1980-81 Player Movement And 1981 Topps, Fleer and Donruss

A couple of months ago I wrote a post that I thought was salvaging a failed idea, but it turned out to be more interesting than I’d expected… And that idea involved looking at how the transactions of the prior season and winter are reflected in a particular baseball card set.

The last time I looked at 1974 Topps and Topps Traded. Since I don’t want to be accused of beating the 1970s to death in this blog, I went forward to 1981 (where I have all of 1981 Topps and Fleer, and much of 1981 Donruss).

1981 was, of course, the first year since 1963 where a company other than Topps issued baseball cards in retail packs, and it was also the first year that Topps did a Traded set as a separate product (unlike the 1970s traded cards which came in later packs of that year’s regular set).

Now there’s nothing I’m trying to prove or disprove, nor any point I’m trying to make.  This is just a matter of laying the cards on the table (so to speak) and saying “Hey, check this out.”

The earliest transaction I found which resulted in airbrushing

One thing I found a fair amount of in 1981 Topps was instances where the photographers had, at least in theory, plenty of time to take photos of a player in a new uniform.  On April 6th, 1980 the Giants purchased Allen Ripley from the Boston Red Sox.  With an entire season to take photos, Topps ended up with an airbrushed portrait.

…But Fleer managed to get a photo of the talented Mr. Ripley.

I wouldn’t be completely surprised if there are players who were traded during the 1979 season and are airbrushed in 1981 Topps, but I didn’t want to go completely crazy with my research.

Latest trade reflected in 1981 Topps with actual photos

On August 14, 1980 the Yankees and Rangers made a trade where the two principals were future HOFer Gaylord Perry and swingman Ken Clay.

As these things often go, Clay ended up pitching just 8 games in 1980 for the Rangers and would get traded to Seattle that offseason.  He spent all of 1981 with the Mariners, and got a card in 1981 Topps Traded.

1981 Fleer, by the way, also showed Gaylord Perry with the Yankees.

A late August transaction that isn’t a “first” or “last”, but is interesting enough anyway.

On August 31st, Willie Montañez was traded by the Padres to the Expos for minor leaguer Tony Phillips (who would be involved in one more trade before making his Major League debut with the A’s in 1982).

Topps has Montañez airbrushed into an Expos uniform.

But Fleer has him still with the Padres (and his name misspelled “Willy”) while Donruss ignored Montañez altogether.

The final transaction reflected in 1981 Topps

On September 13, 1980 the Rangers sent Sparky Lyle to Philadelphia for a PTBNL.  Topps airbrushed Lyle into a Phillies uni.

Fleer and Donruss managed to get honest-to-goodness photos of Lyle (even if neither photo is the best).

The earliest transaction featured in the 1981 Topps Traded set

The Yankees traded Fred Stanley to the A’s for Mike Morgan on November 3rd, 1980.  Both players are included in the Traded checklist.

Last transaction which resulted in a team change in 1981 Donruss

One thing 1981 Donruss is known for is reflecting player movement by changing the team name on the front of the card, even when the photo doesn’t reflect that change.  The last transaction which shows this came on December 7th, 1980… The Cardinals signed Darrell Porter as a free agent.

What’s more interesting is that Don Sutton signed as a free agent with the Astros three days before Porter signed with the Cards, but Sutton’s card lists him with the Dodgers.  This is just a guess, but maybe Donruss finished the printing sheet featuring Sutton before they finished the sheet featuring Porter.


Side trip into the 1981 Topps/Coca-Cola sets

I’m not going to get into any great detail here, but it’s worth noting that Coca-Cola sponsored a number of team sets which came out during the 1981 season.  Any updates featured airbrushed photos, but those same players would have updated photos in the Traded set which came out later in the year.

I don’t have a lot of these Coke cards, but I figured I’d share a couple that I do have….

January 23, 1981: Frank Tanana, Jim Dorsey and Joe Rudi were traded by the Angels to the Boston Red Sox for Fred Lynn and Steve Renko.

February 28, 1981: The Cubs traded Dave Kingman to the Mets for Steve Henderson.  Henderson also got a Coke card.  I’m reusing a scan from a long-ago post, so here we’ve got Kingman’s traded card on the left and his Coca-Cola card on the right.

