A place where Colorado Rockies baseball card collectors (all 3 of us) can waste some time reading about our favorite sport. The Rockies and their cards will be the primary focus, but I like to go off on tangents as well so anything and everything baseball related may be covered here.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Rating the Rookie Cups 2.0 - 1976


I can honestly tell you that I currently have more respect for anyone that has ever had children.  The first week of being a new "parent" of a six pack of pups has tired me out more than anything in my life.  And I really didn't think I would have that much to do until they were weaned.  Boy, was I wrong.  Between my twice daily movement between rooms of the mother and pups box to keep the father away from them and my building of a corral both inside the house and in the yard for a couple weeks from now, along with all the regular work that hasn't gone away, I have had no time to post anything.  I did manage to steal a couple hours today to do my usual Friday Rating the Rookie Cups post, but I'm sure I will need them again later for some reason.  Either way, I got this post done, so let's delve into the beginning of the disco era shall we. 

Probably the most significant aspect of the 1975 Topps Rookie All Star Team is that this was the first time that a league MVP was included.  The only other time it occurred as of this writing was in 2002.  In 1975, however the main man was Fred Lynn of the Boston Red Sox.  He was the first player to ever win Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season. 

Lynn also played a part in another interesting piece of trivia.  1975 was one of 5 times where teammates took 2 of the 3 outfield spots.  Fred Lynn and Jim Rice of the Red Sox were the third of five sets of teammates to have this honor bestowed upon them.  Tommy Davis and Frank Howard of the Dodgers were the first to do so in the 1961 Topps set.  Others to do it were Bobby Bonds and Dave Marshall of the Giants in 1969, Ellis Burks and Mike Greenwell of the Red Sox in 1988, and Greg Briley and Ken Griffey Jr. of the Mariners in 1990. 

As far as the set goes, 1976 Topps has always been a little special to me since that was the year I was born.  I wasn't born until around the World Series, so 76 Topps was already on the shelves for months before I was born, but this set does share the year with me.  That being said, I have never really been a big fan of the design.  It is, along with 1979, probably one of my least favorite designs of the entire decade.  If it wasn't for being my birth year set, I probably wouldn't even think twice about the set.

There are two key design elements to the photo reliant 1976 Topps set, the two-toned nameplates at the bottom of the card and the little generic ballplayer present in the bottom left corner of each card.  The nameplates are pretty good when the color scheme matches the team like the Padres or Expos, but are far less likable when using green for the Giants and yellow for way too many teams.  The generic player icon is actually pretty cool since there is a different one for each position.  I especially like that there is a different icon for right handed pitchers and left handed pitchers.  All in all though, generic is the key word.  I just consider this set way too generic.

Let's take a look at the 1975 Topps Rookie All Star Team.

Gary Carter - C - Expos - Season Rank (T7 of 61) - Career Rank (7 of 61)

Mike Ivie - 1B - Padres - Season Rank (54 of 61) - Career Rank (37 of 61)

Jerry Remy - 2B - Angels - Season Rank (27 of 61) - Career Rank (28 of 61)


Larry Parrish - 3B - Expos - Season Rank (21 of 61) - Career Rank (16 of 61)
Tom Veryzer - SS - Tigers - Season Rank (49 of 61) - Career Rank (48 of 60)

Dan Ford - OF - Twins - Season Rank (113 of 184) - Career Rank (90 of 184)

Fred Lynn - OF - Red Sox - Season Rank (3 of 184) - Career Rank (19 of 184)

Jim Rice - OF - Red Sox - Season Rank (11 of 184) - Career Rank (10 of 184) 

John Montefusco - RHP - Giants - Season Rank (T6 of 50) - Career Rank (18 of 50)

Tom Underwood - LHP - Phillies - Season Rank (34 of 49) - Career Rank (20 of 49)


Here are the players I feel should have made the team.  This is based solely on rookie years stats and is a straight up "battle of the stats" with my opinion not factoring into the decision.  I give a chance to all rookies from that season that either played in 100 games, started 15 games, or had at least 10 saves.  If there happen to be less than 2 rookies that meet those qualifications at a position, then I will just compare the top two that don't meet parameters.  In this case, and all cases before 2011, I am retroactively adding a relief pitcher spot to the team. 

