. They probably had to go that way because a couple of the League Leader cards had to accommodate four-way ties, which was also done nicely. In addition to leading their league in RBI, these two were also among the league leaders in facial hair.

Team Leaders/Team Checklists
Here's something new. I could be wrong, and I don't feel like doing the research, but I'm fairly certain that this is the first time Topps would use its team checklist cards to show Team Leaders, rather than a team photo. There are definitely some pluses and minuses to this approach. Let's start with the negatives. Since they chose not to give managers solo cards (which is always the way to go) this set fails to acknowledge the existence of the field generals for the first time in quite a while (not doing research, I tell you). The other quirky thing about these is the proclamation that the hitter with the highest batting average and the pitcher with the lowest ERA are, de facto, a team's leaders. That wasn't a particularly controversial idea at the time, but Sabermatricians probably look back at these cards and growl. It's probably kinda okay that Pete Rose is considered the Phillies offensive leader, despite the power display of Mike Schmidt (but not really). But it's definitely not okay that, for example, middle reliever Sammy Stewart is the Orioles pitching leader, despite excellent seasons by Scott McGregor and Dennis Martinez. But maybe that's quibbling. They are nice looking cards, and certainly more informative than a team photo that requires a magnifying glass to identify the players. The large team logo is an especially nice touch.

Cards #337-347 (National League), #547-557 (American League). Still not going to do research, but I think I've got this one off the top of my head. Topps had been acknowledging the All-Star starters since 1975 with a special designation on the players' base cards. In 1974 one card featured both the NL and AL representative at each position. You have to go back to 1970 to find the last time Topps produced separate individual cards for All-Stars. I like the stars and shields and bars that they'd been using, but I've got to admit that these are some pretty sweet cards. Among the best in the set. For the most part, they use good ol' fashioned posed shots for these cards. And they don't muddy them up with fake autographs (except for a George Foster error variation). The backs feature a career highlights blurb. And the card design is awesome! (80s, dude.) The pattern with the spiked stripes and alternating three, five, three stars shows some gumption. They could have phoned it in with squared-off stripes and simple alternating stars, but they didn't. Bravo, Topps.

In Action
Here's their ten-year anniversary homage to the 1972 set. A nice idea, but a little strange in its execution. There was an excellent reason for the 1972 set to feature In Action cards. High-quality full-color action photos were a novelty at the time. The posed shots were what you got, except on rare occasions when you got black and white shots on World Series cards, or colorized pictures such as the (seriously innovative) 1950s issues. So it was a treat to have a star's regular posed card supplemented by a special action card. Ten years later... not such a big deal. In fact, there are a few examples in this set where I would consider the base card of a player to be showing more "action" than the In Action card. There are 40 of these cards, so they go a long way toward taking up the additional 66 cards gained by eliminating double printing. I would have rather seen 26 manager cards and a few post-season recap cards filling the void. But there's not much to dislike about these cards. The backs feature career highlights in All-Star and Post-Season play. And a couple of these are pretty nifty. Carlton Fisk gets a rare alternate horizontal treatment to show him diving for a ball. Willie Stargell gets an encore for his 1981 base card shot. But I can't resist showing this Al Oliver card (#591) because of the way his uniform matches the card design. That's some serious synchronicity right there.

So, in addition to the card design, the composition of the 1982 Topps set also makes an attempt at modernization, even as it looks to the past for inspiration. Not everything works perfectly, but there's a lot to like here.

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