Thursday, July 18, 2013

1972 TOPPS TRADED SUB-SET: A CLOSER LOOK

Today I wanted to examine one of my favorite sub-sets of the 70's, Topps first attempt at a "Traded" set of any kind, cards #751 through #757.
It comprised of only seven cards, but among them you have three future Hall of Famers, six Cy Youngs awards, five M.V.P. awards, and a few little tid-bits of importance in baseball "history".
Starting off with the first card in the sub-set, #751 Steve Carlton, we have the future Hall member showing up as a Phillie for the first time on a card. We all know what happened next: an absolutely amazing 1972 season where he went 27-10 with a 1.97 E.R.A. and 310 strikeouts, easily giving him his first of FOUR Cy Young awards. "Lefty" would go on to forge a Hall of Fame career, ending up with 329 wins to go along with 4136 K's and a championship in 1980.
The second card, #752, was a signifier of a very important piece of baseball history that was about to unfold: the "Big Red Machine" Cincinnati Reds of the 1970's. When Joe Morgan was traded to the Reds in November 1971, it was to be the final piece the Reds needed to become the juggernaut they were hinting they would become a few years later.
Morgan was added to an already powerful line up featuring uber-stars Bench, Rose, Perez and Concepcion among others, leading to two consecutive championships in 1975-76 and catapulting Morgan into the spotlight with M.V.P.'s both years, ending up in the Hall of Fame in 1990. Easily the cream of the crop in the N.L. as far as second basemen went, the perennial all-star gave the Reds that combination of speed and power that was relentless in a line up that could bash you into submission from the get go.
Card #753 shows Denny McLain, former two-time Cy Young winner and 1968 M.V.P. on his new team, the Oakland A's as he was closing out his career.
A bit of a tragic story, McLain is obviously best knows as the last pitcher to win 30+ games in a season (1968), but sadly equally as known for all his problems with the law in his post-baseball career.
1972 was to be his last season in the bigs, closing out a short 10-year career with the Braves down in Atlanta, where he was traded to in June for Orlando Cepeda. In the end he sported a 131-91 career record with a 3.39 E.R.A. to go along with his awards mentioned above.
Next up in the sub-set we have one of the all-time greats, card #754, Frank Robinson, who was traded over to the Los Angeles Dodgers in December of 1971 from the Orioles. He ended up spending only one season in L.A., but didn't move very far, as he was traded to the California Angels about a year later and had a couple of very productive seasons, contributing to his amazing career of 586 home runs, 1812 R.B.I.'s and 2943 hits. I always wondered why he didn't have the "extra" at-bats at the end of his career to try and get to 3,000, especially since he ended his playing days as a player-manager on the Indians. 
Anyway, his one year in the City of Angels wasn't his best showing: a line of .251/.353/.442 to go along with 19 homers and 59 ribbies in 103 games. This lead to only the third time in his 17 year career at that point where he didn't garner any M.V.P. consideration. Incredible.
Jim Fregosi follows up Robinson in his new Mets digs on card #755. As we all know, Fregosi was traded to the Mets in December of 1971 for four players, one of them being Nolan Ryan. Definitely one of the all-time bad trades in baseball history! However, at the time it must be noted that Fregosi really was arguably the best short stop in the American League, posting eight consecutive seasons where he received M.V.P. votes by season's end. Sadly for the Mets he couldn't continue this success, and found himself in Shea for only about a season and a half.
He did move onto a relatively successful managerial career after his playing days were done, managing the Angels, White Sox, Phillies and Blue Jays over 15 years between 1978-2000. Of note, he was the manager of the Phillies team that lost the World Series to the Jays in 1993 thanks in part to Joe Carter's series-ending blast of Mitch Williams. He was also at the helm of the powerful 1979 Angels team that finished first and lost to the Orioles in the playoffs. This was a team with Rod Carew, Don Baylor, Carney Lansford, Bobby Grich, Brian Downing, Dan Ford and Willie Aikens. A monster line up that also had Nolan Ryan as their pitching ace. Not too shabby.
Card #756 gives us Rick Wise, the pitcher that was traded for Steve Carlton, whom we looked at earlier in this sub-set. At the time of the trade, this wasn't exactly a lop-sided trade as Wise was already a proven veteran with seven successful years under his belt even though he was still only 25 years old.
However, when you look at what Carlton ended up achieving as a Phillies ace, you can't help but call this a trade-bust even though Wise went on to have a few more solid seasons before he hung up the spikes in 1982. All told he posted a 188-181 record with a 3.69 E.R.A. and 1647 K's over 18 seasons. Certainly admirable to say the least. But of course he'll always be that answer to the trivia question: who did the Phillies give up for Steve Carlton?
The last card in the set, #757, is perhaps the only card in the set that doesn't really depict a star player, even though this player did post a decent 18-year career spanning 1963-1980: Jose Cardenal.
Traded from the Brewers to the Cubs in December of 1971, Cardenal posted his best seasons as a big-leaguer as a member of the North-siders. As a matter of fact he even got some M.V.P. play in both 1972 and 1973 as an outfielder with a little pop in his bat and some speed on the base paths. He eventually hung them up after the 1980 season where he split time with the Royals and Mets. All told he would end up with just under 2000 hits, a .275 batting average, and over 300 stolen bases spread out over 2017 games.
So there you have it: seven cards that show "Traded" blazing across the front with a small write-up on the back, thrown in as a new sub-set in the monster 787-card 1972 Topps baseball card set. Definitely a great idea, but I wish they could have done something other than the "Married with Children" stencil font "rubber-stamp" TRADED designation. But hey, at least their player selection was on point! Great group with tons of accomplishments.

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