Monday, July 7, 2014

Joy of a team set, chapter 2

When it comes to easy targets, no team features a larger bull's-eye than the Padres and the Cubs.

Sure, I dislike other teams more, but the Padres and Cubs have long since moved beyond "lovable loser" status into "HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!"

I know that's not exactly an attractive trait of mine, but if you're not wearing blue caps and red numbers on the front of your white uniform, you're taking your chances.

Still, 30 years ago this year, both the Padres and the Cubs made it to the National League Championship Series. Yes, it was just as shocking then as it would be today. The year prior to 1984, the Padres were a .500 team. The Cubs were 20 games worse than that.

And the two teams had more things in common than suddenly arriving upon a stellar season after years of bumbling. Both teams featured a third-year star of the baseball card community in Tony Gwynn and Ryne Sandberg (their second-year Topps cards are each in the 1984 set). Both teams featured two former players of the perennial World Series Dodgers teams of the late '70s/early '80s in Steve Garvey and Ron Cey.

You might think that this last fact would cause me to look kindly upon both teams. But I don't show any favoritism once a favorite leaves the Dodgers. Perish the thought, but if Clayton Kershaw somehow ended up a Seattle Mariner, I wouldn't view them any differently than I do now -- except that I would know at least three of the players on their team.

I spent the 1984 NLCS rooting for the Cubs, but I didn't really care. I honestly just wanted the team that had the best chance of being demolished by the Tigers to advance. It turns out that was the Padres.

For me, the '84 postseason marked a blessed oasis between the angst of the 1983 playoffs and the disgust of the 1985 playoffs. I remember it as a happy baseball time in which I stood along the sideline shouting "jolly good show, chaps" at the combatants. As I've mentioned before, I would spend good chunks of my shift in a department store, sneaking over to the home entertainment section to watch the World Series on the TV that faced the aisle.

Because of that, I decided both the 1984 Padres and the Cubs would be featured in my next "joy of a team set" post. Even though I also have full '84 Donruss team sets for both teams, I went with '84 Topps because I don't show it enough.

So here are the '84 Padres and Cubs in all of their one-year-wonder glory:

The Padres cards are garish as all get-out. Love it.

You can see that Topps featured one more Padres card than Cubs card in the set, which is why the Padres advanced to the World Series. Yup, you're off the hook, Leon Durham.

OK, time for the rundown:

Favorite card runners-up:

Cubs: 5. Thad Bosley; 4. Fergie Jenkins; 3. Lee Smith; 2. Ron Cey

Padres: 5. Alan Wiggins; 4. Tony Gwynn; 3. Eric Show; 2. Terry Kennedy

Favorite element on the back: 1984 Topps card backs are notoriously boring, but the back of Jim Frey's card is phenomenal:

Look at all of those minor league stats!!!!!! We'll forgive Topps for not obtaining stats for Frey's appearance in Evansville in 1950. That card back is so chockful of goodness that they even squeezed in a one-sentence blurb at the bottom.

Famous error card: none

Team's claim to fame: For the Padres, it's the first of two World Series teams in franchise history. For the Cubs, it was their first postseason appearance since 1945.

Player I've talked to: none, although I have written to Ron Cey twice requesting his autograph with outstanding results.

Most interesting card: Ruppert Jones. Not only is he wearing both the brown and gold Padres jerseys, but Giants catcher John Rabb appears on the card. Rabb had only two Topps cards himself, but he somehow squeezed onto another player's card, too.

Also, the only Topps card of Doug "Eyechart" Gwosdz is a very worthy runner-up.

Former or future Dodgers: Steve Garvey, Elias Sosa, Dick Williams, Ron Cey, Bill Buckner, Jay Johnstone

Favorite card in the team set:


#249 - Jay Johnstone


#327 - Ruppert Jones

Thank you for joining me for "joy of a team set".


  1. 1984 was the year I started collecting baseball cards. I had so much fun completing that Topps set that year. I remember a friend of mine was also completing it and was one card short. He needed that Keith Moreland card. I went to the flea market, bought that Moreland card with the intention of trading it to him, in return he gave me 15-20 cards needed toward completing my set.
    Also, that Steve Lake card was an instant favorite the moment I saw it. Years later, I was fortunate to have him sign it for me.

  2. While looking at the photos of the cards, I decided to see which team had more players I've met, aka talked to. Turns out it's a 4-4 tie between the two, which seems appropriate since I was pretty indifferent as to who won that series myself back then. The Penguin is not among those eight players, though Jay Johnstone and Ryno are. I've written to a number of them myself, including the Penguin. Nice post, as usual.

    1. I did the same the same thing. 7-1 for me with the Cubs taking the lead. Only Padre I met was Dick Williams.

  3. Jim Frey managing in the Appy League? I learn something new every day. Those were the Bluefield (WV) Orioles. He only came in fourth in 1964 because there were only four teams. Good thing that the league expanded to six teams the following year. The Johnson City (TN) Yankees were in the cellar that year.

    But Frey did have two future MLB players in each of those seasons. Sparky Lyle and Mike Wegener in 1964. Paul Gilliford and Frank Tepedino in 1965. Household names, each of them. Not so much.

    Good looking cards, though.

  4. I see the name Rupert Jones and I have "Escape" stuck in my head.

    1. Awesome...(The Pina Colada Post).........gave me a "wait....what?" moment this morning!

  5. Jay Johnstone has always been a favorite of mine -- he guested one time, according to IMDB, on a terrible 1980s gameshow hosted by Betty White called Just Men! that my mom loved watching for all three months that it was on TV. That one time must have been quite a performance, though, because it still sticks in my head 31 years later.

    Sheesh. I have got to figure out a better use for my brain cells than that.

  6. That Frey card is interesting. The way his stats are shown also lines up with baseball reference. What happened to progress!

    Two things I noticed:
    1) BBRef doesn't have his Evansville states from 1950 either!
    2) BBRef also only has his combined 1963 stats from Columbus and Atlanta. It's as if it didn't matter how the breakout of his 108 at bats occurred between the two cities! Never mind that they are cities from two completely different states with southern OH, Kentucky, Tennessee and the north part of Georgia in between!

  7. I cried myself to sleep the night the Padres lost that World Series.
    Probably. I was two months old.
    Still, the '84 Padres team set gives me a chance to look at those legendary ball players like Tony Gwynn and… and...