This was the second straight year that I opted to send away for the complete set, rather than engage in the fun of discovering the set a pack at a time. It would prove to be the last time I would do so in the 80s. Once again, Topps blew my young mind with something new and different. There had always been a blend of posed and action shots in the sets that I'd collected. This set gave you both on each card (or nearly each). So you got some baseball action, always welcomed, but you also got to see what the guy looked like. And the action shots seemed... more active, somehow. So much so that I asked by comic book fan/artist friend, Greg, to draw a few of the players depicted for me as a way to confirm my impression of their superhero status.
30 Years Later...
I have a confession to make. I think this is the set that will come out on top when all is said and done. I've said that I'm trying to come at this without preconceived notions. But, of course, that's just rhetoric and wishful thinking since today isn't the first day of my existence. I'm going to look at this with an open mind, but I know already that there's a lot that I like about 1983 Topps.
This has to be the tightest design Topps produced in the decade. There are no messy fake autographs. The type is small, compact and professional, without being boring. The Topps logo is a much more reasonable size than in the previous year's set, and incorporated slickly into the photo's border in just the right place. The white border around the card is the perfect size. The space between the color frames and the photos is tight. The colors are again vibrant, but the color schemes take on a slightly more mature shift. (For the first time since 1978, there's not a drop of pink on the Dodgers' cards!) I don't know how much of this anniversary stuff was intentional on the part of Topps over the years, but the 1963 cards were by far the most similar in design to this set, making for a nice twentieth-anniversary nod.
The photography in this set is by far the best that Topps had come up with to date. The focus is sharp, the contrast is higher, and the colors are clean and natural. You get game action on more than 90% of the base cards, with a large number of photos cropped to show the player's entire body. These excellent long-distance shots are made ideal by the inclusion of the player portraits, of just the right size, in the circle formed where the primary photo's border meets the player info border at the bottom. Those portraits are done in the classic Topps style of years past, with a mixture of bats on shoulder, gazing into the distance, etc., with spring training field or big-league stadium backdrops. Frankly, I think this set might be the one I'd pick to represent the history of baseball cards in a time capsule.
The backs are also the best looking of those examined so far. The two-toned salmon color, with the type in a solid, deep black makes for the most legible backs of the bunch. The batter silhouette framing the card number and Topps logo and the pitcher graphic used in the 1982 Highlights section are classy, and a nice anniversary nod to the similar graphics used on the fronts of their 1973 cards. The only quibble I have here is that the 1982 Highlights (when there's room to include them) tend to be boring and monotonous, and therefore easy to ignore. But, honestly, that's the only flaw that I can find with this set's base card design, and it's a minor one.
It's simply a beautifully designed and executed set of baseball cards. To quote Al Michaels, out of context, "You're looking at one for the ages here," folks!