Monday, September 21, 2009

1981 - Strike!

1981.  Now we're talking!  I really starting taking baseball cards seriously in 1980, but 1981 was the first time I really made an attempt at completing the whole set.  This is definitely one of my favorite designs, as I still love the hat in the corner, and the fonts Topps used for the players' names on the fronts and backs of the cards.

By now, the free agency era in baseball was in full swing, and the Angels were one of the teams shelling out big bucks for top players.  But in spite of having already paid for the likes of Rod Carew, Don Baylor, Bobby Grich and adding Fred Lynn in the off-season, '81 wasn't a great year for the Angels.  Heck, it wasn't a great year for baseball.  The players went on strike in the middle of the season, causing a cancellation of 38% of the games that year.

Rather than just use overall records to decide the division leaders, it was decided that the season would be split in two.  Whoever was in 1st before the strike won that half of the year, and records were reset afterward, so whoever had the best records post-strike won that half.  Then the two teams played each other (or the second half second-place team if the same team won both halves) to see who won the division.

Unfortunately, the Angels didn't do well in either half.  They went 31-29 and finished 4th in the first half, and 20-30 in the second, finishing 6th.  This continued a trend of having bad seasons in years that end with a 1.

1981 was also the year that Topps greatly expanded the stats on the cards.  Through 1980, batters had 9 categories: games appeared in, at bats, runs, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, runs batted in and batting average (G, AB, R, H, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, AVG).  Pitchers had games appeared in, innings pitched, wins, losses, runs, earned runs, strikeouts, walks and earned run average (G, IP, W, L, R, ER, SO, BB, ERA).  In '81, Topps added stolen bases, slugging percentage, walks and strikeouts (SB, SLG, BB, SO) for batters, and games started, complete games, shutouts and saves (GS, CG, SHO, SV).  For a stathead like myself, this was a huge addition to the cards, and was a big part of what made Topps way more enjoyable to collect than the new Donruss and Fleer sets that started up that year.  I never did end up completing this set, but I remember getting pretty close.

The early-mid '80s weren't a great time for Topps inserts, and the 1981 set had zero.  (After I shelled out some cash for them, I found out that those two Scratch-Offs weren't part of the main set.  Ah, well.)  But one great thing Topps did that year was reintroduce their Traded set.  They had fooled around a little bit showing some players in their new uniforms in '74 and '76, but it wasn't until '81 that they got serious.  The '81 Traded set added a ton of players, included the first Angels cards of Fred Lynn, Geoff Zahn, and current Angels Assistant General Manager Ken Forsch.

1981 Topps Angels Checklist

12 - Mark Clear
48 - Dave Skaggs
69 - Ed Halicki
100 - Rod Carew
121 - Larry Harlow
182 - Bob Grich
209 - Dickie Thon DP
214 - Angels Rookies Ralph Botting Jim Dorsey
227 - Fred Martinez
239 - Rick Miller DP
263 - Brian Downing
286 - Dave Frost
288 - Bob Clark
311 - Freddie Patek
340 - Bruce Kison
369 - Frank Tanana
391 - Dave Lemanczyk DP
410 - Bert Campaneris
422 - Dan Ford
454 - Andy Hassler
505 - Jason Thompson
529 - Dave LaRoche
557 - Chris Knapp
580 - Don Baylor
601 - Don Aase
621 - Tom Donohue
639 - Carney Lansford
652 - John Montague
663 - Angels Team/Mgr Jim Fregosi
701 - Joe Rudi
717 - Jim Barr DP

Topps Scratch-Offs
(not part of main set)
18 - Rod Carew
25 - Carney Lansford

1981 Topps Traded Angels

733 - Juan Beniquez
743 - Rick Burleson
764 - Ken Forsch
771 - Butch Hobson
797 - Fred Lynn
810 - Ed Ott
818 - Doug Rau
821 - Steve Renko
845 - Bill Travers
856 - Geoff Zahn

regular cards: 41

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