Wednesday, November 19, 2008

1978 Topps Cards #43 through #48


#43 Bill Atkinson
#44 Toby Harrah
#45 Mark Fidrych
#46 Al Cowens
#47 Jack Billingham
#48 Don Baylor


Good: The Fidrych card is a classic, both because of his unusual career and because it's simply beautiful. The orange and brown cards are the best of this set, for both the Tigers and the Padres.

Bad: Now that we've seen close to 50 cards, we see that there are only something like 6 color pairs. Numerous teams have a yellow border, numerous teams have either hot pink and green or green and hot pink, and numerous teams have the purplish borders. I'm not sure why Topps chose to have so few colors. I'm guessing it was either because someone thought that more colors would make the set seem too scattered (recall that most sets before 1978 had very little in the way of border color variation) or that it was a way of uniformly using up ink and managing their printing costs efficiently.


Good: There isn't a single good photo in this group, actually. Every player either has a strange facial expression or pose (Cowens, Billingham, and Baylor) or their face is significantly shadowed (Atkinson, Harrah, and Fidrych.)

The Fidrych card jumps out as an iconic card because he didn't have very many cards due to such a short career. But it's actually a pretty awful photo, with his head completely dark and his body caught in a very compact and obstructed view. Compare the Fidrych photo with the Atkinson photo. Atkinson's was taken perhaps a quarter second later in his delivery and is a much better photo overall.

Bad: Special bad marks go to the Cowens photo where not only is his brow in the shadows, but they got a really grumpy look on his face, plus there are reflections in his glasses making his face harder to see. Were Cowens not deceased, perhaps I wouldn't judge this photo so harshly. I just feel like he deserved better.

The Baylor card is another one where the blue sky background just doesn't work. His body position is kind of weird and the photo is overexposed.


Atkinson allowed 17 career HR including a pair to two different guys you'd NEVER guess: Biff Pocoroba and Dave Concepcion.

Harrah has one of the few palindromic last names in MLB. Can you come up with any others? (No points for Nen.) There were lots of great third basemen in the 1970s and Harrah was quite overshadowed. But he does rank 5th among 3B for HR from 1974 to 1982.

In 1977, Fidrych completed 24 games while winning "only" 19. These days, completing more games than you win is unheard of. Fidrych's season is the 10th most recent time a guy completed at least 20 in a season while winning no more than 19.

Cowens had a whopping 10 walk-off plate appearances, including two homers. In 1984, he won 2 out of 3 games against the Rangers in the same series!

Billingham had the 9th most victories in MLB over 1973-1974, just 7 behind leader Catfish Hunter.


Hall of Famers: 11

Deceased: 2
(+1 for Cowens, the second deceased player to appear so far in this set, and both are wearing Royals uniforms.)

Future managers: 6
(+1 for Harrah, who managed Texas for half a season in 1992, taking over from Bobby Valentine, +1 for Baylor)

Fathers and sons of major leaguers: 5

Loyalty counter: 5
(+1 for Atkinson, +1 for Fidrych)

Rookies of the Year: 6
(+1 for Fidrych)

Total all-star appearances: 178
(+4 for Harrah, +2 for Fidrych, +1 for Billingham, +1 for Baylor)

Total MVP awards: 7
(+1 for Baylor)

Total Cy Young awards: 2


gcrl said...

i actually like the baylor card here. fidrych and harrah are great also, but i'll stick with the california card.
i once made a don baylor jersey with a marker and a fruit of the loom undershirt and actually wore it to a game at the big a. i was oblivious to good taste at the time.

moschella said...

mark salas, eddie kazak

night owl said...

Everytime I see this Fidrych card, it's depressing. His 1977 card was so full of promise -- he's got a great big smile, an All-Star logo, a rookie cup logo. The very next year, he's featured in a dark, grim action shot. It's odd how both cards so closely reflect his career at each moment. (The '79 card, I believe, he's standing on the sidelines, which is appropriate, too).

--David said...

I like the Baylor card for the 'looking up' angle. Funny how that works for some cards/players but not others. Harrah sticks out for me because of his career with the Tribe. :-)

Kevin said...

Apparently Al Cowens photographed grumpy often:

Scroll down the page to find his 1983 Fleer card. And if you get a chance, check out the rest of the JSF Worthless Card Collection. It's hilarious.

fogus said...

Dave Otto

RoofGod said...

Fidrych is one of the great what if pitchers in baseball history. There are all kinds of rumors floating around Detroit about he got hurt. Most people believe that he hurt his shoulder in a bar fight in West Bloomfield, MI one night, although some believe that he was intentionally injured by the mob so who knows how reliable those stories are. Anyway he was fun to watch while he was around.

White Sox Cards said...

I know I'm snack dab in the middle of 1978. Half the cards feature powder blue uniforms. Three different teams in that sampling of six!

MMayes said...

Kevin's right. Al Cowens was a kind of surly fellow. I remember being at a Royals' game in '80 and the drunk behind me couldn't resist hollering "How about some AC power" several times when Al batted.

I like Atkinson's card, too. I'm a sucker for action shots and who cares about partial shadows. Atkinson looks like one of those "maximum effort" guys. His stats look pretty good, which makes me wonder if that delivery you're looking at didn't do something to his elbow.

Jack Billingham has that, "Let's see...Rose is gone, Perez is gone, Gullet and Nolan are gone...Knight, Driessen and Pat Zachry aren't cutting it. Dang, we're on the downside" look.

Timberhill said...

Another indication we're in 1978: All the tufts/wings created by compressing large hair with a baseball cap. Here alone we have Atkinson, Fidrych, and Cowens.

Also, 1978 was before my time. Reading the back of the Baylor card leaves me to ask you: was "Long Hits" a formerly kept stat? Is this a current stat that I am just somehow unfamiliar with/don't care about? It gets capitalized like all real stats on the back of these cards. Anyone help me out?

Props to the Expos for being the only team in this sample to resist the pullover jersey.

Jeffrey Wolfe said...

I agree with gcrl I think the Harrah and Baylor are great.

Anonymous said...

Johnny Reder who played 17 games for Boston in 1932.

jacobmrley said...

bird lives out in western mass, i met him quite by accident one afternoon in of all places the diner in Lee where norman rockwell painted those famous pictures of his.

i wound up in the diner by accident and the curley haired gentleman at the counter was mark frickin' fidrych. it was a strange say the least

Jamin said...

I'm wondering how Baylor only made 1 all-star team. Apparently, he had to have an MVP-worthy season just to get chosen.

kevinb said...

Tiger counter +8 - Billingham, Cowens, and of course..Bird Bird Bird Bird is the Word

kevinb said...

Fidrych supposedly tore his rotator cuff before they knew what that was. Just what I heard. Where I live now, in Toledo, he used to have billboards on I-75 north a few years ago pitching a casino in Detroit.

Something I read in an interview with Jack Morris once..he was booed in his debut because the fans wanted to see Fidrych who was scheduled to pitch that day but scratched at the last minute.

Andy said...


gcrl +1
moschella +2
night owl +3
--david +1
kevin +2
fogus +2
roofgod +2
white sox cards +2
mmayes +2
timberhill +2
jeffrey wolfe +1
pafatz +2
jacobmrley +2
jamin +2
kevinb +1

CubanXSenators said...

Harrah was the last expansion Senator to be an active player (not Cuban, however).