When I began this project and this blog, my plan was to purchase cards on EBay and put my set together slowly. But in the process of blogging about my collecting exploits, I’ve begun to gain a following. In fact my last post went viral, earning 20 page views. I was concerned it might shut down the internet, but fortunately there was enough band width to handle all that traffic.
One of the nice side effects of blogging about my quest is that I been contacted by people wanting to help. Among these who reached out was a fraternity brother who happens to be building the 1972 Topps set at the same time I am. I’ll call him, “Scott” because that’s his actual name.
Few things were better than getting together with a friend and trading cards when I was a kid. I made many trades back in the day, many coming just moments after we sat side by side opening wax packs. It’s 2014 and Scott and I live in different states, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help each other. We exchanged want lists and last week I sent him 63 cards.
Earlier this week, the box he sent me arrived and I must say I got the better end of the deal.
101 cards, the equivalent of a little more than 10 packs back in 1972
Going through the cards was like opening those packs. They would have cost me a buck back in ’72.
At the top of the pile was this one:
Martin was in his second year as the Tigers’ skipper. He led them to a 91-71 record in 1971, which was good for a second place finish in the American League East. Unfortunately for Martin and the Tigers, Baltimore won 101 games and the division. The Tigers would win 86 games in 1972, but that was enough to win the division. I also like this card because apparently Billy wasn’t down with getting his picture taken on this particular day.
It’s my second favorite “obscene” baseball card.
Next we have card #191, Rangers outfielder Jeff Burroughs.
Burroughs was a first round draft pick in 1969 and made his major league debut in June of 1970 at the age of 19. He went 2 for 14 in 1970 and hit .232 in ’71. 1972 was not kind either as Burroughs hit just .185 in 22 games. But in 1973, he became a starter, and also a force. Over the next six seasons, Burroughs hit .268 with 166 homers and 574 RBI. He won the A.L. MPV in 1974. You would think the Rangers would have learned their lesson in rushing a top pick to the big leagues too quickly. But in 1973, they drafted a Texas high school pitcher named David Clyde and inserted him right into their rotation. That didn’t work out.
My cards from Scott also included some “Rookie Star” entries, including these three from the Dodgers and the Pirates.
I always like to look at these cards and wonder what happened to “the other guys” on the card. Knuckleballer Charlie Hough spent 25 years in the major leagues and was the starting pitcher for the inaugural game in Florida Marlins history. In fact, if you have 2 hours, 13 minutes and 22 seconds you can watch that game right here:
But what of Bob O’Brien and Mike Strahler? Glad you asked…
O’Brien started four games in 1971, including throwing a shutout on June 21st to beat Bob Gibson and the Cardinals. At the end of the 1971 season, he was traded to Baltimore in a five player deal that netted the Dodgers Frank Robinson. He never pitched in the big leagues again.
Strahler went 6-8 over four seasons and was out of baseball by 1974.
Now on to the Pirates prospects. Richie Zisk had a nice career, but Fred Cambria appeared in six games in 1970 and was done. To me this says either Topps didn’t do their homework or the Pirates farm system was atrocious. How come they only have two guys on their Rookie Stars card? How come the career of one of them was already over? These are the things that keep me up at night.
A huge score in this lot is the 1972 Reggie. This was right about the time where Reggie began to become Reggie. He had hit 47 homers in 1969, but Oakland finished in second place that year, nine games behind the Minnesota Twins, who were managed by Billy Martin, who would later manage (and fight) Reggie with the Yankees.
Reggie really burst into national consciousness in the summer of 1971 when he announced his presence with authority in the All-Star Game:
Reggie would lead the A’s to three straight World Series championships beginning in 1972.
Rennie Stennett was a rookie and the Pirates leadoff hitter on September 1st, 1971 against the Phillies. The Buccos would win the N.L. East crown that year and go on to win the World Series while the Phillies finished 30 games out. But that Pirates team made history on that day by fielding the first “all black” starting lineup in the history of Major League Baseball. It would be more precise to say they were the first team to not start a white guy since the lineup included Roberto Clemente, Manny Sanguillen and Jackie Hernandez.
Stennett would really make a name for himself in September of 1975 when he went 7-7 in a 22-0 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. His first hit came off starter Rick Rueschel to lead off the game and his last hit came off Rick’s brother, Paul in the 8th.
I love these cards and they did it up in 1972 with a card for each game of the World Series and then a celebration card. They don’t do these anymore, which is a shame. Since the cards come out so early now, my guess is they can’t get them produced in time to include in the set.
I don’t know a whole lot about Joe Pepitone except that he liked the night life and was a pioneer in Major League Baseball. Pepitone was the first player to ever have a hair dryer in a big league clubhouse. A three-time All-Star and gold glove winner, Pepitone ran into legal trouble and actually spent time in prison on drug charges. He also posed nude for Foxy Lady magazine. But you already knew that.
You know, not a lot of guys could pull off the single black batting glove, but I think Jim Lefebvre totally nailed it.
Can’t see Ken Forsch without thinking about the fact that he and his brother Bob are the only brother combo to both throw no-hitters. Ken no-hit the Braves in 1979 and Bob threw two; one in 1978 and another in 1983.
I talked earlier about the In Action cards and how many of them weren’t really action shots at all. This trilogy features a nice shot of Leo Cardenas in mid throw, John “Blue Moon” Odom just after releasing a pitch and Ron Santo… hitting a foul ball. I guess they sent guys to one game and got what they got, but that seems a bit weak for a guy who was a pretty good player.
But the Santo foul ball In Action card is top notch compared to the Ed Kirkpatrick, “I’m shaking dirt out of my catcher’s mask” In Action shot.
Yet another way Scott hooked me up. Kaline is one of four Hall of Famers included in my haul, including noted underwear model Jim Palmer. I love the way this card is very similar to the Billy Martin card, minus the bird. Kaline was winding down his Hall of Fame career in 1972. He would play another three seasons and collect 312 more hits, finishing with 3,007.
Another of the unique features of the ’72 set were these award cards. I don’t think Topps had ever done them before and I’m pretty sure they haven’t done them since. I think they’re pretty cool. My guess is most card collectors in 1972 didn’t know what a lot of these trophies even looked like. The backs of the cards listed past winners.
Huge thanks to “Scott” for giving me a big boost as I continue to work towards completing the set. Back in the day, you bought packs and traded face-to-face with your friends. Now, you buy cards on EBay and negotiate trades via email with people you haven’t seen in more than 20 years. Not as personal, but still effective. This is collecting baseball cards in the digital age.