Monday, December 17, 2012

1980 philadelphia phillies

this post covers the 1980 philadelphia phillies and cards numbered 191 to 197 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
it' a new franchise to the set! with the return of the memorable moments subset (with a dickie noles appearance) and four players being featured for the first time.

what team is this?:  the 1980 world champion philadelphia phillies

why this team?:  this was the first philadelphia baseball team to win a world series championship.  ever.  and the last of the 'original' sixteen franchises that were in existence when the world series began in 1903.  they were 91-71 in the regular season (winning the national league east by one game over the montreal expos). they beat the houston astros in the nl championship series 3 games to 2, and won the world series by beating the kansas city royals in six games.

which players are featured?: bake mcbride, bob boone, dickie noles, manny trillo, mike schmidt, sparky lyle, and steve carlton.

why these players?:  we've got the league mvp, the league cy young award winner, and five other guys.  let's break it down.

bake mcbride was the phillies' regualar right fielder in 1980, the final season in which he would be a regular in the big leagues.  mcbride hit .309 with a career high 87 rbi in the regular season, and then hit .304 with a home run and 5 rbi in the world series, doing most of his damage in the first two games of the fall classic.

bob boone's 1980 season is probably best remembered as the year that he dropped frank white's pop up, only to have it caught by pete rose near the first base dugout.  that play occurred in the 8th inning of the decisive sixth game of the world series.  during the regular season, boone (who had won two straight gold gloves coming in to the 1980 season) pretty much matched his offensive totals from 1979, although his batting average dropped by almost 60 points.  he caught all 11 postseason games for the phillies, including four extra inning games, missing only one inning in the nlcs. boone hit .412 in the world series with 2 doubles and 4 rbi.

dickie noles was in his second big league season in 1980, in which he appeared in 48 games, 45 of them in relief.  he had a record of 1-4 with 6 saves during the regular season, and made two scoreless relief appearances in the nlcs against the astros.  in the world series, he made just one appearance, as he was called into relief in game 4 after starter larry christenson got knocked around by the royals.  he gave up just one run (a solo home run by willie mays aikens) and struck out six in his 4.2 innings of work, but his appearance is best remembered for one pitch that he made to george brett.  as the back of his 'memorable moments' card attests, noles threw a brushback pitch to brett in the fourth inning with the phillies down 5-1.  although the phillies lost the game and the series was tied at two games apiece, some feel that noles' pitch was a turning point in the series.  me, i'm not so sure, but the phillies wound up winning so i guess they can see it however they want.

manny trillo won a silver slugger award as the phillies' second baseman in 1980. he hit .292  and scored a career high 68 runs in 141 games that year.  trillo hit .381 in the nlcs against the astros, but the royals held him to a .217 batting average in the world series.

mike schmidt set career highs in home runs (48) and rbi (121), and led the league in both of those triple crown categories - the first of four times that he would do so in his career.  as a result, he earned the national league mvp award, as well as the gold glove and silver slugger awards, and he was voted to start the all-star game (although he missed the game with an injury).  his 48 home runs were the most ever by a third baseman, and he hit his last two of the season when it mattered most - in a division-deciding series with the second place expos.  schmidt hit 2 more home runs with 7 rbi in the world series, and was named the mvp of the fall classic.

sparky lyle was acquired by the phillies in september of 1980.  luckily for kevin saucier, the deal was for a player to be named later, so he was able to pitch in the world series and get a ring before he became a texas ranger in november.  as for lyle, he made 10 appearances for the phillies down the stretch, posting an era of 1.93 with two saves, but was ineligible for the postseason due to his late arrival in philly.

steve carlton was 24-9 in 38 starts during the regular season, with a 2.34 era.  he led the league in wins and strikeouts (286), and was second to don sutton in era.  still, his cy young award was not unanimous, as one voter put jerry reuss at the top of the ballot.  carlton was named to the all-star team, but did not pitch in the game.  i always found it odd that carlton's 1981 topps card featured the all-star banner, when it was jr richard who started the game for the national league.  anyway, carlton made 2 starts in each the nlcs and the world series.  the phillies won each of those games, and carlton earned the victory in three of them, including games 2 and 6 of the fall classic.

the stadium on the back is...?:  veterans stadium.  home to the phillies from 1971 through 2003.

did upper deck get it right?: with pete rose being ineligible, the only regulars not included in the set are larry bowa, greg luzinski, and garry maddox.  and, i would suggest that bob boone is as deserving as any of those three to be included, so i think upper deck did ok with their player selection.  besides, boone will show up later with the 1986 california angels.  as far as pitchers go, dick ruthven would have been a good choice, but i don't have much of a problem with dickie noles.  tug mcgraw would have been an obvious choice, but he passed away in january of 2004 - i assume prior to the finalization of the set checklist.  kudos to upper deck for not giving us a tim mccarver card just because he was already part of the set.  mccarver played in only a handful of games for the phillies after being signed to a contract in september of 1980, and did not appear in the postseason.

regarding the photos, the uniforms are all correct (as is steve carlton's perm) as far as what the phillies were sporting in 1980, although i would guess that the boone photo is from sometime earlier in the 1970's.

is this team timeless?:  yes.

Monday, December 10, 2012

1980 new york yankees

this post covers the 1980 new york yankees and cards numbered 184 to 190 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
no memorable moments, just one player new to the set (rudy may), and a bunch of crafty veterans.

what team is this?:  the 1980 new york yankees, winners of 103 games and free of billy martin for a full season for the first time since 1974.

why this team?:  the yankees won the american league east in 1980 after a one-year hiatus.  they returned to the american league championship series for the fourth time in five years, but lost to the kansas city royals (the team they had beat in their three previous alcs appearances) in three games.

which players are featured?:  rudy may, brian doyle, bucky dent, jim kaat, lou piniella, luis tiant, and tommy john.

why these players?:  aside from the fact that they work with the set checklist, these guys accounted for 45 of the team's wins and 8 of their 189 home runs.  so, yeah - why these players?  let's break it down.

rudy may returned to the yankees in 1980 after three-plus seasons away.  he split his time between the bullpen and the starting rotation (41 appearances, 17 starts) and wound up leading the american league in earned run average (2.46).  he was 15-5 on the regular season and got the start in game 2 of the alcs. he pitched a complete game (of the 8 inning variety) but was done in by a 3-run 3rd inning for the royals.

brian doyle was unable to parlay his 1978 world series success into success during the regular season.  he appeared in only 34 games for the yankees in 1980, and did not play in the alcs at all.  he did hit his lone career home run in 1980, however; a solo shot off of the indians' len barker.  while including doyle with the 1978 team made sense, he is only included here as easy checklist fodder.

bucky dent was the starting shortstop for the american league in the 1980 all-star game at dodger stadium (he was 1 for 2 in the game).  he hit .262 during the regular season with 5 home runs and 57 runs scored.  he was just 2 for 11 with no runs scored or extra base hits in the 1980 postseason, however.

jim kaat makes even less sense here than doyle.  he appeared in 4 games for the yankees in 1980, going 0-1 in five innings of work.  his contract was purchased by the cardinals at the end of april, and his brief yankee career which began less than a year earlier was finished.

lou piniella hit .287 in 116 games for the yankees in 1980.  he hit only 2 home runs with just 27 rbi, however.  in the alcs, he started in left field in games 1 and 3 against southpaws larry gura and paul spilttorff, but did not play in game 2 against dennis leonard.  he hit a home run in his first at bat in game 1 (the second in a back-to-back sequence with rick cerone) but was held hitless for the remainder of the series.

luis tiant joined the yankees for the 1979 season, and went 13-8 with a 3.91 era.  in 1980, his era rose by almost a full run (4.89) and his win-loss record was 8-9.  with the yankees being swept in the playoffs, tiant did not get a start in the series.

tommy john did get a start in the alcs - game 3 to be exact (ron guidry started the first game of the series).  he left with two outs in the 7th inning with the  yankees leading 2-1 and the tying run on base.  a couple batters later, goose gossage gave up a 3-run homer to george brett, and the yankees' season was all but over.  during the regular season, john won a career high 22 games to lead the team.  he finished 4th in the cy young voting, and was named to the all-star team for the third straight year and the fourth time in his career.  that was the year he gave up the home run to ken griffey at dodger stadium for which tommy lasorda takes all the credit.

the stadium on the back is...?:  yankee stadium, but that's not a photo from 1980.

did upper deck get it right?: this might be the worst roster representation in the set.  upper deck completely missed the boat with brian doyle and jim kaat, especially.  i am a kaat fan, but it is pretty obvious that he was included because he previously appeared in the set with the 1965 minnesota twins.  reggie jackson (41 homers and a .300 average in 1980!) is probably the most obvious miss (again, wasn't he an upper deck employee? how hard would it have been to get him in this set?) along with ron guidry and goose gossage.  rick cerone, willie randolph, and bob watson would have made sense, too.  heck, even eric soderholm would have made more sense than kitty kaat.  

let's take a look at the photos.  the yankees wore a black armband for the entire 1980 season in honor of thurman munson who died in 1979.  that means that the doyle, dent, and piniella photos are definitely not from 1980.  tommy john is the only one with a visible armband, so his photo may be from 1980, or it could be from 1979 or 1981 (for elston howard) or even 1986 (roger maris).  rudy may's photo looks like it could be from his first stint with the yankees, and the photos for tiant and kaat would both be from either 1979 or 1980 - the only seasons they were with the yankees.

as for the team itself, it would have been nice to have the royals in the set, especially since this was the year that they finally beat the yankees in the playoffs.  but again, the checklist dictates that the yankees and these players make the set.

is this team timeless?:  no.  it's way overshadowed by the 1977 and 1978 teams, and probably even the 1981 yankee team.

