Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Card back countdown: #8 - 1978 Topps

In 1978, I began to realize what was truly possible in this hobby. This was still before price guides and rookie card mania and everything we experience today. So the best that we could do -- and it was really quite admirable regardless -- is complete an entire Topps set.

I didn't know until 1978 that a complete set was available all in one shot, that you didn't have to go to the drug store every weekend of the spring and summer in a semi-futile effort to finish off the set pack by pack. But this is why reading was fundamental (and still is). Through our voracious reading habits, we discovered that you could order an entire 1978 Topps set through the mail.

My brother took the leap because he was more carefree with his cash than I. When the set arrived, I could hardly believe that there was an entire set all in one spot in our home. It was like handling gold bricks. My life would never be the same.

My brother completed the '78 set in 1978, but it took me 30 more years to finish off the set. I know it's a favorite of many collectors, but I have only modest respect for it. Some of the cards are absolute masterpieces. Others are definitely not.

But let's turn our attention to the back. Because cards are not blank on the back for a reason.

A few of you may be wondering why this card back is rated so highly. I admit, it's pretty run-of-the-mill. The orange background was very different, especially for someone who wasn't collecting in 1972 or 1964, which featured Topps sets with orange backs.

But neither of those sets are on the countdown. The 1978 set is because you could play a nine-inning baseball game with the cards.

I know this set isn't the first set to feature a card game. But it is the first set that I came across that had a card game. And we played the hell out of this thing. We had already had experience with games similar to these. Our preferred baseball game method was using dice. We played dice baseball for two years straight, I think. It's shocking that I'm not in Gamblers Anonymous.

But this card game was a nice substitute. I think the reason we preferred the dice is I remember the '78 card game as being unrealistic. Final scores would turn out to be 22-18 or something like that. Every other card appeared to be a double.

But in subsequent playings of the game,  I have come across much more reasonable scores, so maybe my memory is off.

At any rate, here are the rules if you're unfamiliar:

The rules are pretty open-ended. Other than mentioning that a team's half of the inning is over after three outs are made, and requiring that you play nine innings, the rest is up to you. We interpreted this as that we should follow the dice rules as closely as possible, meaning if you drew a single and then you drew a double, the player with the single wound up on third and not home because you couldn't assume more than two bases on a double.

There are many things that I wondered with this game that I have never done. I have wanted to make a list of every card that featured a home run, a triple, a double, etc. I'm guessing some poor collector with no life has already done this.

I have wanted to play a game with each team and see which one ends up scoring the most runs. I assume this to be the Yankees already, just because they always get their way. They especially did in 1978.

I have also wanted to play a nine-inning game with these cards starting from the beginning of the set to see what the score might be.

So that's what I'm going to do here.

I thought about playing a nine-inning game starting from the back of the set, because that would be a little different. But the front seems more appropriate.

But first I must decide what to call the two teams that will be playing.

Since I'm in a baseball sort of mood, my teams will be called "Mustard" and "Ketchup." The nickname for "Mustard" is "the king of all hot dog condiments." The nickname for "Ketchup" is "what, are you 6 years old?"

I think you know who I am rooting for.

Ketchup is the visiting team and Mustard is the home team, because I am biased.

OK, on with the game.

As you 1978 fans know, the first seven cards are record breaker cards and aren't part of the game. So we'll skip right to Card #8, Mike Sadek.

Batter Up!

Ketchup, top of the first

8-Mike Sadek: Base on Balls
9-Doug DeCinces: Base on Balls
10-Phil Niekro: Single (bases loaded)
11-Rick Manning: Strikeout
12-Don Aase: Double (2 runs score, Niekro to 3rd)
13-Art Howe: Ground out (runners hold according to my rules)
14- Lerrin LaGrow: Triple (2 runs score)
15- Tony Perez: Fly out
3 outs
4 runs, 3 hits

Ketchup 4, Mustard 0

Mustard, bottom of the first

16 - Roy White

HOME RUN!!!!!!!

17 - Mike Krukow: Fly out
18 - Bobby Grich: Game instructions (often we would use this card as a cue for a meeting at the pitcher's mound)
19 - Darrell Porter: Single
20 - Pete Rose: Base on Balls
21 - Steve Kemp: Fly out
22 - Charlie Hough: Ground Out
3 outs
1 run, 2 hits

Ketchup 4, Mustard 1

Ketchup, top of the second

23 - Bump Wills: Single
24 - Don Money: Fly Out
25 - Jon Matlack: Strikeout
26 - Richie Hebner: Foul Out
3 outs
0 runs, 1 hit

Ketchup 4, Mustard 1

Mustard, bottom of the second

27 - Geoff Zahn: Single
28 - Ed Ott: Base on Balls
29 - Bob Lacey: Ground Out (double plays did not exist by our rules)
30 - George Hendrick: Base on Balls (bases loaded)
31 - Glenn Abbott - Single (Zahn scores, bases still loaded)

32 - Garry Templeton


(Ott, Hendrick, Abbott and Templeton score)

33 - Dave Lemanczyk: Fly Out
34 - Willie McCovey: Ground Out
3 outs
5 runs, 3 hits

Mustard 6, Ketchup 4

Ketchup, top of the third

35 - Sparky Lyle: Single
36 - Eddie Murray: Strikeout
37 - Rick Waits: Foul Out
38 - Willie Montanez: game instructions
39 - Floyd Bannister: Single
40 - Carl Yastrzemski: Ground out
3 outs
0 runs, 2 hits

Mustard 6, Ketchup 4

Mustard, bottom of the third

41 - Burt Hooton: Fly out
42 - Jorge Orta: Base on Balls
43 - Bill Atkinson: Single
44 - Toby Harrah: Foul Out
45 - Mark Fidrych: Fly Out
3 outs
0 runs, 1 hit

Mustard 6, Ketchup 4

Ketchup, top of the fourth

46 - Al Cowens: Ground out
47 - Jack Billingham: Single
48 - Don Baylor: Strikeout
49 - Ed Kranepool: Fly out
3 outs
0 runs, 1 hit

Mustard 6, Ketchup 4

Mustard, bottom of the fourth

50 - Rick Reuschel: Double (first double of the game!)
51 - Charlie Moore: Base on Balls
52 - Jim Lonborg: Ground out

53 - Phil Garner

HOME RUN!!!!!!! (Kind of looks like he actually hit one, huh?)

