1990 Topps Blister Packs

30 09 2011

Back before I switched over to doing retro sets for the summer, I bought 2 101-card K-Mart Blister packs for the 1990 set on eBay.  These packs were available for the 1989 and 1990 Topps sets in K-Mart stores.  The draw for these is that they contained 1 of the “Topps Batting Leaders” cards which were cards of the top 22 active batting average leaders.  The 1989 set had Red borders.  As you can see from above, the 1990 set has a green border.  I got Robin Yount and Don Mattingly from buying these 2 blisters (yes, I ripped the “packs”)**.  I also got 84 cards that I needed toward the 1990 set!

** – Even more importantly, that is “Gentleman Jack” Armstrong on the other front – the 1990 All-Star game starter who won about 4 more games after the break!


1990 Topps wax box break

29 09 2011

I bought this box so long ago (and actually opened it so long ago) that I don’t even remember exactly where I bought it from.  Pausing this project to buy some current year retro sets made that happen, I guess.  I purchased a bunch of boxes for the years 1988 through 1995 in 2 or 3 purchases from Dave & Adam’s and from BB Card Exchange, so the odds are it’s one of those places.  As I mentioned in the last post – I definitely remember the design of this set, but I had stopped collecting cards around the end of 1989.  I was probably thinking about girls for the first time or something.  This is the first year I really just don’t remember cards from the set.  Topps went a bit crazy with the design of these cards.  I don’t hate it as much as some – I definitely like it better than the 1986 design.  I do appreciate that they switched it up, something they don’t seem to be doing in recent years (it doesn’t have to be a white border!!!).  So I’ll give the design better grades just for that.  I love the 1991 card design – and I probably appreciate it more because it wasn’t just an extension of the year before.  1983/1984 and then 1988/1989 were very similar, but the existence of 1981, 1986 and 1990 make you appreciate some of the better years.  One thing, though, compared to the Upper Deck and Leaf sets that were coming out, a pack of Topps shouldn’t have been worth half of those packs.

I did pretty well on this box.  I got Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey and Sammy Sosa, which are probably the biggest pulls in the set.  Notable cards I didn’t get are Larry Walker, Curt Schilling, and a couple of the Nolan Ryan tribute cards.  Though I did get Nolan’s card #1.

The collation was roughly the same as the 1989 box I blogged about some 5 months ago.  I got 22 more cards than that box, but there are 36 more cards per box (due to the increase to 16 cards per pack).  One way that was much better than 1989 – I only had about 1 card per pack that was damaged.  This was due to the wax touching the card front.  For whatever reason, the gum didn’t stain the cards in this box, where it had in the 1989 box.  I had 31 singles that were “not repairable” from the 489 cards I got toward the set (5 were non-repairable doubles).  So, all told, I walked away with more cards toward the set than 1989.

As always – the numbers below don’t exclude the damaged cards (since if I’d busted these in 1990 they wouldn’t have been damaged).

Stats for the box:

36 packs per box * 16 cards per pack = 576 cards

87 doubles

489 of the 792 card set. (61.7% set completion)

36 “Spring Fever” game cards

1990 Topps Overview

28 09 2011

792 cards in the set – the same since 1982.