Monday, December 3, 2012

1980 los angeles dodgers

this post covers the 1980 los angeles dodgers and cards numbered 175 to 183 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
after a sub-.500 season in 1979, the big blue wrecking crew is back to kick off the 1980's with a few new faces. upper deck gives us nine players, three of which are making their set debut, but no memorable moments card.

what team is this?:  the 92-71 1980 los angeles dodgers

why this team?:  good question.  the dodgers did force a 163rd game in 1980 thanks to their dramatic 3-game sweep of the division leading astros in the final weekend of the season (they won each game by one run), but lost in the tiebreaker game 7-1 and missed the postseason.

which players are featured?:  bill russell, steve yeager, don sutton, dusty baker, jerry reuss, mickey hatcher, pedro guerrero, ron cey, and steve garvey

why these players?:  these guys, with the exception of hatcher and guerrero, were all regulars on the team - 3/4 of the infield, the catcher, left fielder, and the two aces of the staff.  let's break it down.

bill russell played in 130 games for the dodgers in 1980, and like many of his teammates, he was voted onto the all-star team despite having had perhaps his worst full season since 1971 (he hit just .264 with 34 runs scored and 38 driven in).  russell was 0 for 2 in the midsummer classic, and found himself injured towards the end of the season and was unable to play in the series agains the astros.  he was replaced in the lineup by derrel thomas and pepe frias.

steve yeager appeared in 96 games for the dodgers in 1980, but started only 66 games behind the plate. the dodgers also had joe ferguson and a young mike scioscia to handle the catcher's position that year, although yeager still started the most games of the three.  at the plate, he hit .211 with a couple of home runs and 20 rbi.  he made just one appearance against the astros in that final weekend series, getting a single in his lone at bat in the 8th inning of game 162.

in what would be his final season as a dodger (at least the first time around), don sutton was 13-5 with a league leading 2.20 era in 31 starts.  he also had a save, which came in game 162.  in that game, steve howe had pitched the 8th inning, and was allowed to bat and stay in the game after the dodgers took the lead in the bottom of the frame.  he allowed a couple of singles, and with two outs and two runners on, sutton came in and coaxed denny walling to ground out to end the game.  it was the fifth and final save of sutton's career.

dusty baker had a huge year in 1980. he hit 29 home runs with 97 rbi and a .294 batting average. he finished 4th in the league mvp voting, and won a silver slugger award.  he welcomed nolan ryan back to the national league by hitting a home run off of the hall of famer in ryan's first start as an astro in april, and then took him deep again later in the season.  i point this out because it was baker who ryan retired to seal his fifth career no-hitter in 1981.  ryan held baker hitless in four at bats in game 161 - in fact, baker was just 1 for 12 in the three game series against houston, and then went 1 for 4 while scoring the dodgers' only run in game 163.

jerry reuss outdueled ryan in game 161, scattering 7 hits and a walk to get the complete game win.  the win was reuss' 18th of the season, matching his career high.  he led the league in shutouts with 6, pitched a no-hitter against the giants (he was a 1st inning bill russell error away from perfection), and was the winning pitcher in the all-star game.  it all added up to a 2nd place finish in the cy young voting behind steve carlton.

mickey hatcher was in his second big league season in 1980, playing mostly right field and third base.  he hit 1 home run with 5 rbi on the season, and saw most of his playing time come towards the end of the season.  he was used in both games 161 and 162 against the astros, and then got the start at third base for the injured ron cey in game 163, going 1 for 3.  the dodgers traded hatcher to the twins the following spring for ken landreaux.

pedro guerrero hit .322 for the dodgers in 1980 as the back of his card mentions.  he played in just 75 games, but saw action everywhere but shortstop, on the mound, and behind the plate.  he hit 7 home runs on the year, the last of which was a big extra-inning bomb that beat the giants during the series that  preceded the season ending three game set against houston.  in those three games, guerrero was 3 for 11 as the dodgers' center fielder.  he did not play in game 163 as rick monday got the start instead.

ron cey saw his average drop to .254 in 1980, but his power numbers didn't suffer.  he matched his home run total from 1979 (28) and hit more doubles than he had the previous year.  cey finished behind mike schmidt in the all-star voting for third basemen, and was left off the roster even though schmidt was unable to play - probably due to the already large number of dodgers on the team.  against the astros at the end of the season, it was the penguin's two-run home run in the bottom of the 8th inning of game 162 that forced the one game playoff.  unfortunately, cey had fouled a pitch off his foot in that at bat and was unable to play in game 163, giving hatcher the start.

steve garvey had his standard season in 1980.  he hit over .300 (.304), had 200 hits (exactly), hit 26 home runs, drove in over 100 runs (106) and played in all 163 games.  he finished 6th in the mvp voting and was selected to start at 1st base at the all-star game, although he went 0 for 2 in front of the home crowd.  after going 5 for 12 in the final weekend series against the astros (with a big home run off of nolan ryan in the second game), garvey was 0 for 4 in the decisive game 163.

the stadium on the back is...?:  dodger stadium.  home of the dodgers since 1962, but it's that same photo from the 1990's (at the earliest) that is used on the card backs.

did upper deck get it right?: i realize that this team was included in the set because of the player checklist, but it doesn't really belong from a performance or 'timeless' standpoint.  featuring the division winning 1980 houston astros (with nolan ryan and joe morgan, both of whom have already been featured in the set) would have made more sense, but as a dodger collector, i'm not complaining.  the inclusion of hatcher over someone like davey lopes is interesting, and certainly reggie smith or bob welch would have made sense with this team.

as for the photos, the easiest way to tell if the image is from 1980 is to look at the left sleeve of the jersey.  the dodgers wore round patches to commemorate the 1980 all-star game which was played at dodger stadium.  mickey hatcher's card is the best, and perhaps only, example.  jerry reuss has some sort of patch on his sleeve, as do baker and guerrero, but i would guess that these are from 1981 (the city of los angeles celebrated its bicentennial that year) or some other season.  the other guys look to be without patches, so their photos come from years other than 1980, with sutton's early to mid 1970's photo being the most obvious.

is this team timeless?:  as much as i loved watching those games over the final weekend of the season, this team is rendered somewhat meaningless due to the fact that they didn't make the playoffs and then won it all in 1981.

Monday, November 26, 2012

1979 pittsburgh pirates

this post covers the 1979 pittsburgh pirates and cards numbered 171 to 174 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
the pirates make their first and only appearance in the set.  it would have been nice to have seen them featured back in the early 1970's subsets, but with roberto clemente and willie stargell having passed away, i guess upper deck chose not to feature them.  they could have still made a go at it with the likes of al oliver, dock ellis, dave cash, manny sanguillen, richie hebner, and dave giusti, but oh well.

what team is this?: the 1979 world champion pittsburgh pirates.

why this team?:  the pirates were family in 1979, defeating the baltimore orioles in the world series 4 games to 3.  they won 98 games during the regular season, and then swept the cincinnati reds in the nlcs before facing the orioles in the fall classic.  they became the only team to recover from a 3-1 deficit in the world series and win the championship.

which players are featured?:  bert blyleven, bill madlock, dave parker, and phil garner.

why these players?:  let's break it down and find out.

bert blyleven was 12-5 for the 1979 pirates.  he made 37 starts, which means he had 20 no-decisions (a record for one season).  i believe blyleven blamed chuck tanner for removing him from starts quickly for his lack of wins in pittsburgh, and even quit the team for a short time in 1980 as a result.  anyway, blyleven was allowed to pitch a complete game in the third game of the nlcs against the reds.  he held cincy to 8 hits and struck out 9 en route to a series clinching 7-1 victory.  in his first world series, blyleven started game 2, but left after 6 innings with the score tied at 2.  the pirates wound up winning 3-2 on a manny sanguillen single.  blyleven returned to the mound in game 5, pitching 4 innings of scoreless relief to earn the win as the pirates began their comeback.

