Sunday, August 28, 2011

1979 Topps Phillies

1979 Burger King Phillies #13, 1979 Topps #610, #540 and #470
1979 was a watershed year for me as a baseball fan and as a baseball card collector.  My Dad took me to my first ever Phillies game in the summer of '79 and I added my first cards to my baseball card collection.  I was five years old at the time (going on six) and my life was pretty much dominated by Star Wars before I was introduced to baseball cards.

Occasionally on Friday nights, as a treat for the whole family, we'd pile into the station wagon and travel to nearby Vineland to dine at one of the finer dining establishments in our area - Burger King.  It was on one of those visits that I came away with my first baseball cards - treasures from the 23-card Burger King Phillies set, modelled after the mainstream 1979 Topps set. 

1979 Topps #540 (Back)
The Set
Number of cards in the set:  Topps stuck with a 726-card set for the second year in a row.
My very brief thoughts on the set:  It's never been one of my favorite baseball card sets, but you never forget your first.  Maybe I'd give the set a little more respect if Topps had used blue or red for the team banner on the Phillies cards, instead of purple.  Strangely enough, my favorite card from the set isn't actually in the set.  It's the Burger King Pete Rose card, which I've written about before.
Notable competition:  I don't know if the Burger King set could be considered competition, as it was manufactured by Topps, but I know I would have gladly traded two regular Topps cards for one Burger King card.  There were also sets released by Kellogg's and Hostess.  The Kellogg's card for Rose features him in a Reds uniform, but it has a Phillies logo on the back.  So it's technically a Phillies card.  (At least by my rules.)

1979 Phillies
Record and finish:  The Phils slipped in 1979, finishing 84-78 and in fourth place in the division, 14 games behind the Pirates.
Key players:  Rose came as advertised, hitting .331 and helping the club set a franchise attendance record.  Mike Schmidt (.253, 45 home runs, 114 RBIs) and Greg Luzinski (.252, 18 home runs, 81 RBIs) provided the power in the middle of the line-up once again.  Steve Carlton (18-11, 3.62 ERA, 213 strikeouts) had another great year, but the rest of the pitching staff struggled.  Newcomer Nino Espinosa secured 14 wins and Ron Reed won 13 games out of the bullpen, despite owning a 4.15 ERA.  Tug McGraw led the club with 16 saves, but his 5.16 ERA was proof of a rough year for the lefty reliever.
Key events:  The Phillies signed free agent Rose on December 5, 1978, after the Phillies local televison affiliate, WPHL-TV, kicked in the necessary additional funds to land the future hit king.  In February, General Manager Paul Owens pulled off a blockbuster trade, sending Barry Foote, Jerry Martin, Ted Sizemore and two prospects to the Cubs for Manny Trillo, Greg Gross and Dave Rader.  The underachieving Phillies cost manager Danny Ozark his job in late August.  Former Phillies pitcher and the current Farm Director, Dallas Green, took over in an effort to right the ship.

1979 Topps #90, 1979 Burger King Phillies #14, 1979 Topps #210 and #630
1979 Phillies in 1979 Topps
Cards needed for a complete team set:  There are just 25 cards needed to complete the Phillies team set.  The tally is now 290 total Topps Phillies cards from the 1970's, and 758 Topps Phillies cards overall.
Who’s in:
  • Cards of the eight starting position players - 6 cards
#90 Bob Boone (c), #210 Larry Bowa (ss), #610 Mike Schmidt (3b), #540 Greg Luzinski (lf), #470 Garry Maddox (cf), #630 Bake McBride (rf)

The regular first baseman (Rose) and second baseman (Trillo) are in the set, but are featured with their former teams.
  • Cards of the starting pitching rotation - 4 cards
#25 Steve Carlton, #52 Randy Lerch, #419 Dick Ruthven, #493 Larry Christenson

1979 Topps #25 and #52, 1979 Burger King Phillies #11, 1979 Topps #419
  • Base cards of other players who played with the Phillies in 1979 - 9 cards
#118 Bud Harrelson, #136 Jim Kaat, #177 Ron Reed, #271 Rawley Eastwick, #317 Jose Cardenal, #345 Tug McGraw, #446 Jim Lonborg, #653 Warren Brusstar, #675 Tim McCarver
  • Phillies appearing on multi-player "Prospects" cards - 1 card
#722 Jim Morrison, Lonnie Smith and Jim Wright