  • Subsets: Ryan Salute (#2-5), Record Breakers (#6-8), #1 Draft picks (10 cards throughout), All-Stars (#385-395, 397-407), Giamatti Tribute (#396), Turn Back the Clock (#661-665), Managers (26 cards throughout), Topps All-Star Rookies (10 cards throughout), and Future Stars (5 cards throughout).  Topps again included a trophy on cards for the previous year’s Topps ASR team.  The “Future Star” subset had a star to the left and the word “Future Star” above the player name.  The Draft cards feature the players in their college uniforms and have a “#1 Draft Pick” in the corner designating the subset.
  • Set Design: The set design features a player photo surrounded by a colorful border that can be found in 6 different color combinations.  Dotted designs cover most of the border, with two corners remaining a solid color.  The player name appears in a rhombus at the bottom right hand corner.  The team name is written in block letters in the top left, with the Topps logo in one of the right-hand corners.  For the 4th straight year and the 6th time overall, Topps did not present the player’s position on the face of the card.  The back features yellow-green cardstock with the card number in the upper left corner next to the player name, position, biographical information and Topps logo.  Statistics from each season and career totals are presented.  When there was room at the bottom, Topps included a player-specific write-up and/or a “Monthly Scoreboard” feature, which listed player statistics by month.
  • Packs: Topps increased prices per card slightly. Wax packs now had 16 cards (instead of 15), and the price increased a nickel (50¢ SRP). As before, there were 36 packs per box and 20 per case.  31-card cello packs (up from 28 cards) increased a dime (89¢ SRP), while rack packs were now 46-cards (up from 43) and cost $1.49.  Jumbo packs and Blister packs (exclusive to K-Mart) were still 101 cards, and probably ran for $2.99.
  • Rookies: Frank Thomas and Sammy Sosa are the two biggest rookie cards from the set.  Other key rookie cards include Larry Walker, Juan Gonzalez and Bernie Williams.  Albert Belle, Curt Schilling and Edgar Martinez had their first Topps cards in this set after Schilling had a card in 1989 Donruss and Belle had cards in a couple 1989 update sets.
  • Hall of Fame: There are 35 Hall of Famers in this set, down a net 1 card from the year before.  Reliever Bruce Sutter had his last card in 1989, and Goose Gossage didn’t have a card in 1990 or 1991 – though he did have one more Topps card was 1992.  Mike Schmidt had his last base card in 1989, but he was featured in a Turn Back the Clock card in 1990.  Hank Aaron and Lou Brock no longer had TBC cards, but Johnny Bench and Sandy Koufax did. Frank Thomas had his first card in this set, and after making the HOF in 2013, he helps offset the loss of Goose and Sutter.  Deion Sanders is also in the set – he’s a pro football Hall of Famer!
  • Variations: A small number of cards were mistakenly printed without black ink on the front, leading them to have no name on the front (NNOF variations).  The Frank Thomas RC is one of these cards, and it has become the most famous and most valuable error card in modern sports card history.
  • Active in 2010/2011: After 3 years as the lone player active in 2010, we now actually have a player still active in 2011 – that would be Omar Vizquel.  Ken Griffey and Jamie Moyer are the only other players who were active in 2010 and have a card in the set.

The green wax box has a picture of a stack of 3 current year cards, with a young Ken Griffey Jr. on top.  As in the past, to the lower left of the cards is the “Topps” logo and a banner “Baseball” written hovering over the words “the Real one!” and “Bubble Gum Cards”.  The bottom of the box has 4 cards in the base set design with season highlights on the back.  There are 4 different box options, totaling 16 cards (A through P).

Factory Set

Like the previous 3 years, factory sets were sold to hobby dealers and retailers, and the retail “holiday” sets came in much more colorful boxes.

Update Sets

Topps again released a 132-card Topps Traded set in factory set form.  Dealers who bought a case received a mini bronze replica of Hank Aaron’s 1954 Topps card.

For the first time, Topps also released a set called Major League Debut in factory set form. The set has the same basic design as the flagship set and chronicles the first game of any players who made their ML debut in 1989.  The set was available in factory set form.

Parallel Set

For the 7th year, Topps issued a Tiffany variation in factory set form, printed on white cardstock with glossy coating on the front.  The 1990 Tiffany set came in a red box and had a production of 15,000 sets.  Topps also produced a Tiffany parallel for the Traded set.

Canadian-based O-Pee-Chee again issued a set that was, for the first time, an identical parallel to the Topps set.  The only thing to distinguish these cards is the bi-lingual backs (French and English).

Insert sets

  • All-Star Glossy – 22 cards (1 per rack pack)
  • Rookies Glossy – 33 cards (1 per jumbo pack).  The set size increased 11 cards for this set.  Topps also did a test set where a foil strip with the Topps logo.
  • Batting Leaders – 22 cards (1 per K-Mart blister pack)
  • Glossy “All-Star and Hot Prospects” – 60 cards (send-in).  By mailing in 6 of the game cards and $1.25, collectors could send in 6 of these cards to get 10 cards out of this set.  For 18 special offer cards and $7.50, collectors could get the full 60-card set.  This was the last year Topps issued this set.


  • Each wax and cello pack contains a “Spring Fever Baseball” game card.  Grand prize winners could again win a trip to any Spring Training site for the next season.

Other releases associated with the Topps flagship set

#1 – Topps again created a “Gallery of Champions” set of 12 metal ¼-size replicas of the base cards.  There were still three variations – Aluminum, Bronze and Silver (#’d to 1,000), while there is a pewter Nolan Ryan variant given to dealers who purchased the sets.

#2 – A full size bronze reproduction of Ryan’s 1990 Topps card (#1 from the set) was given to the first 2,500 dealers who ordered Tiffany sets.

#3 – Topps again issued a “Double Headers” set available in packs that came 36 packs per box.  These sets were 2-sided miniature cards (1-5/8 x 2-1/4) with a reproduction of the 1990 card on one side and the player’s first Topps card on the other side.  The set was tripled to 72 cards.

#4 – Topps produced 6 experimental Mylar stickers of cards from the Traded set; these were early test runs of the refractor technology.  Joe Carter and Dave Winfield are the two most notable names in the set.

