Friday, May 23, 2008

Topps Set of the Week: 1984 Topps

(It's Friday, and as promised, it's the Topps Set of the Week. I have every baseball card from Topps' eponymous baseball and traded set from 1976 to 2008. Each week, I'll put the spotlight on a particular set (whether it be the regular or traded set) and give my opinions on the design and other interesting tidbits.)

After looking over my sets, it was a tough choice to come up with one to use as my first set of the week. Should I use a favorite set (like 1988 or 1989 Topps?) Should I just focus on a traded set? What to do, what to do. So I closed my eyes, and picked a binder. This is the result.

This week's set of the week brings us back to 1984. Punky Brewster and Silver Spoons were popular shows, and somehow each had a show devoted to baseball or baseball cards. You remember Punky sneaking her way into the Cubs dugout after finding out that the tickets that she and her "father" won were fake. Or how Ricky Stratton was able to get Tommy Lasorda into the Hall of Fame??? What a year...let's get back to the point.

The 1984 Topps set utilized a simple design. For the third year in a row, the set reached 792 cards, a large number of cards at the time. For the players, the team name was inserted vertically along the left side of the card. There were two pictures of the player, the main one that took up residence on the right side of the card, and a small square headshot cropped in front of a single colored background. The name and position of the player were included below the picture. The backs had blue borders and a pink field where the stats were printed in the same shade of blue. The team logo found a place on the back of the card on the top right corner on the opposite side of the card number.

Rookie cards of Don Mattingly and Darryl Strawberry are among the key cards of this set. And if anything, this set is significant because 1984 was the year that Topps tested a special send in offer where people could actually choose what cards they wanted. This was a good idea if someone was short a couple of cards to finish his or her set. But there were some people who took advantage of this little offer. Guess which cards people wanted? Needless to say, Topps has not done this offer since. This was also around the time that collecting sports cards became part of the mainstream. Many people were going after cards of the aformentioned "Donnie Baseball" and Darryl, many hedging their bets that these cards would somehow pay for college one day.

Young stars like Cal Ripken, Wade Boggs, Ryne Sandberg, and Tony Gwynn were just starting to come into their own as players and would eventually supplant Reggie Jackson, Rod Carew, Pete Rose, and Joe Morgan as the stars of the time. Players like Fernando Valenzuela (Fernando-mania baby), Mike Schmidt, George Brett, and Robin Yount were among the superstars. But the biggest story in baseball in 1984, without a doubt, were the Detroit Tigers. Leading the American League East from pillar to post in the regular season, to beating the tar out of the San Diego Padres in the World Series, the Tigers were a team of destiny. With stars like Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Jack Morris, Kirk Gibson, and some guy name Willie Hernandez closing, and Sparky Anderson leading the way, these guys were unstoppable.

Back to the cards. The 1984 Topps cards just ooze with simplicity. Compared to the competition (the supposedly short-printed Donruss set and the very blah Fleer set), this was one set that you know was made for the '84 season. Easy to sort by team due to the large letters on the left side of the card. The set also included league leader cards, record breakers, and one very special tribute card honoring three players who were retiring after the 1983 season, Johnny Bench, Phil Niekro, and Carl Yastrzemski.

A clean set, inexpensive, yet classy. This is one set that you won't find laying around often. So here's to you, 1984 Topps set. (And I'm sure the writing will improve as I do more of these kinds of posts).


JayBee Anama

1 comment:

Mr. Schwartz said...

Look forward to this series, what I didn't like about the 84 set is that is looked like the 83 set. What I did like was the smaller portrait picture in these cards...

Topps cards were starting to improve in quality with the competition from Fleer and Donruss.