In the spring of 1974, Mike Schmidt was just a young, free-swinging slugger plying his trade for another woeful Phillies team — Philly had gone 59-97 in 1972 and 71-91 in 1973, Schmidt’s first two seasons in the Major Leagues.
Things would get a little better for the Phils in 1974, as they improved to 80-82, but Schmidt himself virtually guaranteed even better days lay ahead with the way he swung the bat that summer.
On the heels of an ugly 1973 when he hit just .196 — this was a time when batting average was everything, remember — Schmidt showed the world who he really was.
Namely, the best third baseman in the game, charting a route toward Cooperstown.
Of course, no one was really sure it would play out that way when the season started, and you can bet there more than a few naysayers thought Schmidt would never be more than a big swinger whose strikeouts would always negate however many home runs he could manage.
After all, that paltry BA in 1973 was accompanied by 18 dingers in just 132 games … but also 136 strikeouts.
In 1974, though, Schmidt played all 162 games and, though he K’d 138 times, he also went deep 38 times … and drove in 116 … and drew 106 walks … and hit .282 … and made his first All-Star Game.
At age 24, Schmitty had definitely arrived and even picked up some MVP support, finishing sixth in National League voting.
But if you were a Phillies fan, or even a budding Schmidt fan, looking for some fresh cardboard of the young star that summer, the pickings were slim.
You had the base Topps card, which was actually Schmidt’s first solo Topps card.
You had the O-Pee-Chee card, which was the same card as the Topps issue until you flipped it over or viewed it from the side.
You had the Topps and O-Pee-Chee Phillies team cards, with tiny Schmidts on the front and “Mike Schmidt” typed on the back.
And that was it.
Find 1974 Johnny Pro Mike Schmidt on eBay (affiliate link)
Find 1974 Johnny Pro Mike Schmidt on Amazon (affiliate link)
Oh … well, except for one more little entry into the Schmitty master set — the 1974 Johnny Pro Philadelphia Phillies Stand-Ups Mike Schmidt.
Yeah, that’s a mouthful. But it warrants the tied-up tongue.
Johnny Pro was a Baltimore-based sports promotion company who had delved into the collectibles realm in 1973 with a set of 25 Orioles stand-up cards. These were like 1964 Topps Stand-Ups in form, with perforated player images surrounded by the rest of a the rectangular card, which allowed you to pop out some of the photo and stand the dude up in place.
(There is a good thread about these sets over on the Net54Baseball forums, here.)
Same deal with the 1974 Phillies set, except that one featured only 12 players, fitting considering they were an “away” team for Johnny Pro and that the Phils didn’t win all that more than a dozen games most seasons (ba-dum-da — crash!).
Gone was the green background used for the O’s, replaced by plain white.
It was clean looking, or desolate, or just boring depending on your propensities, but the key to its lasting beauty is that the set is beautiful (duh) and that it showcases young Schmidt in the field.
Here is the entire checklist:
- 8 Bob Boone
- 10 Larry Bowa
- 16 Dave Cash
- 19 Greg Luzinski
- 20 Mike Schmidt
- 22 Mike Anderson
- 24 Bill Robinson
- 25 Del Unser
- 27 Willie Montanez
- 32 Steve Carlton
- 37 Ron Schueler
- 41 Jim Lonborg
Nah, they’re not skip-numbered … they’re uniform-numbered.
Pretty cool stuff, and the only game in town if you wanted an exciting hunk of cardboard of the most exciting young star in the game in the summer of 1974.
Wow! Wax of the Day
You won’t find a ton of unopened 1974 wax packs roaming around the wild these days, but you do come across the empty wrappers from time to time. This eBay lot (affiliate link) gives you a shot at four wrappers all at once.
Check out the full listing here(affiliate link).
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