Sunday, January 1, 2012

1989 Topps Phillies

1989 Topps #385, #358, 1989 Topps Traded #49T and #63T
Happy new year!  Here's to a wonderful 2012 for you and your friends and family.

The 1989 season was a hot mess for the Phillies.  Mike Schmidt tearfully announced his retirement, fan favorites Chris James, Steve Bedrosian and Juan Samuel were all sent packing, and the team continued to underwhelm with another last place finish.  Here and now, with the 2012 Phillies about to begin their journey in about 45 days, I'm reminded again just how much distance there is between today's team and the team I somehow managed to root for some two decades ago.

1989 Topps #154 (Back)
The Set
Number of cards in the set:  For the eighth year in a row, Topps issued 792 cards in its base set and another 132 in its traded series.
My very brief thoughts on the set:  I never really cared for this set although I recently enjoyed flipping through the set with my son Doug.  For the record, and this is completely unofficial, there are three Doug's in the set - Dascenzo, Drabek and Jones.  We may have missed a few since we were too pre-occupied with the discovery that there are two guys named Candy in the set.  But I digress.

Was 1987 the last great Topps baseball card set (in my opinion, of course?)  When I look through the Topps base set cards from 1988 through 2011, there isn't one complete set that really stands out.  I like the 1993 set, but was it a great set?  I'm fine with chalking this observation up to the fact that the sets I like the most are sets I first encountered during my childhood.  But is there something more to it?  Has Topps produced a great, universally adored baseball card base set since 1987?  These are deep questions for a New Year's Day.
Notable competition:  Upper Deck entered the fold in 1989 with it's ground-breaking set, holograms on the back and all.  This next statement will make me sound crotchety, but baseball cards and baseball card collecting hasn't been the same since I opened that first foil-wrapped Upper Deck pack.  Fleer, Donruss and Score were all afterthoughts to me in 1989.  Topps resurrected the Bowman name in 1989 with an extra large, underwhelming set featuring the first Phillies cards of a lot of the players the team acquired prior to the start of the 1989 season.

1989 Topps #187, 1989 Topps Traded #119T, #27T and 1989 Topps #100
1989 Phillies
Record and finish:  Have I already mentioned that 1989 was a hot mess for the Phils?  The team started the year with what seemed like dozens of new faces and a bunch of more new faces would join the team before the season was over.  They managed to win two more games than in the prior year, going 67-95 on their way to a second straight last place finish.
Key players:  Von Hayes was the only consistent offensive threat in the line-up, putting up a respectable .259 average with 26 home runs and 78 RBIs.  When your next two offensive power houses are Ricky Jordan (.285, 12 home runs, 75 RBIs) and Dickie Thon (.271, 15 home runs, 60 RBIs), you know it's going to be a long year.  New second baseman Tommy Herr hit .287 and John Kruk hit .331 after being acquired from the Padres for James in June.  Ken Howell and Jeff Parrett led the pitching staff with 12 wins a piece and Roger McDowell saved 19 games for the Phils after they had shipped former closer Bedrosian to the Giants.  Rookie Pat Combs gave the team hope for the future when he won four games and pitched to a 2.09 ERA following his September call-up.
Key events:  In late May, future Hall of Famer Schmidt called a press conference in San Diego to announce his retirement.  Although he was hitting just .203 with 6 home runs at the time, his decision still came as a shock.  Steve Jeltz lost his starting shortstop job to Thon, but he did manage to hit two home runs from both sides of the plate in the same game, making him the first Phillie in history to do so.  As mentioned at the outset, GM Lee Thomas was extremely busy, trading away popular players and netting Kruk, Randy Ready, Lenny Dykstra, McDowell, Terry Mulholland, Dennis Cook and Charlie Hayes in three seperate trades.  And my hero, Bob Dernier, hit a thrilling, game-winning, inside-the-park home run against the Giants on May 15th.  The video is terrible, but it's hard not to get chills listening to the call from Harry Kalas:

1989 Phillies in 1989 Topps
Cards needed for a complete team set:  There are 28 Phillies cards in the base set and Topps added another 11 Phillies cards to its traded set.  
Who’s in:
  • Cards of the eight starting position players - 7 cards
#187 Darren Daulton (c), #358 Ricky Jordan (1b), #49T Tom Herr (2b), #119T Dickie Thon (ss), #63T John Kruk (lf), #27T Lenny Dykstra (cf), #385 Von Hayes (rf)

All three players (Mulholland, Cook and new third baseman Charlie Hayes) acquired from the Giants for Bedrosian were omitted from the traded set.  However, the players acquired from the Mets for Samuel (Dykstra and McDowell) on the same day as the Bedrosian deal, made it into the traded set as Phillies.  This baffles me.  (For the record, all three appear in Fleer's update set.)
  • Cards of the starting pitching rotation - 3 cards
#54T Ken Howell, #518 Bruce Ruffin, #154 Don Carman

1989 Topps Traded #54T, 1989 Topps #518, #154 and 1989 Topps Traded #80T
  • Base cards of players who played with the Phillies in 1989 - 19 cards
#20 Steve Bedrosian, #39 Mike Maddux, #100 Mike Schmidt, #268 Keith Miller, #298 Chris James, #349 Ron Jones, #418 Bob Dernier, #542 Todd Frohwirth, #575 Juan Samuel, #627 Greg Harris, #634 Marvin Freeman, #653 Tom Barrett, #707 Steve Jeltz, #65T Steve Lake, #79T Roger McDowell, #80T Larry McWilliams, #90T Steve Ontiveros, #95T Jeff Parrett, #102T Randy Ready
  • Base cards of players who didn't play with the Phillies in 1989 - 8 cards (with new teams listed)
#67 Dave Palmer (Tigers), #128 Milt Thompson (Cardinals), #202 Brad Moore (Phillies minors), #215 Kevin Gross (Expos), #438 Greg Gross (Astros), #470 Lance Parrish (Angels), #494 Shane Rawley (Twins), #608 Phil Bradley (Orioles)
  • Phillies Leaders card - 1 card, #489 with Mike Schmidt
  • Manager card  - 1 card, #74 Nick Leyva
1989 Topps Traded #79T, #95T, 1989 Topps #418 and #707
Who’s out:  As mentioned previously, Charlie Hayes, Mulholland and Cook were all left out, despite their prominent roles with the team, for better or worse, during the second half of the season.
Phillies on other teams:  Brace yourselves.  There are 16 players in the base set who played with the Phils in 1989 but appear on other teams.  First, here are the 11 who ended up as Phillies in the traded set - #93 Ken Howell (Dodgers), #176 Jeff Parrett (Expos), #235 John Kruk (Padres), #259 Larry McWilliams (Cardinals), #435 Lenny Dykstra (Mets), #463 Steve Lake (Cardinals), #551 Randy Ready (Padres), #692 Steve Ontiveros (Athletics), #709 Tom Herr (Twins), #726 Dickie Thon (Padres), #735 Roger McDowell (Mets).  And here are the 5 who didn't - #41 Terry Mulholland (Giants), #91 Floyd Youmans (Expos), #132 Curt Ford (Cardinals), #338 Jim Adduci (Brewers), #667 Dwayne Murphy (Tigers).
1989 Topps #74
What’s he doing here:  Parrish was traded to the Angels on October 3, 1988, the day after the 1988 season ended.  Of course, this was back in the day when the sets were coming out shortly after Thanksgiving, so it might have been too late to airbrush anyone even for a trade that early in the offseason.  But . . . the Phils hired new manager Leyva on October 3, 1988, and managed to airbrush him into a Phillies hat in time for his card to appear within the 1989 Topps set.
Cards that never were candidates:  There are a whopping 19 players who appeared with the Phillies during the 1989 season, but did not appear as Phillies in the 1989 Topps set.  I've narrowed the list down to seven players who should have had Phillies cards - Combs, Charlie Hayes, Mulholland, Cook, outfielder Dwayne Murphy (9 home runs in 98 games), outfielder Curt Ford (.218 average in 108 games) and reliever Randy O'Neal (appeared in 20 games with a 6.23 ERA).  On second thought, maybe O'Neal doesn't necessarily need a Phillies card.  Ford appears in the 1989 Bowman set as a Phillie.
Favorite Phillies card:  I have to go with Dernier's card.  It's his last major Topps baseball card and it's always been a favorite of mine.