#5 – As a favor to then President George Bush, Topps printed and presented him with about 100 cards of him in the 1990 design with a picture of him from his playing days at Yale.  Apparently his grandchildren didn’t understand why he didn’t have a baseball card even though he had played for 2 seasons in college.  Some of these cards made it to the open market, supposedly a very small few even got inserted into packs on accident.  The card is exactly like the design from the base set, and has Bush’s statistics from his 2 years at Yale.  His team is listed as “USA”.  Until looking at this card, I hadn’t realized that Bush had gone to Yale AFTER his stint as a war hero in WWII, though I guess that makes sense with the GI Bill.  Also, it looks like “41” definitely improved in his 2nd season at Yale.  I can’t wait ’til they reprint these for the 2039 Heritage set!

Upper Deck came out with a superior product in 1989 and upped the game even more in 1990 with the Reggie Jackson Heroes insert set, and more importantly, the autograph chase card.  Also, Donruss came out with its second set, Leaf – a premium set to compete with Upper Deck.

Topps responded by… increasing the price per pack and not doing much for quality.  They did drastically change the design, but the photography is worse than sets they’d come out with 20+ years earlier.

I don’t really remember buying packs of 1990 Topps – and I definitely didn’t collect Upper Deck until 1993.  I do remember the 1990 Topps design, I just didn’t buy much of it, I guess. I still loved baseball in the 3+ years when I stopped collecting – in fact, I became more of a fan.  I added Rickey Henderson and eventually Ken Griffey Jr. next to Eric Davis as my favorite players.  And the Reds won the World Series, so that made me follow the sport even more.  I guess I just didn’t do so through the cardboard option at the time.

1980s decade statistics

27 09 2011

All-Star Games: NL won 6 times, AL won 4 times     (Gary Carter won 2 AS-game MVPs in the 1980’s)

World Series: The Dodgers (2) were the only team with multiple World Championships in the 80’s.  The Cardinals went to 3 World Series, while the Phillies, Royals and Athletics also went to multiple series.

1980: Philadelphia Phillies over Kansas City Royals, 4-2

1981: Los Angeles Dodgers over New York Yankees, 4-2

1982: St. Louis Cardinals over Milwaukee Brewers, 4-3

1983: Baltimore Orioles over Phillies, 4-1

1984: Detroit Tigers over San Diego Padres, 4-1

1985: Royals over Cardinals, 4-3

1986: New York Mets over Boston Red Sox, 4-3

1987: Minnesota Twins over Cardinals, 4-3

1988: Dodgers over Oakland Athletics, 4-1

1989: Athletics over San Francisco Giants, 4-0


Multiple MVP: AL – Robin Yount, SS & OF, Brewers (1982, 1989)

NL – Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies (1980-1981, 1986)

Dale Murphy, OF, Atlanta Braves (1982-1983)

Multiple Cy Young: AL – Roger Clemens, SP, Red Sox (1986-1987)

Brett Saberhagen, SP, Royals (1985, 1989)

NL – Steve Carlton, SP, Phillies (1980, 1982)

Other Multiple Award Winners: AL – Cal Ripken, SS, Orioles (ROY – 1982, MVP – 1983)

Clemens (CY, MVP – 1986, CY 1987)

Jose Canseco, OF, Athletics (ROY – 1986, MVP – 1988)

Willie Hernandez, RP, Tigers (CY, MVP – 1984)

NL – Fernando Valenzuela, SP, Dodgers (ROY, CY – 1981)

Dwight Gooden, SP, Mets (ROY – 1984, CY – 1985)

Rollie Fingers, RP, Brewers (CY, MVP – 1981)


MLB Amateur Draft – notable selections:

Darryl Strawberry was the first pick of the decade.

There were quite a few guys who were better known for another sport – John Elway (’81), Deion Sanders (’85), Bo Jackson (’86).

Tony Gwynn (’81) and Craig Biggio (’87) both had careers with 3,000 hits.

Roger Clemens (’83), Greg Maddux (’84), Tom Glavine (’84) and Randy Johnson (’85) all had careers with over 300 wins.

Mark McGwire (’84), Barry Bonds (’85), Rafael Palmeiro (’85), Gary Sheffield (’86), Ken Griffey Jr. (’87), Frank Thomas and Jim Thome (both ’89) all hit 500 career home runs.

Other notable draftees include Doc Gooden (’82), Barry Larkin (’85), John Smoltz (’85), Mike Piazza (in the 62nd round of ’88), Jeff Bagwell and Jeff Kent (both in ’89).


