Sunday, February 6, 2011

1956 Topps Phillies

It's especially fitting this post is running today, as we had to admit my Dad to the hospital on Friday.  He continues to struggle with his health, and it's honestly difficult to turn off my worry button and focus on day-to-day functioning.  This post is for my Dad.

1956 Topps #120, #180, #220

The 1956 Topps set holds a very special place in my heart.  Starting in the summer of 1987, and ending with a box under the Christmas tree in 2007, my Dad and I meticulously and lovingly hand collated a complete 1956 Topps set.  We started with a stack of about forty cards that came into my collection through a pure stroke of luck and then we hand picked each and every one of the remaining 342 cards ourselves.  Cards were purchased from baseball card shows, flea markets and stores up and down the East Coast from Cooperstown, New York, down to Raleigh, North Carolina.  We both aged twenty years during the process, with me going from a gangly seventh grader in 1987 to a married man with a son in 2007.  When (and if) I ever have additional time to start a second baseball card-related blog, I'd write about each of the 342 baseball cards comprising the 1956 Topps set - where we bought each card, my thoughts on the cards, and where I was during those twenty wonderful years of collecting this set with my Dad.

The Set
Number of cards in the set:  There are 342 cards in this set, including the two unnumbered checklists.
My very brief thoughts on the set:  It is awesome.  I'm incredibly biased, given my personal connection to the set, but I'd argue this set has more "classic" baseball cards in it than any other.  It's also the first set to include team cards and the league presidents.  The backs feature a large three-panel cartoon highlighting events from the player's career.
Notable competition:  For the first time in its young history, there really was no major competition for Topps.  There were a few regional or food issue sets released, but Topps' buy-out of Bowman in 1956 gave the company several years with no direct competition.

1956 Topps #183, #127, #290

1956 Phillies
Record and finish:  Fifth place in the National League belonged to the Phils after their 71-83 finish.
Key players:  Catcher Stan Lopata led the way offensively, with 32 home runs and 95 RBIs.  Del Ennis (.260, 26 home runs, 95 RBIs) and Puddin' Head Jones (.277, 17 home runs, 78 RBIs) turned in their usual steady output, and Richie Ashburn finished sixth in batting with his .303 average.  Robin Roberts missed winning 20 games for the first time since 1949, and his 18 losses led the league.  Curt Simmons made a fine comeback, going 15-10 with a 3.36 ERA.
Key events:  The season was pretty much over by the end of April, as the Phillies lost 15 of their first 20 games.  On September 25th, Brooklyn pitcher Sal Maglie no-hit the Phillies as the Dodgers won, 5-0.

1956 Phillies in 1956 Topps
1956 Topps #120 (Back)
Cards needed for a complete team set:  Finally, a legitimate team set!  There are 21 Phillies cards in the 1956 Topps set, which is just right given the size of the set and the 18 teams in existence in 1956.  A master set of Topps Phillies cards from 1951-1956 consists of 81 cards.
Who’s in:  All 19 of the players featured actually saw playing time with the Phillies in 1956.  A team card and a manager card for Mayo Smith round out the team set.
Who’s out:  First baseman Marv Blaylock and second baseman Ted Kazanski didn't make the cut.  Back-up infielders Solly Hemus and Roy Smalley were also excluded.  Of the pitchers, I would have included a card of reliever Ben Flowers who appeared in 32 games with the Phillies in '56.
Phillies on other teams:  Flowers was acquired with Harvey Haddix and Stu Miller from the Cardinals in May in exchange for Murry Dickson and Herm Wehmeier.  Both Haddix and Miller appear in the '56 set with Cardinals.  Regular right fielder Elmer Valo was released by the Kansas City Athletics in late May and signed with the Phils a day later.  He's card #3 in the set.
What’s he doing here:  Wally Westlake, who was the end of a productive career, appeared in just 5 games with the '56 Phillies, going 0 for 4 as a pinch-hitter with three strikeouts.
Cards that never were candidates:  Blaylock, Kazanski, Smalley and Flowers.  Back when I knew how to use the graphic design software on my PC, I "fixed" the Haddix, Miller and Valo cards to properly show them as Phillies.
Favorite Phillies card:  If I had to settle on one, I'd go with Ashburn's card.  If I didn't have to settle on one, I'd go with each of the 21 Phillies cards in the set.
2005 Topps Heritage #50, #120, #156

Other Stuff
Recycled:  I went a little overboard in 2005 when Topps used the 1956 Topps design for its Heritage set.  I believe I bought six boxes (is that half a case?) in my attempt to complete a master set.  Six years later, I'm still trying to complete the set.  (But I have a ton of doubles if anyone wants to set up a trade.)  Fleer also loosely based its 2001 Tradition set on the '56 Topps design.  And of course, there were the ubiquitous Topps Big sets from the late '80s, which I think I'll need to cover in a separate post one of these days.
Blogs/Websites:  Back in this blog's infancy, I did a card by card run-down of the Phillies featured in the 1956 Topps set.  A summary post with links to each card featured can be found here.
Did You Know?:  Shortstop Hamner pitched in three games for the '56 Phils, lasting 8.2 innings and owning a 4.32 ERA.  On August 31st in Pittsburgh, he actually started a game, lasting into the 5th inning and allowing four runs on nine hits.  The boxscore makes it look as if Haddix was the scheduled starter, but Hamner had to come in as an emergency pitcher to start the game.  He managed to pitch three shutout innings, striking out Pirates' slugger Frank Thomas in the fifth.


night owl said...

I agree that the '56 set is probably the greatest set ever. If you ever decide to start that second blog, I'll be a loyal reader.

Matt Runyon said...

This is probably my favorite set as well. I hope you dad does ok.

Kevin said...

Best of luck to your dad.

I finally figured out why I hate the Topps Heritage sets looking at this. From a design standpoint, these cards are stuck in 1956, as that is what they are meant to do...but the players look to modern to be on these and the photography is too craisp. It just doesn't look right. For example, nobody in 1956 wore their hair like Bobby Abreau does in his card. It looks out of place.

Kevin said...

Also wanted to say...looking at these samples of the 1956 cards, these really grow on me...I like the balance in these cards alot with the block for the name and small action shot opposite of the mugshot. I like these much better than the '55s, although they tie together in my head.

Section 36 said...

Best wishes for your dad.

So, that's why you were so sure I should get the '56 Williams.

Jim said...

Thanks everyone. I'm looking forward to talking about this post with my Dad.

Pastor Chris said...

56 topps blog would be awesome!