Sunday, January 22, 2012

1991 Topps Phillies

1991 Topps #689, #545, #345 and #603B
There was a lot of change going down in 1991.  It was the last year the Phillies would wear their maroon pin-striped uniforms with the big bubble "P" that is still synonymous with the team's success in the late '70s and their first World Championship in 1980.  It was also the last year Topps would issue its baseball card set on the gray cardboard of my youth.  In 1992, Topps would switch to a leaner, whiter cardboard that is still in use today for their base set.  1991 was my last full year in High School as I was set to graduate in the Spring of '92 and venture out on my own.  And as a few readers reminded me in the comments of my post on the 1988 Topps set, 1991 was, in my opinion, the last truly classic Topps baseball card set.

1991 Topps #345 (Back)
The Set
Number of cards in the set:  Once again, there are 792 cards in the base set and 132 in the traded series.
My very brief thoughts on the set:  Topps did a nice job of redeeming itself after the debacle that was the 1990 Topps set.  The front of the cards feature a special "40 Years of Baseball" logo to celebrate the ruby anniversary of the Red Backs and Blue Backs released in 1951.  Topps made an effort to coordinate the colors featured on the fronts with the actual colors of the player's team, and the logo of the team name is a nice touch as well.  So what say you?  Is this the last truly classic Topps base set?
Notable competition:  I think the Topps set is the best baseball card set of the year.  Honorable mention goes to Score's set and the first ever Fleer Ultra set.  The Donruss, Fleer and Upper Deck sets were all fairly forgettable.  However, Donruss gets an honorable mention for the awesome Dr. Dirt and Mr. Clean card in its set featuring Lenny Dykstra and Dale Murphy - two completely polar opposites on the field and in life.

1991 Topps #89, #342, #439 and #312
1991 Phillies
Record and finish:  The Phils took a slight baby-step forward, winning one more game than they did in 1990.  They went 78-84 to finish in third place behind the Pirates in the East.
Key players:  This is the year John Kruk started growing out the mullet and came into his own as a big-league hitter.  He hit .294 with 21 home runs and 92 RBIs while splitting time between first base and the corner outfield positions.  Murphy enjoyed a solid season (.252, 18 home runs, 81 RBIs) in his first full year in Philly and Dykstra hit .297 in a season abbreviated by self-inflicted injuries.  Terry Mulholland led the pitching staff with 16 wins, followed by Tommy Greene's 13.  Mitch Williams, acquired from the Cubs right before the start of the season, saved 30 games.
Key events:  In events that would foreshadow his troubles in the future, Dykstra was placed on a year's probation by commissioner Fay Vincent for his involvement in a gambling ring.  Thirteen games into the season, with the team at 4-9, manager Nick Leyva was fired and replaced with Jim Fregosi.  In May, Dykstra and Darren Daulton were seriously injured when Dykstra wrapped his car around a tree following a night of drinking at Kruk's bachelor party.  In happier news, Greene pitched a no-hitter in Montreal on May 23rd and Murphy tallied his 2,000th career hit on May 29th.

1991 Phillies in 1991 Topps
Cards needed for a complete team set:  There are 29 Phillies cards in the base Topps set, but 30 if you include both Wes Chamberlain variations, which I am.  There are 4 more Phillies cards in the traded set.
Who’s in:
  • Cards of the eight starting position players - 8 cards
#89 Darren Daulton (c), #689 John Kruk (1b), #342 Mickey Morandini (2b), #439 Dickie Thon (ss), #312 Charlie Hayes (3b), #603B Wes Chamberlain (lf), #345 Lenny Dykstra (cf), #545 Dale Murphy (rf)
  • Cards of the starting pitching rotation - 5 cards
#413 Terry Mulholland, #486 Tommy Greene, #232 Jose DeJesus, #25T Danny Cox, #637 Bruce Ruffin
1991 Topps #413, #486, #232 and #637
  • Base cards of players who played with the Phillies in 1991 - 15 cards
#9 Darrin Fletcher, #15 Von Hayes, #43 Roger McDowell, #137 Randy Ready, #159 Joe Boever, #173 Jason Grimsley, #186 Rod Booker, #264 Dave Hollins, #524 Darrel Akerfelds, #571 Pat Combs, #618 Sil Campusano, #661 Steve Lake, #712 Ricky Jordan, #3T Wally Backman, #127T Mitch Williams
  • Base cards of players who didn't play with the Phillies in 1991 - 3 cards (with new teams listed)
#209 Ken Howell (Injured), #282 Don Carman (Reds), #603A Louie Meadows (Phillies Triple-A)