Hall of Fame:

(’80) A. Kaline, D. Snider, C. Klein, T. Yawkey, (’81) B. Gibson, J. Mize, R. Foster, (’82) H. Aaron, F. Robinson, T. Jackson, H. Chandler, (’83) B. Robinson, J. Marichal, G. Kell, W. Alston, (’84) H. Killebrew, L. Aparicio, D. Drysdale, P.W. Reese, R. Ferrell, (’85) L. Brock, H. Wilhelm, E. Slaughter, A. Vaughan, (’86) W. McCovey, E. Lombardi, B. Doerr, (’87) C. Hunter, B. Williams, R. Dandridge, (’88) W. Stargell, (’89) J. Bench, C. Yastrzemski, R. Schoendienst, A. Barlick

This list includes the all-time home run and stolen bases leaders at the time, 4 players with 3,000 hits, 1 pitchers with 3,000 strikeouts, 4 players with 500 home runs, 2 Negro League players, a commissioner of MLB, a team owner,  and an umpire.


Batting Leaders – best season, overall decade leader, most times leading league:

Avg. (season) George Brett 1980 KCR .390, (decade) Wade Boggs BOS .352

Boggs won 5 AL batting titles, Tony Gwynn won 4 NL batting titles

HR (season) Andre Dawson 1987 CHC / Mark McGwire 1987 OAK 49, (decade) Schmidt PHI 313

Schmidt led the NL 5x, Tony Armas & Reggie Jackson each led the AL 2x

RBI (season) Don Mattingly 1985 NYY 145, (decade) Eddie Murray BAL-LAD 996

Schmidt led the NL 4x, Cecil Cooper led the AL 2x

R (season) Rickey Henderson 1985 NYY 146, (decade) Henderson OAK-NYY 1,122

Tim Raines & Ryne Sandberg each led the NL 2x, Henderson led the AL 4x

SB (season) Henderson OAK 130 – MLB record, (decade) Henderson OAK-NYY 838

Henderson led the AL 9x, Vince Coleman led the NL 5x

H (season) Boggs 1985 BOS 240, (decade) Robin Yount MIL 1,731

Kirby Puckett led the AL 3x, Gwynn led the NL 4x

Pitching Leaders:

W (season) Steve Stone 1980 BAL 25, (decade) Jack Morris DET 162

Roger Clemens and LaMarr Hoyt each led the AL 2x, Steve Carlton led the NL 2x

K (season) Mike Scott 1986 HOU 306, (decade) Nolan Ryan HOU-TEX 2,167

Mark Langston led the AL 3x, Steve Carlton led the NL 3x

Ryan led the NL 2x and the AL 1x

ERA (season) Dwight Gooden NYM 1.53, (decade) Gooden NYM 2.64

Ryan won 2 NL ERA titles, no pitcher won multiple AL ERA titles

SV (season) Dave Righetti 1986 NYY 46 – MLB Record, (decade) Jeff Reardon NYM-MON-MIN 264

Dan Quisenberry led the AL 5x, Bruce Sutter led the NL 4x


My All-Decade team:

C – Gary Carter, MTL-NYM (.264/207/800)

1B – Murray, BAL-LAD (.293/274/996)

2B – Sandberg, PHI-CHC (.289/14/61, MVP)

3B – Schmidt, PHI (.277/313/929, 3 MVPs)

SS – Ripken, BAL (.276/204/744, ROY, MVP)

OF – Henderson, OAK-NYY (.291/137/535, 838 SB, 1,122 R)

OF – Yount, MIL (.304/174/821, 337 2B, 2 MVPs)

OF – Murphy, ATL (.273/308/929, 2 MVPs)

DH – Boggs, BOS (.352/64/523, .443 OBP)

SP – Ryan, HOU-TEX (122-104/3.14/2,167)

SP – Gooden, NYM (100-39/2.64/1,168, CY)

SP – Clemens, BOS (95-45/3.06/1,215, 2 CY, MVP)

RP – Dan Quisenberry, KCR-STL (53-43/2.67/364, 239 SV)

The left side of the infield was the best part of the diamond, and third base was the most stacked position out there.  This is one thing notable about the 1980’s – 3 of the best 5 third baseman in history played the primary portion of their career in the 1980’s.  With all respect to Boggs and Brett, Schmidt is the best 5-man of all-time and was the best in this particular decade, too.  In fact, he’d be right up there for my pick for player of the decade – he did in fact win the award from The Sporting News.  Boggs was really close, though, so I cheated and added him as the designated hitter.

