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1978 Topps Baseball

By Patrick Mondout

Topps produced perhaps its best designed baseball card sets of the Super70s in 1978 This was the first set that I truly collected as a kid and it makes it more difficult for me to be objective as I know it still holds a nostalgic grip on me all these years later. But I was hardly the only fan of this classic set. Bill Madden of The Sporting News immediately hailed as "one of the most attractive ever."

The fronts feature a colorful scripted team name barely protruding into a large photograph from the bottom left. A baseball containing the player's position (in one or two letters for the first time) is on the top right and the player's name is in black on the bottom right. The only other design element is the color border surrounding the white border that surrounds the photo. The design is simple, classy, and elegant. Gone are the gaudy colors, the unnecessary pennants, cartoon baseball players, 3D fonts, etc. of the sets from earlier in the decade.

The 726 card set was distributed in 20 wax packs containing 12 cards and a stick of gum. Cello packs of 20 cards for 30 and rack packs of 39 cards for 59 were also produced. Vending boxes of approximately 500 cards were also produced for hobby dealers.

A Tale of Two Sluggers!

I always wondered both why Al Oliver seemed so bummed and what Jim Rice thought was so amusing. Rice had plenty to smile about in 1978, becoming the first player since Joe DiMaggio in 1937 to have over 400 total bases in winning his first MVP award.

 

At the time of printing, the Oakland A's were about to be sold to a group in Denver, where they would be moved to for the 1978 season. Perhaps recalling the fiasco in 1974, when Topps printed Washington Padres cards, they wisely left the Oakland cards unmodified and the decision proved wise when the deal fell through.

Subsets include the record breakers (including superstars Pete Rose, Lou Brock, Willie McCovey, Brooks Robinson, Sparky Lyle, Reggie Jackson and Nolan Ryan), league leaders, playoffs and World Series, and team checklist cards that feature a team photo on the front (except the Cubs, who apparently once again refused to be photographed together).

Another subset is the manager cards. Even they are an improvement over previous years as they feature a black and white photo from his playing days in addition to a larger of photo as manager. Alex Grammas had been fired by the Milwaukee Brewers following a second straight 6th place finish in 1977. His replacement, George Bamberger, was not hired in time for Topps to include him in the set. Thus, there is a manager card for every team except the Brewers.

While there are no All-Star subsets, each starter of the '77 squads has a red, white and blue plaque honoring the player (see Richie Zisk below). This was also the last year (until 1987) that the members of the Topps All-Star Rookies team had the cool gold trophies (see Eddie Murray, upper right) on their cards. In addition to Murray, Doug Ault (2B, Blue Jays), Bump Wills (SS, Ranger), Wayne Gross (3B, A's), Andre Dawson (OF, Expos), Mitchell Page (OF, A's), Ruppert Jones (OF, Mariners), Gary Alexander (C, Giants), Dave Rozema (P, Tigers), and Jerry Garvin (P, Blue Jays) made the team.

Hmmm...

One thousand bonus points for those of you who spot the problem with this picture. Richie Zisk was voted into the 1977 All-Star game by the fans and did start, but Topps did not put their All-Star plaque on his card. Attempting to right this injustice, we let Richie borrow Reggie's plaque!

 

There are some negatives - as always - to this set. First, it is a 726 card set printed on six 132 card sheets. Sixty-six of the cards are double-printed, including those of Pete Rose, Ron Guidry, Tony Perez, and Cecil Cooper. Collectors tend not to like such cards as they are much easier to find than the others. Also, the tradition of placing four rookies on a single card carries forward in 1978 with collectors robbed of full rookie cards for Jack Morris, Lance Parrish, Lou Whitaker, Paul Molitor and Alan Trammell - the latter two featured on one valuable card. (Tigers fans and really all fans of this set should check out the '78 Burger King set, which does feature full '78 Topps cards of Trammell, Morris and Whitaker.)

The rookie card of Eddie Murray is the key card of the set and always was. It's not just another Hall of Fame rookie card. The wonderful shot of Murray looking into the camera features him in the now-retro Orioles batting cap of the era and looks great with the orange border and the rookie trophy. Other rookie cards in this set include Mario Soto, Willie Hernandez, Warren Cromartie (remembered more for his career in Japan than in Canada), Ray Knight, and Floyd Bannister. The Lance Parrish "Rookie Catchers" card also features Dale Murphy, but he was also featured on a Rookie Catchers card in 1977.

While the list of other rookies may not seem impressive, Molitor and Murray each had over 3250 hits with Murray being the only switch hitter other than Mickey Mantle with 500 home runs and some predict that the best AL pitcher of the Awesome80s (Morris) and his teammate Alan Trammell will one day join Eddie and Paul in the Hall.

The Trammell/Molitor card is often found with black printing smudges on it and the Eddie Murray is, along with the 1979 Ozzie Smith rookie, one of the hardest Super70s rookie cards to find with proper centering.

A checklist for all 726 cards is available here.

* The Sports Collector column by Bill Madden The Sporting News, March 18, 1978.

 

1978 Topps at a Glance
Back Checklist Wax Pack
Manager Team Checklist League Leaders
Rookies Record Breakers World Series
 

 

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1978 TOPPS BASEBALL

Year: 1978

Manufacturer: Topps

# of Cards: 726 (Checklist)

Value/Price: Check eBay (see links below)

Size: 2 x 3

Image courtesy of Topps


'78 Topps Sets!
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