bill madlock, who had won two batting titles with the cubs earlier in the decade, was acquired by the pirates in june of 1979.  he took over at the hot corner in pittsburgh and hit .328 over the rest of the season.  in his first taste of the postseason, madlock hit .250 against the reds, but then hit .375 in the world series against the orioles.  i am guessing that upper deck is referring to one of madlock's four hits in game 5 on the back of his card, as he was held hitless in games 6 and 7 when the pirates were facing elimination.

dave parker had a few memorable moments in 1979, and he gets a card telling us as much.  for me, his most memorable moments came in the 1979 all-star game when he threw jim rice out at third and brian downing out at home.  in the games that counted, he hit .310 with 25 home runs and 94 rbi.  in the postseason, he hit .333 in the nlcs and .345 in the world series.

phil garner split his time between third and second in 1979, and he even played a little bit of shortstop.  he hit .293 in 150 regular season games, and then had a postseason for the ages.  as the back of his card says, garner hit .500 in the world series (12 for 24).  he had 4 doubles and 5 rbi, and an on base percentage of .571.  this was after he hit .417 (5 for 12) in the nlcs with a triple and a home run.

the stadium on the back is...?:  three rivers stadium, with a photo taken from either the allegheny, monongahela, or the ohio river.  it was home to the pirates from july of 1970 through the 2000 season, and so is appropriate for this team.

did upper deck get it right?: they certainly got the stadium and the team right, but i wonder why they didn't include the 1979 orioles in the set.  the o's were the only 1979 playoff team not featured, and i will assume that it is because they will show up in 1983.  still, it would have been appropriate for another round of jim palmer and al bumbry cards, plus maybe a don stanhouse or even an eddie murray card.

willie stargell passed away in 2001, so his absence is understood.  and as for the players upper deck chose for the pirates, i can't complain.  some other sensible choices would have been bill robinson (third on the team with 24 homers), lee lacy and rick rhoden (not really, but it would have been cool to see these former dodgers in the set), and kent tekulve who sported some fantastic glasses and saved 31 games for the champs.

as for the photos, the three color images all feature the full yellow unis (or in blyleven's case, at least the yellow jersey) which the team did wear in 1979 and a few seasons prior.  they continued to wear the yellow jerseys but not the pants after 1980, and then brought back the full yellow ensemble in 1981 and wore it for a few more seasons.  so, blyleven's photo could be from 1978, 79, or 80, and garner's could be shown as he was in any year from 1977 through 1979, or 1981.  on the other hand, madlock's is certainly from the 1979 season because, even though the pirates wore that color combination during his later years with the team, the 'stargell stars' on his hat were only given out in late 1978 (when madlock was still a giant) and 1979.  i'm sure one of those stars was for his walk-off home run he hit against the dodgers in late september. as for dave parker, his photo is from 1980 at the earliest, thanks to the v-neck, solid white jersey that the team debuted in 1980 and continued to wear throughout the remainder of parker's time in pittsburgh.

is this team timeless?:  this team is family, it is the last pirates team to win a title, and it helped the city of pittsburgh attain its 'city of champions' moniker.  yes, i believe that it is timeless.

Monday, November 19, 2012

1979 cincinnati reds

this post covers the 1979 cincinnati reds and cards numbered 166 to 170 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
this is the first subset to not feature at least one black and white photo.  and, out of the five players featured, only one is new to the set.

what team is this?: this is the national league west champion 1979 cincinnati reds.

why this team?:  these reds won the division by 1.5 games over the houston astros.  they went 90-71 in the regular season, but were swept by the pittsburgh pirates in the national league championship series.

which players are featured?:  there is a fairly good representation of the 1979 version (if there were such a thing) of the big red machine here, meaning the version wihout pete rose and tony perez but with tom seaver.  we get dave concepcion, george foster, johnny bench, ray knight, and tom seaver.

why these players?:   let's break it down and see.

dave concepcion set career highs in runs, home runs, and rbi in 1979.  he won his fifth (and final) gold glove, and finished in the top ten of the league mvp voting.  he went 6 for 14 with a double in the nlcs against the pirates, making the final postseason appearance of his career.

george foster was coming off of back-to-back league leading home run seasons in 1979, but wound up finishing sixth with 30 roundtrippers that year.  he played in only 121 games, however, and he still managed to lead the team in home runs and rbi (98).  as with concepcion, 1979 was foster's last time in the postseason, but unlike the reds' shortstop, foster hit only .200 in the series against pittsburgh.

johnny bench hit .276 in 130 games for the reds in 1979.  he hit 22 homers with 80 rbi, and was named to the all-star team for the 12th consecutive year.  he also appeared in the postseason for the final time in 1979, hitting .250 with a triple and a home run in the nlcs.

ray knight took over at third base for the reds in 1979, replacing hometown hero pete rose.  knight wound up leading the team with a .318 average and 37 doubles.  he was 4 for 14 with a double in the playoffs - his first foray into the postseason.  this is the first time we see knight in this set, but it won't be the last, thanks to his role on the 1986 mets.

speaking of mets, we last saw tom seaver in the 1969 mets subset.  he joined the reds in 1977, and made it to the postseason with them in 1979.  he was 16-6 in the regular season with a league leading 5 shutouts.  seaver started game 1 of the playoffs, and left the game tied after throwing 8 innings and allowing two runs.  the reds eventually lost the game in extra innings, and seaver never pitched in the postseason again.

the stadium on the back is...?:  riverfront stadium, where the reds played from 1970 through 2002.

did upper deck get it right?:  upper deck did pretty well with only five players.  of the regulars not featured (dan driessen, joe morgan, cesar geronimo, ken griffey/dave collins) only griffey might have warranted inclusion.  his absence is more glaring when you consider the fact that he appears in the set later on, as a member of the yankees.  as far as pitchers go, the 1979 reds had tom seaver and then a group of serviceable arms.  tom hume would have been a decent choice for the set, had upper deck chosen to include more pitchers from this team.

as far as the photos go, we know for sure that the bench photo predates 1979 by several years, thanks to the uniform he is wearing.  the reds switched to the pullover jerseys with the striped arms in 1972.  we also know that the concepcion photo is from before 1977, since that was the year that the pirates started wearing the striped home jerseys.  and, because the pirates player sliding in to second on concepcion's card is not wearing the national league centennial patch, i will suggest that the image comes from no later than 1975.  the other photos don't have any way that i know of to correctly determine the year that they were taken.

is this team timeless?:  no, not to me.  it is overshadowed by the reds teams from earlier in the decade.

Monday, November 12, 2012

1979 california angels

this post covers the 1979 california angels and cards numbered 162 to 165 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
what team is this?:  the 1979 california angels - the first angels team to qualify for the postseason.

why this team?:  the angels won the american league west for owner gene autry in 1979 with a record of 88-74.  although they fell to the baltimore orioles in the alcs 3 games to 1, the team boasted the american league mvp in don baylor and the league leader in strikeouts in nolan ryan.

which players are featured?:  only four are included in the set for this team - bobby grich, brian downing, dan ford, and nolan ryan.

why these players?:  as the backs of the cards attest, all four of these players had big years in 1979.  let's break it down.

bobby grich set career highs in rbi (101) and home runs (30) in 1979, although he might have surpassed that home run total in 1981 had the strike not disrupted the season (he had 22 home runs in 100 games that year to lead the american league). he also hit .294 and returned to the all-star game for the first time since leaving baltimore after the 1976 season.  grich hit just .154 in the alcs against his former team with a double and two rbi.

brian downing spent most of 1979 behind the plate - the last season in which he would be primarily used as a catcher.  he hit 12 home runs, and more surprisingly hit .326 in 148 games.  downing made the all-star team for the only time in his career that year, and is best remembered from that game as being the guy dave parker threw out at the plate in the bottom of the 8th to preserve the 6-6 tie.  downing also had one of the most copied batting stances in my neighborhood.  in the alcs, he hit .200 with just 3 hits in the 4 games.

dan ford joined the angels via a trade with the twins after the 1978 season.  he took over in right field for the late lyman bostock, just as he had replaced bostock in center field for the twins the previous season.  in addition to his 21 home runs and 101 rbi mentioned on his card back, ford hit .290 and scored 100 runs for the only time in his career.  he also led the league with 13 sacrifice flies.  ford hit .294 in the alcs with a couple of home runs and a double while driving in a team high 4 runs.

nolan ryan led the league in strikeouts for the fourth straight year in 1979, and for the seventh time overall.  he had 223 k's to go along with 16 wins, 5 shutouts, and a 3.60 era.  he didn't throw a no-hitter in 1979, but he did have a one-hitter (the hit came when reggie jackson singled one out in the 9th inning) and two two-hitters.  he had a 12-7 record with a sub-3.00 era in late july when he injured his elbow (the same week he was on the cover of sports illustrated) and missed a couple of weeks.  he returned to finish the season, but was not the same pitcher he had been prior to the injury, going 4-7 with a 5.47 era in his last 12 starts.  ryan started game 1 of the alcs, and held the orioles to one earned run in seven innings, but the angels lost 6-3.  it turned out to be the last game ryan pitched for the angels as he opted to sign with the houston astros prior to the 1980 season.