I said right up there for Schmidt – I’d have to give player of the decade to Rickey Henderson.  He was on base more than any other player in the decade, he’s the only player who scored over 1,000 runs (his 1,000+ were 150 more than the 2nd best player) he set the single season stolen base record and almost set the career stolen base record in the decade.  He’s my first outfielder.  Robin Yount was there with Boggs, just behind Schmidt and Henderson as the best players of the decade – I decided I had a choice to put him at short or center field, since he won an MVP at both positions.  I put him in the Outfield as I wanted to get either Ripken or Trammell in at Shortstop.  This was actually a closer call than I thought.  Trammell’s WAR is a little higher than Cal, and their offensive numbers are very similar.  A big reason for this is because Cal didn’t play the first 2 years of the decade.  Plus he won a ROY and an MVP (Trammell did have a runner-up in MVP voting), so I went with the Iron Man.  Ozzie Smith was also very good at shortstop, but not quite as good as those guys.  I went with Murphy for the 3rd outfield spot, though Tim Raines and Andre Dawson belong in that argument.  Eddie Murray and Gary Carter were clear-cut at First and Catcher.  At second, Lou Whitaker was around the whole decade but Sandberg was better for the 8 full years he played, and he won that MVP.

Selecting the pitchers were a tough decision.  Ryan was just too good for the whole decade to keep out, but it came down to what I wanted to do with Clemens and Gooden – who were fairly indistinguishable between each other, so I would either pick both or neither.  They were clearly the best two pitchers in the last 5 or 6 years of the 80’s, but should I give credit to guys who pitched the whole season?  I chose to go with both of them, as they were truly great for most of the decade.  Dave Stieb and Fernando Valenzuela were close, while Saberhagen, Hershiser and Carlton was similar to Clemens and Gooden – very good but only played in part of the decade (though Carlton was in the early part of the decade).  Quisenberry was an easy choice for best reliever – though he didn’t do much in the last few years of the decade, he was the best by a significant margin in the first 6 years.

1980’s Cincinnati Reds decade

26 09 2011

After the 70’s saw the Reds have one of  best decades of any franchise outside of Manhattan (6 playoff berths, 4 pennants, 2 titles), the Reds didn’t sniff the postseason in the 1980’s.  But, that said – they certainly didn’t have a dull decade.

The early part of the decade started well.  After Joe Morgan left for Houston via free agency in 1980, only Johnny Bench, George Foster, Ken Griffey, Dave Concepcion and Cesar Geronimo were left from the Big Red Machine.  Geronimo would be traded away after the 1980 season.  The team was still very good in 1980, finishing 89-73 despite a sub-par season by Ace Tom Seaver.  Seaver bounced back to earn 2nd in the Cy Young voting the next year, and Foster was 3rd in MVP voting.  The Reds posted the best record in all of baseball, but were kept out of the playoffs by a quirky postseason set-up due to the players’ strike.

Despite all-star seasons, Foster and Griffey were traded away prior to the 1982 campaign, and the Reds suffered a 101-loss season that was the worst in the NL.  They actually won 5 fewer games than they had in the strike-shortened year before.  Seaver had another poor season, and was traded back to the Mets.  In 1983, they won 13 more games, and Mario Soto started the All-Star game after posting his third straight outstanding season.  But they still finished last in the NL West.  The highlight of the season was Johnny Bench night in September, and the slugger didn’t disappoint by knocking a home run in one of his last games at Riverfront.

In 1984 the team played well at first, but they finished with about the same record as the year before.  Two Big Red Machiners came back, though.  Tony Perez signed on as a free agent in the off-season, and prodigal son Pete Rose returned via trade in August to become baseball’s last player manager.  Rose led the team to a 2nd place finish in 1985, but more importantly he broke on of baseball’s most hallowed records.  On September 11, Rose smashed a single of Eric Show in front of the home crowd to pass Ty Cobb as the all-time hit leader.  New Red Dave Parker was 2nd in the MVP voting, and Tom Browning won 20 games and garnered runner-up Rookie of the Year consideration.

Rose played his last game in August of the next year, finishing with 4,256 hits.  He remained the team’s manager, and again led them to a 2nd place finish.  John Franco and Eric Davis emerged as budding stars – Davis became the first player with 25+ home runs and 80+ stolen bases, a feat only Rickey Henderson has matched since.  Perez retired after the 1986 season.  The next year he had a season still unmatched – he became the only player ever with 35+ home runs and 50+ steals (Barry Bonds is the only other player with 30/50).

The Reds again finished in 2nd in 1988, but they did get the honor of hosting the All-Star game (attended by yours truly).  Rose missed 30 games for shoving umpire David Pallone.  Danny Jackson won 23 games and was Cy Young runner-up, and Chris Sabo won the NL ROY.  Franco led the league with 39 saves, and Browning pitched the only perfect game in Reds history in September.  Concepcion retired after the 1988 season, though Griffey had signed back to the Reds after the All-Star break.

The next year was a rough one for the Reds.  Their season was marred by the ongoing investigation of Pete Rose involvement in gambling, and the native Cincinnatian agreed to a lifetime banishment from baseball in August.  Rob Dibble had a unique season in that he led the team in strikeouts (an incredible 141) without starting a game.

