Sunday, July 10, 2011

1973 Topps Phillies

1973 Topps #189, #37, #119 and #424
Packs of 1973 Topps baseball cards were sitting on the shelves of Wawa, most likely gathering dust, when I was born in October of that year.  I often day dreamed/wished that my Dad had bought a box of these packs the day I was born and then ceremoniously presented the unopened box to me upon my graduation from high school, or perhaps on my 10th birthday, or maybe on just a random summer day . . . but I digress.

We started collecting the 1973 Topps set in the summer of 1988, and it took us just a few short years to polish it off.  I seem to recall dealers being surprised whenever I'd ask to see their '73 Topps commons, almost as if no one was really trying to put the set together.  Most of my lawn-mowing money went to a little baseball card store in Sea Isle City, where the owner had a huge, unsorted box of 1973 Topps cards featuring stars, Leader cards, checklists, high numbers, you name it.  I'd estimate over half my set came from that store.

The Set
1973 Topps #424 (Back)
Number of cards in the set:  Topps scaled back to just 660 cards with this set.  If you're looking for a master set, you'll also need to track down the 24-card unnumbered, blue bordered team checklist cards inserted into series six packs and also available via mail order.  The set is notable for being the last to be issued in multiple series until Topps started the practice again in 1993.
My very brief thoughts on the set:  It's not one of my favorites.  We collected the 1973 through 1976 Topps sets in order of our favorites, starting with the 1975 set, then putting together 1976 and 1974 concurrently before going back to 1973.  Sure, it's got some quirky cards, but it still seems tame when compared to the 1972, 1975 of 1976 sets.
Notable competition:  There was just the usual Kellogg's set as Topps would hang on to its monopoly for another eight years.

1973 Phillies
Record and finish:  The Phils improved to 71-91, but they finished in last place again, 11 1/2 games behind the Mets.  They were only five games out of first as late as early September, but their fall swoon left them in the basement.
Key players:  After his amazing year, Steve Carlton slipped to 13-20 with a 3.90 ERA.  The starting trio of Wayne Twitchell, Ken Brett and Jim Lonborg each won 13 games.  The outfield led the offense as left fielder Greg Luzinski (.285, 29 home runs, 97 RBIs), center fielder Del Unser (.289, 11 homes runs, 52 RBIs) and right fielder Bill Robinson (.288, 25 home runs, 65 RBIs) all enjoyed fine years.  Rookies Bob Boone (.261, 10 home runs, 61 RBIs) and Mike Schmidt (.196, 18 home runs, 52 RBIs, 136 strikeouts) had decent enough years as the team's regular catcher and third baseman, respectively.
Key events:  After hiring Danny Ozark to manage the team, Paul Owens vacated the manager's chair and went back into the front office to try to right the Phillies' ship.  In October 1972, Owens acquired starting pitchers Brett and Lonborg from the Brewers for Don Money.  Another key deal saw Oscar Gamble and Roger Freed shipped to the Indians in November 1972 for Unser.

1973 Topps #97, #613 and #486
1973 Phillies in 1973 Topps
Cards needed for a complete team set:  There are 31 Phillies cards in the 660-card set.  The tally is now 121 Topps Phillies cards from the '70s and 589 Topps Phillies cards overall.
Who’s in:

  • Cards of the eight starting position players - 5 cards
#97 Willie Montanez (1b), #424 Denny Doyle (2b), #119 Larry Bowa (ss), #189 Greg Luzinski (lf), #37 Bill Robinson (rf)

The starting catcher and third baseman (Boone and Schmidt) appear on multi-player Rookie cards and the starting center fielder (Unser) appears with the Indians on his card.  
  • Cards of the starting pitching rotation - 4 cards
#300 Steve Carlton, #227 Wayne Twitchell, #444 Ken Brett, #3 Jim Lonborg

1973 Topps #300, #227, #444 and #3
Twitchell, Lonborg and Brett get the airbrush treatment to switch over their blue Brewers hats to red Phillies hats.  Unser must have just missed the airbrushing cut, as he was acquired from the Indians a month after the Phillies' deal with the Brewers, yet Unser still appears in his Indians digs.
  • Base cards of other players who played with the Phillies in 1973 - 12 cards
#6 Mac Scarce, #147 Mike Anderson, #166 Terry Harmon, #271 Tom Hutton, #326 Darrell Brandon, #405 Cesar Tovar, #467 Mike Ryan, #559 Barry Lersch, #590 Deron Johnson, #619 Billy Wilson, #632 Dick Selma, #659 Jose Pagan
  • Phillies appearing on multi-player "Rookie" cards - 2 cards
#613 Bob Boone with Skip Jutze (Astros) and Mike Ivie (Padres), #615 Mike Schmidt with John Hilton (Padres) and Ron Cey (Dodgers)
  • Base cards of players who never played with the Phillies - 2 cards
#246 Ken Sanders, #454 Tom Haller

