Friday, December 31, 2010


For the final post of 2010, let's make sure we get a police escort to help usher out the year...


"What exactly are Police Cards? I see them listed but never saw one. Were they given out by local police departments?"


As a Steelers collector, I happen to have some Police cards. Here's one from 1985:

As you can see, these cards were sponsored by both the Giant Eagle supermarket chain and the Kiwanis club. It's a fairly basic team issue, with the Steelers' name above the photo and some vital info below. The backs look like this:

There's an explanation of a football term, but other year's cards featured positive things a player has done, such as finishing a college degree or winning an award. In bold font, a message for the owner of the card appears below that. This card says to avoid getting mixed up with drugs and alcohol, but others suggested staying in school, keeping safe and staying out of trouble.

Police cards were a joint effort among teams, businesses, community organizations and the police departments. Most of these cards were made and issued in the 1980s. A lot of them were football cards, but several baseball teams took part in the outreach as well. They were generally given to officers, who them distributed them to kids they encountered. In a way, they were meant to encourage kids to approach officers, rather than scatter whenever one showed up. Since they're found fairly easily as team sets, it appears many were siphoned off to dealers -- card dealers, not the unsavory dealers the police generally looked for -- instead.

Sadly, the Police card sets have seemed to stop since sometime in the early 1990s. They could still serve a purpose.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Three New Sets Added to My Website

I've been really bad.

My first duty here has been to build a reference site devoted to vintage baseball cards. And my website, which I've slowly been working on since 2000, has done that for the most part. From my first pages covering 1950s Topps and Bowman sets, I went back, hitting the 1930s gum sets and getting the major T-series sets in there as well. Then, I've filled in whenever I've had the time, info and an image.

However, there's always been some really obvious shortcomings with the site. The biggest the lack of stuff from the 19th Century. While I realize that there aren't always going to be people looking for it, I know it's missing. I have added exactly three set descriptions to the site for sets from before 1900 in the past 10 years.

1895 Mayo Cut Plug (N300) was the first. It was added sometime in 2001. Then came N162 Goodwin Champions later that year. Finally, I added Buchner Gold Coin later on when I was given some terrific info about the set. But that's been all.

However, there's been no A&G sets, not even after I made a mental note to make them -- back in 2006 -- so I can capitalize on Topps bringing back the name. I need to do the same thing with Gypsy Queen, for the same reason. Finally, the "Big Daddy" of the N cards...Old missing as well.

And what have I been doing all this time? Staying in the 1970s...keeping it in the Topps monopoly era...reminiscing about not being able to find a single 1986 Donruss card where I grew up. This is a vintage cards blog, and I've really lost sight of some of the truly great stuff out there that the vintage world offers collectors.

Well, that changes today. I've now placed three new set descriptions on my website:

This set was the first of two 50-card sets that featured athletes from several different sports. 10 of them were baseball players (6 of those went to Cooperstown), which has made this a very popular set over the years. Of course, the artwork doesn't detract from that fact a bit.

This was the second 50-card set, and this one covered a wider variety of sports. Yes, the big names of the N28 set are gone ("Wild Bill" Cody, Annie Oakley, John L. Sullivan), and the baseball players aren't quite the same level -- six players, but only one Hall of Famer -- but there's quite a variety here. There are runners, walkers, cyclists, hammer throwers, swimmers, pole vaulters, high jumpers, even a tricyclist.

As a premium, Allen & Ginter went and turned those cards into these:

Some of the collectors of modern A&G cards will recognize this design as the same one used for "box toppers" which may seem cool but also might get them to understand that Topps really didn't have any new ideas with the way they set up the gimmicks, either.

I'm not really big on resolutions for New Years, but I really need to make sure I explore the pre-Topps era some more. I need to start pulling out my oldest cards and showing them off. I need to start adding more set descriptions to my website. I also need to finish writing that damned book I've started too many times.

Yes, that's right. I'm writing a book about vintage cards. And I'll have it in a format where you can load it to a Kindle or an iPad and take it to a show with you. Or download it to your computer and have a reference file. As I get closer to getting it done, I'll share more about it.

In any case, whatever new sets get added to the site, I'll share them here, as I always do. I'm just not looking forward to writing out that checklist for Old Judge, though.

Hopefully, this blog should be fired up for 2011.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Slight Detour From "Vintage"

I'm going to take a slight turn away from my normal vintage (which I generally define here as "pre-1981") and instead going back to my childhood hobby memories.