Decade MVP – Eric Davis (.275/142/413, .530 slugging, 2 AS, 2 SS, 3 GG)

Pitcher of the Decade – Mario Soto (94-84/3.37/1360 K, 3x AS)

All told, in the decade, the Reds had 25 All-stars, 2 All-Star game MVPs (Griffey, Concepcion), 1 All-Star starting pitcher (Soto), a Rookie of the Year (Sabo), 1 Rolaids Reliever of the Year (Franco),

I gave out an “award” in each write-up I did for MVP and best pitcher, here’s the breakdown of the award:

Best pitcher: Soto 4x, Franco 2x, Seaver, Browning, Jackson, Rob Dibble

MVP: Soto 3x, Davis 3x, Griffey, Foster, Parker, Jackson

Here’s my “all-decade team”:

C – Bo Diaz

1B – Dan Driessen

2B – Ron Oester

3B – Sabo

SS – Concepcion

OF – Davis

OF – Parker

OF – Kal Daniels

SP – Soto

SP – Browning

SP – Jackson

SP – Seaver

RP – Franco

1980’s “baseball decade in review”

25 09 2011

The decade of the 1980s was a remarkable one in the history of baseball.  It started with the last of the original 16 franchises winning its first World Series with the help of the future all-time hit king, then ended with the permanent banishment of that same player.  The 1980’s saw baseball’s last 300-inning pitcher and its last player-manager, while it also saw its first 40-save closer and the advent of the 9th-inning closer.  It was the decade where MLB began to lose its hold to the NFL as America’s favorite pastime.

The 1980’s was the first full decade of free agency in Major League Baseball, and labor issues loomed like a cloud over Major League Baseball more than any time in the past 100 years.  In 1981, there was a 2-month strike that altered the landscape of that season.  The league named separate division champions for the time before and after the strike, resulting in an additional round of playoffs and also ended up leaving St. Louis and Cincinnati out of the playoffs, even though they had the best cumulative record in their respective divisions.  In 1985, there was a 2-day work stoppage that ended with an increase in the minimum salary and increases in pensions.

But the collusion cases of the late 1980’s probably had more impact on the game than any other labor issue during the decade.  Three separate cases from 1986 to 1988 resulted in awards of over $100 million to the Players’ Association, and ultimately ended with a $280 million settlement in the early 90’s.  Commissioner Fay Vincent was convinced that the expansion of the 1990’s was done primarily to support the owners’ liability from this settlement.  The turmoil contributed in part to the most turnover at the Commissioner position than any other time period.  While there had been only five commissioners between 1920 and 1984, this decade saw four men hold the job.  Bowie Kuhn retired in 1984, and Peter Ueberroth took over for him.  The labor issues ultimately cost Ueberroth the job, and Bart Giamatti followed him.  But Giamatti died tragically one week after banning Pete Rose from the game, and his friend Fay Vincent took over.

It was a fairly stable decade for the status of MLB franchises, however.  There was no expansion of movement, though a few teams switched ownership and a very small number opened up new ballparks.  At the beginning of the decade, the Mets were sold to the Wilpon family (who may need to sell in the near future), the Cubs were sold to the Tribune Company, and Charlie Finley sold to the A’s.  In the middle of the decade, the Reds were sold to Marge Schott and the Pirates were sold to a “temporary” local group that held the team for more than a decade.  The Twins opened up the Metrodome in 1982, and Toronto opened up the Skydome in 1989.  In Chicago, the White Sox broke ground on a new park late in the decade – and the Cubs installed lights in Wrigley, playing the first night game in 1988 (The Big House followed suit in Ann Arbor some 23 years later).

It was a decade of catchy series names:

  • The 1982 “Suds Series” featured teams from famous brewing cities (St. Louis over Milwaukee),
  • the “I-95 Series” the next year featured Baltimore beating its neighbor the Phillies,
  • the “I-70 Series” in 1985 featured two teams from opposite sides of Missouri – this time St. Louis lost in a controversial 7-game series to Kansas City.
  • the “Battle of the Bay” became known as the “Earthquake Series” when Oakland swept its next door neighbors San Francisco over a 14-day span that was interrupted by the Loma Prieta earthquake.

Here’s a re-cap of what I consider to be the biggest on-field stories of each year in the decade, with some notation to some of the other things in the news.

1980 – Phillies win first title

The last of the inaugural 16 franchises (from 1901 when the American League was founded) won its first World Title in 1980, led by Sporting News player of the previous decade (Pete Rose), and the upcoming decade (Mike Schmidt).  Schmidt was the NL MVP, while Steve Carlton won the league’s Cy Young award.  Interesting facts about the Phillies title run.  Prior to the Phillies winning their first title, the A’s had won 5 World Series for Philadelphia, then moved to Kansas City, then to Oakland, where they promptly won 3 more.  The Yankees won 22 titles before the Phillies won their first, and the expansion Mets even won a title 11 years before the Phillies did.  The franchises 97-year stretch without a title is outdone only by the Cubs 100-year-plus futility that is currently ongoing.

