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?"
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.