A series where I post some thoughts about favorite cards. Previous cards in the series are available here.
If someone were to say, "Name a 1971 Topps baseball card", I'd guess that many collectors would reply with #5, Thurman Munson. It’s a clear winner for the best looking card of the set. And forget the 1970s, it’s probably one of the best looking baseball cards in history. Period.
But there's other good-looking cardboard in the 1971 set. Just have a look at this one, for example.
It's framed beautifully, and the image captures shortstop Jim Fregosi milliseconds after he’s bludgeoned the ball for what looks like a screaming line-drive. His right knee is almost down on the ground. His follow-through is so vicious that if he were to let go of the bat, it would probably end up somewhere in left field. (Great extension, Jim!)
I also like how you see a player leaning onto the field from the Angels dugout, watching Fregosi intently. And there's a packed house in the background. They've all just heard the crack of the bat—a sound that never gets old. But only Fregosi knows just how solidly he's connected, and in another instant the momentum from that fierce swing will carry the bat around behind him, and he'll be sprinting off to first base knowing he's got a hit in his pocket.
Success. What a feeling. What a card.
As for Mr. Fregosi, he had quite a nice career—both as a player and a manager.
In his 18 years as a player (1961–1978), he compiled 1726 hits, 264 doubles, 78 triples, 151 home runs, and 706 RBI, and posted a slash line of .265/.338/.398
His best year could have been 1967, when he put up 176 hits (career high), a .290 average, made the all-star team, and won a Gold Glove. Over his playing career he suited up for the Angels, Mets, Rangers, and Pirates.
As a manager he posted a record of 1028–1094, just missing the .500 mark. His best season was 1993, when he skippered the Phillies to a record of 97–65, finishing 1st in the N.L. East. They'd go all the way to the World Series, but lose to the Blue Jays 4 games to 2. Over his career he also managed the Angels, White Sox, and Blue Jays.
But on this 1971 Topps cards he was miles away from managing. His only focus was uncoiling that pent-up energy and driving the baseball out there for a hit.
And for reminding us of how good it feels to do that, 1971 Topps #360 has a spot in my box of favorite cards.
NOTE: Next Sunday's post is going to appear on Tuesday the 11th instead, in order to commemorate the anniversary of a pretty cool event in sports history. Stay tuned!