Sunday, January 2, 2011

1951 Topps Phillies

1951 Topps Blue Backs #8
Topps burst onto the baseball card collecting scene in 1951 with its dual 52-card playing card sets - now commonly referred to as the Red Backs and the Blue Backs.  The cards came two to a pack with a piece of caramel, for just a single penny.  Each of the reference sources I checked note the Blue Backs are much scarcer than the Red Backs, although I was able to add the two Phillies Blue Backs featured here to my collection before I could track down any reasonably priced Phillies Red Backs.  Go figure.  (The 1988 Standard Catalog makes mention of the "recent discovery of a large hoard of unopened boxes" of Red Backs.)
1951 Topps Blue Backs #29

Topps tried its hand at a few other baseball card sets in 1951 - the Connie Mack All-Star die-cut cards, featuring 11 Hall of Famers; the "Current" All-Star die-cut cards, featuring 11 current players; and a Teams set, featuring black and white portraits of nine different teams, including the Phillies.

1951 Topps Red Backs
Unopened Pack
The Set
Number of cards in the set - 52 in the Blue Backs, 52 in the Red Backs
My very brief thoughts on the set - Until very recently, this was the only Topps set for which I did not own any Phillies cards.  However, back in the mid-80's, my parents bought me an unopened pack of Red Backs for Christmas, which remains unopened to this day.  (Perhaps this was one of the packs from the "hoard"?)  And I'm wondering now if this pack was the victim of an unauthorized search, since there's no evidence of a piece of caramel contained within the pack.
1951 Topps Blue
Backs #29 (Back)
Notable competition - 1951 Bowman is an awesome set.  Just check out these cards.  1951 Topps wasn't even in the same league as 1951 Bowman, and the folks at Topps went back to the drawing board to figure out something new for 1952.  For the record, there are 25 Phillies cards included within the '51 Bowman set, including cards for manager Eddie Sawyer and Curt Simmons, who missed the entire 1951 season while serving in the military.

1951 Phillies
Record and finish - After going to the World Series in 1950, the remnants of the Whiz Kids finished 1951 with a 73-81 record and in fifth place in the National League.
Key players - Puddin' Head Jones (.285, 22 home runs, 81 RBIs) led the way offensively, with help from Del Ennis (.267/15/73) and Richie Ashburn (.344 average).  Robin Roberts (21-15, 3.03 ERA) and Bubba Church (15-11, 3.53 ERA) anchored the rotation.  Ashburn led the league in hits with 221, and he was second in the league in stolen bases.
Key events - The Phillies Encyclopedia offers this harsh assessment of the '51 season:  "The team was a shell of its former self as slumps, inflated egos, and an attitude that it could win by merely stepping on the field carved a path to destruction."  Jim Konstanty, the 1950 National League MVP, had a lackluster season, as did Granny Hamner, Eddie Waitkus and Andy Seminick.

1997 Topps Stars
Rookie Reprints #2
1951 Phillies in 1951 Topps
Cards needed for a complete team set - 7 total, including 2 Red Backs and 5 Blue Backs.  There were 16 teams in the Majors in 1951, so the Phillies having 7 cards is above average.  I would expect the popularity resulting from their 1950 World Series appearance helped this.
Who’s in - It's hard to argue with the player selection here.  All seven players featured for the Phillies were regulars in 1951.  Only second baseman Putsy Caballero got left out.  In fact, Caballero did not receive a Phillies baseball card until the issuance of the 1975 TCMA Whiz Kids set.
Who’s out - There are no Phillies pitchers featured, making Roberts, Church and Konstanty prime candidates for 1951 Topps cards that never were.  However, Roberts and Konstanty both made appearances in Topps' Current All-Star mini-set.
Phillies on other teams - None.  There were no other 1951 Phillies featured elsewhere within Topps' 1951 sets.
What’s he doing here - No arguments here.  Every Phillie who got a 1951 Topps card makes sense.
Favorite Phillies card - I'll go with the Dick Sisler card by default, just because there's not much from which to choose.  Sisler is one of my Dad's all-time favorite Phillies, and his key double in the final game of the 1950 season helped send the team to the World Series for the first time since 1915.

Other Stuff
2003 Topps Chrome Blue Backs
Relics Refractor #BBCR-JR
Recycled - This certainly isn't an all-inclusive list, but I found several instances in my collection where Topps went back to its first baseball card design.  Most recently, Topps revisited both Blue and Red Backs with insert sets found within its 2010 release.  Roy Halladay is featured in the Blue Back set as a Blue Jay and (fittingly) in the Red Back set as a Phillie.  (Still trying to track this card down.)  Topps also used the design for an insert set included with its 2003 release.
2010 Topps Blue Backs #6
Blogs - As far as I know, there are no blogs dedicated to the 1951 Topps set out there, but please check out the fine Topps Archives blog for all sorts of great stuff related to the company's early years.
Did You Know? - For years, I had listed the Gus Zernial card on my Phillies wantlists.  In various price guides, two variations of Zernial's Red Back #36 card are listed - one variation has him "with Chicago" and the other has him "with Phila."  It didn't occur to me until very recently that a) Zernial never played for the Phillies and b) the "Phila." referred to was the Philadelphia Athletics.


Section 36 said...

Wow. Now, that's what I call a thorough post. Nice job!

night owl said...

Interesting post.

I have the red back Halladay as a Phillie. I'll send it off to you when I get some time.

Jim said...

Thanks guys.

Night Owl - I'll gladly take that Halladay card off your hands.