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?