Wednesday, March 30, 2011

#3 The Pete Rose Years: 1967-1970

Card fact: This is the 2nd card of the 6 card Pete Rose subset.

Card thoughts: Pete Rose sure looks a lot tougher in these pictures. In every picture, his mouth is just a grim line. He also apparently swung a really light bat. This is kind of where the Topps design team is hitting an aesthetic brick wall. I mean, the 1969 card is just an an amalgam of '67 and '68. And I think the 1970 style is one of my least favorite designs of all times. If I had to pick a winning design out of the four, I guess I'd pick the 1967 card. I like the simplicity. They'd break out of the design cul-de-sac in the next decade--with some horrific results.

The player: Pete Rose was just a really consistent hitter at this time. He didn't have the big run producing numbers that would come later, partly because the Reds hitting around him were not the offensive juggernaut they became later in his career.

Rear guard: Rose has moved to outfield at this time. His average in 1968 was the highest in his career. Incidentally, the 1970 all-star came was where Pete Rose bowled over Ray Fosse at home plate to score the winning run, injuring his shoulder. Funny, Topps neglects to mention this play in their write-up, seeing how it cemented Rose's reputation as a hard-nosed player.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

#2 The Pete Rose Years: 1963-1966

Card fact: Pete Rose played so long, that this is the first of 6 cards like this.

Card thoughts: Pete Rose sure looks boyish in these pictures and he doesn't have a crappy haircut yet. The 1964 card design was recycled by Topps for the design of the 1986 Topps set and the 1966 card is similar to the 1988 set. I really like these old Reds uniforms, with the vest/undershirt combo. My favorite card shown would have to be the 1965 one. It looks like Rose is being blown over by a strong wind!

The player: Rose started with a bang, winning Rookie of the Year in 1963. He had a bit of sophomore slump in '64 but rebounded with a fine campaign in 1965 leading the league in at bats with 670 and in hits with 209, all while scoring 117 runs and batting .312. 1966 was a similar season to 1965.

Rear guard: Rose already had 500 hits by his 3rd year in baseball. Pretty impressive! The other feats at this time are interesting, especially the switch hitting of home runs--Rose only hit 16 homers that year. One interesting thing about these statistics: The Topps "years" represent the season previous represented i.e. the 1964 card shows Pete Rose in the 1963 season. So the stats shown on the back here are actually one year off.

#1 Pete Rose

Card Fact: This is the 24th Topps card of Pete Rose. He would only have one more as a player (you'll be seeing them all on the next few cards). Generally, the first cards of a Topps set are a subset of some kind. Topps made an exception because the first subset of the 1986 set was "The Pete Rose Years" in honor of Rose breaking the Ty Cobb's all-time hits record. He also has a manager card in this set.

Card Thoughts: It sure is unusual to see "1B-Mgr" as a position. You'll never see that again. Also, Rose looks a bit like Lou Pinella in this shot. I wonder if another manager would have made Rose the starting 1B at 44?

The Player: Pete Rose probably needs no introduction here. One of the greatest players ever in major league baseball, he played a variety of positions over his long, long career with the Reds, Phillies, and Expos. Generally a lead-off hitter, his nickname was "Charlie Hustle." Although not blessed with great speed or power, Rose used the cavernous, astro-turfed parks so common for most of his career to leg out lots of doubles and triples, although he holds the record for most lifetime singles. The records he holds are too many to name, but there is of course, the big one--the all-time hits record previously held by Ty Cobb. Did you know he also made the most outs and had the most at-bats ever as well?

Unfortunately, Rose is better known today for being kicked out of baseball for betting on games in 1985, 1986, and 1987. He's spent the last several years whining about this and generally acting like an man wronged. It's unlikely that Pete Rose will ever be in the hall-of-fame, or reinstated. It's really a shame.

Rear guard: You can barely read these stats! But look at all the times Rose led the league in various categories (runs, hits, doubles, average, etc). He was beginning to slow down a bit by '85, but still hit .305.

There are some interesting tidbits on all cards in this set, including how the player was acquired, and the slot they were drafted in (and by whom). In the pre-internet days, this really added to you knowledge of a player (although I honestly can't recall ever noticing this). There's also the now obsolete statistic "game winning RBI" (abbreviated GW-RBI at the bottom). This dubious number was supposed to indicate how many games you "won" with an RBI: although if you drove in the the first run of a 12-11 victory, if the lead never changed hands, you would still have "won the game." The statistic was kept starting in 1980, and then mercifully retired in 1988.