I'm counting the Chamberlain/Meadows variation in the official tally.  Card #603 can be found in a corrected version (with Chamerlain's picture) and an error version (with Meadows' picture).  Meadows appeared in 15 games with the 1990 Phillies and he never actually appeared on a Phillies card of his own.
  • #1 Draft Pick card - 1 card, #471 Mike Lieberthal
  • Manager cards - 2 cards, #141 Nick Leyva and #43T Jim Fregosi
1991 Topps Traded #127T, 1991 Topps #15, #712 and #264
Who’s out:  Topps made the decision to include 26 Team USA cards in its traded set, in lieu of giving 26 more cards to actual Major Leaguers with their new teams.  Arguments could be made for either John Morris (85 games) or Jim Lindeman (65 games, .337 average) getting a card with the Phillies in the traded set.  Wally Ritchie (39 games in relief, 2.50 ERA) also could have had a card in the traded set.  
Phillies on other teams:  Backman (#722 with the Pirates) and Williams (#335 with the Cubs) are in the base set with their former teams, but in the traded set as Phillies.  There are three more players who appeared with the 1991 Phillies with cards in the set - Mike Hartley (#199 with the Dodgers), Steve Searcy (#369 with the Tigers) and Dave LaPoint (#484 with the Yankees).
1991 Topps #603A
What’s he doing here:  Really the only questionable selections are Carman and Lieberthal.  Carman became a free agent after the 1990 season and Lieby didn't make his debut until 1994.  Overall, Topps did a really nice job with the Phillies player selection.
Cards that never were candidates:  Morris, Lindeman and Ritchie are deserving.  And how about a card for Rick Schu, who returned to the Phillies after a three-year absence and appeared in 17 games.  (Although he'd hit .091).
Favorite Phillies card:  The Dude edges out Dale Murphy.  I was very excited to finally have a Topps card featuring Murphy as a Phillie, but the shot of Dykstra, asking for time in his dirt-stained uniform is baesball card greatness.  It's sad that Dykstra has allowed his life to completely self-destruct.

Other Stuff
Recycled:  The cards of Dale Murphy and John Kruk in the 2004 and 2005 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites set use the 1991 Topps design.  Also, for the second year in a row, Topps produced a Debut set, featuring the 1991 Topps design and cards of every player who made his big league debut during the 1990 season.  (Hat tip to 14,000 Phillies for the reminder.  And I wish they'd bring this set back.)
Blogs/Websites:  To date, I don't own any 1991 Topps Desert Shield cards, but I've always been fascinated by this rare parallel set.  Here's a comprehensive article on the card set, including a primer on how to spot counterfeit Desert Shield cards.
Did You Know?:  At the outset of this post, I referenced the team's maroon 1970's and 1980's uniforms with the big bubble "P," in use for the last time during the 1991 season.  The team wore those uniforms for 21 full seasons, beginning in 1971.  (The uniforms made their debuts at the tail-end of the 1970 season.)  This may be hard to believe, but the team is now entering its 21st season wearing the uniform set first introduced in 1992.  If the team wears the same uniforms in 2013, and there is no indication that they won't, the 1992 to present day uniforms will surpass the 1971 to 1991 uniforms in terms of longevity.  Crazy, isn't it?


Jim from Downingtown said...

The old uniforms were to be introduced in 1970, along with Veterans Stadium. The stadium was delayed 1 year by construction problems, but they went ahead with the new uniforms anyway.

To date, I don't own any 1991 Topps Desert Shield cards...

Oh, I thought you were talking about the actual Desert Storm/Shield army cards. I have a whole box of unopened wax packs of these, if you want any.

Jim said...

Thanks Jim. Yep, I was talking about the baseball cards with the Desert Shield gold stamp on them. At some point, I'd like to pick up a few of those.