the stadium on the back is...?: anaheim stadium, as it was known in 1979.  nicknamed 'the big a', the stadium opened in 1966 and was renovated (disneyfied) in 1998.  the photo used is pre-disney - in fact, it may well be from 1979 as it is certainly not more recent than that.  the la rams moved in to anaheim stadium in 1980, and as a result, the field was modified to accommodate football games.  in doing so, bleachers were added in left field with retractable seats in right, and the big a itself was moved way out into the parking lot.

did upper deck get it right?:  don baylor  is missing, and that's not right.  all he did was lead the league in runs scored (120) and rbi (139) while hitting 39 home runs and playing in all 162 games.  he is a well known ttm signer, so it's not like he's a recluse.  i think he should have been included, especially since he could have also been included later on in the set with the 1986 red sox and 1987 twins.  on the other hand, kudos to upper deck for not going for the checklist filler and featuring the likes of bert campaneris, joe rudi, or merv rettenmund, all of whom had been previously featured in the set and were a part of the 1979 angels, but were no longer everyday players.

grich, downing, ford, and ryan were all good choices for this team, and aside from baylor, maybe rod carew is the only other player that would have made sense.  i say that even though i really think it would have been cool to have a willie davis card featuring him as an angel despite he was a minor player on this team, and upper deck was right not to include him.  i do find it odd, however, that upper deck did not include the 1979 baltimore orioles in the set.  while i am thankful for the angels, i wonder why upper deck ignored the american league champions, especially when it was a franchise that had been in the set previously.

they did a good job with the stadium, as mentioned above, and the photos on the fronts aren't too bad either.  we know that nolan ryan's photo comes from 1972 due to the button down jersey and the lowercase 'a', but the other three could be from 1979.  the angels switched to pullover jerseys with the 'a' capitalized in 1973.  they kept that look through 1988 (although they changed the patch sleeve from the california shape to a circular patch in 1986).  disco dan was only with the team from 1979-1981, so his photo is from one of those years.  the other two guys joined the angels in 1977 and 1978, respectively, and were there well in to the 1980's so who knows what year the photos are from.

is this team timeless?:  when i think of angels teams from this era, i think of the 1982 team first, even though i was a big don baylor fan in 1979.  i have to say that, no, i don't think this team is timeless.  what do you think?

Monday, November 5, 2012

1978 new york yankees

this post covers the 1978 new york yankees and cards numbered 153 to 161 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
back-to-back yankee posts.  almost as tough to take as the back-to-back world series titles they won at the expense of the dodgers in 1977 and 1978.  this is the only 1978 team featured in the set, too.

what team is this?:  the 1978 new york yankees, who defeated the los angeles dodgers 4 games to 2 to win their second straight world series title.

why this team?:  the 1978 yankees won 100 games, including a one-game playoff with the red sox to claim their third straight american league east pennant.  what's more, they overcame a 14-game deficit in july to force the game 163.  in the postseason, they beat the royals for the third straight year to win the pennant, and then beat the dodgers to win the title.  also, because they are the yankees.

which players are featured?:  we've got all the players that were featured as part of the 1977 team, except for don gullett whose career came to an end during the 1978 campaign, and we've added brian doyle and rich "goose" gossage to the checklist.

why these players?:  let's find out, shall we?

brian doyle was a rookie in 1978 who appeared in all of 39 games in the regular season.  he hit .192 with an obp to match, and was without an extra base hit.  in the postseason, he and fred stanley were called upon to replace the injured willie randolph at second base.  doyle responded by hitting .286 in the alcs and .438 in the world series with 2 rbi and 4 runs scored.

bucky dent gets a memorable moment card for his game 163 home run that beat the red sox.  he had only four other home runs in 1978 before he hit the 7th inning, three-run blast off of mike torrez.  he hit only .200 in the alcs, but won the world series mvp award thanks to a .417 average and a team leading 10 hits.

chris chambliss had the opposite results in the postseason.  he hit .400 against the royals, but just .182 against the dodgers.  during the regular season, he hit .274 with 12 home runs and 90 rbi.  he also won his first (and only) career gold glove.

ed figueroa won 20 games for the only time in his career in 1978.  he was 20-9 with a 2.99 era in 32 starts.  he won 8 of his last 9 starts, the final one being a 5-hit shutout of the indians in game 161 that preserved the team's one game lead over the red sox in the east.  figueroa's late season success didn't translate to the postseason as he took the loss in game 2 of the alcs, giving up 5 runs (3 earned) in 1+ innings of work.  he didn't make it out of the 2nd inning in game 1 of the world series, either, giving up 3 runs on home runs by dusty baker and davey lopes (with rick monday on base) in the second inning.  figueroa returned to start game 4 of the world series, and gave up a 3-run home run to reggie smith in his 5 innings of work.  he left the game trailing, but thanks in part to reggie jackson's hip, the yankees chipped away at the dodgers' lead and wound up winning the game.

graig nettles was an all-star and won his second straight gold glove at third base in 1978.  he hit 27 home runs with 93 rbi and a .276 batting average during the regular season.  he was 5 for 15 with a triple and a home run in the alcs, but went just 4 for 25 with no extra base hits in the world series.

lou piniella hit .314 for the yankees over 130 games while splitting time between left field, right field, and dh.  he had 7 hits in the world series, but they were all singles. still, he had 4 rbi and even stole a base in the fall classic.

roy white was one of the few yankees who was consistent in his play throughout the entire postseason. after appearing in 103 games and hitting .269 in the regular season, white hit .313 with a triple and a home run in the yankees' four game series against the royals.  he then hit .333 in the world series, scoring 9 runs and driving in 4 over the six games against the dodgers.

rich "goose" gossage joined the bronx zoo as a free agent from pittsburgh prior to the 1978 season.  in his first season as a yankee, gossage was 10-11 with 27 saves (the most in the league) and a 2.01 era over 134.1 innings of work.  after a shaky postseason debut in game 3 of the alcs (he blew the save but earned the win), gossage saved game 4 with a perfect inning of work to send the yankees to the world series.  there, he pitched in 3 games (he earned the save in game 4) and gave up just one hit and one walk in 6 innings of work.

sparky lyle was the reigning cy young award winner in 1978, but he was replaced as the team's closer with the arrival of gossage.  still, lyle appeared in 59 games (all in relief, of course) and posted a record of 9-3 with 9 saves.  he made just one appearance in the postseason - a 1.1 inning effort in game 2 of the alcs in which he allowed 2 runs on 3 hits.  that would be his last appearance in the pinstripes (so to speak - the game was in kansas city), as the yankees traded lyle to the rangers after the postseason.

the stadium on the back is...?:  yankee stadium, although not a photo from 1978.

did upper deck get it right?: i can understand why the royals (the team the yankees beat in the alcs in 1976, 1977, and 1978) weren't featured - the franchise was completely ignored by the set - and the 1977 and 1978 phillies are pretty similar teams to the 1980 team that we will see later on, but i think a case could have been made to feature the 1978 red sox.  they were a bucky dent home run away from making the postseason, and the beantown franchise has already been featured in the set.  also, i personally would have been ok with the 1978 dodgers being featured in the set, even though the players would likely be identical to the ones featured for the 1977 team except for the super cool bob welch memorable moment card that would have been made to commemorate his strikeout of reggie jackson to end game 2 of the world series.

as for the players, once again ron guidry should have been included.  he was 25-3 in 1978 for goodness sakes.  reggie jackson's absence is again conspicuous, and willie randolph and mickey rivers are probably the only other two guys who could have been featured but weren't.  kudos to upper deck for not going for a weak checklist grab and adding reserve outfielder paul blair (previously seen in the set with the orioles) or rawly eastwick (seen earlier in the set as a cincinnati red) to this team.  especially eastwick, as he started the 1978 season with the yankees, but was traded to the phillies during the season for jay johnstone. i would have been ok with johnstone being included, however, as long as he would have also been included with the 1981 dodger team.  but, he wasn't added to the checklist of either team, so it doesn't matter.

now let's talk about the photos.  doyle was with the yankees for parts of three seasons - 1978, 1979, and 1980.  for part of 1979 and all of 1980, the yankees wore black armbands, so there is a good likelihood that doyle's photo comes from 1978.  that same possibility exists for bucky dent, although i am disappointed that upper deck didn't use a photo from the actual home run he hit to beat the red sox.  that game was played at fenway park, so he shouldn't be in the yankee pinstripes.  the photos for chris chambliss, roy white, and sparky lyle are definitely from before 1978, and the images for graig nettles and rich "goose" gossage are from later because of the black armbands.  that leaves ed figueroa and lou piniella, but there's no real way to tell what year it was that their photos were taken.

is this team timeless?:  when i think of the yankees, i think of the 1977 team - not this 1978 squad.  still, the 1978 team is the one that won the second title in a row, so i guess this team is timeless.  what do you think?

