Monday, October 7, 2013

1986 boston red sox

this post covers the 1986 boston red sox and cards number 241 to 247 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
what team is this?: the 1986 american league champion boston red sox

why this team?:  in 1986, the red sox returned to the world series for the fourth time since their last title. and, for the fourth time, they lost the series in seven games.  before that, however, they won 95 games and orchestrated one of the greatest postseason comebacks in the alcs against the california angels.

which players are featured?:  bill buckner, bruce hurst, dave henderson, dwight evans, jim rice, tom seaver, and wade boggs.

why these players?:  well, we have three red sox legends, a couple of guys remembered for their 1986 postseason play, a hall of famer on his last legs, and bruce hurst.  let's break it down.

bill buckner joined the red sox during the 1984 season, and so missed out on the cubs' return to the postseason that year.  two years later, he was still with the red sox as thier primary first baseman, and helped them get back to the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons.  he hit .267 with 18 homers and 102 rbi during the course of the regular season, and then hit just .214 and .188 in the alcs and world series, respectively.  the memorable moments card, of course, highlights the error in the bottom of the 10th of game 6 of the world series in which mookie wilson's ground ball went through buckner's legs to allow ray knight to, in the words of vin scully, 'come around to score and the mets win it!'  never mind that it was calvin schiraldi who gave up three straight singles and failed to get the third out after retiring the first two batters, and bob stanley whose wild pitch allowed the tying run to score and knight to move into scoring position during wilson's at bat that were the real goats of the inning, not buckner.  in my opinion, anyway.

bruce hurst was 13-8 with a 2.99 era over 31 starts (and four relief appearances) for the red sox in 1986.  he made two starts against the angels in the alcs, winning game 2 with a complete game and then holding the angels to three runs over 6 innings in the big game 5.  he started games 1, 5, and 7 in the world series, winning the first two before getting a no-decision in the red sox's game 7 loss.

dave henderson was acquired by the red sox during august of 1986 in a trade with the mariners.  he played center field for the red sox down the stretch, but hit just .196 with 1 home run in his 36 regular season games.  in the alcs, henderson was held out of the starting lineup for the first 5 games, getting just one at bat in game 4 before he entered game 5 as a defensive replacement for tony armas in the 5th inning.  hendu struck out in the 7th inning, but then hit a two-out, two-run, go-ahead home run off of donnie moore in the top of the 9th inning to save the red sox's season.  after the angels tied the game in the bottom of the 9th, henderson's sacrifice fly in the 11th plated the winning run, and the red sox lived to play another day.  although henderson did not get another hit in the series (he was 1 for 11 overall), his home run was enough to propel the red sox into the world series. in the fall classic, henderson was reinstated to the starting lineup and hit .400 with 2 home runs and 5 rbi in the seven games.

dwight evans was boston's everyday right fielder for the last time in 1986.  he played all 149 of his games that year in right, before splitting his time between right and first base and eventually designated hitter for the sox in future years.  overall, he hit .259 with 26 home runs and 97 rbi during the regular season, and then hit .308 with two homers and 9 rbi in the world series.

jim rice was once again manning left field for the red sox in 1986.  he played in 157 games (only one of which saw him not in left) and hit .324 with 20 homers and 110 rbi.  he finished third in the league mvp voting, and was named to the all-star team for the 8th time in his career.  in his first taste of postseason action, rice hit .161 against the angels in the alcs, although he had 2 homers and 6 rbi, and then hit .333 against the mets, although he was without a home run or rbi in the world series.

tom seaver finished up his hall of fame career by spending the last part of the 1986 season in boston.  acquired by trade from the white sox in late june, tom terrific was 5-7 with a 3.80 era in 16 starts for the bosox.  seaver suffered a knee injury late in the season and did not appear in any games for the red sox during the postseason.

wade boggs won his third batting title in four years in 1986, although his league leading .357 clip was the lowest of his five total career titles.  he had over 200 hits for the fourth straight year (he would have three more of those to follow), and led the league in walks and obp as well.  the angels held him to a .233 average in the alcs, and even the mets kept him below .300 (.290) in the world series.

the stadium on the back is...?:  fenway park, home of the red sox since 1912

did upper deck get it right?:  the elephant in the room as far as player selection goes is tom seaver.   he was not a big part of this team's legacy, but he was already on the set checklist thanks to the 1969 miracle mets.  roger clemens, the team's ace, was still active in 2004 and so was not a candidate for the set which is comprised solely of retired players.  with that, the biggest absence then is don baylor.  baylor could have been a part of the 1979 angels subset, as well as the upcoming 1987 twins subset.  not sure whether upper deck tried to get him for the set or not.

the photos all look good for 1986 (it's tough to tell with the red sox unis).  the henderson and rice photos both come from the 1986 world series, and the seaver is definitely from 1986 since that is the only season in which he wore the red sox uniform.

is this team timeless?:  yes, but not for the right reason.  timeless in an 'oh so close' way - a cautionary tale of sorts.

