Sunday, August 14, 2011

1978 Topps Phillies

1978 Topps #420, #360, #26 and #610
Back in the early '80s, when I was first piecing together the prior year chronology of the Topps baseball card sets, I remember being surprised that the 1978 Topps set wasn't actually from the early '70s.  Maybe it was the occasionally strange, washed out and poorly airbrushed photos used for some of the cards, or it could have been the black and white photos used on the manager cards that initially tricked me.

In any event, at least to me, the 1978 Topps set just never seemed as cool as the other sets from the '70s.  Only recently have I learned to appreciate the sets quirks and what I now understand to be a definite late-'70s vibe to the set.  For whatever reason, I've probably never really given the 1978 Topps set the appropriate appreciation it deserves.

The Set
1978 Topps #610 (Back)
Number of cards in the set:  The set jumped from 660 cards to 726 in 1978, making it the largest Topps baseball card set since 1972.
My very brief thoughts on the set:  There sure are a lot of portrait shots of the Phillies in the set, and not much action.  I counted, and there are only two Phillies cards with in-game action shots, so maybe that's another reason why the set has never resonated with me.  Yet another reason could be the cards' orange backs.
Notable competition:  Along with the standard Hostess and Kellogg's issues, there was a 27-card Phillies set issued by SSPC as part of an instructional baseball booklet called Baseball The Phillies Way.  The cards were featured on cardboard sheets in the center of the book, and they were designed to be cut down to the standard 2 1/2" by 3 1/2" size.  I bought two of these books back in the mid-'80s for a few dollars each.  I've kept one in tact and cut the cards in the other into individual cards to be displayed in pages in my 1970s Phillies binder.

1978 Phillies
Record and finish:  The Phillies finished with a record of 90-72 to win the division for the third straight year, just a game and a half in front of the Pirates.  And for the third straight year, they lost the N.L.C.S.  The Dodgers were the culprits again, winning the series in four games.
Key players:  The duo of Greg Luzinski (.265, 35 home runs, 101 RBIs) and Mike Schmidt (.251, 21 home runs, 78 RBIs) led the offense once again, although it was an off-year for Schmidt.  Richie Hebner also turned in a nice season, hitting .283 with 17 home runs and 71 RBIs.  Steve Carlton led the pitching staff (16-13, 2.84 ERA) followed by Larry Christenson (13-14, 3.24 ERA) and the re-acquired Dick Ruthven (13-5, 2.99 ERA).  Closer Ron Reed saved 17 games and pitched to a 2.24 ERA.
Key events:  Paul Owens was wheeling and dealing at the trade deadline, picking up reliever Rawley Eastwick from the Yankees for the popular Jay Johnstone.  He also dealt away reliever Gene Garber for Ruthven.

1978 Topps #161, #136, #90 and #340
1978 Phillies in 1978 Topps
Cards needed for a complete team set:  There are 28 cards in the Phillies team set.  That's 265 Topps Phillies cards from 1970-1978 and 733 Topps Phillies cards from 1951-1978.
Who’s in:
  • Cards of the eight starting position players - 8 cards
#161 Bob Boone (c), #26 Richie Hebner (1b), #136 Ted Sizemore (2b), #90 Larry Bowa (ss), #360 Mike Schmidt (3b), #420 Greg Luzinski (lf), #610 Garry Maddox (cf), #340 Bake McBride (rf)
  • Cards of the starting pitching rotation - 5 cards
#540 Steve Carlton, #247 Larry Christenson, #271 Randy Lerch, #715 Jim Kaat, #52 Jim Lonborg

Ruthven had more innings pitched than Kaat and Lonborg, but the latter two started more games.