Monday, October 29, 2012

1977 new york yankees

this post covers the 1977 new york yankees and cards numbered 145 to 152 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
so, upper deck gives us our first look at the yankees, and it's their 1977 world championship team.  1977 was the first time the yankees had won the title since 1962, and it brought to an end a three-series losing streak, as they were defeated by the dodgers in 1963, the cardinals in 1964, and the reds in 1976.  notice the lack of a 'memorable moment' card - 3 home runs in one world series game certainly would have qualified had reggie jackson not been excluded from this set.

what team is this?:  the 1977 world champion new york yankees

why this team?:  the yankees won 100 games in 1977, and were the american league champions for the second year in a row.

which players are featured?:  bucky dent, chris chambliss, ed figueroa, graig nettles, lou piniella, roy white, don gullett, and sparky lyle.  gullett and lyle have been featured in the set before, but the other guys are all first timers here.

why these players?:  let's break it down.

bucky dent was the yankees' shortstop in 1977, as he was acquired from the white sox just before the start of the season.  he hit .247 with a career high 8 home runs during the regular season, and then hit .242 in the postseason.  nothing too exciting, and not even close to what he would do in the 1978 world series against the dodgers.  heck, even the back of his card ignores his 1977 performance and goes straight to the home run he hit against the red sox in 1978.

chris chambliss was in his fourth year of manning first base for the yankees in 1977, and he put up numbers that were nearly identical to those he attained in 1976 when he was named to the all-star team and finished 5th in the league mvp voting.  this time, however, he finished 29th in the mvp voting and was not part of the all-star team.  he struggled in the alcs, going 1 for 17 against the royals, after sending them home a year earlier, but came back to hit .292 with a home run (as alluded to on the back of his card) in the world series against the dodgers.

ed figueroa is kind of an odd choice for this set.  i get it - he was a 20-game winner in 1978 (as we will see in the next post), and his 16 wins in 1977 led the yankees' staff (tied with ron guidry, who frankly would have been a more sensible addition to this set).  however, figueroa made only one start in the 1977 postseason, and it didn't go well.  although the yankees won the game, the royals knocked figueroa out of game 4 of the alcs after 3.1 innings after being down 4-0 at one point.  you can tell upper deck didn't have much to say about figueroa in 1977 from his card back.  i'm not sure what they mean by 'sweep through' the regular season either.

graig nettles, the yankees' third baseman, led the team with 37 home runs in 1977.  that was five more than he hit in 1976 when he led the league, but jim rice hit 39 bombs for the red sox (bobby bonds also hit 37 in 1977).  nettles did make the all-star team and he won his first gold glove in 1977.  nettles was held without a home run while hitting under .200 in both the 1977 alcs and the world series, but the yankees won anyway.

lou piniella split his 1977 season between the outfield and the dh spot.  he was in a dh platoon with carlos may (who was picked up by the angels in september of '77), and usually played the outfield on days that may would dh.  he hit .330 with a career high 12 home runs in 103 games with this playing arrangement.  when it came to the 1977 postseason, piniella was the yankees' left fielder in all but one game (he was the dh in game 3 of the alcs).  the back of his card suggests that he 'achieved greatness' in the playoffs, and while piniella hit .333 with 3 doubles and 2 rbi in the alcs that year, i wouldn't say that he achieved greatness.

roy white had the misfortune of being the left fielder (and often best player) on the yankee teams that missed the postseason 11 years in a row.  he debuted in 1965, a year after the yankees lost the world series to the cardinals, and it wasn't until 1976 that white and the yankees reached the postseason together.  in 1977, white hit .268 with 14 home runs and 52 rbi as the team's regular left fielder.  for the postseason however, billy martin decided to replace white in the starting lineup with lou piniella.  white did get the start in game 3 of the alcs with piniella dh-ing, and he went to 2 for 4 with 2 doubles and a run scored.  in the world series, however, he was back on the bench, and was hitless in his two at bats.

don gullett makes his third appearance in the set, as he had won two straight titles with the reds in 1975 and 1976 when he joined the yankees as a free agent.  fighting shoulder problems, he wound up with a 14-4 record for new york in 1977, leading the league in winning percentage.  he made 3 starts in the postseason, including game 1 in both the alcs and the world series.  he lasted only 2 innings (and took the loss) against the royals, but pitched into the 9th inning (with no decision) against the dodgers in the kick off of the fall classic.  gullett later took the loss in game 5, as the dodgers scored 7 runs (6 earned) off of him in 4.1 innings.

sparky lyle has also been here before - as a member of the 1967 red sox.  lyle was traded to the yankees prior to the 1972 season, and he quickly took up residence at the back of the yankee bullpen.  in 1977, lyle appeared in 72 games (all in relief, of course) and pitched 137 innings.  he won 13 games and saved 26 others on his way to winning the cy young award.  in the postseason, he pitched in 4 of the 5 alcs games, earning the win in game 4 by pitching 5.1 scoreless innings of relief and then returning the next day to earn the series clinching win with another 1.1 innings of scoreless relief.  lyle actually blew the save in the 9th inning of game 1 of the world series, but remained in the game to earn the win in the 12th inning.  he also pitched in the second game of the series, and gave up a home run to steve garvey in what would be his last appearance of the postseason.

the stadium on the back is...?:  yankee stadium (post 1973 renovation) which would be the right venue for the 1977 team, obviously.  the photo is much more recent than 1977, however, as evidenced by the advertising (no 'brut' billboard).

did upper deck get it right?: from a player standpoint, each person featured in the set can be rationalized, but it would have made sense to include ron guidry (16-7, 2-0 in the postseason), newcomer reggie jackson (again), and maybe even willie randolph, too.  after all, reggie was the 'straw that stirred the drink', and hit 5 home runs in the world series to earn the series' mvp trophy, and randolph was an all-star in each of his first two seasons with the yankees, including 1977.  as for the photos, thanks to the yankees' consistency with their uniforms it could be tough to tell if upper deck used images from 1977 or not.  i will say that i believe the bucky dent photo to be from sometime later than 1977, and the chris chambliss to be from sometime prior to that year (thanks to the facial hair), but no earlier than 1974 which is when chambliss joined the yankees.  ed figueroa could certainly be from '77, but graig nettles and lou piniella are betrayed by the black armband on his left sleeve.  during piniella's time with the yankees, such an armband was only worn in 1979-80 for thurman munson, and in 1981 for elston howard.  the roy white photo is almost certainly from the late 1960's, and sparky lyle's photo looks to be from about the same time as chambliss's - say 1973-ish.  however, we do know that don gullett's photo is not only from 1977, but that it is from game 5 of the world series.  we know this because the photo was taken in dodger stadium (that's the visiting team's bullpen in the background) and gullett made only one appearance during the series at dodger stadium - his game 5 start.  and, while the dodgers and yankees would meet again in the world series the following year, gullett's career was brought to an end prior to the 1978 postseason due to injury.

is this team timeless?:  yes.  aside from being the first yankee team to win in the steinbrenner era, it was the bronx zoo!

Monday, October 22, 2012

1977 los angeles dodgers

this post covers the 1977 los angeles dodgers and cards numbered 136 to 144 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
this was the team of my youth!  it's good to be back, re-starting with this team.

what team is this?:  the 1977 national league champion los angeles dodgers

why this team?: in manager tommy lasorda's first full season at the helm, the 1977 dodgers won 98 games to claim the national league west title by 10 games over the defending world champion cincinnati reds.  they then went on to beat the philadelphia phillies (who had won 101 games during the regular season) in the nlcs 3 games to 1 before falling to the yankees in the world series 4 games to 2.

which players are featured?:  there are a few new faces not included in the 1974 dodger subset - bill russell, burt hooton, dusty baker, and steve yeager.  they join repeat players davey lopes, don sutton, ron cey, steve garvey, and tommy john.  so, we have the infield, the catcher, an outfielder and three-fifths of the starting rotation.

why these players?:  let's break it down, as i plagiarize from my 'evolution of the 1978 topps dodgers' 1977 posts.

bill russell was moved up to the number 2 spot in the batting order by lasorda, and he responded by hitting .278 with career highs in runs scored (82) and stolen bases (16), even while leading the league in outs made. three of his four home runs on the season came within a 9-day span in june. in october, russell matched his season average, going 5 for 18 in the nlcs. in the world series, however, he hit just .154 with a triple.

