Monday, May 30, 2011

Card back countdown: #4 - 1973 Topps

We have moved past the period when current or future major league players would serve in the military. The Vietnam War period of the late '60s/early '70s is the last time references to military service commonly appeared on cards. You'll probably never see it again. But as a child, it was nothing to see "In Military Service" on the back of baseball cards.

The early '70s was a time of change for ballplayers. While hippies and other counter-culture club members were everywhere in the '60s, it took ballplayers a little while to catch up with everyone else. So, the early '70s was a crazy mix of humanity on the ballfield, as evidenced by these 1973 Topps cartoons:

Some players served in the military.

So others could have the freedom to enjoy their degenerate, freaky music.

Or chase skirts.

Or marry in high school.

Or be really, really creepy.

But there were other straight arrows on the field in '73. Brainiac types.

Working-class Joes.

And crusaders.

I don't think Parker was quite THAT militant. I think he was crusading against the abuse of drugs, not the use of drugs.

The cartoons are the best part of the 1973 Topps card backs. They are featured more prominently than on any other Topps set of the 1970s -- right at the top. The cartoons are simplistic, but well done, and they give some nice insight into the ballplayers of the day.

The vertical nature of the card back is interesting as it's the only card back of the '70s to be featured in a vertical format. I'm not normally a fan of the vertical set up, but I really like the overall look of this card back.

For me, this card back is much like the 1972 Topps card fronts. This was from a set that came before I started collecting cards. I would see it here and there, and it became kind of the symbol of what a card back should look like, much like the '72 card fronts seemed to be the proper way to design a card front.

1973 was an interesting time of which I knew only a fraction. My whole world was Bugs Bunny and Scooby Doo back then, so I didn't know that Boog Powell was such a well-known figure that you could draw a giant belly and everyone would know that it was "Boog Powell."

Best of the set:

This card amuses me.

Racial stereotyping aside, I think looks were all Enzo had to go on when it came to Aparicio. Hernandez was one of the worst hitting shortstops of modern times.

(previous card back countdown selections):

50. 1978 SSPC Yankee Yearbook
49. 1993 Score
48. 1999 Skybox Thunder
47. 2000 Upper Deck
46. 1999 Skybox Premium
45. 1953 Johnston Cookies Braves
44. 1995 Topps
43. 1997 Fleer
42. 1992 Pinnacle
41. 1989 Bowman
40. 1977 Kellogg's
39. 2004 Topps
38. 2004 Topps Total
37. 1992 Topps
36. 1992 Donruss
35. 2008 Upper Deck Documentary
34. 1963 Fleer
33. 1955 Bowman
32. 2006 Topps
31. 1961 Topps
30. 1955 Topps
29. 1967 Topps
28. 1970 Topps
27. 1969 Topps
26. 1966 Topps
25. 1963 Topps
24. 1911 T205
23. 1962 Topps
22. 1981 Topps

21. 1981 Donruss
20. 1958 Topps
19. 1977 Topps
18. 1974 Topps
17. 1957 Topps
16. 1988 Score
15. 1993 Upper Deck
14. 2004 Upper Deck Timeless Teams
13. 1971 Topps
12. 1965 Topps
11. 1991 Studio
10. 1954 Topps
9. 1953 Topps
8. 1978 Topps
7. 1980 Topps
6. 1993 Leaf
5. 1952 Topps


  1. I wonder if that was the first time the words Drugs appeared on the back of a Topps Baseball Card

  2. Haha, that Enzo is priceless. Good call man!

  3. Good post, Night Owl! I like the timely references to military service.

  4. It's worth noting that the draft itself ended in 1973. Up to that point, many baseball players were required by law to report for duty due to their draft status. Some team owners simply set up a deal where local Reserve and National guard units would take them and allow them to satisfy their military commitment. That's why there are so many of those on the cards. Unlike WW1 and WW2, the 50s through the early 70s saw fewer stars get called to duty.

    The last card I specifically remember that mentioned military service was Bob Jones in 1985. The back of the card mentioned that he served "in country" in Vietnam. None of the 1973 Topps cards used the name of that country, due to the unpopularity of that war.

    By the way...nice choice for the set! I'm a big fan of the '73s.

  5. "it's the only card back of the '70s to be featured in a vertical format."

    Um, some guy, somewhere, does a daily blog on 1975 Topps.

    Seriously, though, great post. I was hoping you hadn't forgotten about 1973. I started collecting in 1975 (in earnest in 1976) but someone had given me a couple of packs in 1973 that I prized because they were the first "older" cards I ever had.

  6. Ack. I meant "only card back of the '70s IN THIS COUNTDOWN to be featured in a vertical format."

    And they say people don't read anymore.

  7. Great choice! I can't wait to see which sets beat this one out...