Friday, October 21, 2011

Looking at '81 through others' eyes, pt. 2

If you are of a certain age, then you have probably played this game:

Pick a random year when you were young. Determine your age during that year. Now calculate how old your parents were during that year. Were they older than you are now? Were they younger? Are you FREAKED OUT yet?

I recently did this for 1981. I was a teenager smack in the middle of high school. My father was a hair older than I am now. My mother was a couple years younger. So, whatever they were going through in 1981 is probably pretty similar to what I'm going through now. Except that they were busy trying to ignore cable television while I'm busy trying to ignore the latest generation of the iphone (I think I'm about 4 generations behind).

In '81, they were caught up in whatever real life issues that were going on that year. But I was just beginning to absorb that stuff. I first heard about the shooting of President Reagan on a radio in the back of the school bus taking me home. News of the baseball strike came as I sorted newspapers before heading out into the morning darkness on my route.

But mostly what I cared about during that year -- still -- was baseball cards. There were three sets for the first time, meaning I had more cards committed to memory than ever before.

That's why I continue to love this '81 Topps Traded set I received from Max. It's still ALL NEW to me!

So while the '81 Traded set for so many people is about Fernando Valenzuela's first solo Topps card ...

... we go a little deeper here at Night Owl Cards.

For instance:

A little known fact is that a shocking number of players -- particularly Mariners -- were airbrushed in Yankee Stadium. Actually, it's almost as if Topps invited them into a portrait studio, dropped the Yankee Stadium backdrop behind them and proceeded to spray on their new uniform.

Some appear to be actual photos -- I don't think Greg Luzinski had a chance to go to Yankee Stadium when he was with the Phillies -- unless Topps found an old photo of him at the 1977 All-Star Game.

But I don't want to rag on the photos too much in this set. There are some players who are treated kindly here:

Action pictures cure all. Isn't that last card great? Except the Yankee part, I mean.

That is a tiny bat.

THAT is a tiny bat.

Remember that post when I tried to determine who had the highest hair on a baseball card? I don't think this is the winner, but he did put a scare into Silvio.

You know when you look at person but have never heard them talk before and you just know from the look of that person what they're going to sound like? Yeah.

OK, one more card and I'll save the rest for one last post:

Ted: I want you to show that I don't have a small head.
Topps: What?
Ted: A small head. All of my baseball cards, my head looks small.
Topps: Oh, I don't think it ...
Ted: It does! Don't pretend it doesn't. I'm starting to think it's on purpose.
Topps: Oh, no, Ted, we would never ...
Ted: Just make my head look bigger this time.
Topps: I don't know if we ...
Ted: Bigger!
Topps: But ...
Ted: Bigger! Got it?
Topps: Sure thing, Ted.


  1. Awesome stuff. I still like the 1981 design after all this time.

  2. LOL I go through the name thing a lot... it's fun & freaky. I mean, it suddenly occurs to me that these guys I always saw as way older & adult... are all younger than I am now, some much younger. I remember when I was their age, and it's like uuuhhh... wow.

    As for those Mariners cards being airbrushed into Yankee stadium, I don't think so. First off I don't think they really look airbrushed unless it is an AMAZING job of it. But more to the point, Seattle made 1 trip to the Bronx in May of '81, and a bunch of the 82 regular set cards for these guys were taken then. It's very possible some of those photos were used for the Topps '81 traded set too.

    Luzinski played in Yankee stadium in June 5-7, 1981.

    So it's entirely possible they had photos taken. It also makes lots of sense, 'cause Topps was based in NY and for about a month leading up to the '81 strike, there was a lot of talk about a strike looming. Given that, Topps likely would've tried to get any and every player photographed that came through NY pre-strike. This would ensure they could release a decent card set in '82 even if the '81 season ended up cancelled after June 11.

  3. You're probably right. Although a couple of them look a little suspicious.

  4. Other than a brief and generally forgettable stint as manager, Buck has been the TV colour guy of the Blue Jays since (does math) forever.

  5. Summer of '81, I was midway through sophomore and junior year in high school, and it was essentially first year of cards I really did not buy any. I just turned 16, I had a car, and I was hot for a girl named Susie. But my little brother was still collecting and I'd see the "hat cards" as I called them, and I honestly thought at that time they were ugliest cards I'd ever seen. Not the composition of the pictures or the card design, but the quality of the photos and printing.
    But this little run through the past has been entertaining, thanks mr. Owl!