In short, I'll toss this out:

It's an unopened pack of 1986 Donruss cards. It was quite a sight at the time, especially as the supply dried up and prices got higher. I read about the cards every time I picked up an issue of Krause Publications' Baseball Cards magazine (then coming out every two months) and saw how the cards of Jose Canseco, Fred McGriff and Andres Gallaraga were setting the hobby on fire.

However, I never saw one of those packs -- at all -- in 1986.

I'm just trying to come to grips with the fact that 1986 is now nearly a quarter century ago. Man, 25 years. Where the hell did that time go?

During the Spring of '86, I was still 13 years old and finishing up the 8th grade. I lived in a tiny town in Northern New York and was making money during the winter by shoveling snow from the driveways of neighbors. Anybody who's ever been there during the winter months will understand that there is a tremendous potential for making money that way, since it seems there is a continuous white blanket over the entire area every year from November to April. Some years, it's necessary to incorporate a heavy jacket into Halloween costumes because it might snow that night. Anyway, the winter of '85-'86 was one of the heavier ones snow-wise while I grew up.

The result of all that snow clearing was the fact that I had quite a bit of spending money (a relative term, since $20 was usually more than I ever held at one time) when the new cards appeared on the shelf of the little mom-and-pop shops. So, once the cards began to arrive, I quickly discovered that Topps was once again king when it came to availability. This happened every year. As a savvy card-buyer who had been at this game for eight years at that point, I knew that I could just go around and check out the other usual places. The Fleer and Donruss cards were bound to show up eventually.

I need to point out that I lived in a town that was a mile and a half across, with a slightly smaller town across the river. There were four or five family-owned stores there, with a few drugstores, two supermarkets and one department store. Aside from a few gas stations that also sold candy, there weren't all that many places to get cards with little more than my two legs and a bicycle. And even then, at my age, I still wasn't going to be allowed to pedal 15 miles to Watertown or 10 in the other direction to Lowville (rhymes with "Cowville"). That said, I was able to find some Fleer cards at one of the drugstores -- in a rack-pack with the "Future Hall of Famers" cards, no less -- but nobody carried any Donruss cards. I asked if they could be ordered, but none ever arrived that year. There were some Sportflics packs that popped up late in the summer, but nobody wanted to pay $1.25 for three cards, even if they did have a 3-D feature.

It wasn't just me, though. None of my friends had any Donruss cards in 1986, not even the ones who would take trips in the car to those bigger towns. All the while, there was that damned Jose Canseco card in my magazines, taunting me by its unavailability.

For the record, in 1987 the local stores made up for their oversight by having Donruss cards everywhere. After the pain of '86, I just refused to buy Donruss cards out of principle. That turned out to be a pretty good thing, especially in 1988.

Last month, I was looking at Steve Hart's Baseball Card Exchange website. While looking through the unopened material he was offering, I stopped at 1986 Donruss wax. He was selling boxes for $22 each. Seeing the chance at finally doing something that geography and luck prevented all those years ago, I bought two. And you can bet I ripped those suckers as soon as they found their way to my doorstep, even as my wife shook her head at my childish pursuit.

The first box yielded 499 cards from the 660-card set. Figuring I had a good chance to get close on getting the set competed, I opened the second box and realized that I was seeing many of the same players I pulled from the first box. Of the 540 cards in the second box, less than 50 were needed. However, the second box yielded THREE Canseco rookies to go with the one that I pulled from the first box.

Had this been 1988, I could have immediately turned those three Canseco cards around and taken a huge chunk out of my wantlists. However, in 2010, Jose Canseco isn't quite the hobby icon he was after posting his 40/40 MVP season.

But, hey...if you're working on an '86 Donruss set, drop me a line. I need about 120 cards and have plenty of duplicates.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Holiday Wishes

With Christmas Day coming tomorrow, I realize many of this blog's regular readers are busy with other things than stopping by to read what I've written. Actually, that's the way it should be. With family activities, traveling and holiday revelry, anybody who's stopping here in the midst of that to read what I have to say about cardboard pictures that were designed decades ago probably needs to take some time to get away from the computer. A paradox, I know.

Despite that, I'm glad you stopped by anyway. As for me, I'll be working today and tomorrow. Fortunately, my job starts after dark and I'll be getting time and a half for both days.That way, I can still visit with family and friends in addition to getting paid better for a couple of days. That sounds like a win/win to me.