Sanders came to the Phillies in the Brewers deal that brought over Brett and Lonborg.  They'd spin him off to the Twins a month later in a deal that brought Tovar to the Phils.  Haller, a 12-year veteran, was purchased from the Tigers in October 1972.  He didn't play a game with the club in 1973 and he was released in February 1974.
  • League Leader cards - 3 cards, all Steve Carlton
#65 ERA Leaders with Luis Tiant (Red Sox), #66 Victory Leaders with Gaylord Perry (Indians) and Wilbur Wood (White Sox), #67 Strikeout Leaders with Nolan Ryan (Angels)
  • Manager and coaches card - 1 card, #486
Features manager Danny Ozark along with coaches Carroll Beringer, Billy DeMars, Ray Rippelmeyer and Bobby Wine.
  • Base cards of players who didn't play with the Phillies in 1973 - 1 card, #509 Jim Nash
  • Team card - 1 card, #536

1973 Topps Team
Checklists - Phillies
Who’s out:  The biggest omission is pitcher Dick Ruthven, who started 23 games for the Phillies and had a record of 6-9.  Other guys left out include shortstop Craig Robinson (46 games), outfielder Mike Rogodzinski (66 games, 2 home runs) and reliever Ron Diorio (23 games, 2.33 ERA, 1 save).
Phillies on other teams:  As mentioned previously, Unser appears with the Indians (#247).  Billy Grabarkewitz (#301 with the Angels) and George Culver (#242 with the Astros) were both late summer additions to the team.
What’s he doing here:  Topps fired up the airbrush a little too quickly for its cards of Sanders and Haller.
Cards that never were candidates:  Schmidt and Boone deserve their own cards and Unser needs an actual Phillies card.  Two pitchers who would would win rings with the 1980 Phillies should have cards as well - Ruthven, and Larry Christenson, who made his debut in 1973 and started 9 games.
Favorite Phillies card:  This one is hard.  Schmidt should get the nod, just given the iconic nature of his rookie card, but the Carlton, Luzinski and Montanez cards are also favorites.  I can't decide, so please make your pick in the rare Phillies Room poll now appearing on the sidebar.  It's a question so perplexing, Blogger's poll gadget decided to ask it twice.

1973 Topps #271, #559, #632 and #247
Other Stuff
Recycled:  I ran a post a few days ago detailing the various attempts Topps has made to reproduce Schmidt's rookie card.
Blogs/Websites:  1973 Topps Photography lovingly chronicles the unique and sometimes bizarre photos found within the set.  Check out Oscar Gamble's "Indians" card as a prime example.
Did You Know?:  A few years after I had completed this set, I noticed something cool about the pitcher's cards.  The silhouette on the front of the cards is handedness-appropriate with lefties getting a blue circle and righties getting a red circle.

Note: Coaches Beringer and Rippelmeyer will remain un-labeled in this post until Blogger develops the ability to have more than 20 labels in a post.


Jim from Downingtown said...

The Gamble & Freed for Unser deal was a great fleecing by Paul Owens!

I like the Bill Robinson and Tom Hutton cards. Look at Robinson - He's just glad to be back in the majors after a few years on the scrap heap, and Hutton's card has a nice shot of the "original" Vet.

"handedness-appropriate" - excellent!

Jim said...

I've always liked the Hutton card for that same reason.

Owens would have a more tricks up his sleeve over the next decade!

Steve F. said...

I left this comment on the 1973 Topps blog as well--I had always assumed that the Carlton card was McCarver, but that blog pointed out that McCarver was traded for John Bateman in June, and Bateman also wore #6, so it could be either.

If it helps determine which catcher it is, McCarver was 6'0", 183 lbs., while Bateman was 6'3" and 210 lbs. Carlton was 6'4" and 210 lbs. The catcher looks pretty solid, so it might be more likely Bateman.

The scene pictured is pretty clearly a complete game victory by Carlton at the Vet in a day game, with the catcher shaking his hand. It had to have been either May 7 (McCarver catching the entire game), June 11 (also McCarver the whole game) or August 13 (Bateman catching the entire game)--those were the only three home, day, complete game victories Carlton had that season.

I can't tell whether the catcher is the same height as Carlton or 3" shorter. On the one hand, one might guess that it is more likely McCarver, as the Topps photographers don't seem to have captured a whole lot of late-season action ever (hence all the airbrushing).

OTOH, McCarver's 1973 card, taken presumably during the 1972 season, shows him with short hair, while the catcher on the Lefty card has some wings of hair over his ear, and John Bateman's hair does have those wings on his 1972 card (photo taken in 1971, presumably). So it might be Bateman.

I wonder whether McCarver could tell you for certain whether it is him? Regardless, my guess is Bateman, but I wouldn't put a whole lot of money on it!

Jim said...

Great detective work Steve! Based on your research, I agree with your guess - it's probably Bateman.