Monday, September 23, 2013

1985 new york yankees

this post covers the 1985 new york yankees and cards numbered 236 to 240 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
the yankees are back!  they failed to make the postseason in 1985, but did have a better record than the royals who won the al west and the world series.  i am sure george steinbrenner was pretty ticked about that.

what team is this?:  the 1985 new york yankees

why this team?:  the yankees finished second in the al east in 1985, two games behind the toronto blue jays.  they were 6.5 games ahead of the aforementioned royals, but those were the breaks.

which players are featured?:  we get a few hall of famers, plus a couple of very solid performers.  dave winfield, don mattingly, ken griffey sr., phil niekro, and yogi berra.  berra is the first manager not named sparky anderson to be featured in the set.

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

dave winfield hit 26 home runs with 114 rbi in 1985.  he also scored 105 times and stole 19 bases, but his batting average fell from .340 the previous year to .275.  i am sure that george steinbrenner wasn't happy.  still, winfield was an all-star, won a gold glove and silver slugger, and finished 12th in the league mvp voting.

don mattingly, in his second full season in the majors, won the american league mvp award thanks to his 35 home runs, 145 rbi, and .324 batting average.  like winfield, he was also named to the all-star team and won both the gold glove and silver slugger awards.  his rbi total led the majors, as did his totals in extra base hits, doubles, total bases, and sacrifice flies.

ken griffey sr. was the yankees' primary left fielder in 1985.  he hit .274 with 10 home runs and 69 rbi in 127 games.  griffey's card is one of my favorites in this set, by the way.  and, i believe that the photo comes from the yankees' game against the red sox on august 19, 1995.  with the yankees fighting to keep pace with the blue jays in the standings, griffey robbed boston's marty barrett of a game-tying ninth inning home run.  here's a link to a story about that game.  the game came just a few days after clubhouse man pete sheehy's death, and the team added the memorial black armband to their uniforms in his honor.

phil niekro won 16 games for the yankees in 1985, same as he had done for them in 1984.  however, his era was up about a run in '85, and he led the league in bases on balls.  the biggest highlight of his season came on his fifth try, and in his final start of the year, when he won his 300th game by shutting out the toronto blue jays on 4 hits.  he would re-sign with the yankees after the season ended, but was released during spring training.

yogi berra was the manager of the 1985 yankees for all of 16 games.  the team went 6-10 and he was fired by george steinbrenner and replaced by billy martin.  berra went on to coach for the astros starting the following year.

the stadium on the back is...?:  yankee stadium, of course.  no chance for upper deck to blow that one.

did upper deck get it right?:  clearly, the blue jays, royals, cardinals, or dodgers would have made more sense to represent 1985 in the set than the yankees.  and, as far as the players/manager, berra doesn't really belong, although it is cool that there are on-card autos of yogi out there thanks to this set.  i don't think any of the players used are bad choices, but willie randolph, rickey henderson, don baylor, and ron guidry had decent years (rickey's was more than decent), and all but henderson could have been featured as parts of other teams in the set.

the photos, well, it's tough with the yankee uniforms.  the winfield, mattingly, and niekro photos could well be from 1985.  or, they could be from any other year that they suited up for the yankees (in niekro's case, there is a 50/50 chance that the photo is from 1985).  i am pretty sure that yogi is hitting fungoes in dodger stadium.  that would mean that the photo would be from 1977, 1978, 1980, or 1981.  assuming, that is, that berra was a coach on the al champion teams of '77, '78, and/or '81, or was a coach on the al all-star team in 1980.  i think it is doubtful that earl weaver would have named berra to his coaching staff for the 1980 all-star game, so the photo is likely from berra's stint as a bench coach from 1976 through 1983.  we can eliminate 1981 since there is no armband for elston howard on his sleeve.  so, it looks like the yogi photo is from either 1977 or 1978, not 1985.  however, i believe that the griffey photo, as noted above, is definitely from the 1985 season.

is this team timeless?:  no.  when's the last time you thought about the 1985 yankees?

Monday, August 12, 2013

1984 detroit tigers

this post covers the 1984 detroit tigers and cards numbered 229 to 235 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
it's the third appearance for the detroit tiger franchise, but these are all new faces.  well, in a tigers' uniform, anyway. 

what team is this?:  the 1984 world champion detroit tigers

why this team?:  the 1984 tigers began the season by going 35-5 in their first 40 games.  they wound up winning 104 games and led the american league east from start to finish.  the team also featured the league's mvp and cy young award winner, although he is not included in the set.  more on that later.

which players are featured?:  we have the ace, three-fourths of the infield, two-thirds of the outfield, and the manager.  that would be jack morris, alan trammell, howard johnson, lou whitaker, chet lemon, kirk gibson, and sparky anderson.

