I turned eight years old during the summer of 1977- which also happened to be the summer that I really developed a love for card collecting. I had received a handful of packs during 1976, but I wouldn't say that I was a collector. But something different happened in 1977. I don't recall why it was at this time that I caught the fever, but I did. Trips to the store, primarily Buttrey's, or to the local drugstore usually meant a few packs of cards. A friendship was developed with a guy who collected, and so I had someone to trade with at recess. And so for the next eight years, I would not only get packs during those trips to the grocery store, but I would also save my allowance, birthday money, and some of my "treat money" (for an after-school snack)-all going towards my collecting jones. Looking back at the genesis of my interest in the hobby, I decided earlier this year to begin putting together a set of the 1977 Topps baseball- and so now I've decided to begin a feature on the blog that will look at this great set...
1977 Topps #1 "1976 Batting Leaders"
The first thing that stands out in this photo is that George Brett is posing as a right-handed hitter. Even stranger is the positioning of his hands as he holds the bat-yes, the left hand is on top. I don't know when this photo was taken (pre-77), but I was more likely at seven or younger to be holding a bat like that-not a future hall of famer! And since his hat reads KC (and not CK) and the patch on his arm is correct, it doesn't appear to be a reverse-negative (unless it was a great airbrush job). Could Mr. Brett have had a sense of humor?
There's a fascinating story behind Brett's 1976 batting title. He was involved in a very tight three-way race for the crown that came down to the last weekend, nay to the very last at-bat of the season. Brett (.328) and teammate Hal McRae (.333) were facing the Twins, whose Rod Carew was the four-time defending champ and was hitting .325. Entering the final game, Brett (.33073) and Carew (.32945) had seen their respective averages increase, while McRae's had dropped to .33078. In that final game, Carew went 2-4, giving him a final .331 batting average. Entering the bottom of the ninth, Brett stood at .332298, while McRae was at .332696. Both Kansas City hitters would get an at-bat in that ninth and final inning: Brett hitting an inside-the-park home run to finish at .333, while McRae-needing a hit to win the title- followed Brett by grounding out to finish at .332.
Bill Madlock won his first batting title in 1975, during his second full season in the majors. One year later, he won the second of his four NL batting titles. The fourth title would make Bill the first player to ever win multiple batting titles with two different teams. He was also one of only three right-handed hitters since 1960 to win the National League batting title more than once. The photo on this card is a good picture of Madlock's stance-body upright and hands in close, which allowed him to have a short, compact swing that resulted in him being a great contact-hitter (his highest number of strikeouts in a full season was only 53, coming in 513 at-bats). "Mad Dog" apparently was/is a collector, also. His collecting jones was with antiques, primarily clocks, classic cars, and art.