this post covers the 1979 cincinnati reds and cards numbered 166 to 170 in the set. here are the fronts:
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.