However, since this is a time for giving gifts and you're stopping here anyway, let me pull out one of the oddball cards from my collection to show off today:

This card is from 1958. It was originally included as an insert in wax packages of regular Topps cards that year, along with a contest card related to the All-Star game. The cards were a way of adding something to packs after the checklists (issued as separate cards in 1956-'57) were incorporated into the regular set.

As the card says, all 16 teams were available as 5-inch felt logos, including the new cities for both the Giants and Dodgers, who had moved before the '58 season began. In order to get the logos, there was a process described on the back:

As you can see, this was a way for Topps to boost sales of its two main brands of bubblegum. There's even an explanation that Bazooka Joe comics and wax wrappers weren't part of the deal. There was also an explanation about adding a separate, stamped envelope to get it back, as well as an admonition not to send money.

As for the Topps address, I like the way it shows the way large cities used addresses before the ZIP code was introduced in the 1960s. Larger cities were divided into zones, and Topps' mailbox was in "zone" 32 for Brooklyn, which -- if I've read the history correctly -- would have become 11232 after the implementation of the ZIP code.

I picked this card up from a store in St. Augustine, Florida before it closed down for good. The owner wasn't sure what it was and let me pick it up for one dollar. A nice deal indeed.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

1955 Topps in the Mail!

I recently picked this card up as part of a trade:

It may not look like much, but it it is. A Hall of Famer, a lifelong Tiger, a fan favorite and the card that finally reduced a wantlist number to a single digit.

Back in September, I shared some cards from my 1955 Topps set-in-progress here. This Kaline card now drops the wantlist to 9 cards left. One digit...that's a big deal. Of course, all the cards left are Hall of Famers and some will be long-term prospects at my normal price range (Koufax, Clemente, probably Mays and Robinson as well). That said, every additional hole that gets filled in my binder is a big deal.

Monday, December 20, 2010

"Mini" Football

In only its second year after regaining its rights to print NFL cards, Topps released a football set in 1969 that featured a player photo against a brightly-colored background:

(Remember this'll be seeing it again)

The cards featured great full-bleed borders, but for some reason they gave Topps some trouble. When they came out with their second and final series, the cards were given white borders and some of the background colors were toned down:

By the way, it's funny to see Ken Kortas as a Steeler in the second series, since he played in Chicago during the 1969 season. By the time this card was distributed through wax packs, uniform #75 was being worn by a rookie named Joe Greene, who kept that number through his retirement after the 1981 season.

The 1969 Topps football cards came in packs that looked like this:

The pack mentions a "mini-card album." One of those is also a part of my Steelers collection:

Notice the team logo has no color in it and appears to have been drawn by a high school student. At the same time, the "game action" photo appears to have been airbrushed to remove the receiver's logo, yet the blurriness really doesn't obscure the Giant defender's helmet enough to mask his team's identity. That's Kyle Rote, in what appears to be an old picture. Each team had a different photo, but few actually showed the team featured in the booklet.

The back looks like this:

Again, the logo has no color and appears to be a slightly larger version of the one used on the front. There were 26 books, one for each team then playing in the NFL.

Inside, there were spots where small cards could be affixed:

The cards were also placed into wax packs along with the booklets, as a perforated sheet of four cards:

(Yep, the same Roy Jefferson photo shown above)

No, I didn't rip the Roy Jefferson card away, I just happen to have the card as a panel as well as singly. There were 66 panels (264 cards in all, with some players appearing in variations), and 19 players in the set who didn't also appear in the regular 1969 Topps set.

Friday, December 17, 2010


Richard writes:


"I am wondering what the difference in the red and black 1952 Topps would be. Is it that the area around the name and number on the back is black and on the others red?"


 First of all, thanks for giving me an excuse to pull out my 1952 Topps binder. Granted, there usually doesn't need to be a pressing need to get them out, but I digress...

The first series of 1952 Topps cards consisted of 80 subjects. Their backs were printed entirely with black ink:

During the print run, Topps tweaked the design. Part of the reason was out of necessity, since cards #48 and #49 had their biographies reversed. At the same time, it was determined that a splash of red ink would make the cards really stand out. So, this was the result:

That definitely made the cards easier to read. Topps kept the red ink for the backs through the rest of their six series in 1952. Only cards #1-80 can be found with either black or red backs. The exception: the errors on #48 and 49 are only found with black backs.

