Skip to main content

This writer in action shows players in action

I've been fairly active these last two months.

While many people during the coronavirus pandemic have been stuck on PAUSE (the kind of awkward acronym that only a government agency could create), agonizing about their static lives and inability to move about as they wish, I've been fortunate to still be working. I'm actually working harder than ever in some respects, as I try to uncover sports stories when there are no sports.

And, just as sports were shutting down, I wrote another story for Beckett Vintage Collector magazine.

The June/July edition reached my mailbox late last week, which means it should be arriving at book stores and magazine stands by the end of the month or early next month. Hopefully, places like book stores will be open by next month so you can pick up a copy (my daughter has found the magazine in her local grocery store, too, if you dare to venture to one of those).

When I received my assignment for the issue, I could barely believe my luck. The question posed by the Beckett editor:

"Is there a set from the '70s you would like to write about?"

Uh ....

Worded a different way, this question would be:

"Which of these desserts on this tray would you like to eat?"

"Which supermodel would you like to date?"

"Which song from the '80s is your favorite?"

My honest answer to every one of those questions is: Yes.

I stammered a bit to myself before I answered. How could I possibly choose? Which direction do I go? Topps? Kellogg's? Laughlin? The 1975 Topps set seems a natural, but I already wrote about '75 minis for the magazine. The '71 set would be cool. Imagine the layout for that. Or how about something underrated like 1977 or 1978? Then there's 1973. Yes, 1973. People would finally be able to read in print about how overlooked this sensational set is.

So, I said I'd write about 1973 Topps.

Then, a little while later, I changed my mind.

How can I NOT write about 1972 Topps?

Beckett's editorial director, Mike Payne, told me, in that same email asking me to pick a '70s set, that the issue would be devoted to the 1970s.

With a set-up like that, it seemed obvious that the 1972 Topps set needed to be mentioned. It practically IS the 1970s.

So that's what I did. There are some words about '72 Topps within that phenomenal graphic design. I had a lot of fun writing about it. It's one of the most entertaining sets ever created and there is so much to write about, too.

This is my seventh story for Beckett Vintage Collector. I've reached the point where I'm starting to have favorites of the stories I've done. This '72 story is one of them, mostly because I was able to write about so much more than what you normally hear about the set. Oh, all that normal stuff is there, too. But, how many stories about '72 Topps have referred to it by card bloggers' nickname for it, the psychedelic tombstone set? This one does.

Like I've said before, whenever I write one of those magazine stories, I like to add a little extra something about the topic on the blog. It was a little tough this time because I've been writing about the 1972 set on Night Owl Cards since the very first year of the blog.

I thought that I'd devote a little space to the "In Action" cards that are a key component of the set.

I never knew, until researching the article, that there are 72 "In Action" cards in the '72 set. (For some reason, I thought there were even more). And there are plenty of cards in that "In Action" subset that I've written about on the blog and in the BVC article.

But how 'bout ones I haven't mentioned?

I like this one because it really does show a first baseman in action.

A first baseman doesn't get a lot of credit for being active. He's there to receive throws and keep runners from getting a big lead. But there's a lot more to the position, boring stuff like footwork and such. And you do have to move, as you can see by Ed Kranepool, crouching low in an effort to make a quick tag.

I'm assuming that this was one of the earliest mound meetings shown on a baseball card. It's interesting to look at because there's still not a ton of mound meetings on baseball cards. There should be thousands of them, considering how often they occur in a game.

Shaking dirt out of your catcher's mask. When have you ever seen that on a card? Or Ed Kirkpatrick may just be shaking it so the straps fall out so he can put it back on his head. I remember catchers doing that all the time with the old-style mask.

But the best "In Action" cards might be the ones where you have no idea what is happening or why in the world the card was cropped in such a fashion. Call the cops, I think Bobby Bonds has been shot.

Many of the '72 "In Action" cards feature photos that seem bizarre to us, mostly because we've had 50 years to refine action photography. But at the time all of the photos were amazing to kids who collected cards, because the concept of action photos on baseball cards only became a wide-ranging reality with the 1971 set the previous year.

Since the '72 "In Action" set is 72 cards, it would fit neatly into eight nine-pocket pages. I thought I would assemble a single page of 1972 "In Action" cards for those who maybe are too scared to try to complete the '72 set or even all the "In Action" cards -- several appear in those prohibitive high numbers -- but want a single page representing what '72 IAs are all about.

Here you go:

This is a nice cross-section.

We've got Billy Martin yelling at an ump, Vida Blue managing to look cool while staring at a pop-up, Clay Kirby pitching in front of some Candlestick Park construction that I still think looks like a zoo exhibit, Johnny Bench cropped way too close (is that Willie McCovey?) chasing a foul pop-up, Tom Seaver in hysterics after being told the randiest joke ever on a ballfield, Blue Moon Odom literally falling off the mound, Tito Fuentes doing all that he can to avoid the freight train, Roberto Clemente in utter disbelief, and Juan Marichal's marvelous leg kick.

That should keep you busy for awhile.

Flip over those same nine cards and you see the variety of backs that appeared on the "In Action" cards, from advertisements about upcoming features to stats to newspaper-like writeups to puzzles.

I think those advertisements are cool as they gave kids an idea of what would be in their cards months ahead of time:


As someone who has completed the 1972 Topps set, I know all about the difficult journey through the high numbers, it's a challenge unlike any other for someone trying to complete a '70s set. Each obtained card feels like a trophy.

There are a few different ways that you can prove that you are among the elite: One Who Has Completed The 1972 Topps Set.

You can show all the Traded cards, which are contained in the wicked 6th series. You can show the award trophy subset -- quite appropriate after completing the '72 set.

