Sunday, May 4, 2014

Awesome night card, pt. 214


I can't say that I'm much of a fan of throwback uniforms on baseball cards.

But before you get all huffy, let me make an exception. I am definitely a fan of throwback uniforms on baseball cards when they are throwbacks to the 1970s.

Why the exception?

Well, it's purely personal. I was a kid in the 1970s. I lived and died with baseball that decade. I knew every player and every team and exactly what those teams wore. It was a loud and wonderful time. Red-hot rainbows on the Astros uniforms. Gold bananas on the Pirates uniforms. And almost every road team dressed in baby blue pajamas.

In fact, the Padres uniforms, particularly the 1978 versions that are being represented on this Cameron Maybin card, hold their own little corner in my childhood.

In 1979, my brother and I ordered yearbooks through the mail of our respective favorite teams -- the '79 Dodgers yearbook for me and the '79 Red Sox yearbook for my brother. It was a yearly tradition that we began two years earlier.

Yearbooks were almost as fascinating as baseball cards, and we waited the agonizing 6-to-8 weeks for those things to appear in the mail.

We also ordered one other yearbook, just for the hell of it. It was the 1979 San Diego Padres yearbook.

Why would we do that? Nobody in the house was a Padres fan.

Well, even then my brother and I had warped senses of humor. The Padres at the time were horrific. Just a joke of a team. I know they still don't have a proud history in comparison with other teams, but at the time they were the lowest of the low. The expansion Blue Jays and Mariners could be excused because they were only a year old. But the Padres were a decade old at this time and didn't seem like they were going to do anything ever.

In 1979, the Padres were coming of their first winning season. It was a big deal for San Diego as the team had not been able to finish above .500 for a decade. Even with that winning season, the Padres continued to be a running joke in our house.

We just had to have a Padres yearbook. We knew all about teams with successful histories. We'd looked through the Dodgers yearbooks and the Red Sox yearbooks. We had friends with the Yankees yearbooks. But what did a yearbook of a team with very little to brag about look like? I was dying to know.


That was the yearbook. I'd recognize it from 15 miles away anywhere.

The book was an eye-opener, and not because of all the wonderful photos of 1978 Padres uniforms on almost every page.

First, it seemed remarkably thin in comparison to other yearbooks. Then I read some of the words inside and I believe that was the point when I was introduced to what is known as "public relations." All of the bios and team information read like a press release. Happy talk about the players, no matter how poor, and the team, no matter how mismanaged.

I thought to myself "how can they do this? This guy isn't any good." Then it became a joke to us: "look what they're saying about Rick Sweet! He's awful!"

I learned then that a yearbook above anything is a promotional tool for the team. They're not going to tell it like it is unless it benefits them.

It took ordering a Padres yearbook to figure that out.

I'd go back through my Dodgers yearbooks and read about the players that weren't quite as good on my team and see the same kind of writing. Flowery writing about a guy who hadn't had a good season or much of a career. Then I realized that they did stuff like this on the backs of baseball cards, too.

I wish I still had that Padres yearbook. I'm sure it disappeared even a couple of years after we bought it.

During the late '70s it was becoming more apparent that baseball was a business. The first wild years of free agency. George Steinbrenner and Gene Autry buying players. Crazy salaries. Even the new, loud uniforms themselves were a desperate attempt to get fans to spend money at the ballpark.

And yearbooks. They were just a marketing tool to keep fans interested for life.

Money makes the game go round. The '78 Padres taught me that.

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Night Card Binder candidate: Cameron Maybin, 2013 Topps, #324
Does it make the binder?: Yes.

6 comments:

  1. I grew up a little south of San Diego, in Chula Vista. 1977 was my first year following baseball, particularly the Padres. Bill Almon was the first player I saw bat (number 6 in that yearbook you bought). They had signed Rollie Fingers and Gene Tenace (I had NO idea who they were), and the team was not good. The next year, 1978, was about as exciting a time for me, as the Pads weren't out of it until September. Gaylord Perry and John D'Acquisto were incredible, as was Winfield and Ozzie. I have a 1978 throwback jersey, just because of this. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. The throwback uniforms the Cardinals are wearing on Sunday Night baseball right now against the Cubs are fantastic.

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  3. Heresy. Throwback unis make the world go 'round! They make baseball cards into better baseball cards.

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  4. If the Padres ever win a World Series during my lifetime... it will be worth the wait. The same can be said for my beloved San Jose Sharks who are officially known as one of the greatest choke artists in sports history. But I will never lose hope. This past February, the Seahawks finally won a title. I waited over thirty years, but it was worth the wait. The feeling will be mutual for the Padres and Sharks too.

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  5. Having nearly grown up in the Jack Murphy Stadium watching the Padres (and Chargers), I love the throwback, vintage brown and gold. That Maybin card was a favorite of mine, having necessarily chased down the pink parallel (still waiting on camo). I no longer have any of the Padres media guides or yearbooks, but I do have a program from '82 that I consider one of the all time classic Padres program images (http://tinyurl.com/lvhsn64). Clearly preferential, what a great post, Night Owl!

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