Other Stuff
Recycled:  Schmidt's card is reprinted in the 2001 Topps Archives set.
Blogs/Websites:  For a very thorough overview of the 1989 Topps set, check out this post over at the Lifetime Topps Project.  
Did You Know?:  I was less than impressed the first time I ever saw an Upper Deck baseball card and my Dad ended up with a nasty bump on his head.


Jim from Downingtown said...

That Dernier HR was one of the all-time greatest Philadelphia sports plays I have seen.

night owl said...

I have a soft spot for '89 Topps because I went crazy trying to complete the set (I must get the traded set someday, I'm sure it's dirt cheap).

'87 Topps may well be the last universally loved set (not by me -- never liked it), because of how many sets arrived after that.

Yikes, I think you gave me a post idea.

John Bateman said...

I agree the 1987 set was an end of an era set. However, the 1988 set has started to grow on me and the 1991 was great. Starting in 1992 you begin the great abyss - (the beginning of glossy, white paper cards).

The 2003 set was the best since 1991. The 2005 set was a worthy set and the 2008 set with its dippin dots design is a great looking set.

The 1989 set was like the Phillies not to good but it looks better now than it did 10-15 years ago

Anonymous said...

As a Mets fan, I still want to spit on the ground at the mention of Juan Samuel. The Phillies got Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell; the Mets got 86 games of disappointing play, and then traded Samuel for Alejandro Pena and Mike Marshall.

I like the 1988 set better than 1987, I think it's a simple-yet-classic design (although I, too, would've liked the player's position on there).

I'd nominate 1991 as the last classic Topps set.

Jim said...

Thanks guys. I tend to agree with the '91 set being a classic. When it first came out, I remember being stunned by the horizontal base cards. I had never before collected a modern set with so many horizontal cards.

Night Owl - Looking forward to the post!

Jim - I love that Dernier home run and I love Harry's call of it even more. You can just picture Harry and Whitey going crazy in the booth as the play was unfolding.

Kevin said...

Not an Upper Deck fan, but Upper Deck took off because they took advantage of several weaknesses in the market.

1) Upgraded the paper quality, so cards would stay in mint condition easier...Score sort of did this the year before but their sophomore effort was worse than the 1982 Fleer set and because of this, they became afterthoughts to all collectors from 1989 on.

2) The rarity of their cards...whether this is true or not they advertised how rare their cards were compared to the other companies. Even then there was a sense that cards were being overprinted.

3) The hologram...there was concern about fake cards amongst the hobby, especially now with some cards starting to attract 6 figures (in 1989), it was a big selling point

4) Ken Griffey Jr...MLB's answer to Michael Jordan through the 1990s, and what is thought of as his rookie card...card #1 in the 1989 UD set...Topps didn't get Griffey in until the 1989 Traded set.

5) Design...the design looked modern at the time, a nice white border, clean photos with better resolution (not airbrushed), minimal use of other elements (Topps was bringing out a look that could be seen as an update to the 1978 set, Fleer had some awful grey border and the fface card, Donruss had a rainbow theme going, and Score, while not bas was a mess for other reasons...both Fleer and Donruss were using the same flimsy paper since they started)

Jim said...

Kevin - All excellent points. If the price of a pack of Upper Deck in 1989 had been a little cheaper, I would have given them more consideration.