Sunday, January 21, 2018

A Tour Through the 1979 Topps Set: Ten Cards from 1-100

I mentioned before that I had a dream as a teenager of building a 1979 Topps set, and now that I'm collecting again, I just went ahead and bought the complete set.  I'm going to go through the set and pick out some favorite cards to display, showing about 10% of the whole set.  In today's post, I've selected 10 cards from the first 100 to show.  We'll keep doing this every now and then over the next couple of months.

Previous post in the series:
  1. My Ill-Fated 1979 Topps Project, and My Acquisition of a 1979 Topps Set.
#25. Steve Carlton.
I'm starting off at #25, Steve Carlton, master of the slider.  I already owned one of this card -- in the previous post about the 1979 set, you can it a shot of my binder.  I like this as an action shot of his motion, and I always like to see the old light blue road uniform.  Carlton and Schmidt were the big stars of the team back then, but all us kids like Schmidt more, I think.  It's probably because sluggers just seem more exciting, but maybe it's also in part because Carlton wouldn't talk to the press.
#30.  Dave Winfield.
Next up we have #30, Dave Winfield.  Until just recently, I think my only card of him with the Padres was his 1974 rookie card (which I'll post someday).  Again, what a great uniform.
#41.  Minnesota Twins.
Then we have the Twins team photo, with manager Gene Mauch.  I really wonder if anyone can see who anyone is in these team pictures.  I really can never identify any individual player, even when I know who the players on the team are.  Gene Mauch, who I mostly know for never having won a pennant, is at least singled out.  Until 1980, the Phillies had a terrible record as far as pennants go, only having won in 1915 and 1950 (and losing the World Series both times).  Mauch managed them for a signigicant stretch of this futility in the 1960s, including for their epic 1964 collapse (the "Phold").
#51.  Ray Fosse.
Ray Fosse is famous for Pete Rose crashing hard into him during the 1970 All-Star game, causing lifelong pain and surely impacting his career.  Probably because of this card, I've always associated Fosse with the Brewers, but it turns out that he only played with them in 1979, having spent his career with other teams, including winning the 1973 and 1974 World Series with the A's.
#59.  John Denny.
If you look up the, say, 1983 and 1984 pitching leaders in both the NL and AL, you might notice there's a distinct lack of Hall-of-Famers.  Instead, for a few years, pitching was dominated by people who were just having a few really good years.  One of those guys was John Denny, then with the Phillies, who won the 1983 NL Cy Young award.  Denny was with the Cardinals from 1974-1979, the Indians from 1980-1982, then the Phillies, and was with the Reds in 1986 before retiring.  Other than his 1983 Cy Young season, his most notable achievement is probably leading the NL in ERA in 1976, at 2.52.
#60.  Mickey Rivers.
I don't remember Mickey Rivers, but I've heard of him as an important part of the 1970s Yankees World Series winners.  I'm fond of the base stealers like Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines, Vince Coleman, Lou Brock, and Bill Bruton; Rivers was a base stealer, leading the AL with 70 in 1975.  His speed surely contributed to his leading the AL in triples in 1974 and 1975 as well.
#61.  Bo Diaz.
Like John Denny, Bo Diaz is another member of the 1983 NL pennant-winning Phillies.  Diaz was the starting catcher, backed up by Ozzie Virgil.  Diaz debuted in the majors in 1977 with the Red Sox, and was then traded with several other players in the deal that brought Dennis Eckersley to Boston.  Diaz came to the Phillies in a three-team trade after the 1981 season, in the deal that sent Lonnie Smith to St. Louis.  He ended his career with the Reds, after being traded by the Phils towards the end of the 1985 season.  I remember reading the newspaper one day to find out that Diaz was killed while working with a satellite dish at his home in Venezuela.
#85.  Gary Matthews.
I guess I pulled out a bunch of the 1983 Phillies, because here we have Gary Matthews, aka Sarge.  Matthews playes with the Giants, Braves, Phillies, Cubs, and Mariners in his career spanning 1972-1987.  He was the NLCS MVP with that 1983 Phillies team, and also played in the unusual 1981 NLDS with them.  He was in the postseason one more time, with the Cubs in the 1984 NLCS, losing to San Diego.
#92.  Jim Bibby.
I've said this several times before -- if you watch the 1979 World Series, I think it's clear that the Orioles were the better team, and the Pirates beat them by extracting great performances at just the right time.  This especially applies to the pitching staffs: the Pirates pitchers were running out of gas, but managed to cobble together enough strong innings here and there to win.  Chuck Tanner wasn't sure until the end who would start the final game, and Bert Blyleven was volunteering to do it on short rest.  Tanner went with Jim Bibby instead, who only went four innings but only allowed one run.  Bibby was then relieved by Don Robinson, Grant Jackson, and Kent Tekulve.  Jackson got the win and Teke got the save, but it was a team effort in every sense.
#94.  Len Barker.
Finally, we round out this tour of the first 100 cards of the 1979 Topps set with pitcher Len Barker of the Rangers.  I only know Len Barker for one thing, and that's his 1982 Fleer card (what they later called Super Star Specials) of him with catcher Bo Diaz celebrating Barker's 1981 perfect game.  That's a weird card, though, because Ron Hassey, not Bo Diaz, was the catcher for the perfect game.  Fleer issued another Super Star Special of Barker, this time with Hassey, in 1983, celebrating it as the most recent perfect game.

That's it for this installment -- thanks for reading!  Next time, we'll look at ten cards numbered 101-200.

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