Sunday, January 9, 2011

1952 Topps Phillies

1983 Topps 1952 Reprint #216, #221, #223, #357

Perhaps no other baseball card set in the long legacy of Topps has been as self-celebrated as the 1952 set.  Topps has run out this design in numerous retro-themed baseball sets throughout the past decade, beginning with its initial Heritage set in 2001.  If you collected baseball cards in the 2000s, it was nearly impossible to not own a reprint, in shiny form or not, of the iconic '52 Topps Mickey Mantle card.  Topps was also generous with the amount of other reprints it provided to collectors, as I'll show in a future post with the '52 Topps Robin Roberts card.

Unlike the previous year, Topps did not dabble with any other specialty sets in 1952, choosing instead to put all its energy into the six series of baseball cards released throughout the summer and into the fall.

Santa brought me the complete 1952 Topps reprint set for Christmas in 1983, and it's been lovingly displayed in 9-pocket pages in a binder ever since.  (The original blue box it came in is tucked away around here somewhere.)
1983 Topps 1952 Reprint #203, #13, #47, #44

The Set
Number of cards in the set:  A whopping 407 cards were included in the set.  I didn't research this, but this had to have been the largest baseball card set released since the sprawling tobacco card sets from the beginning of the 20th century.
My very brief thoughts on the set:  Criticizing the 1952 Topps set is like trying to nit-pick the Beatles' White Album.  You just don't do it.  It's a classic, it set the standard for modern-day baseball card sets and I'll appreciate it's grandeur no matter how many times Topps subjects us to the design in future retro-based sets.  And it was the first set to feature team logos on the front, which is just awesome.
Notable competition:  Bowman released a 252-card set that was pretty much a rehash of its '51 issue.  They got rid of the black name plate on the front of the card and replaced it with a facsimile autograph.  

1952 Topps #213

1952 Phillies
Record and finish:  The team's record of 87-67 was respectable, but it was only good enough for fourth place in the National League, 9 1/2 games behind the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Key players:  Roberts enjoyed one the best years of his Hall of Fame career, compiling a record of 28-7 with a 2.59 ERA and 30 complete games in 330 innings pitched.  He was named The Sporting News' National League Pitcher of the Year.  Curt Simmons returned from the military to go 14-8 and start the All-Star game for the National League squad.  Catcher Smoky Burgess led the team with a .296 batting average.  Burgess had been acquired from the Reds in December 1951 in a 7-player trade that saw popular Phillies Andy Seminick and Dick Sisler shipped to Cincinnati.  Rookie Mel Clark began what appeared to be a promising career by hitting .335 and stringing together a 17-game hitting streak.  Del Ennis (.289, 20 home runs, 107 RBIs), Puddin' Head Jones (.250, 18, 72) and Granny Hamner (.275, 17, 87) enjoyed strong years offensively.
Key events:  Owner Bob Carpenter removed Hamner as the team's captain following a particularly poor road trip in June.  Later that month, manager Eddie Sawyer was fired and was replaced by Steve O'Neill.

1952 Topps #213 (Back)
1952 Phillies in 1952 Topps
Cards needed for a complete team set:  Phillies players were featured on 20 cards in the set, and with 16 teams in the Majors in 1952, that's a below average number for the 407-card set.  If you're keeping track at home, the Phillies have been featured on 27 cards so far in Topps' base set infancy.  
Who’s in:  The eight starters have cards, although the team's regular right fielder is pictured with the Reds.  (More on that in a bit.)  The starting rotation of Roberts, Russ Meyer, Karl Drews, Simmons and Howie Fox are all represented.  The main guys from the bullpen and a few bench players round out the team set.
Who’s out:  Outfielder Mel Clark is missing, and he'd have to wait for the '53 Bowman Color set for his first baseball card.  Back-up catcher Stan Lopata isn't represented, nor is reserve outfielder Jackie Mayo, who appeared in 50 games.  If you wanted a 1952 Phillies card of reserve infielder Jack Lohrke, you'd have to search for him in packs of Bowman.
Phillies on other teams:  Right fielder Johnny Wyrostek was acquired from the Reds in May 1952 for Bubba Church.  Both Wyrostek (Series 1) and Church (Series 6) are featured in the set as members of the Reds.  Catcher Del Wilber played in two games for the Phillies early in the season before being sold to the Red Sox in mid-May.  He's featured on card #383 with the Red Sox.
What’s he doing here?:  Pitcher Con Dempsey appears on card #44 with the Phillies, yet he never played a game with the team.  He pitched in three games with the '51 Pirates and the back of his 1952 Topps card mentions "The Phils drafted him, hoping he shows some of his Pacific Coast League form."  Dempsey's best season in professional baseball came in 1949 with the San Francisco Seals, when he went 17-14 with a 4.23 ERA.  (And what's going on with the "P" on Dempsey's hat?)
Cards that never were candidates:  Wyrostek, Clark, Lopata, new manager O'Neill.
Favorite Phillies card:  With all due respect to the cards of Hall of Famers Richie Ashburn and Roberts, Smoky Burgess' card is just cool.  Had I seen this card in the summer of '52, I would have wanted to wear my catcher's mask on top of my head, just like Smoky.

2001 Topps Heritage #334, 2006 Topps 52 #139,
2007 Topps 52 Debut Flashbacks #DF13, 2008 Topps Trading Card History #TCH34
Other Stuff
Recycled:  As mentioned earlier, the 1952 Topps design was replicated in Topps first Heritage set, released in 2001.  They used the design again in their "rookie" based Topps 52 sets in 2006 and 2007. 
Blogs:  It's not a blog per se, but check out for pictures of all the cards in the set (front and back), cards that never were, and rotating baseballs.
Did you know?:  To date, the only actual '52 Topps Phillies card that I own is that of first baseman Vernal Leroy "Nippy" Jones.  I added this card in a summer 2010 Check Out My Cards binge when I decided it was time to own a Phillies baseball card from each Topps base set.  I needed a card from 1952 and one from 1957 to conclude the quest. 


Kevin said...

This is a very cool entry...I like this feature

One the reprints the Fightin Phillies logo has been replaced with the modern logo...although the Phillies uniform isn't much different, may have been cool to keep that logo. I suppose since half of the current teams weren't around in 1952, they had to do this.

Jim said...

Thanks Kevin. I don't mind that they used the current logo, I just wish they had stayed more true to the original and not had the logo enclosed in a white circle.