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

alan trammell had a big year in 1984.  he matched his career highs to that point in doubles, triples, and home runs, and set a new personal best in rbi.  he hit .314 over 139 games and finished 9th in the al mvp race.  he also was named to the all-star team and won a gold glove.  he hit .364 in the alcs against the royals, and a huge .450 in the world series against the padres.  in the fall classic, he had 2 homers, 6 rbi and won the mvp award for the series.

chet lemon was in his third season as the tigers' centerfielder in 1984.  he hit .287 with 20 home runs and 76 rbi, and was a starter in the all-star game that year.  unfortunately, lemon was 0 for 13 in the alcs, but he did rebound to hit .294 with a couple of steals in the world series.

howard johnson began the season as the tigers' third baseman, but was replaced by marty castillo by the time the world series came around.  he did get one at bat (as a pinch hitter) in the fall classic, and reached on an error.  he was traded to the mets shortly after the series ended.

jack morris went 19-11 for the tigers in 1984.  he threw a no-hitter in his second start and was 5-0 at the end of april.  at the end of may, morris was 10-1 with 7 complete games in 12 starts.  he was 3-0 in the postseason, including 2-0 in the world series with wins in games 1 and 4.

kirk gibson played in right for the 1984 tigers.  he appeared in 149 games and hit 27 homers.  he drove in 91 runs and scored 92 times himself (the most on the team).  gibson hit .417 in the alcs and was named the mvp of that series.  he did well in the world series, too, hitting 2 home runs with 7 rbi and posting a .333 average.  both of his home runs came in the deciding game 5 - a 2-run home run in the first inning to start the scoring, and a mammoth 3-run shot off of goose gossage in the 8th to put the game away.  gibson also scored another run in the game, hustling home on a short sacrifice fly by rusty kuntz.

lou whitaker hit .289 with 14 homers and 56 rbi in 1984.  as the tigers' second baseman, whitaker played in 143 games, was the starter for the american league in the all-star game, and also won the gold glove and silver slugger awards.  he hit .143 in the alcs, and .278 in the world series.

sparky anderson won his fifth career pennant and third world championship with the tigers in 1984.  he was named the american league's manager of the year in his seventh season in detroit, and he would remain their manager for 11 more seasons.  so far, sparky is the only manager to appear in the set, and he's shown up twice.

the stadium on the back is...?: tiger stadium.  as it should be, although it's tough to tell when the photo was taken.

did upper deck get it right?: no doubt that this team, above all others (even steve garvey's 1984 san diego padres) deserves a spot.  still, it would have been good to see the padres represented in the set.  garvey, goose gossage, and graig nettles were all big parts of that team and are already on this set's checklist.  plus, dick williams would have been a good add (and he could have been featured with some of the early oakland a's teams in the set).  oh well.

as for the players, the obvious omission is willie (guillermo) hernandez.  he had pitched in a league leading 80 games during the regular season, compiling a 9-3 record with 32 saves.  he was also voted the american league mvp and cy young award winner.  he should be in the set.  lance parrish, their catcher, is another one conspicuous by their absence.  parrish led the team in home runs and rbi in 1984 and would have been a better choice than howard johnson for the set, even though hojo shows up again with the 1986 mets.

i don't see too much with the photos that make me think they are not from 1984 or the immediate era, but the tigers don't mess with their uniforms too often.  having said that, the whitaker photo is from no earlier than 1985, as that was the year that the team went to a button-up road jersey, as opposed to the pullovers that lemon, hojo, and morris are wearing.

is this team timeless?:  i believe so.  they were dominant from the start of the season, and gibson's home run off of gossage is fairly unforgettable.

Monday, August 5, 2013

1983 baltimore orioles

this post covers the 1983 baltimore orioles and cards numbered 225 to 228 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
hey! long time no post, i know.  i hope to finish this up by the end of the postseason.  that's about a post a week - i think i can handle it.  by the way, this is the fourth time the orioles have been featured in the set.

what team is this?:  the world champion 1983 baltimore orioles

why this team?:  they were world champions!  the o's won 98 games during the regular season and then beat the white sox in the alcs and the phillies in the world series, 4 games to 1.  they also had the first and second place finishers in the al mvp voting that year.

which players are featured?:  we get cal ripken jr, dan ford, jim palmer, and john shelby

why these players?:  ripken was the mvp in his second full season, so he's a no-brainer.  the other three might be checklist fodder - let's break it down.

cal ripken jr played in 162 games for the first time in 1983.  he won the mvp award based on having led the league in runs scored, hits, and doubles, plus a .318 batting average, 27 home runs and 102 rbi.  his teammate, eddie murray, finished second in the voting (for the second straight year).  ripken also hit .400 in the alcs in 1983, but just .167 in the fall classic with no extra base hits.  the 'memorable moment' card that ripken receives in the set is pretty generic.  i suppose the 'moment' is supposed to be the final out of the series, which was a garry maddox line out to short, caught by ripken.

dan ford was the team's primary right fielder in 1983. he hit .280 in 103 games during the regular season, but was just 1 for 5 in the alcs.  he hit .167 in the world series, but did have a home run off of steve carlton in pivotal game 3.

jim palmer made just 14 appearances (11 starts) in 1983.  he was 5-4 with a 4.23 era during the regular season, and did not appear in the alcs.  he had one world series appearance which came in game 3.  in that game,  palmer pitched two scoreless innings in relief to earn the win in what would be his final postseason appearance.

john shelby, like ripken, spent his first full season in the majors with baltimore in 1983.  shelby was the team's center fielder, playing in 126 games.  he hit .258 with 5 homers and 15 stolen bases.  in the outfield, shelby was second among al center fielders with 10 assists.  he hit .222 (2 for 9) in the 1983 alcs and .444 (4 for 9) in the world series.