You can find out a little bit more about these cards from a number of posts I’ve written before (click here to scroll through them).


Back to the original theme of the post… such as it is…

The final transaction reflected in 1981 Topps Traded with a photo
The New York Yankees traded Jim Spencer and Tom Underwood to the Oakland Athletics for Dave Revering, Mike Patterson and a minor leaguer, May 20th, 1981.

This is a very underwhelming trade but you’d have to say that the A’s “won” this deal if only for the 22 wins Tom Underwood got for Oakland.

Last deal reflected in 1981 Topps
The Cubs traded Rick Reuschel to the New York Yankees for Doug Bird, a player to be named later (Mike Griffin), and cash, June 12, 1981

Players missing from Donruss and Fleer

1981 Donruss has fewer cards than the other two flagship sets, so it’s not surprising that there are fewer players represented… but it’s interesting to note which players are missing, because some of them are fairly notable  For instance, Rudy May won the AL ERA title in 1980, but he’s not in 1981 Donruss:

Rusty Staub was a 6-time All-Star and appeared in 109 games in 1980, but he’s also missing from Donruss.

Other notable players who are not in 1981 Donruss: Bill Campbell, Claudell Washington, Doug Bird, Ed Figueroa, Ellis Valentine, John Curtis, John D’Acquisto, Lee May (also not in Topps), Rick Rhoden, Ross Grimsley, Terry Forster, Willie Montañez

Notable Players who are not in 1981 Fleer: Andre Thornton, Cesar Geronimo, Duane Kuiper, Rick Wise

Notable players who are not in 1981 Donruss or Fleer:  Ken Brett, Pedro Guerrero


I will probably do another one of these in the future, I’m thinking about doing 1988 Topps since I have the complete set – my complete sets get spottier after 1981 – and because I wonder if I’m right in thinking that Topps would get more serious about these matters as that decade moved along. But I could be wrong as well.

Chasing After Trivia And Then Down The Rabbit Hole

I ran across a fun bit of trivia that I would think Mariners fans would know, but it’s still a fun challenge for everybody else.

Do you know what these five Seattle Mariners have in common?

Frank MacCormack (He doesn’t appear on a card with the Mariners, which is why I had to go with a borrowed image of a minor league issue)

1978 Mr. Chef's Fish & Chix San Jose Missions Frank MacCormack from COMC

1978 Mr. Chef’s Fish & Chix San Jose Missions #4 – Frank MacCormack – Courtesy of COMC.com

Rob Dressler
1981 Donruss Rob Dressler

Dave Elder
1981 Fleer Dave Edler

Gene Nelson
1983 Topps Gene Nelson

…And Harold Reynolds
1988 Topps Harold Reynolds

According to Baseball-reference.com, these are the five Mariners to have worn #24 before this guy…
1989 Donruss Ken Griffey
…And now that the Mariners have announced they will be retiring #24 for Ken Griffey Jr., there will be nobody else joining exclusive club.

FYI, Harold Reynolds also wore numbers other than 24 while with Seattle.

…And to be fair, Baseball Reference doesn’t count coaches and managers, so there may be others to have worn the number.

This is where I went down the rabbit hole I started wondering what other exclusive uni # clubs there are, not counting oddball numbers like 0 or 97. I could think of a few… The Yankees #4 (only Lou Gehrig), the Rays #12 (only Wade Boggs), The Expos #8 (Gary Carter and two other guys – BTW the Nats display but don’t “observe” retired Expos numbers), the Mets #41 (Seaver and five other guys), the Rockies #17 (Todd Helton and David Nied), the Royals #5 (George Brett and four guys), The Brewers #19 (Robin Yount and four guys) and #44 (Hank Aaron and three guys).

According to Baseball Reference, there was only one player who wore #19 before Tony Gwynn… Gene Richards:
1981 Fleer Gene Richards

But Gene Richards didn’t play in the majors until the late 1970’s. There must’ve been someone who wore the number in the years between 1969 and Gene Richards.

After a little poking around, I found Whitey Wietelmann.
1976 SSPC Whitey Wietelmann_0001
He was a coach from 1969 to 1979, but didn’t wear #19 the whole time… I’m guessing Richards asked for it and Wietelmann gave it up.

