Sunday, February 20, 2011

1957 Topps Phillies

1957 Topps #54, #91, #224, #231
I've always viewed the 1957 Topps set as a bit of a let-down following the iconic 1956 Topps baseball card set. In short, and this is only my personal opinion, I think the '57 Topps cards are dull. The colors are washed out and there's really no vibrancy to the set. But I wonder what I would have thought upon first seeing these cards in the summer of 57? First off, the size of the cards is smaller than the Topps cards from 1951 through 1956. Would that have ticked me off? I probably would have had my older Topps cards stored in a shoe box, held together with rubber bands, and the smaller '57 Topps cards would have looked out of place within the box. But would I have liked the full color pictures on the front? I’ve read dozens of blog posts over the past few weeks critiquing and analyzing the 2011 Topps set. What did young collectors think back in the spring of 1957 when they opened their first packs of '57 Topps baseball cards?

The Set
Number of cards in the set:  Mirroring the number of cards in the '52 Topps set, there are 407 cards in the complete set.  If you include the mega rare four unnumbered checklists, it's a 411-card complete set.
My very brief thoughts on the set:  Meh.  It introduced the now standard baseball card size of 2 1/2" by 3 1/2", but it's still a let-down after the classic '56 Topps set.
Notable competition:  Just a few regional and food issued sets were around to compete with Topps.

1957 Topps #15
1957 Phillies
Record and finish:  The team finished at an even 77-77, in 5th place in the National League behind the pennant winning Milwaukee Braves.
Key players:  First baseman Ed Bouchee hit .293 with 17 home runs and 76 RBIs.  He shared the rookie spotlight with Jack Sanford who went 19-8 with a 3.08 ERA while leading the league in strikeouts (188).  Sanford bested Bouchee for National League Rookie of the Year honors.  Fellow rookie Harry Anderson shined as the team's regular left fielder, hitting .268 with 17 home runs.  Rip Repulski led the team in home runs with 20, and Richie Ashburn once again led the team with a .297 average.
Key events:  Following the '56 season, slugger Del Ennis was traded to the Cardinals for Bobby Morgan and Repulski.  The Phillies Encyclopedia summarizes the 1957 season for the Phils as a rebuilding year, noting that "1957 became the year of the Phillies' youth movement."  The team found themselves in first place as late as July, but a 9-19 slump in August erased any hopes of a Postseason.  It didn't help that Robin Roberts lost 22 of his 32 starts, in one of the worst years of his career.

1957 Phillies in 1957 Topps
1957 Topps #15 (Back)
Cards needed for a complete team set:  There are 27 Phillies cards in the set, topping the 21 cards found in the '56 set in the prior year.  We're up to 108 total Phillies cards in the run of Topps sets starting in 1951.
Who’s in:  Everybody.  Even though I'm not a huge fan of this set, this set represents the first time Topps didn't leave any Phillies behind.  The eight starters are featured, six bench guys made the cut, the five pitchers in the starting rotation are in, along with four relievers.  Rounding out the team set are a team card, catcher Mack Burk who played with the Phillies in '56 and '58 and two guys traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers the week before the season started - Elmer Valo and Ron Negray.  One of the guys acquired from the Dodgers in the trade, Chico Fernandez, appeared as a Phillie in a later series in the set.
Who’s out:  Reliever Seth Morehead appeared in 34 games for the team, but he wasn't featured in the set.  Andy Seminick played in 8 games before calling it a career.  It would have been nice to have had one more card of the long-time Phillies catcher.
Phillies on other teams:  Chuck Harmon (#299) was acquired from the Cardinals for Glen Gorbous in May.  Reliever Warren Hacker (#370) was selected off waivers from the Reds in June.  And Ron Northey (#31) was signed in July after being released by the White Sox.
What’s he doing here:  I can't really argue with any of the player selection within the team set.  Saul Rogovin got a card in the set, but only pitched in four games for the '57 Phils.
Cards that never were candidates:  Morehead and Seminick.
Favorite Phillies card:  I don't own many '57 Topps Phillies cards (yet), but I've always liked the Valo card with the new-fangled television camera in the background.

2006 Topps Heritage #326, #164, #211, #471
Other Stuff
Recycled:  Topps used the '57 Topps design for its 2006 Topps Heritage set, my least favorite Heritage set to date.
Blogs/Websites:  I am very much against the encasing of baseball cards within plastic crypts, but I thought this was a good overall article summarizing the set.  It's a little more favorable in its review of the set than I was.
Did You Know?:  Del Ennis enjoyed another solid season in 1957, his first with the Cardinals, hitting .286 with 24 home runs and 105 RBIs.  His production dropped significantly in 1958, and he was traded after that season to the Reds.  Part way through the '59 campaign, Ennis was shipped to the White Sox where he appeared in just 26 games before being let go in June.  Thus ended the 14-year career of one of my Dad's favorite Phillies.


Section 36 said...

I've often said that while the look of other sets from the 50's screams "classic", this one just screams "old."

Unknown said...

The Topps 1957s were never my favorite. The color in the 1957 Topps series definitely leaves something to be desired. Some people call this "realistic and unenhanced photography", but I think the color in that year's cards could definitely use a little boost. To me the '57 Topps cards appear like they were all taken at ballparks and there was no attempt made to spruce up the series' color content. To me it looks like these photos were taken in early Spring with the grass not reaching it's peak "green-ness", following a long, hard, severe wWinter.