Saturday, February 21, 2009

Mail day part 2: 1981 Topps

I'm collecting this set because I was born in 1981. But also because I think it's one of Topps' most interesting designs. While it doesn't really have that classic baseball card feel that a set like 1954, 1971, 1987 or 1991 Topps has, it's quirky and unique but still well designed.

1981 is also the first year that Topps had any competition in the industry. Of the three major baseball sets available that year, I think Topps is the clear winner. Donruss had a nice design, but poor quality stock and not very well thought out card backs (they were ok, but could have used more stats). Fleer had superior card backs, but the design and photography were pretty bland.

So let's take a look at a few 1981 Topps.

It's pictures like these that really make me appreciate the effort Topps put into the photography for 2009. This looks more like an amatuer softball league photo. I can only assume this is a spring training shot.

Gorman also looks kinda like a bum wanting handouts at a high school baseball game.

And here we have a prime example of the goofy uniforms of the mid-70s through the late 80s. Of all the bad choices in uniforms, it seems like the White Sox made some of the worst. This one isn't as bad as the red striped one they wore in the mid-80s though. Actually it's not that bad, just silly looking compared to today's slightly more conservative uniforms.

Honestly though, I think it would make a pretty cool throwback uniform. Anyone know if they've ever done this?

Now we come to the design highlight of this set: the hats. I love the hats. I've always loved the hats. The best part is that the hat changes based on the team's hat. The Expos hat was tri-colored, the Pirates hat was just as stupid looking as the real thing, and here we see that the Padres hat has the yellow triangle from their batting helmets. But it didn't translate well to the card. Black text on dark brown is hard to read. The only alternative would have been white, but that would be just as hard to read over the yellow section.

I can't tell because the background is so blurry, but it looks like there's a lot of kids right behind the dugout wearing batting helmets.

Here's another card that makes me appreciate even more the effort that Topps put into their photography this year. Was it too hard to crop this picture to get all of his hat in the shot? It's cropped too high to get any of the lettering on his uniform, so why cut the hat off? Silly, silly Topps.

Nothing really special about this card. I just wanted to point out that Mr. Stewart is from my neck of the woods. He was born in Asheville, North Carolina. He's probably a pretty good candidate for through the mail autograph seekers, because he's not going anywhere. Since 2006 he's been in prison. He has a lengthy criminal record, that all started after he left baseball.

There's something you don't see too often, the pitcher's hat on the ground. I'd never heard of John Pacella before and thought it was odd that they'd use this picture. The I flipped the card over:

There's a taste of 1981 Topps, hope you all enjoyed it. I'd like to thank John for sending me these wonderful cards. I'm not 148 cards into the set.



night owl said...

I remember watching John Pacella pitch and he actually did lose his cap after every pitch. He'd have to stop and pick it up and put it back on after every pitch. It looked tiring.

Ben said...

Did he do it to confuse the batter? Or were his mechanics just so screwy that his head whipped around and his hat fell off?

night owl said...

I think it was a combination of his mechanics and a ton of hair. He wasn't around very long, so I don't know if anyone found out whether it was on purpose.

MMayes said...

While Smiling Sammy Stewart is in the Piedmont Correctional Institution, SportsCollectorsNet users report that he can't sign autographs because the institution doesn't allow him to receive mail with unused stamps (SASE). That isn't the policy at all prisons, because I got an autograph and letter from Willie Mays Aikens while he was in a federal prison in Georgia.