When it comes to 1973 Topps, I could go on about the entire set. Actually, I do just that on another blog, three times a week. Now, with that shameless plug out of the way, I'll delve into the postseason sets:
One big difference over previous years was the way Topps just eliminated the honor of placing the previous year's World Series winner on Card #1. However, they did continue the postseason series the same method as in 1972: one card from each League Championship Series, one card from each World Series game and one celebration card. Actually, all three sets featured in today's post have that layout.
The 1972 American League Championship Series was the first that didn't feature the Baltimore Orioles. It was also the first one that didn't end in a sweep.
Card #201 -- Hendrick Scores Winning Run
I posted about this Series in my 1973 blog, if you'd like to read about it (Yep, another shameless plug). The two teams went to the full five games, and Hendrick's winning run sent the A's the the World Series for the first time since they were still playing in Philadelphia.
The National League Championship between the Reds and Pirates (who also met in the NLCS in 1970) was a little more dramatic:
Card #202 -- Foster's Run Decides It
The 1972 NLCS also went five games, and was decided at the very end. Unfortunately for the Pirates, they lost on a wild pitch, which allowed Foster to score the run shown above. Again, here's the link to read what happened.
Since both League Championship Series went the distance, it was only logical to see the 1972 World Series follow suit:
Card #206 -- Tenace Singles in Ninth
The card shows Gene Tenace taking his turn at bat during Game 4. One last time, here's a link to the description on my other blog. The A's won this World Series in 7 games, but they weren't done yet:
The 1974 Topps set continues the story:
Card #470 -- A.L. Playoffs
Reggie Jackson was injured in the '72 postseason. In fact, his injury led to George Hendrick being in the game shown in the '73 card above. However, the injury meant he sat out that World Series. He would prove invaluable this time around, however.
The Baltimore Orioles made it pack to the playoffs after one year away, and the Oakland A's returned as the A.L. West champions. It was a well-fought series, with each team splitting the first two games. An extra-innings affair in Game 3 was broken up when Bert Campaneris hit a walk-off homer in the 11th. When the A's moved in for the kill in Game 4, Andy Etchebarren and the Bobby Grich homered to keep it alive before "Catfich" Hunter pitched a gem in Game 5.
The '71 ALCS rematch had a different result this time.
Card #471 -- N.L. Playoffs
Over in the National League, that series went the distance, too, with the New York Mets (and Jerry Koosman, shown pitching above)taking the series from the Cincinnati Reds. Pete Rose -- not known for the art of the long ball -- hit two homers in the series but was better known for a fracas he and Met shortstop Buddy Harrelson engaged in during Game 3. These Mets were a different team than the 1969 Series winners despite having a few remaining players from that squad. They had been far out of first at midseason that year and heated up to win the division.
Fun fact: All four managers in the '73 postseason (Earl Williams, Sparky Anderson, Dick Williams, Yogi Berra) are members of the Hall of Fame.
Card #477 -- '73 World Series Game 6
Reggie Jackson is shown on this card against a sea of fans. It's refreshing to see a daytime Series game. Jackson was the A.L. MVP in 1973, but went on to begin earning his nickname "Mr. October" after the season ended. The series went to the seventh game, and it was Reggie who practically sealed things in the deciding game with a 2-run shot in the third.
This was also the last time baseball fans would see Willie Mays take the field. However, the A's weren't yet finished.
Card #459 -- '74 A.L. Championships
Again, for the third time in four years, the Oakland A's were pitted against the Baltimore Orioles. This is the sixth year of the playoff series, and Baltimore was in five of them. The Orioles won the first game decisively, but the A's came back to win the next three.
Card #460 -- '74 N.L. Championships
Meanwhile, over in the National League, another perennial was competing: the Pirates, who were up against the Los Angeles Dodgers. This was the Dodgers' first trip to a championship series, but it wasn't their first playoff (you may have heard about a guy named Bobby Thomson in 1951?). The games would include a pair that saw future teammates Jerry Reuss and Don Sutton take the mound. The Dodgers would win and advance to the Series.
Card #461 -- World Series, Game 1
Reggie Jackson is again shown taking his turn at bat on this card. He would hit a solo homer during that first game to start the scoring. On paper, the Dodgers appeared to be the better team; they were cohesive, they had a better record, they had a better skipper. The A's, on the other hand, were fighting each other and somehow winning despite themselves. In the end, the Series was over in five games and the A's would take their third straight title home.