Thursday, February 15, 2018

right on!


This is a tribute to the 1971 Topps set, the first Topps set to feature black borders on every card, full-color action on player cards, and head shots on the back.

Whether you are arriving at this blog for the first time or returning to relive collecting one of the greatest sets ever created, I hope you find what you are looking for here. This blog was done in the spirit of fun and utmost respect for one bad-ass set.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018


This blog is at its end and I am no closer to believing I have completed this set than I was when I started this blog six years ago.

There was no set that I revered more as kid than 1971 Topps. Growing up as a brand-new card collector five, six, seven years after the '71 set was released, the set seemed not only old, elusive and desirable but the coolest thing to ever appear on cardboard.

I started buying packs of baseball cards during a pretty awesome year for cards, 1975. And my idea for what a card should look like has always been 1972 Topps, a perception created by homages to the set when I was a kid.

But '71 was in a class by itself. I had never seen anything like it.

The '71 set was unique until '85 Donruss, '86 Topps, '87 Donruss and various Bowman sets. I was in awe of the colorful type on a midnight black background. I noted the e.e. cummings style. I loved the first action photos to appear on individual players' cards.

I started this blog on the verge of completing this set as proof to that kid long ago that I indeed would complete the '71 set, a set in which it seemed impossible to own even 50 cards way back when. But I did complete it. All 752 images on this blog are my cards. They are proof.

I don't hold the attachment to this set like I do the '75 set, which is why I didn't devote all the counting, list-making and labeling to this blog like I did with the '75 blog.

If you can believe the labels -- and I admit I was haphazard with tallying -- there are 32 airbrushed/blacked-out caps in the set (I have a feeling there are more). There are 45 cards with floating heads on the back. There are 44 rookie stars cards. There are just 17 manager cards.

The team sets range from a low of 25 to a high of 35.

But those are just numbers. This is a set that defies categorization. It should be taken as a whole as one of the most interesting, mysterious, brilliant sets ever made. Some of the photos may not be the best -- they speak to an older age and a chaotic age -- but those borders certainly make up for it and stamp it as an original.

I hope you've enjoyed my look at the set as I discovered many facts about the people who played the game before I started following baseball.

Thanks for following along and commenting.

And for those of you who come to this blog in the future, please know that there has never been another set like 1971 Topps.

Right on.

Friday, February 9, 2018

no. 752 - dick drago

Who is the man: Dick Drago pitched 240 innings for the Royals in 1970 as one of their starting staff mainstays. He won 20 games for K.C. in its first two years of existence.

Can ya dig it: Drago had a big ol' stache by the time I figured out who he was (1976 set with the Red Sox), so seeing him smooth-shaven is bizarre.

Right on: This is the final card in the set!

You see that cat Drago is a bad mother: Drago won 17 games in 1971 and finished fifth in the AL Cy Young voting.

Shut your mouth: Drago was a known bench-baiter during his career. As a reliever, he would stay in the dugout as late as possible so he could harass the opposing pitchers.

No one understands him but his woman: Drago encountered child-support issues about 10 years after his career ended. Twice-divorced, he was eventually arrested, but he produced proof of payment at a trial and the sides settled.

(A word about the back): "Owns KC's only victory over Baltimore." That sounds sad, even with the knowledge that this was a two-year-old expansion team at the time.

I'll be back for one more post before wrapping up this blog.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

no. 751 - al weis

Who is the man: Al Weis appeared in 75 games for the Mets in 1970. It was enough to earn him a roster spot in 1971, but by the time this card was issued, he had been released by the Mets and his career was over.

Can ya dig it: Weis was chiefly a second baseman and shortstop. I'm not sure the "infield" listing is necessary.

Right on: This is the highest-numbered card I received in a trade for my first group of 1971s when I was a teenager. I recall sorting the cards on the floor -- as I often did -- and noting the Weis card was numbered so much higher than all the other cards I had (I had no clue how many cards were in the set at the time). This card became a point of pride for me for several years.

You see that cat Weis is a bad mother: One of the heroes of the Miracle Mets, the lifetime .219 hitter walloped the Orioles for five hits in 11 at-bats (.455) in the 1969 World Series.

Shut your mouth: When the Mets released Weis on July 1, 1971, manager Gil Hodges told him it was one of the toughest decisions he ever had to make.

No one understands him but his woman: Weis hit eight home runs in his career. Two of them came off of Orioles ace Dave McNally.

(A word about the back): After Weis hit the first of his two surprising home runs against the Cubs, he said: "I'm no home run hitter. I'm not even a hitter."

Monday, February 5, 2018

no. 750 - denny mclain

Who is the man: You're looking at the beginning of the end for Denny McLain. On top of the world with the Tigers in 1968 and 1969, McLain endured the most tumultuous season of his major league career in 1970. He was suspended for half the season by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn for suspected bookmaking. He was then suspended again for dousing two sportswriters with buckets of water, and then suspended for the rest of the season for carrying a gun on a team flight. He was traded by the Tigers after the season.

Can ya dig it: This is McLain's first appearance as a Washington Senator and his first appearance without his glasses on a Topps card since 1967.

Right on: McLain is no older than 26 in this photo but looks about 42.

You see that cat McLain is a bad mother: Still the last player to win more than 30 games in a season with 31 in 1968.

Shut your mouth: McLain loved to drink Pepsi, as many as 24 bottles a day. When the company heard that, they made him a sponsor and delivered 10 cases of Pepsi to his home every week.

No one understands him but his woman: McLain married Sharon Boudreau, the daughter of Cleveland Indians great Lou Boudreau. They had a stormy marriage with Sharon leaving Denny several times. When McLain went to prison -- the second time -- Sharon divorced him. But they later remarried.

(My observation on the back): That is a much earlier photo of McLain. Also, I don't think even someone as brash as McLain was believed he could repeat his 1968 performance.