Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Joy of a team set, chapter 5
The Society of Baseball Research (SABR) has released a new book, titled '75: The Red Sox Team That Saved Baseball, in recognition of the 40th anniversary of that Red Sox team that went to the World Series and revived interest in the game ("saved" might be a little hyperbolic, but, hey, you gotta draw people's interest).
Also, the Red Sox are recognizing that very team at tonight's ballgame in Fenway Park.
This is an excellent opportunity to present my thoughts on that team, which has fascinated me since the first time I viewed baseball highlights on the black-and-white TV in the front room. The room was to the left of the staircase and, for famished kids, acted as a shortcut between the front door and the kitchen.
The '75 Red Sox bring out every childhood emotion in me. Fascination. Wonder. Amusement. Fear. Exhilaration. And they are all documented in the 1976 Topps set, which is the set I associate with the '75 Red Sox (someday I should do a post on whether collectors associate a particular team with the set from the year that team played or from the following year's set).
To me, the 1976 Topps Red Sox team set IS the '76 Topps set. It is packed with emotion and intrigue. That team set is filled with memorable photos and may be one of the best-looking team sets of the pre-Upper Deck era.
So many questions went through my head while collecting these cards as a kid:
- Where is Bill Lee's other arm?
- Why is Denny Doyle staring at me?
- How did they let Deron Johnson both play and manage for the team? (I had "Deron" and "Darrell" mixed up)
- Why is that one player floating above the rest of the team on the team card?
I marveled at the chaw in Rico Petrocelli's cheek, and recoiled at the sight of Reglio Moret after reading about his catatonic state. I played random favorites with Rick Burleson, Cecil Cooper and Bernie Carbo. And I was in awe of a team that featured not one, but TWO rookie cups (Fred Lynn and Jim Rice).
This is a special team in my life. It's not the ESPN Red Sox that fans moan about today. This was an underdog, upstart club that pulled people back to baseball again after years of declining attendance figures.
Let's see that team:
House and Jenkins, of course, didn't have anything to do with the 1975 Red Sox.
There are a couple of other '76 cards that mention the Red Sox, too. Fred Lynn is at the base of the three-player pyramid on the AL batting and RBI leaders cards.
Luis Tiant is all over the postseason cards.
And Ted Williams' appearance gave '70s Red Sox fans a past to brag about, too.
Now, here is the rundown:
Favorite card runners-up:
5. Bill Lee; 4. Fred Lynn; 3. Bernie Carbo; 2. Luis Tiant
Favorite element on the back:
Famous error card: None that I recall, although there is some joker who sneaked into the set and called himself "Dick Pole".
Team's claim to fame: "Saving Baseball". To be specific, they upset the three-time defending champion A's in the playoffs, then forced the Big Red Machine to seven games in the World Series, thanks to Carlton Fisk's epic Game 6 home run and a host of other memorable plays, before succumbing.
Players I've talked to: None. Although the paper I work for has interviewed and done stories on both Bill Lee and Jim Rice.
Most interesting card:
This may be the seed that was planted in childhood talking, but this photo has always looked to me like Carlton Fisk is on horseback. And that has always made it exceedingly cool.
Former or future Dodgers: Surprisingly, none. Fred Lynn was nearly a Dodger for the 1981 season as in the offseason, L.A. engineered a trade for Lynn that would have sent Steve Howe, Joe Beckwith and prospect Mike Marshall to Boston. But it fell through because Lynn wouldn't agree to a multiyear contract.
Favorite card in the team set:
#230 - Carl Yastrzemski
Simply a majestic card.
Thanks again for joining me for "joy of a team set".