The backs weren't the only place to get a reworking, though. Looking at the above two cards side-by-side shows another slight improvement:

(Both of these men were U.S. Army lieutenants during World War Two)

The Elmer Valo card was a black back, while Spahn features the updated back with red ink. A close look at the skin tone shows that Valo's picture is more subdued, while Spahn's is brighter. Whether that was a conscious design change or merely a result of the printing changes, it certainly makes the classic 1952 Topps design more appealing.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Quite a Gift

Today, I give props to my wife.

It's not yet Christmas, but my wife comes from a different religious background...and Chanukkah came early this year. For my gift, she won this eBay auction for a lot of baseball cards.

Since the auction description won't be available forever, here's what the seller wrote:

"Hi! Up for bid is a lot of 133 1966 Topps baseball cards, including Mickey Mantle, Ron Santo, Bill Mazeroski, Ferguson Jenkins rookie, Roy White rookie, Buc Belters (2), Gil Hodges (3), Elston Howard (2), Strikeout leaders (Koufax/Gibson) and RBI-HR leaders (Mays).  Also includes the following semi-high numbers in nice shape: 516 Eddie Bressoud, 498 Pirates Rookie Stars, 461 Roy Face, and 519 Bob Friend.  Condition runs the gambit, most are in nice shape after 44 years. A couple dozen or so have creases or tape, many have corner issues.  Some duplicates.  Mantle is not in great shape, with a few creases and green paper glued on the back (I can e-mail a scan on request)(same with Jenkins rookie, all of the rest of the cards have clean backs).  A great starter set!!!  

As a bonus, I will include 19 1954-1956 Topps baseball cards (poor condition)!!!

Buyer adds $8 for shipping.  Continental U.S. bidders only (lower 48 states).  PayPal only.  Good luck!!!"

The seller didn't mention Mantle or Jenkins in the auction title. He also didn't include separate pictures of those cards. As a result, my wife was the only bidder and the auction ended at its opening $49.99 price. So, it arrived here last week and I was given the gift on the last day of Channukah.

The final tally, including shipping was $57.99 for a total of 152 cards (including the poor 1950s toss-ins). That comes to 38 cents a card. Not bad, except this is all I was able to take off my wantlist:

Three cards from the stack of 1966 Topps cards, plus:

Three ragged cards from the mid 1950s. Hey, a hole in the card is better than one in the binder, so I'll take them. I also managed to get 25 cards to upgrade the ones I already had, which means that the total cost to my collection was more like $1.87 a card. However, one of those upgrades was this guy:

A little ragged, but those of you who read my blog regularly will know that the Mantle I already had looked like this:

So...if I were to go to a seller and ask for the 31 cards added to my binder -- including a Mantle -- it probably would have cost me more than what my wife paid to get these. What's more is that I've added over 100 cards to my dupes box (which should lead to some more cards later), including the very first time I've ever been able to place a vintage Mantle there. Wow. Plus, tossing a rookie card of Fergie Jenkins and a few other cards featuring stars and Hall of Famers into the box will give me better trade fodder than some of the dog-eared and written-on cards that are in there already.

Thanks, Ellen. I'm not usually the type to be impressed by gifts, but that was a real surprise. I guess I should also thank the seller who neglected to put Mantle's name in the auction title.

Anybody looking for some '66 Topps cards? Drop me an email. (Just remove the number and spam control to get the correct address.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

The End of the Road May Be in Sight

Last week, this bit of news made its way into the hobby. Bob Feller has been placed into hospice care. That's never good news, considering the job of hospice is to make a person as comfortable as possible as they make their way over the final feet of pavement that make up Life's Highway.

This 1937 Dixie Lids Premium appeared in an earlier entry to this blog

As of this writing, there hasn't been any news that Feller has passed away, but as we saw with Sparky Anderson last month, news of hospice care can be followed rather quickly by a more permanent update. In any case, I hope that whatever happens, Mr. Feller is at peace as he takes his next steps.

Once that news makes its way to the press, there will be a lot said about Bob Feller's Hall of Fame career, about how he was a dominant pitcher even as a 17-year old he pitched a no-hitter on Opening Day he threw three no-hitters...and lamenting the fact that his 266 wins and 2,581 strikeouts could have been taken to truly elite totals had he not given up four years to fight in World War Two.