Only Smith actually played with the Phils in 1979.
  • Base cards of players who didn't play with the Phillies in 1979 - 4 cards
#161 Barry Foote, #297 Ted Sizemore, #382 Jerry Martin, #567 Rich Hebner
  • Team card with manager - 1 card, #112 with Danny Ozark
1979 Burger King Phillies #22, 1979 Topps #675, #177 and #345
Who’s out:  Given how active Owens was in the offseason, there are a ton of players featured on other teams in the set (see below).  Also missing are utility infielders Rudy Meoli (30 games, .178 average) and Ramon Aviles (27 games, .279 average), starting pitcher Dickie Noles (3-4 in 14 starts) and reliever Kevin Saucier (29 games, 1 save).
Phillies on other teams:  There are a whopping eight Phillies featured on other teams in the set - #579 Greg Gross, #639 Manny Trillo and #693 Doug Rader (all with the Cubs), #102 Mike Anderson (Orioles), #566 Nino Espinosa (Mets), #628 Del Unser (Expos), #650 Pete Rose (Reds) and #664 Doug Bird (Royals)
What’s he doing here:  Current Rockies' bullpen coach Jim Wright appeared on multi-player rookie cards with the Phillies in both the 1979 and 1981 Topps sets, but he never played a game with the Phils.  The Royals selected him in the 1980 Rule 5 draft and he appeared in 24 games with Kansas City in 1981 and 1982.
Cards that never were candidates:  Burger King already took care of six players who should have had 1979 Topps Phillies cards, so I'll omit those from consideration here - Rose, Trillo, Gross, Espinosa, Bird and Pete Mackanin.  (Manager Ozark also has a solo card in the Burger King set.)  Unser and Anderson both saw significant time off the bench for the Phils, and they weren't in the Burger King set, so they'll need cards.  Same goes for third-string catcher Rader, who was the only one of the trio who came over in the Cubs trade who was left out of the Burger King set.  Noles and Saucier should also have cards, and how about an updated team card featuring an updated shot of the actual 1979 Phillies team along with new manager Green?
Favorite Phillies card:  Since the Rose card isn't actually in the set, I'll go with my second favorite.  I've always been a fan of the Bowa card - home uniforms, eye black and the All-Star banner make for a great combination.

1979 Topps #628
Other Stuff
Recycled:  There are just two recent Phillies cards (that I'm aware of) to recycle the 1979 Topps design - Lonborg's 2001 Topps Archives card, which is a reprint of the original, and a 2004 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites card for Maddox, which features a different photo than the original.
Blogs/Websites:  Check out The Vintage Sportscard Blog and let Chris know that the world needs a blog dedicated to the 1979 Topps set.  I hadn't realized this set is the first to feature a Topps logo on the front of the cards until I read his post.
Did You Know?:  Hurricane Irene delayed this post initially.  The actual Phillies Room (our basement) was a little soggy this morning, so we spent the bulk of the day vacuuming up water and arranging fans and dehumidifiers to dry the basement carpet.  Fortunately, one of the very last things I did before I went to bed last night was to pick up my binder holding the 1979 Topps set from the floor.  I frequently leave binders on the floor around my computer desk, but last night I had the foresight to pick up the '79 Topps binder and put it away.  If I hadn't picked it up, it would have been a watery mess this morning.  Hope everyone made it out of the storm safe and sound.


Section 36 said...

Glad to hear the Phillies Room (and you and your family, of course) survived Irene!

night owl said...

I knew there was a reason most of my binders are upstairs.

The Gross, Espinosa and McBride cards might as well be Burger King cards to me as I had never seen them before until now.

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear you had the presence of mind to remove the binder from the room and that otherwise you came out of the storm okay.

In the O-Pee-Chee set, Radar's, Rose's and Trillo's cards had the team designation changed to Phillies. I'll see what I can do about sending scans of them to you in the next couple days or so.

Chris Stufflestreet said...

I live in Florida and spent a decade working for the cable company, so I have had my share of dealing with the effects of hurricanes. In 2004, there were a total of FIVE storms (four of them hurricanes, one was a tropical storm) that visited our area. Though the money was really good due to all of the overtime needed, I am so glad I'm not doing that business anymore.

While getting water out of your basement seems like a hassle, I have seen my share of houses where that would have been like a miracle.

Thanks for the plug of my blog, even if it does come with a rally for me to get even busier.

Jim said...

Thanks everyone. I'm happy to report our carpet is dry again. It smells a little musty down here, but we'll work on that next.

Steve F. said...

Still monitoring this old post? You mentioned it in a post two years earlier but accidentally left his name out here: Pete Mackanin also has a BK Phillies card in 1979 but not a Topps Phillies card.

Also, re those OPC put out 1979 Phillies cards of Gross, Trillo and Dave Rader, they are PINO (Phillies in name only) cards: the unis show them with their prior teams--only the team name on the front says Phillies. Definitely not as cool as the 1977 Hebner airbrush job.

Jim said...

Thanks Steve and I've corrected the oversight on the Mackanin card. I actually featured that card on the blog way back in April 2009.