But probably the best way is to show off the four completed puzzles created from fifth-series and sixth-series "In Action" cards.

Let's start with the easier fifth-series puzzles:

Yaz doesn't line up very well. I struggled the most with this one. Cards 560 and 570 have some cutting problems.

Joe Torre turns out a lot better.

But the biggest of the 1972 badges are the sixth series puzzles:

Tom Seaver puzzle pieces are contained within cards 692 through 710. The toughest of those for me were 696, the right side of Seaver's face, and 700, the "Ver" in "Seaver". Those are Rod Carew In Action and Bobby Murcer In Action, respectively.

But for me, completing the Oliva puzzle was the toughest of all, because it contains the last card I needed to finish the set. That is card No. 708 -- the Tim Foli In Action card.

I imagine some 1972 Topps completists are so pleased with finishing the set that they have these puzzles displayed in some way. I could print out these pictures and display them in some fashion. Maybe I'll do that.

And I'll also be busy reading this latest issue of Beckett Vintage Collector because -- you guys -- IT'S ALL ABOUT CARDS FROM THE 1970s!!!!!!!!!

Yup, I have plenty to do.

Because not only am I a writer in action, but I'm a collector in action.

And not even that coronavirus can stop that.


Congrats on another Beckett article!

I love the In Action cards from this set. I wonder if the Clay Kirby card is the first to show a thrown baseball in flight that clearly and in-focus. For the early 70s, that was a great piece of photography.
Tough set to build on the cheap for sure.
Nick said…
Congrats on another article! Unfortunately I got word that the Barnes & Noble I used to work at (where I sometimes stocked magazines) closed for good a couple weeks ago. I don't read many magazines but they had by far the best selection I've seen in my general area. I'll have to find another source though because this issue looks awesome!

P.S. -- If you ever get a chance to do another article like this, PLEASE write about '73 Topps because I read a different article recently that said it was the worst Topps set ever(!?) and I feel like the record needs to be set straight there.
The two page intro to the article looks great-or should I say groovy! I can't wait to read the article, and the rest of the magazine.
bbcardz said…
My favorite set! I'm still 150 cards away from completing it but I'm enjoying the chase. Now to find a copy of BVC...
Matt said…
Congrats on another published article!

I don't think I've ever seen the puzzles in a completed state before. Thanks for that. I may have to put the Yaz puzzle on my "To-do" list someday.
mr haverkamp said…
Can't imagine a better subject for you to tackle, Greg; especially with the Heritage tribute next year on the horizon. Always look forward to your articles in BVC, fortunately my local grocery store has carried the last few issues so I'll begin my search for the newest one!
Fuji said…
Congratulations on another Beckett article! 1972 Topps? I'll definitely be picking up a copy. When I bought my set (yeah, I cheated) back in 2013... I meant to do a post on the 5th and 6th series puzzles. They're so cool!
gregory said…
Of all your Beckett Vintage article previews so far, this one is my favorite.

Also, in case Topps is reading: More advertisements on card backs, please!
Sean said…
Nice set, nice puzzles. Congrats on the article.
Jafronius said…
Congrats on the latest article!
acrackedbat said…
I ordered a copy thru Beckett. An entire issue devoted to the 70s with a feature story on 72s?? Hello...that's trippin' man!

Popular posts from this blog

Selfless card acts

The trouble with the world, if I may be so bold to weigh in (it's not like anyone else is holding back), is that not enough people think outward.

Take a look at just about every world problem that there is, and within each of those individual maelstroms, is somebody, usually a lot of folks, thinking only of themselves.

Looking out for No. 1 is a big, big problem on this earth. One of the biggest. And it's not getting better. I see it coming from all directions and all sides. No one is innocent. Everyone is guilty. Selfishness is the crime.

Our hobby is not immune. That's what makes the baseball card blog community so great, because it's a daily example of what can be achieved when you think of others first, before yourself.

Selflessness is such a staple of card blogs that some collectors have become immune to its charms. "Oh boy, here's another post about what somebody got thanks to the goodness of someone's heart. I don't need to read THAT." I a…

Some of you have wandered into a giveaway

Thanks to all who voted in the comments for their favorite 1970s Topps card of Bert Campaneris.

I didn't know how this little project would go, since I wasn't installing a poll and, let's face it, the whole theme of the post is how Campaneris these days doesn't get the respect he once did. (Also, I was stunned by the amount of folks who never heard about the bat-throwing moment. Where am I hanging out that I see that mentioned at least every other month?)

A surprising 31 people voted for their favorite Campy and the one with the most votes was the one I saw first, the '75 Topps Campy card above.

The voting totals:

'75 Campy - 11 votes
'70 Campy - 4
'72 Campy - 4
'73 Campy - 4
'76 Campy - 4
'74 Campy - 3
'78 Campy - 1

My thanks to the readers who indulged me with their votes, or even if they didn't vote, their comments on that post. To show my appreciation -- for reading, for commenting, for joining in my card talk even if it might …

"If they only knew" cards

(I've begun packaging some of the prizes for the giveaway. I believe I now have everyone's address except for Jeff S. Just send me an email!)

For the first 35-40 years of my life, the word "goat" as it applied to baseball either meant the Billy Goat curse that followed the Cubs around for 100 years or a player who screwed up in a significant game.

"Baseball's Greatest Goats," that was the kind of title used for books or articles and everyone knew that when they opened the pages, they'd read about the biggest gaffes, goofs and blunders in baseball history.

Try searching that phrase now.

"Goat" no longer means the opposite of "hero" in sports lingo. It actually means hero. G-O-A-T. Greatest Of All Time. Just about every internet sports reference to "goat" involves Michael Jordan or Muhammad Ali or some other athletic great. Somehow "goat" has come to mean completely the opposite of what it used to mean.

But tho…