the stadium on the back is...?:  memorial stadium

did upper deck get it right?: as with the other orioles posts, we have to look at the logo.  for some reason, upper deck put a different logo on the front of the memorable moments card.  that logo seems to be the primary logo used by the team from 1999-2008 which makes sense since this is a 2004 issued set.  the bird logo on the other card fronts (and all the backs), however, is correct for the 1983 season.  in 2004, the o's were using a more ornithologically correct version of an oriole.

what about the player selection?  ripken is an obvious choice, but so too would have been eddie murray, scott mcgregor (18-7 on the season), and mike boddicker (16-8, alcs mvp).  rick dempsey would have made a ton of sense, too, since he was the world series mvp, and was also on the 1988 dodgers team that shows up later in the checklist.  sure, he would have been a checklist convenience as a part of the dodger team subset, but jim palmer is only featured here because he was already part of the set.  shelby and ford, who are also featured elsewhere in the set, were at least regulars in joe altobelli's lineup.

as for the photos, ripken's is from much later in his career (thanks to the bird on his helmet), and it is a shame that there isn't a photo used of him making the catch to end the 1983 world series.  that would have really tied the card and photo together.  the other photos look to be pretty good for 1983.

is this team timeless?:  it's the last orioles team to win the world series, and the only title for two hall of famers.  i would say yes.

Monday, February 18, 2013

1982 milwaukee brewers

this post covers the 1982 milwaukee brewers and cards numbered 220 to 224 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
this subset is not too different from the 1981 brew crew previously profiled in the set, in fact, upper deck merely cut rollie fingers from the checklist this time.  i would have like to have seen one hall of famer replaced with another, but ud decided not to add don sutton to it's celebration of the 1982 american league champions.

what team is this?:  this is the 1982 milwaukee brewers, who won the american league east and went on to beat the angels in the alcs to capture their first pennant.

why this team?:  this is the first milwaukee brewer team to reach the world series.  they were 95-67 during the regular season, and played the maximum number of postseason games (12) without winning the championship.  in fact, they were down two games to none in the alcs against the angels and roared back to win three straight elimination games.  of course, they squandered a 3 games to 2 lead over the cardinals in the world series.

which players are featured?: cecil cooper, gorman thomas, paul molitor, robin yount, and don money.

why these players?:  this is a pretty good representation of the 1982 brewers squad, for the most part.  let's break it down.

cecil cooper again hit over .300 - .313 to be exact - and drove in 121 runs.  he scored 104 times (the first time he had topped 100 in that category) and slugged a career high 32 homers as well. the first baseman won the silver slugger award for the second year in a row, started in the all-star game, and finished 5th in the league mvp voting.  he hit only .150 in the alcs against the angels, but in the world series against the brewers, cooper hit .286 with a home run and 6 rbi.

gorman thomas was back in center field in 1982, and his 39 home runs led the american league.  he drove in over 100 runs for the last time in his career, and finished 8th in the league mvp voting. in the postseason, thomas' only hit of the alcs was a game 1 home run as he was held hitless in the final four games of the series.  he didn't improve on his .067 average much in the world series either, managing just 3 hits against the cardinals in 26 at bats.  one of those hits, however, broke a 5-5 tie in game 5 of the series, driving in the winning runs in the brew crew's 7-5 win to put them within a single win of a world championship.

hall of famer paul molitor moved back into the infield in 1982, although he didn't go to second base.  he was moved to the hot corner, and the transition did not affect him at the plate at all.  he led the league in plate appearances and at bats, and was third in hits with 201.  he led the league with 136 runs scored to go along with 19 homers and 71 rbi.  molly surely could have been the mvp of the alcs thanks to his pair of homers, 5 rbi, and .316 average, but the voters chose to recognize fred lynn from the defeated angels, who hit .611 with a .650 obp and an ops over 1.5 in the series.  molitor went on to hit .355 in the world series with 11 singles in 31 at bats. he didn't drive in any runs, but did score 5 times in the 7 game series.  and, as his 'memorable moment' card attests, 5 of those 11 hits came in record fashion in the first game of the series.

over the course of 156 games in the regular season, robin yount hit .331 and led the league with 210 hits, 46 doubles, and a .578 slugging percentage.  he was named the league's most valuable player, and was voted to start the all-star game for the american league at shortstop.  he also won his only gold glove award in 1982, and earned the second of three career silver slugger awards. yount hit only .250 in the alcs, but banged out 12 hits (including 3 doubles and a home run) in the world series for a .414 average.

don money is the one player who probably doesn't fit here (certainly not at the expense of rollie fingers, who was dropped from the checklist for this subset), although his 1982 season was better than his 1981 campaign.  he appeared in 96 games and hit .284 with 16 homers.  he played in 4 of the 5 alcs games and hit .182 along the way.  in the world series, money appeared in 5 of the games and hit .231.  he had a single rbi in each of the series.

the stadium on the back is...?:  milwaukee county stadium, home to the brewers from 1970 through 2000.  it had hosted the milwaukee braves prior to that, from 1953 through 1965 after which the braves left for atlanta.  county stadium even hosted a handful of white sox games in 1968 and 1969.

did upper deck get it right?: there are no issues with featuring this team since it was the first brewer team to reach the world series, and it featured a lot of good players.  and, upper deck did well with the player selection, although they could have dropped money and left rollie fingers in the subset instead, even though he missed the postseason due to injury.  ted simmons, jim gantner, ben oglivie, don sutton or cy young award winner pete vuckovich would have been better choices than money based on their 1982 seasons and contributions to the team.

as for the photos, they all look about right for the period, except for money. based on the uniform money is wearing, that photo is from 1977 at the latest.

is this team timeless?:  i would say so, at least for fans of the brewers.  it is the first (and so far only) brewer team to make it to the world series, and boasted four hall of famers on its roster.

