07 October 2014

no managerial cards in 1996 topps meant no cards of 1978 topps dodgers

once again, topps did not include managers in their flagship set in 1996, so i was once again shut out.  18 years later, here are the 1996 topps cards that should have been.

tom lasorda
the 1996 topps design is a weird one thanks to the inset 'phantom zone' photo.  the gradient shading used in the name box makes it tough to read when scanned, too.  i should have used a lighter color for the name text.  here's a real 1996 topps card of jose offerman for reference.
note that national league teams have the green shading of the inset photo/name boxes, while american league teams use red. topps would take this color scheme to a whole new level in 1997, in which there were no managerial cards either.

anyway, back to tommy - he did receive a card from someone in 1996 (other than mother's cookies, whose image i used to create the topps card up top).  upper deck gave lasorda a checklist as a managerial salute
recognizing that 1996 would be his 20th season managing the dodgers.  it also turned out to be his last. with the dodgers at 41-35 and two games up in the national league west after beating the astros on june 23, 1996, tommy had a heart attack the following day. it was an off day, of course, and tommy drove himself to the hospital.  he underwent surgery a couple of days later, and officially retired from managing in july.  we'll get to who took over in a bit.

dusty baker
baker had the giants at 68-94 for the season, bad enough to finish last in the national league west, 22 games behind the dodgers, who finished 1 game behind the first place padres.  they weren't the worst team in the league, however, as the phillies finished at 67-95.  baker survived the firing of general manager bob quinn at the season's end, and would return to the giants with better luck in 1997.

johnny oates
over in the american league west, the rangers won their first division title in 1996.  yes, they were in first place when the 1994 players' strike began, but this was the first time they actually advanced to the postseason.  oates had the team at 90-72, their second best win total in franchise history, and 4.5 games ahead of second place seattle.  unfortunately, the rangers lost in the division series to the yankees, three games to one.  oates was voted a co-manager of the year for the american league in 1996, sharing the award with joe torre whose team defeated oates' rangers in the playoffs.

there was no traded set in 1996, and even if there were, there wouldn't have been managerial cards included i am sure.  still, the man who took over for tom lasorda in 1996 deserves at least a 1996 topps card that should have been.

bill russell
the longtime dodger shortstop had been groomed for this moment - serving as bench coach to lasorda and managing in the minor leagues - and he led the team to a 49-37 record after taking over for lasorda. unfortunately, the padres played better ball during that stretch and overtook the dodgers by sweeping the season ending series between the two teams to finish one game up in the west.  this meant that the dodgers were the wild card winner, and so they got to play the braves and were swept in the playoffs for the second straight season.

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