1978 Topps #540, #247, #271 and #75
  • Base cards of other players who played with the Phillies in 1978 - 10 cards
#177 Gene Garber, #210 Jose Cardenal, #222 Jerry Martin, #235 Tim McCarver, #297 Warren Brusstar, #317 Davey Johnson, #446 Tug McGraw, #472 Ron Reed, #513 Barry Foote, #675 Jay Johnstone
  • Base cards of players who didn't play with the Phillies in 1978 - 2 cards
  • League Leader card - 1 card
#205 Victory Leaders - Steve Carlton with Dave Goltz (Twins), Dennis Leonard (Royals) and Jim Palmer (Orioles)
  • Team card - 1 card, #381
  • Manager card - 1 card, #631 for Danny Ozark

1978 Topps #317, #210, #472 and #52
Who’s out:  The only real omission is infielder Jim Morrison, who appeared in 53 games with the Phillies.  
Phillies on other teams:  There are four cards featuring players who played with the 1978 Phillies but appeared on other teams within the set - #75 Dick Ruthven (Braves), #399 Pete Mackanin (Expos), #403 Bud Harrelson (Mets) and #405 Rawley Eastwick (Cardinals)
What’s he doing here:  Topps has a decent track record over the past several years of giving cards to Phillies players who actually deserved cards.  I can't argue with the inclusion of either Hutton (sold to the Blue Jays in December 1977) or long-time Phillie Harmon (released in early April 1978) in the team set.
Cards that never were candidates:  Harrelson, Ruthven and Eastwick should all have Phillies cards.  Farmhands Lonnie Smith and Keith Moreland made their debuts, and they would be members of the 1980 Championship squad.  There were no Phillies pictured on the multi-player "Rookie" cards, so I'd make a card featuring Morrison, Smith, Moreland and perhaps Todd Cruz. (Cruz already has his "card that never was," featured in a past post.)
Favorite Phillies card:  There's no denying the majesty of Cardenal's card, but solely for the lack of a real stand-out from the set, I'll go with the Secretary of Defense's card which features a shot of Maddox at Spring Training sporting the baby blue road unis.  (I'd also consider the team card, as it features one of the best teams in franchise history, the '77 squad, posing in front of two of the huge statues from the outside of The Vet.)

Other Stuff
1978 Topps #381
Recycled:  Other than a Bob Boone card from the 2005 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites set, I don't know of any other Phillies cards out there that have borrowed the design.
Blogs/Websites:  There are a few blogs I'd like to highlight here.  Garvey Cey Russell Lopes has been working on putting together a 1978 Burger King/Topps Update set featuring Dodgers who should have had cards in the 1978 Topps set.  There's also the Collective Troll's Nitty Gritty blog, which I believe started as a blog celebrating the 1978 Topps set, and then morphed into a blog celebrating awesome, vintage cards.
Did You Know?:  There are two questionable cards within the set that could be considered for inclusion within a master Phillies team set.  The first is card #412 featuring the 1977 N.L.C.S. recap noting that the Dodgers had "overpowered" the Phillies in four games.  Catcher McCarver is pictured on the card, watching Davey Lopes presumably knock one of his four hits.  (EDIT:  Lopes actually lines out on the swing - Thanks to Night Owl.)  The other card is #401 for Reds manager and Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson.  Anderson's "As Player" photo features him with the Phillies, back when he was still just George.


night owl said...

The Lerch card has been one of my favorites since I was a kid, so I would've picked that one.

Topps had bigger sets than the '78 set earlier ('71 and '72).

I figured out the play that was featured on that NLCS card way back on one of the first night card posts. Lopes is actually lining out to second base on the first at-bat of Game 4.

Jim said...

Thanks Night Owl. Edits coming soon!

Matt Runyon said...

My vote would probably go to either Jim Lonborg or Greg Luzinski. We loved getting those cards with the All Star Shield. Mike Schmidt cards should have always been "action cards" -- his portrait cards usually didn't look very good.

Anonymous said...

Oh My Goodness! Are 99% of Mike Schmidt cards head shots? I realize he's got this great rugged good looking "Marlboro man" style to him, but seriously huh?? Perhaps the greatest third baseman ever, who could REALLY hit, and Topps thinks nothing about showing off his swing or glove? I think I've only seen 2 Mike Schmidt cards of him actually in action (and no, the '82 In Action card does NOT even count as "in action")

Ok, that's my Schmidt rant of the day.

I love this post otherwise. I just can't believe Topps dissed Mike so often

Section 36 said...

I love the new look. I may have to steal it. I like the red as well.

Scott said...

Such a weird looking team photo card.
Players looking at each other and clowning around. A glove placed atop the glove on the statue. These Topps photographers weren’t the greatest.

Jim said...

I'm 99% certain the player who put the glove on top of the statue's glove was Tug McGraw, as he's standing directly in front of that display. :)