Monday, January 28, 2013

1981 new york yankees

this post covers the 1981 new york yankees and cards numbered 214 to 219 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
oh look.  it's the yankees.  again.  this is the fourth time they've been featured in the set, and the second time we've seen them in back-to-back years.

what team is this?:  this is the 1981 new york yankees, winners of the american league east in the 'first half' of the season, and american league champions for the fourth time in six years.

why this team?:  isn't it enough that they are the yankees?  at least this team made the world series, as opposed to the 1980 club that was featured previously.  the 1981 yankees were 34-22 when the strike came, but only 25-26 after play resumed.  they finished with the fourth best overall record in the american league east, but qualified for the playoffs thanks to the split-season determination.  they beat the brewers in five games to claim the american league pennant, but lost to the dodgers in a six-game fall classic.  the yankees then missed the postseason for 13 straight seasons.  some yankee fans might say 12 since there was no postseason in 1994, but i'll stick with 13.

which players are featured?: rudy may, bucky dent, dave winfield, lou piniella, rich 'goose' gossage, and tommy john.  of the six, only dave winfield is new to the set.

why these players?:  i'm not altogether sure that this is a good representation of the 1981 yankee squad, as you can tell by the noncommittal text on the backs.  let's break it down.

rudy may had led the league in era in 1980, but posted a 4.14 era in 1981. he had a 6-11 record during the regular season, and was moved to the bullpen for a stretch in august and again at the end of the season.  in the postseason, may was used exclusively in relief as he appeared in one game in each of the playoff series.  in the world series, may pitched in three games, compiling a 2.84 era without any decisions.

bucky dent appeared in 73 of the team's 107 games in 1981.  he hit .238 with 7 home runs as their primary shortstop.  he injured his forearm after being hit by a pitch in late august and missed the remainder of the season, including the yankees' postseason run.  he was replaced in the lineup by larry milbourne.

hall of famer dave winfield joined the yankees in 1981 and quickly got his first taste of new york yankee-dom as the team made the postseason and he suffered the wrath of george steinbrenner.   winfield's .294 average and 68 rbi during the regular season led the team, and his 13 home runs were second behind the 15 that reggie jackson and graig nettles hit.  winfield made the all-star team, won a silver slugger award, and finished 7th in the league mvp voting, but he was just 1 for 22 in the world series, causing the boss to refer to him as 'mr. may'.

lou piniella appeared in only 60 games for the yankees during the 1981 regular season.  he hit .277 as a right fielder/left fielder/designated hitter with 5 home runs and 18 rbi.  he made only one start in the alcs, although he was 2 for 2 as a pinch hitter in the other two games of the series.  in the world series, he started three games and pinch hit in the other three.  overall against the dodgers, piniella led his team with a .438 average.

rich 'goose' gossage dominated in 1981.  he had a 0.77 era with 20 saves in 32 appearances.  he was an all-star and finished fifth in the cy young voting.  he made amends for his one disastrous appearance in the 1980 playoffs with 8 scoreless appearances over the three series.  he had six saves in those games, including saves in each of the first two games of the world series - the only games of the series that new york would win.

tommy john was just 9-8 during the 1981 regular season, but had a tidy 2.63 era over his 20 starts.  john lost his lone start in the division series against the brewers, but bounced back in the alcs to shut down the a's in game 1 on one run in six innings of work.  he made two starts and one relief appearance in the world series, winning game 2 and pitching well as the starter in the decisive game 6 before being lifted for a pinch hitter after just 4 innings.

the stadium on the back is...?:  yankee stadium - the house that ruth built that was renovated around 1973.  although it is shown without the 'brut' advertisement.

did upper deck get it right?: well, i could be cynical and say that this is just a checklist grab - an easy way to fill the checklist with players that are already in the set.  but, the yankees did get to the world series in 1981, so maybe the team belongs.  there definitely could have been better player representation, though.  bob watson, alcs mvp graig nettles, even guys like jerry mumphrey or larry milbourne (not to mention reggie jackson and ron guidry - both for the umpteenth time in this set), would have been better choices than some of the players upper deck featured here.

as for the photos, they all look about right for the period, but we know that the yankees wore a black armband in honor of elston howard in 1981.  that means that dent, piniella, and gossage are definitely not shown as they were in 1981.  the rudy may photo is inconclusive (it is pretty similar to the one that upper deck used for the 1980 subset).  both winfield and john have the armbands (and john's photo is probably from the same game as the one in the 1980 subset), and i would guess that it is highly likely that at least the winfield photo is from his first year with the yankees.

is this team timeless?:  i would say no.  it is the last team of the reggie jackson years, and the last pennant winner for the yankees until 1996, but it is overshadowed by the bronx zoo years of 1977 and 1978.

