Topps 1969 Baseball Card Set - Houston, The Eagle Has Landed
May 29, 2013
by William Szczepanek
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness..." The greatest accomplishment in the history of man occurred on July 20, 1969 when Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon. The sequence of events leading up to it were breathtaking and mind boggling. We had real time videos of the astronauts and real time audio beamed from 250,000 miles away, even though the computing power present on the lunar module was less than a cheap handheld calculator of today. The efforts to reach the moon did not open a new frontier for exploration as much as it opened a new way of life with computer miniaturization leading up to the computer revolution that now makes up our daily lives. The ARPANET, a predecessor to the Internet, was born.
So much good and bad happened in the 1960s it is amazing that through all of the turmoil accomplishments such as this were still possible. It was the end of a decade and the beginning of a new age. Even though landing a man on the moon was a powerful achievement, it could not erase the effects of a pointless war and continued inequality ─ problems that persist and may be even more prevalent now than in the 1960s.
1969 Baseball Cards
While there were a lot of changes going on in baseball, Topps kept changes to a minimum. Expansion in 1969 with the addition of Kansas City, Montreal, San Diego and Seattle meant new uniforms and the largest set up to that time of 664 cards. For Topps it meant problems getting the players in the appropriate uniforms without air brushing. For the most part they did not succeed until the card sets were produced for the later part of the season, which is actually very understandable.
For Topps it also meant the absence of team cards for the first time since 1966. It also seemed that Topps did not have time for new photographs and went back to their method of the 1950s by reusing previous years photos, like Hank Aaron #100 is the same photo as 1968 Aaron #110. This may have been acceptable in the 1950s, but not in 1969. While some players joked by batting from the opposite side, others Topps managed to reverse on their own, like making Larry Haney a left-handed catcher. The biggest boo boo was card #653 of Auerilio Rodriguez, actually the Angels batboy.
While much improved over the 1968 design with cleaner lines and minus the funky background, the 1969 cards did not offer enough of a change. The peculiar circle still remained, though it now contained the name and position, which seemed to be less important than the name of the team, which commanded a prominent place at the bottom of the cards.
1969 marked the last card of Mickey Mantle who had been on every card produced by Topps since 1952, the birth of the Golden Age of Baseball Cards. The card became a retirement card since Mantle announced his retirement on March 1st and did not play in 1969, but its uniqueness lies in the fact that the back contains Mantle's complete career statistics, which is a really cool thing and something I wish Topps had done more of with other notable players.
The subsets of the 1969 Topps Baseball card set include League Leaders, 1-12, World Series highlights, 162-169, and All-Stars, 416-435. Combo cards also appeared in the late series, like #532, Bird Hill Aces and #556 A's Stars and rookie cards were scattered throughout.
Baseball 1969 ─ The Cubs Will Shine in '69
Ernie Banks led the cheers in spring training and the Cubs would accommodate ─ until September. While his cheer "The Cubs will shine in 69", could be better finished with "but the Mets will dine and drink the wine", as the Miracle Mets went on a tear at the end of the season to down the tired Cubbies decisively. With as much irreverence the Mets defeated the Orioles in the World Series.
I remember sitting at the kitchen table when my mother, who knew nothing about baseball, walked into the room and asked me who would win the World Series and by how many games. I was still reeling from my Cubs being eliminated, but had always been loyal to the league they were in and I replied, "The Mets will beat the Orioles 4 games to 1." Little did I know she was going to work to bet on the World Series. She told everyone that her son knows a lot about baseball and that he said it was so. She took a lot of kidding after the Orioles took the first game and came home and said, "Are you sure?" I lied boldly, "Yes, I am sure." The rest is history. The Mets won and she now was proud of her extremely smart, if not a little lucky, son. (True story.)
The Prelude to the Miracle Mets
Much has been written about the collapse of the Cubs, but they did finish with 92 wins, enough for most teams today to make the playoffs. The Cubs started the season 11-1 and looked unbeatable throughout the season.
On April 9th Billy Williams tied a major league record by hitting 4 consecutive doubles to tie the Major League record.
On May 13th Ernie Banks reached 1,500 career RBIs while driving in seven runs in a 19 – 0 drubbing San Diego Padres as the Cubs tie a modern-day record for the most lopsided shutout in National League history.
On June 26 - Jim Hickman hit a game winning 10th inning home run to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-5 at Wrigley Field. Ron Santo leaped in the air and clicked his heels 3 times on the way to the clubhouse, which became a custom to last until the Cubs started losing.
On July 8th the New York Mets beat the Chicago Cubs 4-3 with 3 runs in the ninth to cut the Cubs' lead to 4 games. Chicago's Ron Santo rips into the Cubs' rookie centerfielder, Don Young on the team bus. Santo is later booed by Wrigley Field fans.
On August 19th Cubs' Ken Holtzman pitched a no-hitter against the Atlanta Braves without a strikeout, only the second in history do so. The most memorable play of the game occured in the 7th when Henry Aaron hits a long high drive that appeared to be a home run. A gust of wind blows the ball away from the seats and into the indentation in left field where Billy Williams struggled mightily to make the catch with his back to the wall.
