Saturday, April 22, 2017

The strangest subset ever made

It's difficult to shift gears so quickly after completing a set with so much meaning to me and one known for its challenges.

So after yesterday's post, I'm going to remain stay on 1972 Topps and discuss the strangest subset ever made.

I've written about the "awards subset" before and mentioned it in passing several other times. But I've never devoted an entire post to it and shown all the cards. So get ready for the only subset that I know of that features no people.


The Strangest Subset begins in the fifth series (cards 526-656) with card No. 621 and the Commissioner's Award, misspelled as "Commissioners" Award on the front of the card.

The Commissioner's Award at the time went to "the player who best typifies the game of baseball on and off the field," according to the back of this card.


This is the only card in the six-card subset that includes all text and no list. As you can see, it was such a new award that only two players had received it, Willie Mays and Brooks Robinson. And, this write-up shows how late in the season the fifth series hit stores. The 1972 Commissioner's Award had already been issued.

The Commissioner's Award was renamed the Roberto Clemente Award after Clemente's death in 1973 (this bit of information answers my question in a previous post). And the name "Commissioner's Award" was attached to the All-Star Game MVP trophy (later renamed the Arch Ward Memorial Trophy and now named the Ted Williams Award).


Card No. 622 displays the Most Valuable Player Award (and a bitchin' crease). The award looks almost exactly the same today.


The award was first handed out, one each for the American and National leagues, in 1931. And 40 years of awards was just enough for Topps to squeeze them all onto the back of this card.



The creepy Cy Young Award appears on card No. 623. By 1972 standards, the award was relatively new, having been handed out for only 15 years.


You can see there is only five years of awarding two pitchers each year as it was a combined award through 1966.



The Minor League Player of the Year Award appears on card No. 624. It was presented by The Sporting News from 1936-2005. Baseball America and USA Today now issue their own separate Minor League Player of the Year Award. I don't know if MLB sanctions either one as the official award.

The two trophies are familiar to anyone who has collected baseball cards. The trophy on the left appeared on cards of players named to Topps' all-rookie team prior to 1973. The trophy on the right has appeared on cards of Topps all-rookie team members since '73. I'd be interested to know whether the trophy on the right had any meaning to collectors in 1972 since it hadn't appeared on any cards prior to then.


The back doesn't explain the two trophies. It also terms each minor league player of the year as the Topps' minor league player of the year, although these names correspond with the names selected by The Sporting News each year. Perhaps Topps joined The Sporting News in the selection in 1960.


Card No. 625 shows the Rookie of the Year Award. The award is now known as the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award, renamed after Robinson the 40th anniversary of his first major league game in 1987. The award was originally named the J. Louis Comiskey Award in the 1930s. But it appears to have become the Ford Frick Award at some point because on the plaque above is a likeness of Frick, the former baseball commissioner, with "Ford C. Frick Award" written above it.

The Ford Frick Award is now presented by the Baseball Hall of Fame each year to a broadcaster and has been a tradition since 1978. The Rookie of the Year award now looks like this.


The first two Rookie of the Year Awards went to just one player (Robinson in 1947 and Alvin Dark in 1948). In 1949, it was opened up to both leagues. The AL winner in 1949, Roy Sievers, just died a couple of weeks ago, and I heard way too little news about it.



The final card in the subset, at No. 626, is the Babe Ruth Award. It goes to the World Series MVP and has not changed since 1972.


The award didn't start until 1949, the year after Ruth's death.



Any time I saw one of these cards as a young collector I'd almost laugh at the sight. A picture of a plaque? Really? The awards floated in front of dayglo background. I had never witnessed stranger cards in my life. They were both laughable and fascinating.

Many years later, I still don't know if I've seen anything stranger on cardboard. It is, without a doubt, the strangest subset ever made.

But at least I learned something from this post.

8 comments:

  1. Well, if it were an insert set today, it wouldn't seem so weird. I'd rather have a card of a baseball trophy than a card of cotton candy or of "Mascot," the White Sox mascot.

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  2. I remember seeing award cards in some hockey sets in the 80s and 90s.

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    1. The Hockey award cards date back to at least 1969 (so they came first). But, with hockey, Topps was an abbreviated version of OPC, so the trophies didn't make the cut in the USA. IIRC, their first appearance in American hockey sets was '72-'73 (i.e. later in the same year as the baseball trophy subset). Unlike baseball, the hockey trophies continued on, though they'd sometimes include an insert image of the award winner (usually not large enough to overshadow the trophy).

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  3. Dang. Rochester sure had a lot of minor league player of the years winners.

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  4. Definitely prefer these to the incredible eats.

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  5. It is a minor difference but the Babe Ruth award goes to the Postseason MVP rather than the World Series MVP. In 1973 this really mattered for years 1969-72 since prior to that the World Series was the Postseason. I think the Ruth award is also presnted a bit after the conclusion of the Series which allows for some reflection on the selection.

    I found a TSN article re: the Minor League Player of the year award, Will post that in a Twitter Reply.

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    1. Seems pretty redundant, but, yeah, OK, it goes to the postseason MVP.

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