Thursday, May 23, 2013

1983 Topps: Part III-T


It seemed to me like the first few Traded sets were all about the dismantling of my Dodgers. In 1982 I was forced to accept a green-clad Davey Lopes. In 1983 I was treated to Steve Garvey in a McDonald's uniform and Ron Cey with a cute little teddy bear on his arm. Not cool.

But with the changing of the guard I was treated to another "win" over my Grandfather in our friendly battle of the freeways rivalry. It wasn't a huge victory, though. Greg Brock didn't do a whole lot more to fill Garvey's shoes than Daryl Sconiers did to fill those of the aging Rod Carew for the Angels. But at the time these cards came out, the promise of future stardom made it seem like there would be no break in the greatness. Lesson learned.

Despite all containing 132 cards, featuring the same basic design as their base set, and with the same purpose of updating the current set to reflect player movement, the Traded set had undergone a noticeable evolution in its first three years. In 1981 the cards were indistinguishable from their counterparts, and the numbering indicated that they represented an extension of the base set. In 1982 they received their own separate numbering system and the backs were printed in red rather than the green used in the base set. Topps went even further in 1983, printing the cards on completely different card stock that was brighter and thinner and smelled weird. (Don't tell me you don't smell your cards...?) It was probably supposed to be "premium," in some way, but it just felt cheap and wrong to me, even then. The backs may have been more legible, but their bright pink on white just looks wrong.

The card design posed a challenge for the Traded set by requiring (or at least strongly favoring) the inclusion of an action shot. The previous two Traded sets relied heavily on posed spring training photos. So the Topps photographers had to get out there and shoot some spring training action, with decent results. It also meant the Topps airbrush specialists had twice the work to do, with typically less-impressive (though always entertaining) results.

The inclusion of managers this year meant manager updates here, with six more skippers joining the impressive list on offer, including Joe Altobelli, Frank Howard and John McNamara. Billy Martin (#66T), goes from the A's in the base set to his 37th stint working for George Steinbrenner over the past few seasons. Am I the only one who thinks the Yankees helmet in the upper left of the photo makes this card? I know, I'm weird.

The big attraction in the set was the Darryl Strawberry rookie card but, as you know if you've been reading, I am partial to the veterans. This set included the final touches the Phillies would make in assembling the "Wheeze Kids" (an all-time great team nickname!) who would go on to beat the Dodgers in the NLCS before losing to Ripken and Murray's Orioles in the World Series.

It was also a big set for Mets fans. In addition to Strawberry, the set included the return of Tom Seaver to Shea and the more substantive acquisition of Keith Hernandez. There's a lot to like in the set's composition and the great design continued from the base set. I just wish it would have been printed on baseball card stock, instead of the cheap milk carton stuff they used.

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