John Denny came out of nowhere to lead the Philadelphia Phillies to the National League pennant in 1983.

It’s a truth that’s hard to deny (or Denny?), despite the actual facts of the matter.

Facts like …

Denny had already been in the Major Leagues for nine seasons by the time the Cleveland Indians traded him to the Phils in September of 1982.

Denny owned a 75-69 big league record at the time of the trade … a significant accomplishment.

That 1983 Phillies team had plenty of star power, said luminosity provided by the likes of Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Garry Maddox, Gary Matthews, Steve Carlton, and several others.

So, no, Denny didn’t literally come out of nowhere and didn’t literally carry the Phillies to the World Series.

But, at 30 years of age, and turning 31 around the time the National League Cy Young Award winner would be announced, Denny ran up a career season that jutted above the rest like Randy Johnson in a lineup of mortals: 19-6, 2.37 ERA, 7.5 WAR to lead the NL and finish third in MLB.

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Denny was amazing, and his performance did land him that CYA (over Mario Soto of my hometown-ish Reds, I might add).

Denny had never been that kind of best-in-the-game pitcher before, and he never would be again. In fact, he lasted just three more seasons in the Majors, posting a 29-31 record in that span.

Meanwhile, management and age disbanded the Wheeze Kids Phillies in the 1983-84 offseason.

It all sort of felt like a dream in the years that followed.

Did those Phillies really make it all the way to that World Series? Was Denny really that brilliant?

That was a special postseason for me because it was the first one I ever watched, so I remember the details of that summer and fall pretty well. But I’m sure it all got pretty muddled as the years wore on for folks who didn’t have any skin in the game.

Like, ask me who the 2002 American League Central champs were and I couldn’t tell you. Not without a little quality time with Baseball Reference.

Or …

Maybe a little help from some baseball cards.

And, as it happens, there was a particular set issued that same summer — 2002, that is — that helps us all remember some things from the past.

That set is the 2002 Upper Deck Vintage issue, and one of the things it helps us remember is the 1971 Topps set, because the design is pretty much the same.

How was UD able to pull that off? Uh … holograms, maybe?

However it was that the universe allowed this overlap to exist, the set doesn’t seem to have made much of a lasting splash. I mean, when was the last time you heard someone type about 2002 Upper Deck Vintage?

Uh-huh. Thought so.

So it really only helped us remember stuff for a little while, until the next cardboard flavor of the day flooded down the pipeline.

But while it was front and center, and now that we’ve had some time to let it simmer, sink into our long-ago brains, another thing 2002 UD Vintage helps us remember is John Denny’s Cy Young season.

That’s because Denny is part of the Aces Game Jersey insert set, featuring 14 guys who did tremendous things on the mound once upon a time, along with a round patch of their uniform from that once upon a time.

Sure, you get some of the legends of the game, like Roger Clemens and Mike Maddux and Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez — never let it be said that Upper Deck was afraid of recency bias.

But … you also get guys like Mike Torrez and Mike Marshall and Hideo Nomo … and John Denny, 1983 vintage.

It’s the marriage of a player who came out of nowhere to beat the world, and a set that never really did much world-beating at all.

Together, they deserve an occasional dusting off, and some appreciation for what has come before.


Wow! Wax of the Day

If you want to chase Denny or any of the other 2002 Upper Deck Vintage cards, you can still find unopened packs on eBay most days.

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Check out this listing of three packs (affiliate link).

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2002 topps baseball cards

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End Date: Monday 05/17/2021 13:39:39 EDT
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2002 topps baseball cards

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End Date: Monday 05/17/2021 16:21:46 EDT
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