The year 1984 marked a change in my collecting priorities. For the first time, instead of going to the store and buying packs and attempting to complete sets but failing virtually every year, I just bought the whole damn set.
I was in college. I went to college with this kid I knew from high school. We both collected cards. He had boxes of complete sets. I had no idea how he got them. He was always pestering me to buy cards from him. (I went to a school reunion last fall and he still had cards to sell me). And, this time he succeeded.
It was cool to own the whole set in April. But I didn't focus much on the cards. I eventually figured out this wasn't the way to go for me. Collecting was a process that one experienced card by card. A treasure hunt.
It took 1984 and 1985 for me to realize that.
Years later, I'm still discovering 1984 Topps. I find it much more colorful than I ever thought back in '84. And, although it's repetitive of the 1983 set, I think it now stands on its own. It's more distinctive than I once believed.
The problem with this set is the box for the main photo is too restrictive. When I was going through the cards to determine the best for each team (this is the game that we're playing here), I found that if the action was too far away, it made the card less appealing. And if the large photo is a tight posed shot, it looks just like the mug shot in the corner.
Tight, cropped action shots seem to work best in '84 Topps. And there is a lot of that in the cards that I found.
Also, for the first time, I DID THIS EXERCISE ON THE FLOOR! Just like when I was a kid. I put the cards in rows on the floor and swapped them as if it was 1978 again. It helped that there was baseball to watch while I was doing it.
So, here we go. These are the best cards for each team that I found for 1984 Topps, organized by the divisions that existed back then, compiled not from a table top but on the floor as God intended!
American League East
Blue Jays: Roy Lee Jackson; Brewers: Robin Yount; Tigers: Kirk Gibson; Yankees: Omar Moreno; Orioles: Cal Ripken; Red Sox: Dennis Eckersley; Indians: Julio Franco
Team with the best cards: Brewers. I think the Rick Manning card at the top of the post is a very pleasing card. But the Yount is so different that it deserves to be the best.
Teams with the worst cards: Indians. Just went with the first Topps base card of Franco for the hell of it.
Team I should go back and review: Yankees. I love the look of Omar Moreno appearing to levitate the bat. Maybe too much.
American League West
Team with best cards: Royals. Good, good stuff.
Team with the worst cards: Twins or A's. I'm glad Engle and Phillips came along because there wasn't much else.
Team I need to go back and review: Angels. A little bit too enamored with a night card of Reggie.
National League East
Mets: Keith Hernandez; Phillies: Pete Rose; Pirates: Cecilio Guante; Cubs: Jay Johnstone; Expos: Gary Carter; Cardinals: Tom Herr
Team with the best cards: Expos. Best cards in the entire set.
Team with the worst cards: Phillies. Pete's a pretty good one. Not much else though.
Team I should go back and review: Pirates, because I'm a sucker for "a staring in for the sign" shot.
National League West
Padres: Ruppert Jones; Dodgers: Dusty Baker; Braves: Bob Horner; Giants: Bob Brenly; Reds: Dann Bilardello; Astros: Alan Ashby
Team with the best cards: Padres. I really like those things.
Team with the worst cards: Braves/Giants tie. I actually went back through the entire set to find a better Giants card and Brenly was the best I could come up with.
Team I should go back and review: Dodgers. I just like the Baker card a lot because it illustrates that straight-up swinging style he had. He always looked like he was making contact with the ball four feet before the ball got to the plate but without lunging.
So there you are. I'm not terribly confident about all of these. But that's because I haven't studied the '84 cards nearly as much as I should.
1984 also marks another collecting milestone. It marked the first year for which I completed more than one major set.
We'll see the other set in the next edition of Team MVPs.