Friday, November 5, 2010

Set Collection: 1973 Topps

(UPDATE: Aw crap. Sparky passed away. That just doesn't seem right. It just seems like it was yesterday that he was in the Tigers dugout leading them to that 35 and 5 start. Rest in piece Sparky ... you were one of baseball's greats.) 

The 1973 Topps set is easily one of my favorite sets of all time and I look forward to completing it. I'll be looking forward to it for quite some time. Check out my want list in the link on your right. I'm pretty much missing ALL of the high numbers. Oh well ... let's take a look at a few of the cards in this, my tribute to one of the greatest teams of all time, the BIG RED MACHINE. (And I'd like to dedicate this post to the manager of the Big Red Machine, Sparky Anderson, who was placed in hospice care yesterday. Sparky managed two of the most dominant teams of the modern era, the 1976 Reds and the 1984 Tigers. He was the first manager to win a world championship in both leagues. He always came off like one of baseball's good guys. Bless ya Sparky, you were one of the greats.)
Here we have a card of one of the most iconic players of the 70s, arguably the finest catcher to ever play the game and a genuine star that transcended the sport of baseball, and yet I still remember him best as the host of the Baseball Bunch. Go figure.
Here we have the best pitcher of the early 70s version of the Big Red Machine, but ironically, while Billingham was at the top of his game, the Reds couldn't get it done. (They were absolutely disgusted by their own performance against the Mets in the 73 NLCS.) When they finally won in 1975 and in 1976, Billingham's career was on the way down. Of course, it wasn't pitching for which the Big Red Machine was known.
Here we have a card of one of the most notorious players in the game, and a man who was one of my five favorite players around the time the Phillies won the 1980 World Series. Rose was an arrogant prick ... well, Rose is still an arrogant prick. He was, of course, one of the great hitters of all time. In fact, in the very year that this card was printed, Rose won the MVP. Its hard for me to like Rose right now. Perhaps I'm a gullible idiot, but I believed him when he said he never bet on baseball. Yeah, I was definitely an idiot.
Here we have a card of the stopper for the 1972 Reds. He recorded 37 saves to lead the league. (That was an unreal total for the time.) That would be 10 saves over the Mets Tug McGraw who finished second. Of course, Sparky Anderson is as much to blame as anyone for the way bullpens are used now. He's sort of an infamous pioneer in that regard. Of course, you could argue he was an innovator, and considering that the Big Red Machine rarely dominated with pitching, he did what was necessary for his team to win. Just saying ...
Here we have a card of the only player I know who graduated high school with my Mom in Memphis, Tennessee. He would win 20 games five years after this with the Expos, and would be out of baseball by 1981. I could never bring myself to ask my Mom to carry one of his cards to one of her reunions to try and get me an autograph. It just didn't seem right. 
Here we have a card of one of the most feared power hitters in baseball during the mid to late 70s. Still, it took years before Sparky felt comfortable enough to put Foster in the lineup day in and day out. Once he did, his career flourished with the highlight being his 1977 NL MVP season. 
Here we have a card of one of the worst color commentators in the history of national broadcast baseball. It's also a card of one of the best second basemen ever. Actually, let's make that one of the best players ever. Does that seem excessive to you? Well, during the span from 1972 to 1976, he ranked either first or second in Wins Above Replacement each year. All time, he ranks 24th in Wins Above Replacement. So, as it turns out, he just might know as much about baseball as he thinks he does ... but that doesn't make the arrogance any more tolerable. (Although, perhaps, if he were paired with someone other the rank awful Jon Miller on ESPN ...)
Here we have a card of the most overrated player of the Big Red Machine, but don't interpret that to mean he's a bad player. Perez was amazingly consistent year after year and some of his OPS+ numbers are just ridiculous, especially in 1970 and 1973. Still, I don't really understand why Tony Perez is in the Hall but say, Dave Parker isn't.


The Chop Keeper said...

I was years old in 1975, and the Big Red Machine was my favorite team (I didn become a Braves fan until 1980). David Concepcion was my favorite player back then. Wonder if he will ever get inducted into the Hall?

Anonymous said...

Sparky was a true gentleman who will be missed by fans and MLB alike.

That aside, those are some great photos of Bench and Rose! And Carroll's 37 saves set the record at the time (it lasted one year).

Finally - I'd have to disagree on Perez and Parker. Parker's best 3 years or so were better than Perez's, but every other way you look at it Perez seems a little better statistically. And the HOF isn't just about who was the most valuable. The voting criteria integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played. Where as this factor is most certainly a positive one for Tony, it just as certainly a negative one for the Cobra.

Chris Mays said...

I don't want to get off on a rant about the rather large number of players from the 70s and 80s I think deserve enshrinement, but I'd put conception on that list for sure. (and while we're discussing middle infielders, can Alan Trammel and Lou Whitaker get some Cooperstown love already?)

Chris Mays said...

No argument about the differences between Doggie's character and the Cobras. My comment in the post was inartful in that I would certainly have voted for Tony Perez if I had the vote, but I would go for Parker first. (I'm sure I'm still blinded by having so much fun watching the Pirates 1979 World Series victory. That was a fun team.)

While we are discussing integrity, character, etc - can we get some support for Dale Murphy somewhere?

After reading The Machine, I think Doggie comes off easily as the most likable member of the Big Red Machine.