And I'll have to disagree with that last one. In my estimation, his service is what I admire the most about Bob Feller. As soon as the news of Pearl Harbor reached him, he contacted boxer Gene Tunney (who was a recruiter for the U.S. Navy) and agreed to do his part for the country. Tunney's position was necessitated by the fact that the military needed to get experts who could help organize calisthenics and exercise programs for its draftees, so he offered professional athletes a position as a chief petty officer in exchange for enlisting. So, Feller joined up and spent a year doing that, as well as playing for service baseball teams along with some of his former opponents and teammates.

Growing tired of sitting around on benches and being used as a propaganda tool, Feller volunteered to be transferred to a position where he could help fight the enemy. So, he was sent to the U.S.S. Alabama, where he spent the rest of the war as a gunner. He certainly saw his share of action, earning four battle stars and being in a vulnerable position of possibly standing in the way of a kamikaze Zero fighter. At a time where few professional athletes would consider walking away from their contracts to take part in military service, Bob Feller was one who willingly and unhesitatingly did that. He was entitled to stay home, since he was working on a farm, but chose to do his part.

As a veteran myself, I've always held Bob Feller in high regard for that. I was able to tell him so in person at the 2009 National in Cleveland. He was scheduled to sign on Sunday at the show, and instead of spending any money for his autograph, I waited until the line got short. All I wanted to do was shake his hand and let him know I appreciated what he did even before I was born. We talked for a few moments about our military days, and then he looked over at my daughter (then 10 years old), who was holding a baseball.

"Hi, Sweetheart...would you like me to sign your ball for you?"

She nodded yes, but I looked over at his aide and said I hadn't paid for an autograph ticket. Mr. Feller cut me off, "don't worry about it." Looking back to my little girl, he said, "can I see your smile?" She responded with a big one, and he started signing her ball. "That's all I need."

Mr Feller and my daughter, Aug. 2009, Cleveland, Ohio

What a gentleman. He made a fan in my little girl that day. But that's one of several stories hobbyists have about his status as a legend of the game and an ambassador to fans. And, I would add, a great American citizen.

My daughter still has that ball on a shelf in her room. There are other signatures on the ball, but it's Feller's that faces outward. I had to get a plastic case to cover it before we left the show.

Just after this picture was taken, I had a hobby friend tell me that getting a ball autographed by Bob Feller wasn't that big a deal, since he signed everything. My knee-jerk reaction was to point out that at over 90, I may never get another chance to shake his hand and thank him for his service. The recent news about him just makes me feel terrible that I may have been right by thinking that.

If there is a Field of Dreams, you can bet Bob Feller will be given the chance to take the mound as soon as he shows up.

(And now for the sad update: Bob Feller passed away on December 15, only two days after this entry was posted. Here's the obituary from the New York Times. Thank you for shining your light on us for the time you had, Mr. Feller.)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Topps Postseason Series: The 70s, Part III

This post concludes my weeklong rambling about Topps Playoff and World Series cards from the 1970s. There have been generic themes that can be applied to each part: Monday's post featured three straight years where the Baltimore Orioles went to the World Series, while Wednesday's post had the three years of A's World Series dominance.

As for's the years where Topps got chintzy. In the beginning (going back to 1960), all World Series subsets featured a card for each game, plus a Series recap that showed the winning team celebrating. When the playoff rounds began, Topps did the same thing for them. However, in 1972, the League Championship Series were pared down to a single card each.

In 1976, Topps went even more extreme. They made one card for both LCS.

Card #461 -- AL & NL Championships

The cards say it all, the Reds swept the Pirates in three games, while the BoSox knocked off the three-time champs in what was also a sweep. That set the stage for a Reds/Red Sox series, one that was actually a well-played, seven-game nail-biter that featured a Carlton Fisk home run that is still shown repeatedly in retrospectives.

So, Topps would have had a great Series subset, except they chose to do this:

Card #462 -- 1975 World Series

That's it. The entire World Series represented on a single card. The Reds win for the first time since before World War Two. Carlton Fisk "waves" his long fly ball fair in the 12th inning. Tony Perez takes an eephus pitch from Bill Lee and knocks it into the seats. Every game had its share of drama, as only a Red Sox postseason series at the time could. All represented by a single freakin' card.

And I'm a Yankees fan saying this.

At least the top left corner shows #27 heading back to the dugout after hitting that shot that won Game 6.