3-run shot, Reuschel, Moore and Garner score

54 - Tom Johnson: Fly Out
55 - Mitchell Page: Single
56 - Randy Jones: Foul Out
3 outs
3 runs, 3 hits

Mustard 9, Ketchup 4

Base on balls are killing Ketchup

Ketchup, top of the fifth

57 - Dan Meyer: Fly Out
58 - Bob Forsch: game instructions
59 - Otto Velez: Ground out
60 - Thurman Munson: Base on Balls
61 - Larvell Blanks: Fly Out
3 outs
0 runs, 0 hits

Mustard 9, Ketchup 4

Mustard, bottom of the fifth

62 - Jim Barr: Strikeout
63 - Don Zimmer: manager card
64 - Gene Pentz: Base on Balls
65 - Ken Singleton: Single (heh, Singleton, single)
66 - White Sox: team card
67 - Claudell Washington: Ground out

68 - Steve Foucault

HOME RUN!!!!!!

Three more runs in (Pentz, Singleton and Foucault). Give it up, Ketchup

69 - Mike Vail: Fly Out
3 outs
3 runs, 2 hits

Mustard 12, Ketchup 4

Ketchup, top of the 6th

70 - Rich Gossage: Single
71 - Terry Humphrey: Single
72 - Andre Dawson: Ground out
73 - Andy Hassler: Fly Out
74 - checklist
75 - Dick Ruthven: Foul Out
3 outs
0 runs, 2 hits

Mustard 12, Ketchup 4

Mustard, bottom of the 6th

76 - Steve Ontiveros: Double
77 - Ed Kirkpatrick: Fly Out
78 - Pablo Torrealba: game instructions
79 - Deron Johnson: manager card
80 - Ken Griffey: Single
81 - Pete Redfern: Groundout (still men on 2nd and 3rd)
82 - Giants: team card
83 - Bob Montgomery: Base on Balls (bases loaded)
84 - Kent Tekulve: Fly Out
3 outs
0 runs, 2 hits

Mustard 12, Ketchup 4

Ketchup, top of the 7th

85 - Ron Fairly: Base on balls
86 - Dave Tomlin: Strikeout
87 - John Lowenstein: Single
88 - Mike Phillips: Strikeout
89 - Ken Clay: Groundout
3 outs
0 runs, 1 hit

Mustard 12, Ketchup 4

Seventh-inning stretch!! Let's show the best photo in the set!!!! (Randle's card has a double on the back, by the way)

Mustard, bottom of the 7th

90 - Larry Bowa: Fly Out
91 - Oscar Zamora: Double
92 - Adrian Devine: Fly Out
93 - Bobby Cox: manager card
94 - Chuck Scrivener: Double (Zamora scores)
95 - Jamie Quirk: Ground out
3 outs
1 run, 2 hits

Mustard 13, Ketchup 4

Ketchup, top of the eighth

96 - Orioles: team card
97 - Stan Bahnsen: Single
98 - Jim Essian: Fly Out
99 - Willie Hernandez: Base on Balls
100 - George Brett: Ground out
101 - Sid Monge: Ground out
3 outs
0 runs, 1 hit

Mustard 13, Ketchup 4

Mustard, bottom of the eighth

102 - Matt Alexander: Single
103 - Tom Murphy: Foul Out
104 - Lee Lacy: Foul Out
105 - Reggie Cleveland: Strikeout
3 outs
0 runs, 1 hit

Mustard 13, Ketchup 4

Last chance for Ketchup!

Ketchup, top of the ninth

106 - Bill Plummer: Single
107 - Ed Halicki: Ground out
108 - Von Joshua: Fly Out
109 - Joe Torre: manager card
110 - Richie Zisk: Triple (Plummer scores)
111 - Mike Tyson: game instructions
112 - Don Carrithers: Base on Balls

113 - Paul Blair

HOME RUN!!!!!!!!!

3-run home run (Zisk, Carrithers and Blair score)

Is a comeback victory in the works for Ketchup?????

114 - Gary Nolan: Foul Out


3 outs
4 runs, 3 hits

Final Score: Mustard 13, Ketchup 8

Mustard: 13 runs, 16 hits
Ketchup: 8 runs, 14 hits

Mustard prevails because it is the Undisputed King of Hot Dog Condiments, as mentioned before.

(For the record, I especially like relish and onions, too).

Best of the set:

There are two Dodger cards with Home Run on the backs of their cards, so those are the best of the set:

(previous card back countdown selections):


  1. The only game we played as kids with cards involved a marble and a wooden ruler. It had nothing to do with the cards other than you had to hit the marble than pick up your card and get to first with card in hand before the guy chasing the marble got there. It resulted in many a bent card.

  2. Let's go mus-tard
    clap clap clapclapclap!

  3. What a fun post, you brought me back in time for while.
    We normally used dice for our games, but for a while we played games with the '78 cards, but a little different. So that a player didn't get stuck with same outcome every single time, we'd shuffle (yeah, we didn't care too much about how the cards looked) a stack of doubles. Then we had our team of guys next to that. That way your player just got a random card off the doubles stack for his batting result.

    thank you for the little trip down memory lane!

  4. This post is awesome!