02 April 2010

i wish i could have had it my way in 1978

four lucky teams were represented by burger king in 1978 with modified topps team sets - the rangers, the astros, the tigers, and the yankees.  no dodgers. 

the tragedy here is that each of the sets that were produced included some cards that were different from the ones in the topps flagship (and at that time, only) set.  what possibilities were missed by not including the dodgers.  anyway, with the 1978 topps set being my all-time favorite, i went on a quest to acquire all of the variations.  while each card is different due to the numbering, i focused only on the team, photo or checklist variations.  kind of like an extension of 1978 o-pee-chee (shameless plug) cards.  anyway, let's take a look at the astros variations first.

dave bergman
jesus alou
neither bergman nor alou were featured in the topps set.  in bergman's case, he played in a total of 5 games in 1977, all for the yankees.  he was sent to the astros in november of 1977 to complete the cliff johnson trade.  as for alou, he didn't play at all in 1977. or 1976, for that matter.  the astros signed him in december of 1977 and alou responded by hitting .324 in 139 at bats.  not too rusty.

now the rangers

bobby thompson
thompson, not thomson.  thompson played just one year in the majors, and that was 1978.  he hit 2 home runs in his career, both solo shots, both when the rangers were ahead 2-0, and both against the angels.  he does have a card in the 1979 topps set, and it is almost identical to this one.

john lowenstein
lowenstein appeared in the 1978 topps set as an indian.  he was acquired by the rangers (with tom buskey) for willie horton and david clyde in february of 1978.  lowenstein played just that one year in texas and was then acquired by the orioles with whom he would get to the world series in both 1979 and 1983.

al oliver
al oliver's card in the 1978 topps set shows him sitting glumly in the dugout as a member of the pirates.  he looks pretty cheery here in texas, even though the pirates would win the world series in 1979 while the rangers were just not that good, despite a second place al west finish in 1978.  oliver arrived in texas as part of a convoluted 4 team trade in december of 1977, but he was essentially traded for bert blyleven.  it was with the rangers that oliver first wore the number '0'.  oliver also has a team variation card in the 1978 o-pee-chee set, although it has yet to be featured on the 'oh my o-pee-chee' blog...

jon matlack
matlack was also part of that aforementioned trade, except he came from the mets (for whom he appears in the 1978 topps set).  matlack promptly won 15 games for texas in 1978 and had a ridiculous era of 2.27.  unfortunately, that was good enough only for second in the al, thanks to ron guidry's even more ridiculous 1.74 era. matlack also has a team variation in the 1978 o-pee-chee set.

fergie jenkins
hall of famer fergie jenkins returned to texas in december of 1977 after a two-year stint in boston. sadly, he is not featured in the 1978 o-pee-chee set, but does appear in the topps set as a red sock.  jenkins won 18 games for the rangers in 1978, finishing 6th in the cy young balloting.

reggie cleveland
cleveland was another red sock that joined the rangers for the 1978 season after appearing in the topps set with boston.  he didn't join texas, however, until mid-april after appearing in 1 game for the red sox.  that gives us an idea of how late in the season these cards were produced.  even o-pee-chee wasn't printed that late i don't think.  the pride of swift current, saskatchewan saved 12 games for the rangers in 1978 but was traded to milwaukee after the season.

next up, the tigers

jim slaton
slaton was acquired by detroit in december of 1977 in the deal that sent ben oglivie to milwaukee.  slaton appeared in the 1978 topps set as a brewer, and in the 1978 o-pee-chee set as a team variation. 1978 would be his only year with the tigers, as he re-signed with the brew crew as a free agent after the season ended.

jack billingham
the former dodger was acquired by detroit from cincinnati (for whom billingham appeared in the 1978 topps set) in march of 1978.  he won 15 games for them and completed 10 of his 30 starts.

steve dillard
dillard, who was featured in a similar pose on his 1978 topps card as a red sock, was obtained by the tigers in january of 1978 for a couple of minor leaguers.   he spent just one year in detroit before being sent to the cubs, assumedly because of the emergence of alan trammell and lou whitaker in the tigers' infield.

speaking of whom, alan trammell got his very own card in the burger king set
trammell, of course, was featured on one of those 4-in-1 rookie cards in the 1978 topps set.  the same one as paul molitor, in fact.  he finished in a tie with rich gale for fourth in the 1978 al roy vote, behind molitor, carney lansford and his double play partner, lou whitaker.

like trammell, lou whitaker also got his own card after being featured in the topps set on a 4-in-1 rookie card with 3 other infielders
whitaker and trammell played together from 1977 through 1995, which is downright remarkable.  that's much longer than bill russell and davey lopes played together.

the final variation in the tigers 1978 bk set belongs to jack morris
morris also appeared on a 4-in-1 rookie card in the 1978 topps set.  he went just 3-5 for the tigers in 1978, starting only 7 of the 28 games in which he appeared.  in his first career start (july 31, 1977), morris pitched 9 innings against the rangers and was lifted with the game tied prior to pitching the 10th inning.  i know a lot of people who are happy that tom kelly didn't do the same thing in 1991.

and last (and least), the yankees.

jim spencer
spencer came to the yankees from the white sox in a december 1977 trade.  he is featured in the 1978 topps set as white sock, and in the 1978 o-pee-chee set as a team variation.  spencer appeared in the 1978 world series against the dodgers and didn't do too much damage, although he scored 3 times in the last two games of the series.

rawly eastwick
eastwick was a horribly (or fantastically, depending upon your point of view) airbrushed cardinal in the 1978 topps set, having spent the last part of the 1977 season in saint louis after several years in cincinnati.  he did not appear in the 1978 o-pee-chee set.  like spencer, eastwick faced the dodgers in the 1978 postseason, but he did so as a member of the nl east champion philadelphia phillies as his time in the bronx was short-lived and he was traded in midseason for jay johnstone.

here's the final 1978 bk variation - goose gossage
this is just a photo variation from the 1978 topps set, but it is much better than that airbrushed, former pirate pitching in candlestick card.  even without the trademark mustache.  the hall of famer led the al with 27 saves in 1978, and he pitched flawlessly against the dodgers in the world series that year.

i have decided to right the wrong of 32 years ago and create a 1978 topps burger king dodger set.  well, maybe not exactly.  since i have already extended the 1978 topps set by adding cards of dodgers that should have been, i will continue on that path until each and every player who appeared for the dodgers in either 1977 or 1978 is represented.  should be a fun time finding a photo of myron white...


Johngy said...

Those are cool. Some big airbrushing, but cool anyway.
Great post.

Bo said...

Myron White's baseball-reference bullpen entry has a picture of his Target card.