Saturday, June 8, 2013

1984 Topps: Part IV



Oddball of the Set
Pretty standard looking card (#353)... until you notice Jim Anderson's positions. There may be another Topps card of a big-leaguer in its sixty-plus years of producing pretty cardboard with the position designation "C-SS," but I tend to doubt it. What makes it all the more odd is the fact that Anderson played a grand total of one inning behind the plate in 1983, and just five games and fifteen innings in his 419-game career. He was your standard utility infielder who obviously served as his teams' emergency catcher. Why Topps chose to list that as not only one of his positions, but as his primary position, is a complete mystery to me.

Most Aesthetically Pleasing
As I've mentioned, choosing the best-looking cards from this set was tough because there are just so many. In the end I've decided to go with a couple of veteran pitchers (bias alert), righty Tom Seaver (#740), and "Lefty," Steve Carlton (#780). For one thing, it's just cool to see Seaver in a Mets uniform, where he belongs. But the main reason I like these two cards is the bunting in the background. That always ups the ante. You know it's a big game when the stadium gets the bunting treatment. I'm guessing that both pictures were taken on Opening Day at Shea Stadium in 1983 when the future Hall-of-Famers were pitted against each other. For the record, Seaver tossed six shutout innings in a no-decision, as the Mets beat Carlton and the Phillies 2-0. Of course, I'm just guessing here...

Favorite Dodgers Card
The Dodgers lost the services of Mike Scioscia for the remainder of the 1983 season when he tore his rotator cuff in May. But they still had veteran backstop Steve Yeager to take the reigns. Until he managed to break his wrist with two months left on the schedule and the Dodgers a season-worst 6.5 games out of first place in the NL West. Thus was born a folk hero. Twenty-four-year-old Jack Fimple was summoned from Albuquerque to take over a key job for a team expected to win. And he got the job done, throwing out 44% of would-be base stealers and driving in a respectable 22 runs down the stretch, as the Dodgers fought their way back to earn the division title. That would prove to be the only significant playing time that Fimple would receive in his brief major league career. But I'll always remember him as the guy who came out of nowhere to save the season for my Dodgers.

Favorite Card
I'm sorry to be so predictable, but how can this (#6) not be my favorite card in this set? A farewell to Yaz, the first player I would ever call my favorite. A reverent sendoff to three future owners of Cooperstown plaques. Two players who spent their entire careers helping to define the history of their respective franchise. The other a pitcher crafty enough to ply his trade for 22 years... and get Reggie Jackson to entertain us with a public nervous breakdown. Come on. Was there ever any doubt?

One Final Thought
I was to purloin the basic design concept from 1984 Topps four years later as the sports editor of my high school yearbook for a feature about our championship baseball team. This was the olden days, kids. I took the photos, developed them in the darkroom, set the type with a linotype machine, created the card frames with border tape, cut up the photos and put it all together. In other words, I had to be a human Photoshop. The cool thing about covering this team is that our star, Scott Davison, would eventually make it to the big leagues. He floundered at the plate when the Expos organization tried to make him a shortstop. But he still had a big arm, and after a career shift he would spend some time in the Mariners bullpen in 1995-1996 before injuries derailed his career for good. So I actually made the first baseball "card" (XRC) of a big-leaguer's career!

The Big Picture

A bit of a dark horse coming in, long suffering in the shadows of the superb 1983 set, I'm a little surprised to find that 1984 Topps falls only slightly short of the benchmark set the previous year. The basic two-photo idea is a good one, and this set boldly and colorfully enlivens the concept. It may be 1983's obnoxious little brother, but its charms have grown on me over the years. With five sets reviewed, 1984 currently ranks as the second best Topps set of my collecting lifetime, behind only 1983 and ahead of 1981.

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