On September 9th a black cat runs past Ron Santo in the on-deck circle and the Mets go on to win 7 - 1. The curse is applied and the Cubs will fall.
On September 10th the Cubs lose a double header to the Mets which pushed the Mets into first place to stay.
On August 13th the Cubs had a 10 game lead on the Mets. By September 1st the lead was cut to 5 games. If the Cubs could have maintained their torrid pace that they had set through mid-August (77-45), they would have barely outlasted the Mets by winning 102 games. The Cubs did fall apart, losing 16 of their last 24 games, but in that period the Mets won 22 of their last 27. Given this the Cubs would have had to perform at a miracle pace not to lose. It wasn't to be. It was the Miracle Mets who would win 100 games, the pennant and the World Series.
1969 Elsewhere in Baseball
On April 30th the Houston Astros were no-hit by Jim Maloney of the Cincinnati Reds.
On May 1st Don Wilson no-hit the Reds 4 -0 with 13 strikeouts. Houston ties a National League record with just one assist in the game.
On May 12th Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals became the 7th pitcher in National League history to strike out the side on nine pitches.
On August 10th Don Drysdale retired from the Los Angeles Dodgers, the last player to play for the Dodgers that had also played in Brooklyn.
On August 13th Jim Palmer of the Baltimore Orioles no-hit the Oakland Athletics 8-0 at Memorial Stadium. The home plate umpire was Lou DiMuro, whose son Mike DiMuro would call balls and strikes for Roy Halladay's perfect game on May 29, 2010.
On October 7th - The Cardinals trade their premier center fielder, Curt Flood, to the Philadelphia Phillies in a seven-player deal. Flood refuses to report to the Phillies and challenges baseball's reserve clause. The Supreme Court ruled 5-3 in favor of MLB, but it paved the way for changes in a baseball players rights to play for certain teams. Flood sat out the entire 1970 season and only played in 13 game in 1971 before retiring.
1969 Baseball Awards
Most Valuable Player
Cy Young Award
Rookie of the Year
In the World in 1969
Going to the moon was a stunning accomplishment and with television nearly a billion people were able to witness the feat.
On July 16th Apollo 11 was launched from the Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39.
On July 19th Apollo 11 passed behind the Moon and fired its service propulsion engine to enter lunar orbit.
On July 20th the Lunar module called Eagle with Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin on board, separated from the command module . Late that day the Eagle lands on the surface of the moon in the Sea of Tranquillity.
The next day, July 21st, Neil Armstrong stepped off Eagle's ladder and uttered the famous line "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." He was later joined by Buzz Aldrin. Later that day the Lunar Module blasted off from the moon's surface and rejoined, Columbia, the service module.
On July 24th the command module, Columbia, splashed down in the Pacific Ocean.
Richard Nixon was President. PBS was established and Sesame Street premiered. Walmart incorporated. The first ATM machine was installed. The microprocessor was invented. The first Boeing 747 went into service. The first battery powered smoke detector went into service ─ All this and more while students protested the war.
The Luck of the Draft
To say that luck plays a role in everyone's life is a vast understatement. On December 1, 1969 every draft age man in the U.S. listened to a roll call of birthdates that would greatly influence their lives. Those dates that would come after the 195th picked would not be drafted and could proceed with their lives, including having job interviews and getting job offers. Those with numbers lower than 196 could look forward to receiving draft notices in the future. My birth date was the 14th selected. I sat dazed for a long period of time. I still had 6 months of college to complete my engineering degree. Then, I could look forward to the military. No companies would even consider talking to me about a job. With the end of the war nowhere in sight life was now very different from what I had planned.
1969 in Music
There were numerous music festivals that would draw over 100,000 attendees in 1969, but none bigger than the show of the century at Woodstock, NY on a farm where 400,000 music fans convened to witness The Who, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Jimi Hendricks, Janis Joplin, Ravi Shankar, Joan Baez, Santana, the Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Sly & the Family Stone, Jefferson Airplane, Joe Cocker, Blood, Sweat & Tears and many others. It was a show that expressed the feelings of anti-establishment. It was anti-war, pro-love and the most famous music festival of all time. It was not how all young people acted, but was a reflection of the times. Those times were very short with many of the participants going home, donning suits, getting married and joining the establishment they rebelled against. It was a time to remember, but also a time that was never to be revisited.
It was a time when Rock and Roll reigned. The songs from
the Age of Aquarius live on today.
Top Ten Songs of 1969
1969 at the Movies
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
20th Century Fox
1969 on TV
The science fiction television series Star Trek aired its final new episode after being canceled by NBC. In syndication the reruns are watched by millions of avid fans and Star Trek successfully flies into the future at warp ten.
Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
Before the End of the Decade...
By the end of the sixties we would place a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth because it was established as an American goal by an American president who knew the importance of the accomplishment. The USA was literally "on top of the world". Going to the moon would not solve any of the problems that then existed in the country. Not everyone agreed that we should be spending money on an endeavor like this.
How would things be different today if it had never happened? How would it be today if we had just continued to argue over whether it was a good idea? How will it be tomorrow if we can't decide how to try to fix our current problems. Why are we so different today?