Also notable in 1980 – despite being below .300 in June, George Brett made a legitimate run at hitting .400, being above the mark as late as mid-September.  He finished at an incredible .390.  Also, a potential all-time great baseball career was lost when J.R. Richard suffered a stroke shortly after starting the All-Star game.  He was never the same pitcher who seemed destined to be baseball’s next big strikeout man alongside his teammate, Nolan Ryan.

1981 – Fernando-Mania!

If you can look past the strike, the emergence of Mexican phenom Fernando Valenzuela was the biggest story of 1981.  Valenzuela took the league by storm and was virtually unhittable before the labor stoppage.  He was still pretty good after the strike, taking home the Cy Young award while leading the league in strikeouts and hurling 8 shutouts.  Oh, and he led the Dodgers to their third World Series title!

1982 – 130 swipes for the Man of Steal

Rickey Henderson was arguably the best player of the 1980’s and no season was quite as amazing as his 1982 campaign, where he obliterated Lou Brock’s single season record of 118 steals with a mark of 130 that may never be broken.  He actually attempted to steal an incredible 172 times out of his 261 times on base.

1983 – Ryan Express and Lefty pass the Big Train

After holding the strikeout record for over a half-century, Walter Johnson was passed up by 3 pitchers in 1983.  Nolan Ryan got there first, then Steve Carlton and Gaylord Perry followed.  Carlton actually passed Ryan in June due to a rare DL stint for the Ryan Express, and the two battled for the title over the next year-plus before Ryan moved ahead of Lefty for good at the end of 1984.

The other notable story of the season was the record-breaking consecutive game streak by Steve Garvey, who passed Billy Williams for the longest such streak by a National League player but was then forced to sit out due to injury after 1,207 games.  The standard for all such streaks had started in Baltimore the year before.

1984 – Tigers go wire-to-wire

The Tigers got off to a record-setting start and never looked back.  They went wire-to-wire to win the AL East, then swept the Royals and smashed the Padres to win a title highlighted by the first of Kirk Gibson’s 2 dramatic World Series home runs.

Another notable story was that, for the first time, baseball was played in the Olympics.  Japan outdid the U.S. collegians in the finale of the exhibition event.

The Pittsburgh drug trials were notable off-the field events that marred the 1984 and 1985 season.

1985 – The Hit King

Pete Rose took center stage in 1985.  He’d been traded back to his hometown Cincinnati to become player-manager in 1984, and he continued his assault on Ty Cobb’s hit record, finally passing the Georgia Peach on September 11, 1985 in front of a sold-out Riverfront Stadium crowd.

Reigning Rookie of the Year Doc Gooden had the best season of any pitcher in the decade in 1985.  He followed up his rookie campaign with a Cy Young award, going 24-4, posting a ridiculous 1.53 ERA, and wrapping up the NL pitching triple crown with over 260 strikeouts.  At one point he won 14 games in a row.  He really should have won the MVP over Willie McGee that year.

1986 – “It gets by Buckner”

The New York Mets were down to their last out in Game 6 of the World Series, trailing 5-3 with 2 outs in the bottom of the 10th and down to their final strike against Gary Carter.  It looked like Boston was going to win its first title in 68 years, but the Mets knocked out 3 consecutive hits and a wild pitch allowed the tying run to score and Ray Knight to move to second.  Mookie Wilson hit the next pitch right at first-baseman Bill Buckner, but the ball went through his legs and Knight scored the winning run.  The Mets took the next game and the series.

Boston’s Roger Clemens was the story during the regular season in 1986.  He matched Gooden’s 24-4 record from the previous year and took home the Cy Young and MVP award, while striking out a record 20 batters in a nine-inning game in April.

Bo Jackson was also a young star in the news.  He was drafted in the NFL draft’s first round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he refused their demands that he quit his contract with the Kansas City Royals.  He’d sign with the Raiders one year later and join Deion Sanders as a two-sport star.

1987 – Twins win it all

The Twins beat the Cardinals in a fantastic 7-game series that was notable on many levels.  It was the first World Series played in a dome, and the first time the home team had won every game.

Two players approached the 50-HR mark. Mark McGwire’s breakout campaign established the rookie record with 49 home runs, while Andre Dawson hit the same number in Wrigley Field to become the first player to win the MVP award for a last place team.

