Sunday, September 25, 2011

1981 Topps Phillies

1981 Topps #540 and #180, 1981 Topps Traded #800, 1981 Topps #470
I could be mistaken, but I think the 1981 Topps set represents the first set I ever hand-collated.  The cool thing about putting together this set back in the day is that I did it completely without the use of checklists.  I just knew which cards I needed.  I had studied and sorted and handled the cards so frequently that when a card came along that I didn't have (either in a pack, or in the form of a double in one of my friends' trade piles), I knew I needed it.  Looking back on this, I find it's amazing what the mind of a seven-year-old is able to retain.

1981 Topps #470 (Back)
The Set
Number of cards in the set:  For the fourth and final year, Topps included 726 cards in its base set.  And for the first time since 1976, Topps issued a "Traded" series.  The Topps Traded set consisted of 132 cards and started with card number 727.  Since the Traded set is an extension of the regular set, I'm including all 858 cards when tallying up my Phillies totals below.
My very brief thoughts on the set:  I love this set.  When I first started reading baseball card blogs three or four years ago, I was shocked to discover there are actually collectors out there who don't care for this set at all.  In my mind, among cards released from 1970-on, this set is second only to the 1975 Topps set.
Notable competition:  Fleer made its return to baseball cards in 1981, and upstart Donruss joined the fun as well.  Our local Wawa didn't sell the Donruss cards, but I clearly remember boxes of 1981 Topps and 1981 Fleer packs sitting next to each other on the shelves in the candy aisle.  (Also included on the shelf were packs of Topps Stickers.)  I didn't realize Donruss was on the scene until later that summer when we found packs for sale at a store down at the Jersey shore.  The thought of three whole baseball card sets to collect was very exciting at the time, and just a little daunting.  It was a simpler time.

1981 Phillies
Record and finish:  The Phils compiled a record of 59-48 during the strike-shortened 1981 season.  The owners decided to use a split-season format, with a best-of-three play-off series to determine the division winners.  The Phillies, who had won the first half (pre-strike) faced off against the second half (post-strike) winners - the Montreal Expos.  The Expos ended up winning the series, three games to two.
Key players:  Mike Schmidt won his second consecutive MVP award, hitting .316 with 31 home runs and 91 RBIs in the shortened season.  Pete Rose also enjoyed another fine year at the plate, hitting .325.  The newly acquired Gary Matthews provided some punch for the offense as he hit .301 with 9 home runs.  On the mound, Steve Carlton turned in another stellar year, going 13-4 with a 2.42 ERA and 179 strikeouts in 190 innings pitched.
Key events:  Prior to the season, the Phillies sent promising prospect Bob Walk to the Braves for outfielder Matthews.  A few days later, long-time Phillie Greg Luzinski was sold to the Chicago White Sox.  Rose broke Stan Musial's National League record for hits with a single off the Cardinals' Mark Littell on August 10th.

1981 Topps #290, #120, #160 and #90
1981 Phillies in 1981 Topps
Cards needed for a complete team set:  Including League Leader, Record Breaker and Postseason cards, there are a whopping 38 Phillies cards within the base Topps set.  There are another three Phillies cards within the Traded set, for a total of 41 Topps Phillies cards in 1981.  The running tally - 69 Topps Phillies cards from the '80s and 827 Topps Phillies cards overall.
Who’s in:

  • Cards of the eight starting position players - 8 cards
#290 Bob Boone (c), #180 Pete Rose (1b), #470 Manny Trillo (2b), #120 Larry Bowa (ss), #540 Mike Schmidt (3b), #800 Gary Matthews (lf), #160 Garry Maddox (cf), #90 Bake McBride (rf)

Perhaps as a result of their recent World Championship, each of the Phillies regulars received a "hero" number in the set - a card ending in 0.
  • Cards of the starting pitching rotation - 4 cards
#630 Steve Carlton, #691 Dick Ruthven, #346 Larry Christenson, #405 Nino Espinosa