burt hooton went from 11-15 in 1976 to 12-7 in 1977, and also lowered his era to 2.62 - down from 3.26 the previous year. he made 31 starts and also made an appearance in relief, recording a save in a july game against the padres. hooton threw a 4-hitter against the mets in may, allowing an unearned run while striking out 11 batters, and also had a 2-hit shutout against the astros in his second-to-last start of the season. in the playoffs, hooton had just one start and was relieved after getting only 5 outs in game 3 against the phillies (the 'black friday' game). his next start came in game 2 of the world series, and he pitched well - allowing one run while striking out 8 yankees and going the distance for the win. hooton also started game 6, giving up reggie jackson's first of three home runs in the game while being tagged with the series ending loss.

davey lopes didn't lead the league in steals for a third straight year in 1977, but he did steal 47 bases while upping both his batting average and on-base percentage by about 40 points to .283 and .372, respectively. he hit a then-career high 11 homers (4 lead off and 1 walk off) and scored 85 runs. in the postseason, lopes had 3 rbi against the phillies and 2 against the yankees, but stole only two bases and was caught the same number of times. he did come to the mound to try to squelch the argument between tommy and doug rau during the world series, and that counts for something

don sutton's record for the 1977 season was 14-8, although he could have easily been 22-8, at least. those no-decisions likely cost him a 6th straight season with a top-5 placement in the cy young voting. still, sutton started the season 6-0 and was chosen to start the all-star game for the national league. he was 10-4 at the break and then was credited with the win in the midsummer classic after throwing 3 scoreless innings. just for good measure, he 1-hit the giants in august after throwing a 3-hit shutout against them in july, and also struck out 12 padres in a game. once the postseason started, sutton continued his good season. he threw a complete game while beating the phillies in game 2 of the nlcs and then threw another complete game against the yankees in the dodgers' blowout victory in game 5 of the world series. in between, he pitched 7 innings in game 1 of the fall classic, but had a no-decision in the dodgers' loss.

dusty baker was moved to left field in 1977 with newly acquired rick monday in center.  he wound up having a great year, with 30 home runs, 86 rbi, a .291 average and an ops of .876.  it took dusty all season to get to 30 homers, joining teammates steve garvey, ron cey, and reggie smith as the first foursome in history to each belt 30 in a season.  baker's 30th came on the last day of the season, and was one of 3 solo home runs the dodgers hit off of jr richard in the 6th inning.  glenn burke followed dusty's blast with one of his own (manny mota had homered earlier in the inning), and legend has it that burke gave dusty the first 'high-five' prior to burke's at bat.  baker went on to hit .357 in the nlcs against the phillies in the 1977 postseason.  he had 2 home runs and 8 rbi and was named mvp of the series.  in the world series against the yankees, baker hit another homer and drove in 5 runs while hitting .292 in the dodgers' 6-game loss.

steve yeager appeared in 125 games for the dodgers in 1977, and he caught in 123 of those contests. at the plate, he slugged a career high 16 homers and raised his average by over 40 points from 1976 when he hit just .214. he also threw out 39% of the folks who tried to steal a base against him. his postseason performance included a couple of home runs and a .316 average in the world series. in fact, yeager had an offensive series in 1977 statistically similar to the one he had in 1981 when he was named a co-mvp. this time, however, it was in a losing effort.

ron cey started the all-star game at third for the national league for the 3rd time in 4 years and finished 8th in the national league mvp voting.  in the midsummer classic, he was 0 for 2 with a walk and a strikeout, but he hit .308 when it counted - in the nlcs.  against the yankees, cey was just 4 for 21, but he did have a double and a home run to his credit in the series. cey also set a major league record for rbi's in the month of april with 29 in 1977.

steve garvey was told by lasorda that he needed to hit more home runs in 1977, and that's what garvey did, finishing with a team leading 33 homers to go along with 115 rbi and a .297 batting average.  to go along with the sub-.300 average, garvey got less than 200 hits (192) in 1977 - both oddities in his stats as we look back on them today. had he reached each of those milestones in 1977, garvey would have had 7 straight seasons with at least 200 hits and 8 straight with an average of .300 or better. garvey repeated for the fourth season in a row as the national league's all-star game starter at first base and its gold glove recipient while finishing 6th in the league mvp voting for the second time in a row. in the postseason, garvey hit .308 in the nlcs (although he went without an extra base hit) and .375 in the world series, where he had an ops of 1.025 thanks to a double, triple and home run.

tommy john was in only his second season back from surgery, but he won 20 games for the first time in his career and threw 220.1 innings over 31 starts.  as a result, john finished second in the nl cy young voting to steve carlton.  john had 11 complete games and 3 shutouts to his credit to go with his 2.78 era.  he had a stretch of four straight complete games in july and august, capped off with back-to-back shutouts - a 2-hitter against the reds and a 4-hitter against the braves. john had missed the dodgers' playoff run in 1974 due to his injury, so 1977 was the first time he appeared in the postseason.  he took advantage of the opportunity, starting 2 games in the nlcs and allowing only 1 unearned run in 13.2 innings pitched.  in the fall classic, john started game 3 at home but took the loss.

the stadium on the back is...?:  dodger stadium, home to the dodgers since 1962, although the photo used is from the 1990's at the earliest.

did upper deck get it right?:  as far as players go, the biggest omission here is reggie smith.  upper deck also missed an opportunity to get boog powell and al downing another card in the set, although neither of them played a big role on the team.  smith, on the other hand, was the team leader in runs (104), walks (104), batting average (.307), obp (.427), slugging percentage (.576), and therefore ops (1.003).  he should have been part of this set.

as for the photos upper deck used, it's a mixed bag.  i think that the bill russell photo is earlier than 1977, and the davey lopes image is certainly from before then as well.  in fact, the lopes photo used for his card in the 1974 team subset is more appropriate here, and vice versa.  burt hooton's photo comes from the 1981 season (thanks to the city of los angeles bicentennial sleeve patch).  the rest of the photos are inconclusive, although i would guess that the garvey and john images pre-date 1977.  the baker and cey photos are from no earlier than 1977, as that was the year that the dodgers started putting the blue armband on their away jerseys.

is this team timeless?:  you bet, although i might be biased.  what do you think?

Monday, August 20, 2012

1976 cincinnati reds

this post covers the 1976 cincinnati reds and cards numbered 127 to 135 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
everyone that was featured for the 1975 reds team is back, except for the manager, sparky anderson.  ken griffey sr. takes sparky's place.

what team is this?: the back-to-back world champion 1976 cincinnati reds

why this team?: the 1976 reds successfully defended their title by beating the yankees in the world series.  they won 102 games in the regular season, and were a perfect 7-0 in the postseason.

which players are featured?:  pedro borbon, dave concepcion, don gullett, george foster, joe morgan, johnny bench, ken griffey sr, rawly eastwick, and tony perez.

why these players?:  let's see what these guys did in 1976.

pedro borbon pitched in 69 games for the reds during the regular season.  he was 4-3 with 8 saves and a 3.35 era in those appearances.  he pitched in 2 games during the nlcs, earning a 4-inning save in game 1 and retiring the only batter he faced in game 2.  in the world series, borbon pitched only in game 1, closing out the reds' victory with a perfect 1.2 innings of work.

dave concepcion won his third gold glove and started at shortstop for the nl all-star team for the second year in a row in 1976.  he was solid at the plate, too, putting up a slash line of 9/69/.281 with 74 runs scored.  concepcion scored 4 runs in the nlcs and hit .357 with 3 rbi in the world series.

don gullett was 11-3 with a 3.00 era for the reds in 1976. he started 20 games and relieved in three others, earning a save in one of his relief appearances.  he won each of his postseason starts - one in each series - and shut the yankees down in game 1 of the world series by allowing just one run in 7.1 innings of work.  the bronx bombers must have liked what they saw, because they signed gullett to a free agent deal later in the fall.

george foster finished second to teammate joe morgan in the 1976 nl mvp vote.  he hit 29 home runs and led the league with 121 rbi.  he was voted to the all-star team for the first time, and his 3 rbi in the game earned him mvp honors.  he hit just .167 in the nlcs against the phillies, but both of his hits were home runs.  then, in the world series, he was held homerless, but hit .429 in the four games.

joe morgan's 1976 season saw him become the back-to-back nl mvp award winner thanks in large part to his .444 obp and .576 slugging percentage, both of which led the league.  he also drove in 111 runs (the only time in his career he topped 100) and stole 60 bases.  in the postseason, morgan was held hitless in the nlcs but hit .333 in the world series.

johnny bench had a memorable moment in 1976, apparently, but i am pretty sure it wasn't during the regular season.  bench was able to stretch his string of consecutive gold gloves and all-star game appearances to 9, but he hit just .234 on the season.  his home run total dropped to just 16, the fewest since his 1968 rookie season, and he drove in only 74 runs despite playing in 135 games.  he did steal a career high 13 bases, though.  still, upper deck is right - bench's display in game 4 of the world series against the yankees was an awesome display.  overall, he was 8 for 15 with  a double, a triple, 2 home runs and 6 rbi in the four game series with a whopping 1.667 ops, earning the series mvp award.  in game 4 alone, bench hit both of his home runs and drove in 5 of his 6 runs as the reds finished their sweep of the yankees in new york.