Monday, January 21, 2013

1981 milwaukee brewers

this post covers the 1981 milwaukee brewers and cards numbered 208 to 213 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
it's been a while since a new franchise was introduced to the set, even though two of the players have been featured before (cecil cooper and rollie fingers).  three of the six players here are hall of famers, which makes for a good checklist.  and can we agree that the 'mb' glove is one the greatest logo of its time?

what team is this?:  this is the 1981 milwaukee brewers, who won the american league east in the 'second half' of the season.

why this team?:  this is the first milwaukee brewer team to reach the postseason.  they wound up with the second best overall record in the american league in 1981 (62-47) behind the oakland a's, but lost to the yankees in the divisional playoff round in 5 games.  i will still categorize them as division champions, just so i don't have to go and create some special label.

which players are featured?: cecil cooper, gorman thomas, paul molitor, robin yount, rollie fingers, and don money.

why these players?:  this is a pretty good representation of the 1981 brewers squad, for the most part.  let's break it down.

cecil cooper led the brew crew with a .320 batting average in 1981, good for 4th in the league.  the first baseman also led the league in doubles (35), won the silver slugger award, and finished 8th in the league mvp voting.  in the playoffs against the yankees, cooper hit .222 with 3 rbi.

gorman thomas, usually the brewers' center fielder, split the 1981 season between center and right field.  he hit 21 home runs (5th in the league) and drove in 65 (8th) in 103 games.  he made the all-star team for the first (and only) time, but was 0-1 in the game with a pinch hit pop out.  in the postseason, thomas hit a home run in the brewers' decisive game 5 loss, but managed just one other hit during the series.

hall of famer paul molitor moved from the infield to the outfield in 1981, spending most of his time in center field for the brewers that year.  unfortunately, he appeared in only 64 games during the regular season and hit only .267.  molly hit just .250 in the alds, but had a big solo home run in the 8th inning of game 4 to break a 3-3 tie and force the series to a fifth game.

robin yount was the only brewer regular to hit over .300 in the postseason.  he hit .316 over the five games, but had only one extra base hit and one rbi in doing so.  he had hit .273 during the regular season with 30 extra base hits and 49 rbi - a down year for sure.  he bounced back in a big way in 1982, however, as we will see in a few posts down the line.

rollie fingers had been traded from the padres to the cardinals after the 1980 season, and four days after that trade was completed, he was shipped to the brewers.  the hall of famer did well during his first season in milwaukee, winning the cy young award thanks to a 1.04 era, 6-3 record, and 28 saves in 47 appearances.  not only that, but fingers also won the mvp award, becoming the first american league reliever to have done so.  the future hall of famer appeared in three of the five alds games, earning the win in game 3 and a save in game 4.

don money is the one player who probably doesn't fit here.  he had played in only 60 games during the regular season, and hit just .216 as the brewers' primary third baseman.  in the postseason, the former all-star saw action in two of the games, going 0 for 3 at the plate.

the stadium on the back is...?:  milwaukee county stadium, home to the brewers from 1970 through 2000.  it had hosted the milwaukee braves prior to that, from 1953 through 1965 after which the braves left for atlanta.  county stadium even hosted a handful of white sox games in 1968 and 1969.

did upper deck get it right?: there are no issues with featuring this team since it was the first brewer team to reach the postseason, and it featured a lot of good players.  and, upper deck did well with the player selection outside of don money.  ted simmons, jim gantner, ben oglivie, or pete vuckovich would have been better choices based on their 1981 seasons.  sal bando (who was already on the set checklist) would have even made more sense, as he was the team's third baseman in the playoffs, and his .294 average in the series was second to only yount's .316.

as for the photos, they all look about right for the period (based on the uniforms, hats, and thomas' batting helmet), but i would say that money's photo is from the mid 1970's.  overall, not a bad effort by the folks in carlsbad.

is this team timeless?:  i would say no.  it is overshadowed by the 1982 brewer team that made it to the world series and included basically the same players.

Monday, January 7, 2013

1981 los angeles dodgers

this post covers the 1981 los angeles dodgers and cards numbered 198 to 207 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
no memorable moment card (rick monday or fernando valenzuela would have made a good one), but we have exactly 10 players for the first time in the set, which is the most since there were 11 players featured for the 1969 and 1970 baltimore orioles.

what team is this?:  this is the 1981 los angeles dodger team that won the world series, beating the yankees in six games after the strike-shortened season and two rounds of playoffs.

why this team?:  the 1981 dodgers exacted their revenge on the yankees who had beaten them in two straight world series - 1977 and 1978.  they were 63-47 in the regular season, and their 'first half' record of 36-21 (one game better than the cincinnati reds) assured them a place in the postseason thanks to the strike-altered playoff configuration, despite finishing fourth in the nl west during the second half of the season.  it should be noted that the reds actually won the most games of any national league team in 1981, but they missed the playoffs altogether.

which players are featured?:  steve yeager, burt hooton, dusty baker, jerry reuss, mike scioscia, pedro guerrero, ron cey, steve garvey, alejandro pena, and steve sax.

