Thursday, May 1, 2014

C.A.: 1972 Topps Cy Young Award

(I really have nothing to say between these two parentheses, so let's get on with it. It's time for Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 204th in a series):

Over vacation I was reading the hobby classic, "The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book."

I've had the book for three or four years now, and even though I've read quite a bit of it already, I had never read the interview with Sy Berger, the man who made Topps synonymous with baseball cards.

The interview was interesting in the usual ways, a behind the scenes look at Topps, even if it was an early 1970s behind-the-scenes view. But two things that Berger mentioned in this interview interested me in particular.

The first was when Berger started talking about nonsports cards. He was discussing a new series concept that they were working on:

"There is a new series right now on the drawing board," he said, "cards involving puns on well-known brand-name products. 'Slumber Bread.' 'Threaded Wheat.' 'Coo-Coo Cola.'"

The next line in the paragraph was from the author and read, "The creative wheels at Topps grind exceedingly small."

And I thought, "No, No! Not small! This is BIG! VERY BIG! This is WACKY PACKAGES!"

It was fascinating to get a look at the beginnings of what would become a legendary series, a big part of my childhood, and the godfather of series to come, such as Garbage Pail Kids.

The second thing that Berger mentioned had to do with the 1972 Topps baseball set. The interview was conducted between 1972 and 1973, and Topps was preparing for the '73 set at the time. Berger took some cards from the '72 set and handed them to the interviewer. They were the "Boyhood Photos Of The Stars" cards that were a subset in that set. Photos of players of the day as kids.

"These went over very well," Berger told the author (I never know if it's Brendan Boyd or Fred Harris that is doing the writing at any given time in the book). "I was quite surprised. We're planning to do even more of them this year."

And they did, as players' kids photos appeared in the 1973 set, too.

Again, fascinating.

It was at that point that I thought, "ask him about the award cards!" I know that's what I would have done if I was there.

If you know the 1972 Topps set, you know that in Series 5, between cards for Phil Niekro and Moe Drabowsky, Topps placed six cards that were nothing but pictures of awards. Pictures of plaques or trophies:

No. 621 - The Commissioner's Award
No. 622 - The MVP Award
No. 623 - The Cy Young Award
No. 624 - The Minor League Player Of The Year Award
No. 625 - The Rookie Of The Year Award
No. 626 - The Babe Ruth Award

I've mentioned these cards before on the blog and how as a youngster I saw these cards and thought, "these have to be the dullest cards I have ever seen."

Today, I find them very amusing. And I would've loved to ask Mr. Berger if these were planned for the set (and why) or if these were filler because either something fell through or the set was too large and they had to find something.

The Cy Young Award is my favorite of the six, just because I find it to be one of the creepier sports awards of all-time.

Its focal point is a disembodied hand clutching a baseball. It appears to be rising out of the ground like Carrie's bloody hand at the end of the movie. It's more disturbing than an honor, if you ask me.

So, yeah, Mr. Berger, what was the deal with these cards?

Anyway, I received the freaky Cy Young Award card from Mark Hoyle. He sent a PWE with four 1972s off my want list.

Here are three cards of actual people:

I often feel like I missed out because I didn't collect the 1972 set as a kid. I was only 6 and hadn't discovered cards yet.

It's really one of the most interesting sets of all-time, and I am collecting it for that reason and also because it is so damn colorful and quirky.

And, yes, the weird trophy cards is one of those reasons, too.

Even if I have no idea why they are there.


  1. I've always wondered why the photos in the semi-high and high series in 1972 seem to be color enhanced or brightened in the same way realtors do with the pictures they take of houses they're listing.

  2. Good luck with the set. I'm down to 25

  3. You had me @ 1972 Topps. My copy of that book has sat on my bookshelf gathering dust the past few years. I'm probably the only teacher in the world who doesn't like to read books. Love reading blogs. But I'm lucky if I read three books a year.

  4. Sy Berger is featured pretty prominently in the first 100 pages or so of "Card Sharks." Instantly became one of my favorite historical figures.

    If your so inclined, the Topps player contracts featured his signature well into the 1980's and are a relatively inexpensive way to grab a signature of Sy. When I realized that, my Wallach contract went from throw away piece of little interest to one of my prized items.

  5. The hockey cards around this time had awards cards....

  6. I see a disembodied hand holding a baseball, and my thoughts turn towards The Addams Family... "Thank you, Thing!"