In 1976, another well-remembered home run marked a Championship Series:

Card #276 -- Chambliss' Dramatic Homer Decides it

What you see in this picture is a crack of a bat and a shattering of the dreams of countless Royals fans. It was also the first time the Yankees would make it to the postseason in a dozen years. It was a dramatic series that went a full five games and right down to the last at-bat of the deciding game. Yet, despite all the collectors who say Topps is pro-Yankee, this would be the perfect place to resurrect the "complete series" subset. But, no...this was it. But what a card it is.

The National League Championship Series card is also cool:

Card #277 -- Reds Sweep Phillies 3 in Row

There's "Charlie Hustle" showing how he earned the nickname. Also shown are a great fielder (Garry Maddox) and a very capable shortstop (Larry Bowa), doing what they do best. A few years later, they would all be teammates and won a World Series together.

This set the stage for a Yankees/Reds World Series. It was a sweep by the Reds for a repeat, but this time, Topps chose to make a three-card subset of the Series (not numbered with the LCS cards, though):

Card #412 -- 1976 World Series

Two pictures of Johnny Bench make up this card, and both show Yankee Stadium's third base line. One shows him getting ready to take on Thurman Munson, while the other shows him rounding third on his own after a home run.

For 1978, Topps went with a single card for each LCS and reverted to a single World Series recap card.

Card #411 -- Yankees Rally to Defeat Royals

This card features Mickey Rivers sliding into second as Frank White steps out of the way.

The 1976 ALCS opponents met again in '77 with the same end result...Yankees in five. And for the second year in a row, the Yankees won it in their final inning, just not as dramatically as Chambliss' homer.

Card #412 -- Dodgers Overpower Phillies in Four

On this card, Davey Lopes is running out a ground ball while Tim McCarver watches.

Game 1 of the '77 NLCS would be the first time the Phillies had won a postseason game since 1915. From that point, the Dodgers ran the tables and took the pennant in four games. It set up a rematch of the 1963 World Series, a case where Dodger fans definitely hoped history could repeat itself. Unfortunately, they had to deal with this guy:

Card #413 -- Reggie & Yankees Reign Supreme

I've already mentioned here about the significance of this card to me. It was the very first baseball card of any type I ever owned. It tips its hat to Reggie Jackson's feat of hitting five home runs in a single Series.

In 1979, I was beginning to collect cards from wax packages. Since the Yankees won the '78 Series as well, I was looking forward to seeing those Series cards as well. However, they never showed up in my packs because Topps never printed them.

What a disappointment. Just as I was getting into collecting, Topps took away some of the stuff that older kids enjoyed: World Series cards, Rookie All-Star trophies and multi-player rookie stars cards with color. They would all eventually come back (rookie cards in color from 1980-'82, World Series cards but only in '81, the Rookie All-Star trophy in '87), but I personally felt cheated.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Topps Postseason Series: The 70s, Part II

Last time around, I reviewed the Playoff and World Series cards from the 1970-'72 Topps sets. Today, I'll continue the discussion.

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.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Topps Postseason Series: The 70s

(About a month ago, I featured some Topps World Series cards from the 1960s and promised to get back to them. Since the playoff series began after the 1969 season, there were more cards to show. While writing this entry, it became really long, so I'm splitting it neatly into three sections and taking the entire week to go over them. I guess I'm just lazy that way.)

Major League Baseball expanded in 1969 and realigned to feature two divisions in each league. This necessitated a round of playoff games before the World Series. At the time, there were many fans who thought this was an atrocity that shouldn't be allowed. At the same time, the businessmen in charge of the game saw it as an extra way to earn money. It just goes to show that some things never change.

The 1970 Topps set features two subsets: one for the playoffs and another for the '69 World Series. As they did in sets going back to 1960, each game from the various postseason series was given its own card.

In the '69 American League championship, the Baltimore Orioles squared off against the Minnesota Twins. This card shows the action from Game 2:

1970 Topps #200 -- Powell Scores Winning Run!
Boog Powell isn't exactly remembered for being a force on the basepaths. It looks like he's doing an awkward dance move in the picture.

What the card doesn't say is that Powell scored the run in the 11th inning, running from second when Curt Motton hit a pinch single to right. It would be the only run of the entire game. Game 1 had also gone into extra innings. The Orioles then got serious, blowing the Twins out in Game 3 to sweep the series.