1981 Topps #630, #691, #346 and #405
  • Base cards of other players who played with the Phillies in 1981 - 13 cards
#40 Tug McGraw, #131 Keith Moreland, #317 Lonnie Smith, #376 Ron Reed, #406 Dickie Noles, #426 Warren Brusstar, #459 Greg Gross, #566 Del Unser, #598 George Vukovich, #644 Ramon Aviles, #719 Sparky Lyle, #753 Dick Davis, #815 Mike Proly
  • Phillies appearing on multi-player "Future Stars" cards - 1 card
#526 Marty Bystrom, Jay Loviglio and Jim Wright
  • Base cards of players who didn't play with the Phillies in 1981 - 4 cards
#53 Kevin Saucier, #270 Greg Luzinski, #494 Bob Walk, #584 Randy Lerch
  • Phillies appearing on 1980 Leaders cards - 4 cards
#2 Home Run Leaders - Mike Schmidt with Reggie Jackson (Yankees) and Ben Oglivie (Brewers), #3 RBI Leaders - Mike Schmidt with Cecil Cooper (Brewers), #5 Victory Leaders - Steve Carlton with Steve Stone (Orioles), #6 Strikeout Leaders - Steve Carlton with Len Barker (Indians)
  • Phillies appearing on 1980 Record Breaker cards - 3 cards
#202 Steve Carlton, #205 Pete Rose, #206 Mike Schmidt
  • Phillies appearing on 1980 Postseason cards - 3 cards
#402 N.L. Championships - Bob Boone, Greg Luzinski, Mike Schmidt and Larry Bowa, #403 World Series - Larry Bowa with Frank White (Royals), #404 World Series - Tug McGraw
1981 Topps #40, #376, #317 and #131
Who’s out:  Luis Aguayo appeared in 45 games as a reserve infielder with the Phils, but he's missing from the set.  Pitcher Mark Davis started nine games for the Phillies, but he'd have to wait until 1982 for his first Topps card.
Phillies on other teams:  The same players who appear as Phillies in the Traded set have cards in the base set - #83 Mike Proly (White Sox), #183 Dick Davis (Brewers) and #528 Gary Matthews (Braves)
1981 Topps #404
What’s he doing here:  Jim Wright makes his second appearance on a multi-player prospects card (the first appearance came in 1979), yet he would never play for the Phillies.  Jay Loviglio appears on the 1981 Future Stars card with Wright and Bystom.  He went 0 for 5 with the Phillies in 1980, although he scored seven runs as a pinch-runner.
Cards that never were candidates:  Aguayo and Davis should have cards, and Bystrom is deserving of a solo card.  I'd change up the Future Stars card to include Len Matuszek (made his debut on September 3rd, Bob Dernier and Ryne Sandberg (made his debut on September 2nd).
Favorite Phillies card:  No question - we all coveted and possessed multiple copies of the "Phillies Win First World Series" card, featuring a leaping McGraw.  Honorable mentions - Schmidt's card and the team card.

Other Stuff
Recycled:  I used the 1981 Topps design for my second Chachi set, "released" in 2006.  Topps included a reprint of Schmidt's card in 2001 as part of its Through the Years insert set.  Lonnie Smith appears on a 1981 Topps-style card in the 2005 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites set.
Blogs/Websites:  About a year and a half ago, the Ultimate Baseball Card Set blog took a look at the composition of the "ultimate" 1981 Phillies baseball card set.
Did You Know?:  As the Ultimate Baseball Card Set blog points out, a collector would need to obtain only John Vukovich's 1981 Fleer card and Dallas Green's 1981 Donruss card to possess a set of one released Phillies card per player in 1981.


Kevin said...

Thanks for the link...I really want to get back to this project at some point, I just am crazy busy right now.

Steve F. said...

Sorry I am months behind, but I just recently found your (most excellent!) blog recently and am working my through it and my own Phillies binders to see what I might be missing....

Re that NLCS card (#402), I think it might be Rose and not Schmidt on there congratulating Bull. Here's a close-up of the card:

Look at that stocky build and those tight pants! I think it's Pete. The setting seems to be when Maddox drove in Luzinski against Nolan Ryan in the 4th inning of game 2. Bowa was up next with Boone coming into the on-deck circle. No one scored ahead of Bull; Schmidt had scored two at-bats earlier. SO that person wasn't just standing around--he came out of the dugout. That also is more consistent with something Pete would do.

If I have time later, I will "go to the tape" (or rather a DVD I have of the game) to confirm.

Jim said...

Let me know what the tape says, but I still think it's Schmitty. He's got his post-season beard going and the batting gloves (I think) are his style.

And thanks for going through these old posts!