1988 – Hershiser passes Drysdale on the last day of the season

1988 saw another historic pitching season turned in, this time by Orel Hershiser.  The “Bulldog” did not give up a run in the month of September, and in the last game he needed to throw 10 scoreless innings to break Don Drysdale’s scoreless innings record.  In a crazy twist, Andy Hawkins matched Hershiser with a regulation shut-out, enabling him to pitch into the 10th inning and establish the new mark.  The Dodgers followed his historic season to a World Series title punctuated by Kirk Gibson’s walk-off home run on 1 leg off A’s closer Dennis Eckersley in game 1.

The A’s Jose Canseco was the other big story – he put together the first 40-40 season in MLB history.

1989 – Rose banned from baseball

The ongoing investigation into Rose’s alleged gambling on the Reds and related legal positioning hung like a cloud over the game for most of 1989.  Eventually, Rose was banned for life in August, and the commissioner who kicked him out died of a heart attack one week later.

The Bay Series and the earthquake that postponed game 3 was the other big story from 1989.


Strikeouts – Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Fergie Jenkins, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro and Bert Blyleven all struck out their 3,000th batter in the 1980’s.  Ryan and Carlton struck out their 4,000th batter in the decade – while Ryan became the first (and is still the only) to strike out 5,000 in 1989.

Wins – Gaylord Perry, Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, Don Sutton and Phil Niekro all won their 300th game.

Saves – Rollie Fingers became the first pitcher with 300 saves in 1982.

Home runs – Reggie Jackson (’84) and Mike Schmidt (’87) joined the 500 home run club.

Hits – During the decade, Pete Rose became just the second player with over 4,000 hits and 3,000 singles.

Doubles – Rose became the fourth player with over 700 doubles.

Runs scored – Rose became the fifth player with over 2,000 runs scored.

Perfect games – Len Barker (1981), Mike Witt (1984) and Tom Browning (1988).


  • Ryan and Carlton both passed Walter Johnson and each held the career record for some time in 1983 and 1984.  Ryan finally passed Carlton for good toward the end of the ’84 season.
  • Rickey Henderson stole 130 bases in 1982 to pass Lou Brock’s single season record of 118.
  • Fingers broke Hoyt Wilhelm’s career saves record in 1980 and established a career total of 341.  Dan Quisenberry passed John Hiller’s single-season record of 38 by saving 45 games in 1983.  Bruce Sutter matched this mark the next year, and Dave Righetti saved 46 in 1986.
  • Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb’s all-time hit record in 1985, and he also established career records for singles, at bats, plate appearances and games played all of which had been set by Carl Yastrzemski earlier in the decade.  Rose also set NL marks for doubles and runs scored.


Mike Schmidt won 3 MVP’s while Dale Murphy and Robin Yount each won 2.  Yount became the 3rd player to win the award at 2 different positions.

Roger Clemens won back-to-back Cy Young awards, while Steve Carlton and Brett Saberhagen also won the award twice.  Fernando Valenzuela became the first (and he’s still the only) pitcher to win the Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young award in the same season.

Best Player in baseball

Throughout my write-ups, I tracked who I thought held the title as the current “Best Player (Pitcher) in Baseball”.  This was done by looking at looks at the players’ previous 5-and-3-year stretches as well as their most recent season.  Here was my breakdown:

Best Player

1980-1984 – Mike Schmidt

1985 – Rickey Henderson

1986-1987 – Tim Raines

1988-1989 – Wade Boggs

Best Pitcher

1980-1983 – Steve Carlton

1984 – Dan Quisenberry

1985-1986 – Dwight Gooden

1987-1989 – Roger Clemens

Legendary Shoebox Swap to feed my 30-dollar Habit

24 09 2011

I recently completed trades with Shane from Shoebox Legends and Robert from $30-a-week Habit.

Shane just started doing something pretty cool – what he’s calling the ultimate card set, where he puts together his favorite card of each number to create a franken-set.  Should be some good reading.  Anyways, this was a pretty large trade.  I sent over a variety of stuff – ’93 flair, ’08 UD, some ’11 Topps sparklies and a bunch of Gypsy Queen cards.  Shane sent me some Gypsies in return, as well as all the cards I needed up to card #599 from the ’90 Topps set.  This worked out well as I get back into the swing of my “lifetime Topps” project.

Here are some the highlights of what I got – thanks Shane!

Next up, here’s the trades from Robert.  I sent Robert a bunch of Topps diamond cards – I’d made a half-assed attempt at collecting those and decided I didn’t want to any more.  I also sent over some other base cards.  I got back some Topps and Heritage inserts:

And, the big part of this deal:

Aroldis’ signature from this year’s Ginter.  It’s interesting – I’ve never seen an auto from A&G, but they completely encase it (unlike the jerseys, where you can touch the jersey).  Makes sense.  Anyways, it’s awesome to be able to knock this off the list via trade!  Thanks for the trade Robert!