why these players?:  there was a changing of the guard with the 1981 dodgers, and this is a good mix of the old and the new - especially with regards to the catcher and third base positions where we see both the veteran and the rookie represented.  if only it were the same for the second baseman...  anyway, we have the world series mvp trio as well as the all-star first baseman, nlcs mvp, and other key player represented.  let's break it down.

steve yeager was used in a platoon role with rookie catcher mike scioscia during the 1981 season, playing primarily against left-handed starters.  as a result, yeager appeared in 40 games and started behind the plate just 23 times, and he hit just .209 with 3 homers and 7 rbi in that limited playing time.  then came the postseason.  yeager made one start in two nlds appearances, and was used as a pinch hitter in just one game of the nlcs, but with the yankees featuring southpaws tommy john, ron guidry, rudy may, and dave righetti, yeager saw plenty of action in the world series.  good thing, too, as he hit two home runs, including the game 5 game-winner, and claimed one-third of the series mvp trophy.

burt hooton was named the nlcs mvp in 1981.  before that, however, hooton earned a spot on the all-star team for the first time.  for the season, he was 11-6 with a 2.28 era in the abbreviated season, logging 142.1 innings in 23 starts.  he threw 5 complete games and 4 shutouts to boot, including back to back 4-hit shutouts against the cubs and pirates in august.  hooton made one start in the nlds against the astros, and held them to 3 hits and one earned run in 7 innings as the dodgers took game 3.  he then made two starts against montreal in the nlcs.  in both game 1 and game 4, hooton earned the win by going 7.1 innings and allowing no earned runs. he also made two starts in the world series, going 6 innings in game 2 and allowing no earned runs in the dodgers' loss, and then pitching into the sixth inning and getting the win in their game 6 clincher.  overall, hooton had a 0.82 era in 5 postseason starts in 1981

dusty baker finished third in the national league in batting in 1981 with a .320 average.  he hit the second most singles (99) in the league behind pete rose, and was fourth overall in hits. he was named to the all-star team for the first time, and he also won his first gold glove and second silver slugger award in 1981.  one of his 9 home runs during the regular season was a pinch hit, walk-off home run in the 11th inning of a game against the cardinals.  in the postseason, dusty did most of his damage in the nlcs against the expos, and in fact, in the dodgers' game 3 7-1 victory  in which he was 3 for 4 with 2 runs scored and 3 runs driven in.  in the nlds and world series, he hit .167 with just one extra base hit.

jerry reuss was 10-4 with a 2.30 era during the regular season.  he was slated to be the dodgers' opening day starter before an injury caused him to give way to fernando valenzuela, sparking fernandomania.  in the postseason, reuss was terrific in three of his five starts.  he made two starts in the nlds against houston, pitching 18 shutout innings against the astros.  unfortunately, his nine scoreless innings in game 2 was rewarded only with a no-decision, as houston won the game 1-0 in 11 innings.  reuss did record the shutout victory in game 5 however, clinching the series win with a 5-hitter at home.  he made one start in the nlcs against the expos (game 3) but was the losing pitcher in that game.  he started game 1 of the world series against the yankees and took the loss after giving up four runs in 2.2 innings of work.  he rebounded to pitch a gem in the pivotal game 5 of the series, holding the yankees to one run in his complete game victory.

mike scioscia started 87 games as the dodgers' catcher in 1981, taking over the primary catching duties from steve yeager in the process.  he hit .276 with a couple of home runs and 29 rbi.  in the postseason, he struggled at the plate, hitting just .154, .133, and .250 in the nlds, nlcs, and world series, respectively.  his lone home run of the postseason came in game 1 of the nlcs, and was the second of the back-to-back home runs hit off of jeff reardon in the 8th inning.

pedro guerrero was the player who homered before scioscia in game 1 of the nlcs, in case you were wondering.  guerrero spent a good part of 1981 in right field covering for the injured reggie smith before moving to third base towards the end of the season (and in the nlds) when cey was injured.  he hit an even .300 with 12 homers and 48 rbi during the regular season, but had less than stellar statistics in the nlds and nlcs.  he did hit a home run in each of those series, but it wasn't until game 3 of the world series that his bat came alive.  with the dodgers down to the yankees two games to none, guerrero broke out of an 0 for 8 skid with a game-tying double in the 5th inning of game 3 that also moved ron cey to third base. cey scored the go-ahead run on mike scioscia's double play grounder, and fernando held the yankees scoreless the rest of the way to give the dodgers their first win of the series.  over the next three games, guerrero was 6 for 11 with a triple, two home runs, and 6 rbi, including 5 in the decisive game 6.  as a result, he was rewarded with a third of the series mvp award.  it's worth noting that even as the series was going on, there were rumors that the dodgers were planning to trade guerrero to the padres for ozzie smith.  i am guessing that his series performance went a long way to putting those rumors to bed.

