No matter where they start in a team’s pecking order, just about every player shares one ultimate goal with every other player when they head to Spring Training — win the World Series.
Of course, that’s no mean feat, and only a couple dozen guys will be able to pull off the trick by the end of the year. Heck, plenty of players never win a World Series, and some high-profile names never even made it to the Fall Classic before hanging up their spikes.
But the two ends of the baseball season are inextricably linked — you go to Spring Training when it’s still freaking winter so that you have a chance to still be playing when it’s cold again, with another winter just around the corner.
And if you’re like most teams, and most players, and you fall short of your goal in October, you’re left chomping at the bit to get to your next spring camp. Because, you know, next time around will be different.
Given this bond between beginning and end, between preparation and success, it’s only fitting that I end my 2019 Spring Training Baseball Card Challenge, here on Day 46, with a look at a World Series baseball card.
Now, there are plenty of cards to choose from, as Topps issued cards commemorating the Fall Classic for a couple of decades.
So how do you choose just one?
The answer is, you rely on personal experiences and personal tastes, like just about everything else in this hobby.
The first World Series card I remember owning was the 1981 Topps beauty that shows Tug McGraw with triumphant fists in the air after the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Kansas City Royals in the 1980 Series. It’s a great card that always reminds me of collecting — I think I pulled it from one of my first packs, and I can almost taste the gum whenever I see a copy.
It was really hard to resist choosing old Tug in this slot.
But there is another contender that really tweaks my hobby sensibilities, and it’s a multi-parter — the 1975 Topps subset celebrating the Oakland A’s five-game victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1974 World Series.
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This baby has a lot going for it …
- The ALCS and NLCS each get a card of their own.
- Each World Series game gets a dedicated card.
- The last card in the subset is a Series capper.
- The border colors are outrageous and awesome — yellow, purple, and pink everywhere.
- The photos are awesome (if grainy).
- The Dodgers lost the Series handily.
- I owned the subset early on in my collecting career (bought as a “team set” for a couple bucks).
So, yeah, that’s a preponderance of goodness that I cannot ignore, and my choice will come from this subset. But which card in particular?
Well, the Game 1 card (#461) features an awesome shot of Reggie Jackson at bat, but I’ve given Reggie plenty of love on this site over the years.
The Game 2 card shows happy Dodgers in the dugout after their only victory in that October showdown. Pass.
Rollie Fingers is dealing on Game 3, and the card is a solid contender.
But for my money, nothing beats the Game 4 card, where a batter is following through on a monster swing that looks like it did something good. I mean, you can see that Steve Yeager is left just hanging there behind the plate, waiting with his glove extended for a pitch that never made it to him.
And the batter?
Oh, that’s just A’s starter Ken Holtzman, who pitched six innings in that game, gave up two runs, struck out seven … and hit a home run in the bottom of the third inning off Dodgers starter Andy Messersmith to put Oakland up, 1-0.
Holtzman also won the game, with Fingers picking up the save, setting up the A’s for a Series victory the next night.
And did I mention the card is laid out in a sweeping horizontal format?
Yeah, it’s a winner, just like Ken Holtzman was in 1974.
He closed the loop, from Spring Training stiffness to World Series glory, and he’s the perfect guy to close out this series with.
Enjoy the season!
Check out the entire series of 2019 Spring Training Challenge posts here.