|1997 Topps #268, #56, #64 and #302|
Number of cards in the set: We got 55 more cards than the prior year in the 1997 Topps set, as the complete set included 495 cards - 275 from the first series and 220 in a second series. (Note this was the first year Topps "retired" card #7 for Mickey Mantle, so while the set is numbered to 496, there are only 495 cards.) For the second year in a row, there was no traded set. I would imagine baseball card sales were still down as a result of the 1994 strike, and it would take a steroid-fueled home run barrage in 1998 to start to bring the collectors back.
My very brief thoughts on the set: I first mentioned the concept of adding color to borders a few posts back when I was discussing the design of the 2012 Topps cards, and this concept holds true for the 1997 Topps set. Like the 1996 set, the design is very simplistic - name in block letters across the bottom and a team logo. How much better would the cards look had Topps color coded the cards based on team colors? Topps assigned green to all National League base cards and red to all American League base cards and they stopped there. (Why not blue for all National League base cards? I think that simple change would have vastly improved the design as well. Everyone knows that the color blue is associated with the National League. Right Night Owl?)
Notable competition: Flipping through my 1997 Phillies binder, I definitely get the sense that the card manufacturers were grasping for any way to possibly connect with their consumers. There's a lot of foil and gloss and some on-card autographs, but there's no set from 1997 that really distances itself from the herd. Honestly, my favorite cards from that year were the reprints of older cards which were inserted into packs of Topps Stars. Topps must have realized that collectors were yearning for more "classic" cards - be they reprints or otherwise - as they would soon start experimenting with various releases featuring vintage designs and themes. The first Topps Heritage set was only four years away at this point.
Record and finish: New manager Terry Francona guided his team to one more win than the previous year, as the Phils finished with a 68-94 record and in last place (again).
Key players: This was the first year of the Scott Rolen Era, as the eventual National League Rookie of the Year hit .283 with 21 home runs and 92 RBIs. Mike Lieberthal became the team's every day backstop and while his average was low (.246) he managed 20 home runs and 77 RBIs. New first baseman Rico Brogna also had a decent year (.252, 20 home runs, 81 RBIs) as did Mickey Morandini (.295). Brogna also provided stellar defense at first. Curt Schilling re-established himself as a premier pitcher, going 17-11 with 319 strikeouts (a new club record) and a 2.97 ERA. He'd finish fourth in the National League Cy Young voting. Other than Schilling's fine performance, the pitching was a complete debacle. Only Ricky Bottalico's 34 saves merits mention, although he blew 7 saves. And if I recall correctly, a few of those blown saves were recorded in spectacular self-imploding fashion.
Key events: The Phils drafted J.D. Drew in June, but they were unable to come to terms with the Scott Boras client and Drew eventually signed with the Cardinals. (Booo!) Darren Daulton was the team's regular right fielder until a July trade sent him to Florida for Billy McMillon. Daulton would earn a World Series ring wearing the teal and black of the Marlins. Interleague play began and the Phillies swept a thrilling three-game series against the Yankees at the Vet in early September. And sadly, long-time Phillies player and announcer Richie Ashburn passed away on September 9th.
1997 Phillies in 1997 Topps
Cards needed for a complete team set: There are 18 Phillies cards needed for a complete 1997 Topps team set. That matches the low tally from 1996, meaning that the 1996 and 1997 Topps sets have the least amount of Phillies cards since 1955.
- Cards of the eight starting position players - 5 cards
#56 Mike Lieberthal (c), #64 Mickey Morandini (2b), #384 Kevin Stocker (ss), #268 Scott Rolen (3b), #229 Gregg Jefferies (lf)
Regular first baseman Brogna is featured in the set with the Mets. Center fielder Midre Cummings and right fielder Daulton were omitted from the set completely. What a quick descent for Dutch. Daulton was a baseball card force in 1994, and just four short years later he finds himself completely left out of the Topps set.
- Cards of the starting pitching rotation - 1 card
#368 Curt Schilling
This is probably an all-time low as well. The Phillies used 15 different starting pitchers in 1997. Schilling is the only one of the top five on that list to merit a card. Mark Leiter, Matt Beech, Garrett Stephenson and Tyler Green were all left out, although Leiter does appear on a card with the Expos. Have I mentioned lately how much I truly appreciate the current Phillies starting pitching rotation?
|1997 Topps #368, #327, #14 and #242|
- Base cards of players who played with the Phillies in 1997 - 5 cards
#14 Ricky Bottalico, #106 Ricky Otero, #144 Ken Ryan, #242 Mike Grace, #302 Wendell Magee, Jr.
- Base cards of players who didn't play with the Phillies in 1997 - 4 cards (with new teams listed)
#82 Benito Santiago (Blue Jays), #161 Jim Eisenreich (Marlins), #299 Sid Fernandez (Astros), #413 Lenny Dykstra (injured)
This would be Dykstra's last Topps baseball card as an active player. Following his wonderful 1993 season, the Phils extended Dykstra's contract, paying him $24.4 million for the 1995 through 1998 seasons. (The team held a club option for 1999.) The oft-injured Dude played in 84 games in 1994, 62 games in 1995, 40 games in 1996, and then he was done. Unfortunately, it's been downhill ever since for Dykstra.
- Phillies appearing on multi-player Prospects cards - 2 cards
#205 Bobby Estallela, #492 Ron Blazier
Both actually appeared with the Phillies during the 1997 season, so I have no problem with their selection for these cards.
- Phillies appearing on multi-player Draft Picks cards - 1 card
#479 Adam Eaton
Spoiler alert - This is going to be my pick for the "What's he doing here" segment of this post.
|1997 Topps #106, #492 and #413|
|1997 Topps #78|
What’s he doing here: Adam Eaton. I feel this needs no explanation.
Cards that never were candidates: There were no manager cards in the set, but I'd come up with something for Francona's first year. I came up with nine players from 1996 who should have cards, so I'll do the same for 1997 - Brogna, Cummings, Daulton, Leiter, Beech, Stephenson, Spradlin, Amaro and Jordan.
Favorite Phillies card: It's Rolen's card. Philly fans were absolutely in love with Rolen and his style of play back in 1997. A few short years later, we learned that Rolen was actually a fairly grumpy guy who would rather play elsewhere.
Recycled: As far as I know, Topps hasn't re-used its 1997 design for any recent releases.
Blogs/Websites: A little over a year ago, Capewood ran a nice post featuring a few of his favorite cards from the set on his Capewood's Collections blog.
Did You Know?: Perhaps as a cost cutting measure, the Phillies released their 1997 Yearbook as an insert within its Phillies Magazine publication. This really bothered me back in 1997 and it still bothers me today. I have a nice collection of Phillies Yearbooks dating back to 1969, and the 1997 "Yearbook" throws off the whole feng shui of the collection.