Friday, March 10, 2017
Joy of a team set, chapter 10
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the 1977 Topps baseball set. It's an often-overlooked set, and when it's mentioned it's usually to address the rookie cards of Andre Dawson and Dale Murphy, which are tiny little images shared with three other tiny little images on each card.
Sure, the '77 set also includes rookie cards for Bruce Sutter and Mark Fidrych, but I will always associate the '77 set with my introduction to three-pocket rack packs, pulling that Ellie Rodriguez card out of my first pack while sitting in the car waiting for my mom, and the series of trades made with several members of my sixth grade class, often while the teacher was conducting a lesson.
The '77 set might contain more airbrushed cards than any other set, reflecting the first outbreak of free agency, and it marks the first appearance of the Blue Jays and Mariners.
It also marks the first, and only, appearance of Chicago White Sox players in shorts.
The White Sox's team card was taken sometime in the spring of 1976 at Comiskey Park and you can see several players displaying bare legs. There is not another example of Sox shorts-wearing on any other card issued at this time, probably because the White Sox wore the shorts for just three games in August of '76.
Although I can't remember watching the White Sox in their shorts on TV that year, those old-style uniforms that the team debuted in 1976 and wore through the early '80s is how I knew the White Sox as a kid. They were my introduction to the team. And what a strange introduction.
The White Sox from that '77 set may have featured more players that creeped me out as a kid than any other team set: Francisco Barrios, Chris Knapp, Jack Kucek, Dave Duncan, Bart Johnson. I didn't know who these guys were, their stats on the back were terrible, and they looked ... weird.
But to honor the 40th anniversary of that historic team card, with major league players actually wearing shorts, it's time to look at the complete team set from '77:
There are also two other White Sox-related cards in the set that you may or may not believe deserve inclusion with the rest:
Now, time for the Joy of a Team Set rundown:
Favorite card runners-up: 5. Bucky Dent, 4. Jack Brohamer, 3. Minnie Minoso, 2. Jim Spencer.
Favorite element on the back:
The cartoons in 1977 set are excellent and there are several candidates from the White Sox:
But I am biased, given my hobby, so my favorite is on the Rich Gossage card:
I've read all kinds of dates for the first baseball cards, but Topps says it's "about 1884."
Team's claim to fame: If you're talking about the 1976 Sox, it's the shorts. If you're talking about the 1977 Sox, it's the "South Side Hitmen," sparked by new acquisitions Oscar Gamble and Richie Zisk.
Players I've talked to: None. If I was including the '77 O-Pee-Chee cards then I could list Zisk.
Most interesting card:
The 1977 set also marks the debut of the "full-body airbrush." Eric Soderholm did not play during the 1976 season and played for the Twins before that. Still, Topps persisted. This is what Soderholm would look like in a satin one-piece.
Former or future Dodgers: Ken Brett, Terry Forster, Jorge Orta.
Other observations: There are at least four airbrushed cards in this team set and the Steve Stone is abysmal ... the player hustling back to first base on the Jim Spencer card is the A's Bill North (or at least that's who I assumed it was as a kid, please don't tell me otherwise).
Oh, and here are your tiny images of the White Sox's rookies from that set:
Names aren't important, but if you must know, it's Jim Otten and Greg Terlecky. Not exactly Dawson and Murphy.
Favorite card in the team set:
#58 - Chet Lemon
So much to love about this card of Chester Carl Lemon.
Thanks again for joining me for "joy of a team set."