Friday, October 21, 2011

Looking at '81 through others' eyes, pt. 3

Even though the Dodgers won the World Series in 1981, I'm not going to pretend that '81 was a great year, because it wasn't.

For those of you who weren't around then, there was the baseball strike, the horrific Hyatt Regency walkway collapse, and a plague of assassination attempts. Music was an atrocious wasteland. For every Tattoo You or video on fledgling MTV, there was Endless Love (and it was endless), Kenny Rogers croaking "Lady," and I Love a Rainy Night, I Love a Rainy Night, I Love a Rainy Night, I Love a Rainy Night, I Love a Rainy Night (that was the whole damn song).

As a teenager glued to my radio, it seemed that just as one horrible song had run its course, another horrid song took its place. Celebrate Good Times, Come On? Not if Bette Davis Eyes kept staring me down from my stereo speakers every half hour.

The year was filled with normal teenage angst for me, and baseball cards were there to ease my pain, much as they are today.

Those cards from '81 aren't quite as capable of easing my pain these days. Sure, they're great, but I've seen them a little too often for them to retain their magical powers.

But the '81 Topps Traded set? It's all new baby. I've only had it a couple of weeks. There's magic all over the place. And there are still goodies in there I have yet to explore.

So, while the 1981 Traded set is Dave Winfield's first Topps appearance in a Yankee uniform for some people ...

... we go a little deeper here at Night Owl Cards.

Winfield received the majority of the "trading places" attention in 1981, but there were so many other high-profile moves for the '81 season. There was Rollie Fingers going to the Brewers. That card at the top of the post was the card that many hobby places used to advertise the '81 Traded set. I've seen its likeness for years before I ever owned it.

Bruce Sutter moving from the Cubs to the Cardinals was another key change in scenery.

Don Sutton moving from the Dodgers to the Astros was another.

For the Red Sox fans in the house, Carney Lansford moving from the Angels to the Red Sox was another.

But there were also those under-the-radar moves that I don't think I ever absorbed.

Brian Doyle was an A?

Mike Lum was a Cub?

Mario Mendoza was a Ranger?

During the ALCS, a trivia question about the "Mendoza Line" popped up on Fox's broadcast. After Mario Mendoza was revealed to be the answer of the question, Tim McCarver lamented over the "injustice" of Mendoza being associated with batting under .200 when his career batting average was actually .215.

You're right, Tim. Our bad. He was really a Triple Crown threat.

I will kill you! And then I will kill you! And then I will KILL you!

I will end this with one magnificent beard. Bask in its majesty.

That completes my trilogy on the '81 Topps Traded set. One day I will purchases some pages and place the cards within the confines of my '81 base set (The 1981 set now joins the '83, '85 and '91 sets that I have in both base and traded form -- I don't count '74 and '76).

But right now, I want to keep them in their tidy little red box. And pull them out one by one as I please. And find something new about each one. And maybe a new memory about '81 will pop into my head. Like the one that did now. I just remembered that 1981 was the first time I ever saw a Subway restaurant.

No big deal now. I know. Please get that $5 jingle out of my head. But the teenage kid thought it was pretty cool. Walk to the drug store for some cards and pick up a sub on the way back?

Yeah, '81 wasn't all bad.

(Thanks again, Max!)


  1. what's funny is I bought this set almost 20 years ago to go with my 1981 set and I hadn't looked at it in many a moon before I sent it to you. I love finding older cards that I haven't seen a million times like this set. The 70's Kelloggs and Hostess sets are currently like that for me right now.

  2. If you don't mind my asking, how are is the traded set numbered? Please tell me that they are really high numbered because there are some amazing mustaches that need to be in my set!

  3. Good news: It's numbered 727-858.

  4. Card #818 always looked odd to me as I only think of that player as a LA Dodger.

  5. In case you don't know, Sarge Matthews is doing color on the Phillies TV broadcasts. He's pretty entertaining. Wears a lot of different hats for post game interviews.