The Baltimore Orioles had the best record in baseball that year, winning 109 games. Having swept the Twins, they prepared to play against their next opponent. They knew the same day who they'd be playing:

1970 Topps #197 -- Ryan Saves the Day!

In the National League, the Mets also swept their opponents, handling the Atlanta Braves despite Hank Aaron hitting home runs in each game. Aaron actually gave the Braves hope in game 3 with his homer, giving them an early 2-0 lead in the first inning. When Met starter Gary Gentry began having trouble in the third, Gil Hodges sent Nolan Ryan to the mound. Despite giving up a homer to Orlando Cepeda, Ryan got some help from the guys playing around him and won the game. All of a sudden, the New York Mets -- which had never finished higher than 9th place in team history -- were heading to the World Series.

For the World Series subset, Topps used a format naming The Sporting News, much like the one they used in the 1969 set.

1970 Topps #309 -- Koosman Shuts the Door!

There were two legendary World Championships in 1969. Both featured heavily-favored teams from Baltimore and upstart teams from New York. Both ended with the young new York-based teams walking away with their rings. In January, it was Joe Namath and his Jets winning Super Bowl III; in October, it was the "Miracle Mets."  Since the long-standing "establishment" New York teams (the Yankees and Giants) had gone into decline mid-decade, the Jets and Mets gave New York fans reasons to be proud.

The picture on this card is from the deciding game of that series. Though the game is best remembered for the incident involving Gil Hodges showing a shoe polish scuff on a ball to get Cleon Jones awarded first base, Koosman's composure on the mound after getting into a 3-0 hole early in the game and going on to finish the game without giving up any more runs is significant.

As a result of winning teh World Series, the Mest were given the honor of appearing on Card #1 in the 1970 Topps set:

 1970 Topps #1 -- World Champions

For the 1971 Topps set, the playoff and World Series cards were featured in different subsets again. Each game was given its own card, with an additional Series "celebration" card, as was the case every year since 1960.

In 1970, the Orioles again took the A.L East flag, and they once again went against the Minnesota Twins in the ALCS.

1971 Topps #196 -- McNally Makes it Two Straight!

Once again, the result was the same. The O's swept the Twins in three games. The only difference was that they didn't have any games go into extra innings this time. All three games were won pretty handily. The card shows a Dave McNally pitch during Game 2, but the angle shows Brooks Robinson standing at third as well.

Over in the National League, two different team would vie for the right to play against the Orioles:

1971 Topps #201 -- Cline Scores Winning Run!

This time, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds took the field. The Reds ended up sweeping the Series, with the shot above of Ty Cline scoring the winning run in the eighth inning of Game 3.

In the World Series, two teams led by future Hall of Fame managers (Earl Weaver and Sparky Anderson) and balanced with stars and solid performers squared off. For the World Series subset, Topps used color photos, after using black-and-white ones in the playoff series:

 1971 Topps #327 - Powell Homers to Opposite Field!

The picture above mentions Boog Powell's home run. He clubbed one deep into the left field bleachers, which still had the Orioles behind 3-2. Brooks Robinson ended up putting the team ahead with a solo home run later in the game. He also proved his defensive value in this Series, getting the MVP and being featured in replay footage for the past 40 years.

Baltimore won the Series in 5 games, easing the sting of the previous year and getting the chance to show up on card #1 in the 1971 Topps set:

1971 Topps #1 -- World Champions

For the 1972 set, Topps did things a little differently. This time, all the pictures were in color. However, the League Championship Series were represented on only one card apiece and all the cards were part of a single series running between cards #221 and 230.

1972 Topps card #222 -- Orioles Champs!

For the third straight year, the Baltimore Orioles swept the ALCS in 3 games, this time against the Oakland A's. the shot above is from Game 2 of the series, with Mark Belanger congratulating Brooks Robinson for a home run.

1972 Topps #221 -- Bucs Champs!

The 1971 NLCS was the first playoff series that didn't end up being a sweep. The Pirates won, but not before the San Francisco Giants took one game. The shot above shows third baseman Jackie Hernandez grabbing a pop fly, as Willie Stargell comes in from left field to back him up.

Stargell was one of three Hall of Famers on the Pittsburgh Pirates that year. The other two were Bill Mazeroski and the man shown in the Game 4 card blow, Roberto Clemente:

1972 Topps #226 -- '71 World Series, Game 4

On paper, the Orioles were the better team. They were the defending champions and boasted four 20-game winners in their rotation. However, paper doesn't win 4 games. The series went to 7 games, and the the Pirates pulled out with the victory.

They're featured on card #1 in the 1972 Topps set:

1972 Topps #1 -- World Champions

That would be the final year of Topps giving their #1 card to the World Series winner.