Here’s the back of Wietelmann’s SSPC card showing that #19 did indeed belong to him at the time:
1976 SSPC Whitey Wietelmann_0002

ANNNNNNYWAY… These are the ones I found before common sense stopped me from spending the entire afternoon researching these things. Does anybody know of any exclusive club numbers which I haven’t mentioned here?

The Nightly Show With Larry Milbourne

The other day I was talking to someone about The Nightly Show, which is the new show on Comedy Central which airs after The Daily Show.

After a few minutes of conversation, I suddenly realized that instead of referring to the host as Larry Wilmore…
2015 TSR Fauxback Larry Wilmore

…I’d spent several minutes referring to him as Larry Milbourne.
1975 Topps Larry Milbourne

Whoops.

Larry Wilmore may have his own TV show, but he was never named to the Topps All-Star Rookie team…

1978 Topps Larry Milbourne

Wilmore didn’t have the walk-off double in the Mariners’ first-ever win (4/8/77).

1981 Fleer Larry Milbourne

And Wilmore was never involved in a trade where another player was essentially traded for himself:
November 18, 1980: Traded by the Seattle Mariners with a player to be named later to the New York Yankees for Brad Gulden and $150,000. The Seattle Mariners sent Brad Gulden (May 18, 1981) to the New York Yankees to complete the trade.

A Seattle Slew Of Mets; COMC Black Friday; Blogrolls Are The Devil’s Playground

Before I get into the main subject, I’d like to point out that there’s information on my COMC Black Friday plans below, as well as a plea for blogrollical help.

Now, I normally wouldn’t pay much attention when a team I don’t follow announces their coaching staff… but in the case of yesterday’s announcement about the Mariners’ coaching staff, it read like a “random Mets cards” blog posting… so I figured I’d make a random Mets card posting out of it.

New M’s hitting coach Howard Johnson was a member of the 1986 World Champion Mets, he holds or is tied for a couple of Met team records including “extra base hits in a season” and one could make an argument for his inclusion in the Mets’ Hall Of Fame.
1990 Classic Howard Johnson

John Stearns, the new 3rd base coach, was the Mets’ starting catcher for a couple of years and was an All-Star four times.
1981 Fleer John Stearns

Infield coach Chris Woodward was a Met in 2005 and 2006 and during those two years the only position he didn’t play was pitcher and catcher. He also DH’ed some.
2005 Topps Heritage Chris Woodward

Bullpen catcher Jason Phillips has actually held that job for 5 years, but he’s a former Met, and Mrs. Shlabotnik likes him because he wore glasses on the field.
2003 Topps Total Jason Phillips



When Black Friday comes, gonna sell my cards online
Gonna discount ’em all and hope they sell this time…

COMC is having a Black Friday special, and not only will I be participating, but I will have 500 new cards added to my inventory by then (I’m in the process of pricing them).  Parallels and inserts (many from 2013), manupatches, vintage, 1986 glossy cards, rookies and pre-rookies, oddballs, 1970’s O-Pee-Chee baseball, 1976 SSPC, hockey, basketball, football, even Donruss Truckin’ cards.

More information to come!


Finally, I’ve been having problems with my posts showing up in blogrolls, and I hoping someone’s had the same problems. After reading through blogger.com support, I wonder if I’m having a problem with pasting text from MS Word (which I do) or with “auto-pagination”, which I’m not clear on what that means, but it is connected to other people with the same problems.

If anyone has any suggestions, hints, etc., I would love to resolve my situation.

Thanks!

The Kind Of Thing That Strikes You When You Stare At Baseball Cards Too Long

1981 Fleer has a minor flaw that had escaped me for the past 32 years… Take a look at the baseball in the lower left:

1981 Fleer Willie Stargell

The “stitching” is wrong. Both the top and bottom stitching run in the same direction, while on a real baseball the stitching goes in opposite directions.

Baseball

Well, OK, it appears as if it’s going in opposite directions when viewed from that angle; in reality it’s going in one direction – around the ball and then back again.

For what it’s worth, Topps got it right in 1975…

1975 Topps Frank Taveras

…and in 1979.

1979 Topps Rod Carew