Catcher - Gary Carter - Expos

There was very little competition for the strong rookie year of Gary Carter as he was the only catcher to meet minimum standards.  But this is a competition after all, so I lowered the bar enough to find Alan Ashby of the Indians and Marc Hill of the Giants to fill the void.  Unsurprisingly, Carter easily dispatched both. 

First Base - Dan Meyer - Tigers

Usually one of the stronger positions, this was one of three extremely weak positions in 1975.  Topps chose Mike Ivie for the spot, but listed him as a 3B.  He played both positions, but played 3B more.  However since Topps picked him as a 1B, I included him here along with challengers Dan Meyer of the Tigers and Jose Morales of the Expos.  Meyer fairly easily won the three way battle. 

Second Base - Jerry Remy - Angels

Second base is usually either a weak position or a single dominant rookie.  In 1975, it was arguably the most strongest position or at the very least, the most competitive.  There were five candidates that met parameters including Jerry Remy of the Angels, Phil Garner of the Athletics, Manny Trillo of the Cubs, Pete Mackanin of the Expos, and Rob Andrews of the Astros.  Remy held onto the spot in a close battle over Garner and Trillo, both of whom would have won 1B and SS if they had qualified for either position. 

Third Base - Larry Parrish - Expos

Since Topps decided to make Mike Ivie a first baseman, there were only two competitors at third base in 1975, Larry Parrish of the Expos and Roy Howell of the Rangers.  In a straight forward match up Parrish soundly defeated Howell and kept his spot.

Shortstop - Tom Veryzer - Tigers

There were also only two players that qualified at shortstop to meet parameters, Tom Veryzer of the Tigers and Larvell Blanks of the Braves, and neither of them stood out as great.  Even though it was just two guys, this turned out to be the closest match up of all with Veryzer barely holding onto his spot by the skin of his teeth. 

Outfield - Fred Lynn - Red Sox, Jim Rice - Red Sox, Rick Manning - Indians

The top two spots in the outfield were not even in question as Boston teammates AL ROY and MVP Fred Lynn and Jim Rice had not only two of the best seasons in 1975, but had two of the better Rookie Cup outfield seasons ever.  Which left the final spot to be determined between the likes of Dan Ford of the Twins, Rick Manning of the Indians, Leon Roberts of the Tigers, Sixto Lezcano of the Brewers, and three others.  In the end, Manning should have been the choice with a tight win over Ford and the rest. 

RH Starter - John Montefusco - Giants

As usual there was a plethora of candidates for the RH starter spot.  I ended up having to raise the bar up to 22 starts and still ended up with 10 pitchers making the grade.  Among the pitchers that qualified, but were not in contention was future Cy Young winner John Denny of the Cardinals and Vern Ruhle of the Tigers.  Out of the ten, 4 stood above the rest: NL ROY John Montefusco of the Giants, future HOFer Dennis Eckersley of the Indians, Dennis Leonard of the Royals, and Jim Hughes of the Twins.  In a very tight battle, Montefusco hung on over a strong challenge from Eckersley.  

LH Starter - Dan Warthen - Expos

As usual, the LH starter position is far less diverse when it comes candidates.  Unlike the righties where I raised the bar to 22 starts, I kept at 15 starts for lefties and still only got 4.  Full season starters Tom Underwood of the Phillies and Pete Falcone of the Giants along with partial season starters John Candelaria of the Pirates and Dan Warthen of the Expos were the qualifiers.  Surprisingly the two partial season starters proved to be the better duo with hybrid starter/reliever Warthen eking out a victory over the Candy Man. 
Relief Pitcher - Rawly Eastwick - Reds

This was one of the more interesting relief battles that I have done so far because the top two saves leaders were actually teammates.  Rawly Eastwick and Will McEnaney of the Reds were the only two qualifiers under the 10 saves parameter, so I added a 50 games pitched and found 4 more relievers in Gary Lavelle of the Giants, Rick Baldwin of the Mets, Jim Umbarger of the Rangers, and Mickey Scott of the Angels.  The two Cincinnati teammates pulled ahead of the rest with Eastwick edging out his teammate for the spot. 


