I just posted the 250th card in the 1971 Topps set over on my '71 blog. The set is so huge that I'm not even close to being halfway finished (don't think I haven't thought about that a couple times). But I am nearing one milestone that I bet only the most dedicated '71 collectors know.
In a few cards, I will have reached the third series in the set. As you may know, the set is divided into six series. But it is in the third and fourth series where the real action lies. Literally.
At the risk of undermining the surprise of what card is coming next on the '71 blog, here is the first card of the third series:
It is an action card, as you I'm sure you've gathered. And it is the kind of wonderful action that only exists in early '70s cards.
From that first card in the third series, there are 41 more action cards in series 3 and 4, excluding the World Series subset. That is more than any other two series in the set. The first two series in 1971 Topps have only nine combined action cards in the set -- excluding the championship series subset (albeit two of the more famous ones in Thurman Munson and Cookie Rojas). The last two series, well, I defy you to find an action card in the last two series. It doesn't exist.
No, the real meat of this iconic set is in the middle.
This is important because action cards, along with black borders and a funky font design, are what made the '71 set what it is.
This was the first time that live action was used on a player's individual cards (I suppose you could make a case for some of the background photographs that appear on '56 Topps). Before, the action was confined mostly to World Series highlights cards.
So Series 3 and 4 is where the action is, and I've got a few observations on the action cards in those series:
1. ACTION CARDS MAKE HORIZONTAL CARDS COOL
I know some collectors don't like sets that mix vertical and horizontal cards. I'm not that particular. I love the horizontal look (I've dedicated a couple of posts to it). And prior to this set almost the only time you'd see a horizontal Topps card (excluding mid-50s and 1960 Topps, of course) is with a team card. And although I love and adore team cards, let's face it, they're not cool.
But this card? It's very cool.
2. ACTION CARDS STAND OUT
Maybe an action card hasn't been a big deal for two decades ever since the advent of all-action all-the-time sets. But believe me, as a kid growing up in the '70s there was nothing that would make you sit up faster this side of Farrah Fawcett than an action card.
This image may not be the greatest example because the tight posed shots seem to jump out at you. But in person your eyes gravitate to Action McAndrew there.
3. CERTAIN TEAMS GET MORE ACTION THAN OTHERS
It pains me to say this, but there are no action Dodgers in the 1971 set. This is an outrage and I want to know who is responsible RIGHT NOW.
Why did other teams get such cool shots while the Dodgers were stuck lifting their gloves over their heads?
Some of the blessed teams included:
The Yankees (of course).
The Mets (of course).
And the Royals might have been kings of them all. That's kind of strange for a team that had been around for just two years. These four are all from Series 3 and 4. There's also Lou Piniella and Rich Severson from earlier in the set.
The Indians, Cardinals and White Sox also benefited from Topps' decision to actionify its cards.
But not one Dodger.
4. ACTION CARDS ALLOW YOU TO SEE COOL THINGS
Sure, I could mention that Thurman Munson is in his own action card AND in Vada Pinson's action card or that Joe Morgan is in his own action card AND Tommie Agee's action card, or that Pete Rose is in Chris Short's action card. But that's all been cited before.
But two cards from undoubtedly the same game? And the wonderful symmetry of a Cardinal throwing out a Met and a Met throwing out a Cardinal?
That's action, my man.
(No, I'm not going to tell you which game it is. I've spent all my time scanning cards).
5. MEGA-STARS GET ACTION CARDS
By the time I started collecting in the mid-1970s, this was already an established truth. The stars get the action. The commons get the poses. But where do you think that started?
It started in 1971, of course.
Both of these epic players have epic action cards in Series 4.
6. ALL GOOD ACTION COMES TO AN END
Tommy John arrives at card No. 520. It's the last action card in 1971 Topps. Four cards later, Series 5 began and there was no more action.
This was depressing news for Matty Alou.
Alou shows up in Series 6, the very last series. And it's a simply head shot. Blazing red cap, but still a simple head shot.
Meanwhile, his brothers ...
... Jesus and Felipe were in series 3 or 4 and show up in marvelous action cards.
Because Series 3 and 4 is where the action is.
I didn't even show you all of the action cards from those two series.
Gotta save something for the '71 Topps blog.