Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Team MVPs: 1985 Topps

The year 1985 marked my last attempt to complete a set until 1989 came along. And by "attempt" I mean "buy the whole set at the start of the season and never look at it again."

That's what I did with the 1985 Topps set, and that's why I have devoted a blog to the set. It's a way for me to get to know the cards that I ignored so many years ago.

What I am learning is 1985 was a step back in time for Topps. After 1983 and 1984, collectors were led to believe that action was the wave of the future. Virtually all of the large photos in the 1983 and 1984 Topps sets are action-oriented.

But in 1985, while there are still a fair share of action photos, there is also a return to this:

And this:

Some of the best-known cards in the 1985 Topps set -- Dwight Gooden, Eric Davis, Bret Saberhagen -- are photos that looked like they could have appeared in the 1966 Topps set. Standard head-and-shoulders shots.

This is what passed for a card of Steve Carlton in the '85 set. Come on now. He had 3,872 strikeouts at that point! Get him in action!

The quantity of "throwaway" photos in 1985 Topps was very evident as I was looking for the best card for each team in the set. (This is what we're doing in this post, by the way, if you haven't figured it out already). It's hard to remember someone like, say, Jerry Willard, if he's just a bust staring into the distance.

That said, some portrait-type shots are very memorable, including some in 1985 Topps, and they should never go away. As I've said many times, posed/portrait type shots give a card and a set character -- something that action shots can't do nearly as well.

Anyway, what follows are what I determined to be the best cards for each team in the 1985 set. I hope I don't spoil any of the suspense on the 1985 Topps blog by showing these.

Here they are -- in order by the divisions that existed at the time -- the best, team-by-team:

American League East

Red Sox: Mike Easler; Indians: Bert Blyleven; Blue Jays: Ernie Whitt; Brewers: Chuck Porter, Orioles: Eddie Murray; Yankees: Phil Niekro; Tigers: Willie Hernandez

Team with the best cards: Tigers. I imagine this has to do with the fact that they won the World Series the previous year. Lots of great cards -- Dave Rozema, Larry Parrish, Lou Whitaker, Kirk Gibson. I picked Hernandez because I'm a sucker for on-the-mound shots.

Team with the worst cards: Red Sox. This team has dominated most of these posts, but I could find almost nothing of note with them.

Team I should go back and review: Brewers. There were some pretty good Brewers cards but I fell in love with Porter's giant wind-up.

American League West

Twins: Tom Brunansky; Royals: U.L. Washington; White Sox: Dave Stegman; Angels: Dick Schofield; A's: Mike Davis; Mariners: Domingo Ramos; Rangers: George Wright

Team with the best cards: White Sox. Great stuff from Roy Smalley, Ron Kittle, Dan Spillner, Greg Luzinski. Stegman's bat act, though, is supreme.

Team with the worst cards: Rangers. Outside of a couple, very mundane stuff.

Team I should go back and review: Royals. I love smiling ballplayers. Maybe a little too much.

National League East

Phillies: Garry Maddox; Cubs: Ryne Sandberg; Pirates: Johnny Ray; Mets: Rusty Staub; Cardinals: Tom Herr; Expos: Bryn Smith

Team with the best cards: Cardinals. The Cardinals have the best cards in the entire set.

Team with the worst cards: Phillies. I love tight batting cage shots, but there wasn't much else to go on.

Team I should go back and review: Tie between Mets and Expos. I saw a very large guy choking up on a bat and a mustachioed man signing a baseball card. I saw nothing else after that.

National League West

Astros: Kevin Bass; Padres: Luis Salazar; Reds: Ted Power; Giants: Jeff Leonard; Braves: Craig McMurtry; Dodgers: Mike Scioscia

Team with the best cards: Reds. Cincinnati looks very good in this set. But I have an irrational appreciation for the Ted Power card. It is truly one of my most favorite cards of all-time. There is so much right about that card that I'm afraid if I explored how much I liked about it, you would be frightened by the time I was finished.

Team with the worst cards: Giants. Blurry shots. Boring shots. I went with Joe Cool.

Team I should go back and review: Padres. Nothing really stood out. I took the dugout shot and hoped it stuck.

I'm in a far different place as far as collecting than I was in 1985. I would never buy a complete set in one batch these days.

And I have 1985 Topps to thank for that. I saw what happens when I do that.

I need to get to know my cards.


  1. I'm all ears whenever you delve into the Ted Power card...

  2. OK, its official now. Nobody in the card blogging world seems to know the difference between posed/portrait shots and "candids". In the '85, George Frazier there (and Doc Gooden, Roger Clemens, Steve Garvey, Jose Rijo, etc.): posed. Pat Tabler and Steve Carlton (Pete Rose, Tom Seaver, Broderick Perkins, etc.): candids. Eric Davis I could go either way on, but I'll call it posed. The difference is that posed shots are posed, see. The candids are not. Is there really a difference? Yeah, there really is. And its one of my pet peeves that people don't know the difference. BTW, Topps continued using lots of posed shots for years after the '85 set. As Casey would say, you could look it up. It's only in the last several that we get nothing but action shots, all cropped exactly the same, all looking exactly alike...except for the occasional Gatorade shot. It's gotten bad enough that lots of the no-logo Panini cards are more interesting. Its gotten bad enough that Topps photogs don't even do as good a job on Heritage as they should. Its like they've forgotten how to compose a posed picture. Ideally (although I favor the posed, if they're properly done), a card set should be a nice mix of posed, action and candid, but you never see that. Not anymore, at any rate.

    1. It's not official. I know the difference between posed shots and candid shots. By "portrait" I meant "candid." I know they're not the same, but they've always been the same in my mind. I should have said "candid," but then we wouldn't have gotten all those words from you.

  3. I still say we're in an altered universe where the Brewers now play in the NL and the Astros play in the AL. It's just wonky....

  4. Could be my Oriole-centric view of life but that Murray card alone wins the AL East for the Orioles.