ken griffey sr was the right fielder for the big red machine, so it's nice to see him appear in the set with this team.  in 1976, griffey hit .336, just .003 points behind league leader bill madlock.  he scored 111 runs and stole 34 bases.  griffey made the all-star team for the first time, and finished 8th in the league mvp vote. while he hit .385 in the nlcs, griffey was just 1 for 17 (.059) in the world series.

rawly eastwick's 26 saves in 1976 allowed him to lead the league in saves for the second year in a row.  he pitched in 71 games and had a record of 11-5 with a 2.05 era.  he finished 5th in the cy young voting and even earned some mvp votes as well.  he got the victory in game 3 of the nlcs against the phillies, but he didn't pitch remarkably well in that game or his other nlcs appearance that year.  eastwick did not pitch in the world series against the yankees.

tony perez went 19/91/.260 in what turned out to be his last season in cincinnati for a while.  he made the all-star team and was 5 for 16 with a double in the world series against the yankees.

the stadium on the back is...?:  that's riverfront stadium, home to the reds from 1970 through 2002.

did upper deck get it right?: i was a little surprised that the reds are the only team from 1976 to be featured in the set.  the other playoff teams - the phillies, royals, and yankees - would all have made sense, especially the phillies and yankees as they have other teams in the set.  but, if you are only going to choose one team, it makes sense to pick the champion.

pete rose and cesar geronimo are still missing, and gary nolan would have made sense, too, but the addition of ken griffey kind of makes up for some of that.  otherwise, the players upper deck chose are a good representation of the team.

as for the photos, only pedro borbon's is obviously not from 1976.  his uniform tells us that the photo is from 1970 or 1971.  even though the uniforms match the year in the other photos, i still suspect that don gullett's photo and tony perez's photo are definitely from other years.  gullett's looks like it is from earlier in the decade, and as for tony perez, i would guess that upper deck used an image from his second tour of duty with the reds, which was from 1984-86.

is this team timeless?:  a repeat world champion and a yankee killer?  yes!

Monday, July 30, 2012

1975 oakland a's

this post covers the 1975 oakland a's and cards numbered 123 to 126 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
what team is this:  the defending world champions (for the third straight year) and the 1975 american league west division winning oakland a's

why this team?:  they won the american league west for the fourth straight year and were heading towards a chance to defend their three consecutive world series titles until they met the red sox in the playoffs.

which players are featured?:  just four for this team - billy williams, gene tenace, jim perry, and vida blue.

why these players?:  well, billy williams and jim perry have appeared in the set before, although it was with different teams. williams was part of the 1969 cubs team, and perry checked in with the 1965 minnesota twins.  both blue and tenace have appeared as part of the a's dynasty - blue in 1974 and tenace in 1973.  to me, this team seems to be a bit of a checklist filler.

let's break it down.

billy williams joined the a's after the 1974 season, having spent his entire career to that point with the cubs.  he hit only .244 for the a's in '75, but did play in 155 games (mostly as their designated hitter) and hit 23 homers with 81 rbi.  one of those homers happened to be the 400th of his career, to boot.  in his first taste of the postseason, williams started two of the three alcs games, and appeared as a pinch-hitter in the other.  in all, he was 0 for 7 with a walk.

gene tenace tied his career high in runs scored (83) in 1975, and set personal bests in home runs (29) and rbi (87).  he hit .255 and was an all-star for the only time in his career.  oddly enough, he started the midsummer classic for the american league at first base, even though he spent most of his time in 1975 behind the plate.  in the alcs against the red sox, tenace was 0 for 9 with 3 walks.

jim perry arrived in oakland in may of 1975 via the trade that sent blue moon odom to cleveland.  perry appeared in 15 games (11 starts) for the a's, and had a record of 3-4.  he threw two complete games, one of which was a one-hit shutout against the baltimore orioles.  perry was released by the a's in august of 1975, meaning he did not get a chance to pitch in the postseason.

vida blue was 22-11 in 1975.  he appeared in 39 games, 38 of which were starts.  in his lone relief appearance, he earned a save.  to go along with his 13 complete games and 2 shutouts, blue also struck out 189 batters - the most he had k'd since his rookie year when he fanned 301.  blue was named the starting pitcher in the all-star game and finished 6th in the league cy young voting.  blue got the start in game 2 of the alcs, but lasted only 3+ innings, allowing 3 runs without recording an out in the 4th inning.

the stadium on the back is...?:  once again, the oakland alameda county stadium.  home to the a's since 1968.

did upper deck get it right?: as i said earlier, this seems to be a bit of a checklist grab.  the team made the playoffs but was swept by the red sox, so it's not even a league champion team.  all four players featured have previously appeared in the set, and one (perry) wasn't even with the team for the entire season.  although i will say that it is nice to have a card showing perry as an athletic.  given that, i am actually surprised that phil garner (who will show up with the 1979 pittsburgh pirates) wasn't given a a card.  other players that would have made sense include joe rudi, rollie fingers, and ken holtzman - all of whom have appeared in the set already.  i am going to say that this team should not have been in the set.

as for the photos, we know that the billy williams photo is either from 1975 or 1976, since those are the only years he played in oakland.  the tenace photo is from the same time because, thanks to the guy in the dugout with his feet up, it looks like it is from the same game or maybe even inning as the williams image.  jim perry's photo is certainly from 1975 as he was only with the team from may until august of that year.  the vida blue photo, however, is from no later than 1971 due to the uniform he is wearing.  three out of four isn't too bad for this set.

is this team timeless?:  not to me.  the 1972-74 a's are certainly 'timeless teams', but the 1975 team, although comprised of essentially the same players, is not considered to be part of the oakland dynasty of the early 1970's.

Monday, July 23, 2012

1975 cincinnati reds

this post covers the 1975 cincinnati reds and cards numbered 114 to 122 in the set. here are the fronts:

and backs:
what team is this?: the world champion 1975 cincinnati reds

why this team?:  the reds won 108 games during the 1975 regular season, and then swept the pirates in the nlcs.  they capped their season by winning their first world championship since 1940 as they beat the red sox in seven games.  they were the 'big red machine'!

which players are featured:  pedro borbon, dave concepcion, don gullett, george foster, joe morgan, johnny bench, rawly eastwick, sparky anderson, and tony perez

why these players?:  well, let's find out.

pedro borbon pitched in 67 games for the reds in 1975, all in relief.  he was 9-5 with 5 saves and a 2.95 era in those appearances which were just shy of will mcenaney's team leading 70 games.  borbon earned the save in the reds' pennant clinching game 3 win over the pirates in the nlcs, and pitched in three world series games, giving up two runs over 3 innings of work.

shortstop dave concepcion was an all-star for the second time in 1975 (first time starting), and he also won his second straight gold glove that year.  over 140 games in the regular season, he hit .274 and stole 33 bases.  in the postseason, concepcion hit .455 against the pirates, and although he hit only .179 against the red sox in the world series, he did have a home run, 4 rbi and 3 stolen bases.

don gullett won 15 games for the reds in the regular season, tying him with gary nolan and jack billingham for the team lead.  gullett lead the starting staff in era, however, with a 2.42 mark.  he finished 5th in the league cy young award voting, and was chosen to start both game 1 of the nlcs and game 1 of the world series for the reds.  against the pirates, gullett threw a complete game as the reds won 8-3.  against boston, however, gullett gave up 10 hits and 4 runs in 6+ innings, and the reds lost game 1 6-0.  he started game 5 a few days later, and earned the win with 8.2 innings pitched.  gullett was then tapped to start game 7, in which he pitched 4 innings and gave up three runs.

george foster had a bit of a breakout year in 1975.  the 26-year old played in 134 games and hit 23 home runs with 78 rbi and a .300 batting average.  foster was 2 for 4 in each of the first two nlcs games, and then had two hits in 3 of the 7 games against the red sox. one of those games was game 6, in which he hit a two-run double to give the reds a 7th inning lead.

joe morgan won the first of his two back-to-back nl mvp awards in 1975.  he hit .327 that year, with 67 stolen bases and a league leading .466 obp.  he was also the national league's starting second baseman in the all-star game, and he won his third consecutive gold glove as well.  morgan's regular season success didn't directly translate to the postseason, although all 3 of his hits in the nlcs were doubles, and he stole four bases.  in the world series, he hit .259 with 4 runs scored and 2 steals.  in game 7, however, morgan was 2 for 4 with a walk, and it was his 9th inning single that drove in the game (and series) winning run.  a memorable moment to be sure.

johnny bench won his 8th straight gold glove for his work behind the plate in 1975.  he also started his seventh consecutive all-star game and finished fourth in the league mvp voting for the second straight year.  at the plate, bench hit 28 homers and drove in 110 runs during the regular season.  in the nlcs, however, the pirates held him to just one hit in 13 at bats.  he did a bit better in the world series, hitting .207 with a home run and 4 rbi.