100% - Perfect, 80-90% - Great, 60-70% - Good, 40-50% - Poor, < 40% - Utter Failure


This is the third week in a row that Topps has fallen in at 70% in the good range.  Although for some reason this one doesn't seem as bad as 2004 or 1982.  Rick Manning and Dan Ford was a pretty close battle which could have gone either way.  Tom Underwood over Dan Warthen could be easily explained by the different way pitchers were judged in 1975 since full time starters were seen as better than hybrid starter/relievers regardless of performance.  The only that is hard to defend for Topps is choosing Mike Ivie over Dan Meyer simply because even Topps thought of Ivie as a third baseman.  They didn't even list him as a 1B/3B which has happened at times on cup cards.  Just a bad call on their part, but overall not a bad effort by Topps.

Final Thoughts on the Team

Strongest Team Members (rookie) - Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, John Montefusco
Strongest Team Members (career) - Jim Rice, Gary Carter, Fred Lynn
Weakest Team Members (rookie) - Mike Ivie, Tom Veryzer, Tom Underwood
Weakest Team Members (career) - Tom Veryzer, Mike Ivie, Dan Ford
Rockies on the team (Present and future) - 0 (most retired before the Rockies existed)
Best Card (IMHO) - Mike Ivie (The combo of the player stance and the background of that card is almost hypnotic.)
Worst Card (IMHO) - Fred Lynn (I like action photos, but in 1976 a lot of them were too blurry.)

This team was very good both in 1975 and as a career whole.  It's very good, but probably not a top ten team for either season or career once you look past the high points.  For the season, Fred Lynn is actually the 3rd outfielder on the all time Rookie cup team and both Jim Rice, John Montefusco, and Gary Carter are top 10 as well.  But the rest of the team is kind of middling at best.  For careers, you have the same problem.  You have two Hall of Famers in Carter and Rice (even if they have been argued as a couple of the weaker additions of recent history).  There are a couple of other strong careers in Lynn and Parrish, but the rest of the team is again middling at best.  I would probably rank this team in the 15-25 range for both season and career with the season being at the higher end of that range and the career being at the lower end.  Overall a fine team though.


The 1996 team pictured on 1997 Topps cards.

Thanx for reading.


The Diamond King said...

I like the Jerry Remy card. For some reason I don't remember that one, but it looks good. But I see what you like about the Ivie too.

John Sharp said...

Such a great year for a young Tigers collector (me) pulling those cool Rookie Cup cards of Meyer & Veryzer.

Good Job. 👍

Nick said...

That Gary Carter is easily one of my all-time favorite Rookie Cup cards. It's the only card I've seen where he's not wearing his famous #8, and the Wrigley Field backdrop is an extra cherry on top.

night owl said...

These are classic rookie cup cards from the heart of my childhood, practically legends in my eyes.

That said, I agree somewhat on the '76 design. I should love it more because of when it came out but it never did it for me. Some teams' cards are grating (the Giants as you mentioned, the Astros and the Cubs, too).

As for dogs -- they are an incredible amount of work. I've only dealt with one at a time, I can't imagine multiple.

Fuji said...

Topps put together a pretty strong Rookie Cup team in 1976. I couldn't tell you much about Veryzer... but I recognize everyone else. And I love that Fred Lynn card. I think it'd make it into my Top 10 Rookie Cup cards of all-time.

Bo said...

Some great rookies in '75. I bet if you told any fan that year that two of them would end up in the Hall of Fame they would automatically have assumed one would be Lynn.