ron cey hit .288 over 85 of the dodgers' 110 games that year, with 13 homers and 50 rbi.  5 of those homers came against the expos (one was a walk-off), and he also homered off of former teammate rick rhoden.  the highlight home run of the year for the penguin, however, must have been the one he hit at riverfront stadium off of mario soto on may 23rd. that was the 200th homer of his career.  cey missed most of the final month of the season after being beaned by the giants' tom griffin in early september, and he did not play in the nlds against the astros.  however, the penguin returned for the nlcs, where he had an .714 ops and 3 rbi. then, in the world series against the yankees, cey hit .350 and made a memorable fielding play in game 3 to catch a bunt and start a double play late in the game.  later in the series, he suffered a horrific beaning in the head by goose gossage, but his 6 rbi in the series and .958 ops earned him his third of the series mvp award.

steve garvey hit just 10 home runs in 1981, but he led the team in rbi with 64 and runs scored with 63. while he kept his consecutive games streak alive, another streak ended as, for the first time since 1973, garvey did not start in the all star game. he was still named to the all-star team as a reserve, and he went 1 for 2 with a double in the game.  in the postseason, garvey likely would have been named the mvp of the division series had such an award been given. he hit .386 with 2 home runs and an ops of 1.158 in the dodgers five game series against the astros. against the expos in the nlcs, he hit .286 with one home run and an ops of .714. garvey bounced back in the world series against the yankees, hitting .417, and leading both teams with 10 hits. 9 of those hits were singles, however, and he failed to drive in a run. he did get to be the second player to reach the mound during the celebration, and so he is in the iconic 1981 world champion photo with steve yeager and steve howe. speaking of yeager, he shared the series mvp award with pedro guerrero and ron cey, although during the locker room celebration, garvey was mistakenly told that he had won the award, not yeager.

alejandro pena made his big league debut in august of 1981 against the braves.  contrary to my memory, he did not walk the first batter he faced (it seemed like he always walked the first batter he faced when he entered a game) and instead recorded a 1-2-3 inning with his first career strikeout to boot.  pena wound up appearing in 14 regular season games, and was 1-1 with 2 saves and a 2.84 era.  he made the postseason roster, but appeared only in two games of the nlcs, allowing no runs and just one hit in 2.1 innings of work.

steve sax also made his big league debut in august of 1981.  his first appearance came as a starter against the cubs in chicago, and he singled in his first major league at bat.  in all, sax played in 31 games, taking over as the team's second baseman in davey lopes' absence due to injury.  he hit .277 with 2 homers and 15 runs scored.  he also had 5 stolen bases, but was caught an un-lopes like 7 times. lopes was back in time for the postseason, so sax was limited to just one late-inning defensive replacement appearance in each the nlds and the nlcs.  he got a pinch-hit at bat in game 1 of the world series (he flew out against ron guidry) and his final appearance in the series came in game 2 when he pinch ran for reggie smith in the 8th inning.

the stadium on the back is...?:  dodger stadium - home to the dodgers since 1962

did upper deck get it right?:  certainly this team belongs in the set as the world champions in 1981, but there are quite a few dodgers that i would have liked to have seen featured as part of this particular subset that also would have been sensible choices.  in fact, i think that upper deck had some other ideas as well.  typically, the featured players are included in the set in alphabetical order by first name.  the fact that steve yeager is first leads me to believe that someone else was considered - someone whose first name starts with an 'a' or a 'b', and falls ahead of 'burt' in that regard.  bill russell?  bob welch?  bobby castillo?  or was alejandro pena on the checklist all along, and he just got placed out of the regular order?

and who might have been between steve garvey and steve sax before pena was put there? the only person on the roster who fits there is steve howe, who was still around in 2004.  howe would have made a lot of sense because he was also on the 1995 yankees who are featured later in the set.  i personally would have loved a steve howe certified auto.  other players who would have made sense include russell and dave lopes (both featured in other dodger subsets), rick monday (the hero of the 1981 nlcs) and terry forster (who shows up with the angels later in the set, but for some reason was left out of the checklist as a dodger in 1978 and 1981).  of course, the biggest omission is probably rookie of the year and cy young award winner fernando valenzuela.  any of the players i mentioned are probably better representations of the team than pena or sax.

as for the photos, the yeager and guerrero images are definitely from 1981.  in fact, those photos were taken on october 28, 1981 in the visitor's locker room at yankee stadium.  yeager has guerrero's left arm draped over his neck, and you can see ron cey's right eyebrow in the frame as well.  as for guerrero, he is hoisting the series mvp award that was given to him, along with yeager and cey.  hooton's photo is inconclusive, although i would guess it is from later in his career.  the photo used for his 1980 subset card was from 1981 (thanks to the patch on his left sleeve) and he was wearing his stirrups differently than he is in the photo in this subset.  dusty baker's left sleeve doesn't have the los angeles bicentennial patch, so it's not from 1981 either.  reuss, scioscia, and pena have photos in which i can't tell what year they are from, but the cey image is definitely from 1982.  not only is the patch missing from his sleeve, he is wearing a helmet with an earflap which he did not do until after he was beaned by gossage in the world series.  garvey's photo is from 1981 as it has the proper patch, while saxy's photo comes from 1984, i believe, as i think that his left sleeve has the olympic patch on it.

is this team timeless?:  yes - the team of my youth finally won a world series, and they beat the yankees in doing so!  plus, it was the last time that the infield of my youth played together.  good times.