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?

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