1975 was rawly eastwick's rookie year, and he didn't disappoint.  although he finished 3rd in the rookie-of-the-year balloting, eastwick led the national league with 22 saves.  he had a 5-3 record in 58 appearances with an era of 2.60.  eastwick was 3-0 in the postseason with a save, although the first of those wins came after he blew a save in game 3 of the nlcs.  he earned the wins in both games 2 and 3 of the world series, and then got the save in the reds' game 5 victory.  in game 6, it was eastwick who gave up bernie carbo's game-tying home run in the bottom of the eighth to set the stage for carlton fisk's walk-off homer in the 12th.

a first for our set so far - a manager is featured on a card.  sparky anderson won his third pennant in 1975 with the reds.  the 108 games that cincinnati won that year was the most any team managed by anderson (including the detroit tigers) ever won.

tony perez was the first baseman for the big red machine in 1975, and he hit .282 with 20 home runs and 109 rbi during the regular season.  he was named to the all-star team, although he didn't start because steve garvey had begun his stranglehold on the position a year earlier.  perez hit .417 against the pirates in the nlcs, and despite batting just .179 against the red sox in the world series, he drove in 7 runs with 3 homers.

the stadium on the back is...?: an outside shot of old riverfront stadium.  that's where the reds played from 1970 through 2002.  i did not realize that the stadium opened during the 1970 season, and hosted the 1970 all-star game a mere two weeks after the reds began playing there.

did upper deck get it right?: i think that each of these players were a big part of the reds' success in the mid-1970's.  of course, pete rose, the 1975 world series mvp is missing from the set due to licensing issues stemming from his ban from baseball.  other reds that would have made sense to be included are ken griffey (their right fielder), cesar geronimo (their center fielder), and maybe gary nolan or will mcenaney.  still, the 9 that upper deck chose to represent this team, given their inability to include rose, make sense to me.

the photos, on the other hand, are not all kosher.  for everyone but gullett and sparky, the photos could be from anywhere between 1972 and 1992.  well, not until 1992, but you get the idea - the reds wore those pullover unis for a long time.  that also means that the photos could be from 1975.  i like eastwick's photo, by the way, with dodger stadium showing up in the background.  however, for gullett and sparky, we have photos from no later than 1971.

gullett and sparky both first appeared in the reds' uniforms in 1970, so we know the photos are from either 1970 or 1971.  in sparky's case, wayne granger offers no additional clues because he was on the team both years.

is this team timeless?:  yes.

Monday, July 9, 2012

1975 boston red sox

this post covers the 1975 boston red sox and cards numbered 105 to 113 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
what team is this?:  the american league champion 1975 boston red sox

why this team?:  the red sox won 95 games during the regular season, and then swept the three-time defending world champion a's in the alcs before losing to the reds in one of the most memorable fall classics of all time.

which players are featured?:  carl yastrzemski, carlton fisk, cecil cooper, dwight evans, fred lynn, jim rice, luis tiant, rick burleson, and rico petrocelli.

why these players?: this is pretty much the starting lineup for the 1975 bosox - only doug griffin and maybe bernie carbo are missing.  let's break it down.

one of two players appearing in the set for the second time as red sox players, carl yastrzemski played in 149 games for the red sox during the 1975 regular season.  by the way, here's a list of all the players in history who played in more games than carl yastrzemski.  pete rose.  that's it.  anyway, yaz was back to first base almost exclusively after nearly splitting his time between the outfield and first in 1974.  he hit .269 with 14 home runs and 60 rbi, but still scored 91 runs.  he made the all-star team for the 12th time, although not as a starter.  yaz hit .455 in the alcs against the a's, and then hit .310 against the reds in the world series.  he scored 7 times and drove in 4, but all 9 of his hits were singles.

carlton fisk missed almost the entire first half of the 1975 season, but came back to catch in 71 games.  he hit .331 with 10 homers and 52 rbi, and then hit .417 in the alcs.  the memorable moment, as documented in his lone card in this set, came in game 6 of the world series when he waved his 12th inning home run fair to force game 7.  fisk had another home run in the series, but hit only .240 over the 7 games.

dwight evans was the sox' right fielder in 1975, as he was and would be until 1990.  he hit 13 homers with 56 rbi, and had a .274 average in 128 games.  as you might guess, the strong-armed right fielder also led the league with 15 outfield assists.  the a's held him to just one hit (a double) in the alcs, but he hit .292 in the fall classic against cincinnati, with a double, triple, and home run among his 7 hits. his home run tied the game at 5 in game 3 of the series, essentially forcing extra innings in which the reds would triumph thanks to some possible interference by ed armbrister and a joe morgan single.

fred lynn's 1975 season is the rookie season that all others are, or should be, measured by.  en route to winning both the american league rookie of the year award and the most valuable player award, lynn led the league in runs (103), doubles (47), slugging percentage (.566) and ops (.967).  he was second in batting average (.331 to rod carew's .359), 4th in total bases, and 3rd in rbi.  he also won a gold glove and was named to the all-star team.  lynn's success continued into the postseason, where he hit .364 against the a's in the alcs.  he then hit .280 against the reds in the world series along with a homer and 5 rbi, tying dewey evans for the team lead in runs driven in over the 7 game series.

jim rice was also a rookie in 1975, and, had fred lynn not run away with the award, he would have easily been voted as the al rookie of the year.  as it is, rice finished 2nd in the voting thanks to a line of 22/102/.309 with 92 runs scored.  he also finished 3rd in the mvp voting (john mayberry of the royals finished 2nd in between the two red sox outfielders).  rice may have made the difference in the world series in 1975, as he was unable to play due to a late-season injury sustained when he was hit by a pitch.

luis tiant was an 18-game winner for the bosox in 1975.  he made 35 starts, completing 18, and earning a decision in a whopping 90% (32 of 35) of them.  his era was high at 4.02, but he did manage a couple of shutouts in september.  he was peaking at the right time apparently, as he threw a 3-hit complete game in his lone alcs start (he gave up a single unearned run), and then won 2 of his 3 world series starts as well.  the first start (and victory) came in game 1, via a 5-hit shutout of the reds, and his second start, in game 4, also was a complete game victory.  tiant's third start of the series came in game 6 where he pitched into the 8th inning but had no decision in the outcome.  that would be the final postseason appearance of el tiante's career.

man, the red sox had a good young team in 1975.  rick burleson was their shortstop, and in his second year in the big leagues, he hit .252 with 66 runs scored and 62 driven in over 158 games. he finished 13th in the league mvp voting and then hit .444 against the a's in the alcs.  he followed that up by hitting .292 in the world series, with an obp of .393.  the next time rooster would appear in the postseason, however, would be with the angels against the red sox in 1986.

rico petrocelli is the other holdover from the 1967 sox team to be featured.  1975 was his next-to-last season, but he still played in 115 games, mostly at third base.  he hit just .239 but did drive in 59 runs.  petrocelli was one of the few red sox batters to not have a strong alcs at the plate, hitting just .167, although he did have a home run to his credit.  he did better in the world series, hitting .308 with 4 rbi, but had just one extra base hit (a double) to go with 7 singles.
the stadium on the back is...?:  fenway park, of course.  that's where the red sox have played since 1912.  although the photo is much more recent, as i believe the monster seats are visible in the picture.  they weren't installed until the early 2000's.

did upper deck get it right?: the team certainly belongs in the set, and the players chosen were regulars on the team.  bernie carbo would have made sense, as it was carbo's 3-run 8th inning home run that tied the score in game 6, setting up fisk's blast.  the real tragedy, however, is in the photos.

yastrzemski's photo was taken in the original yankee stadium (note the greenish facade), so it can't be from any later than 1972.  we know that from the uniform, too, as boston went to the pullovers in 1973.  we don't know for sure when fisk's photo is taken, but the uniform looks right for 1975 (and most of the 70's, too) thanks to the waistband and the red cap the other guy is wearing.  the same goes for lynn and burleson, so no complaints about those images.  jim rice on the other hand, well, that photo has to be from no earlier than 1979, the year the bosox went back to button down jerseys. same goes for tiant, although i would point out the fact that it looks like he is holding a 1977 topps (or maybe o-pee-chee?) card in his hand, so we know just by that fact that the photo is not from 1975.

the worst of the worst, howver, is rico petrocelli.  not only is the photo, like yaz's, from before 1972, it is the same exact photo that upper deck used for petrocelli in the 1967 team subset.  that may be the worst offense in this set.

is this team timeless?: of course.  it was the last postseason appearance for yastrzemski, and the fisk home run is an all-time classic. they took the reds to seven games and got all of boston's hopes up.