Topps 1971 Baseball Card Set - We Are #1
September 25, 2013
by William Szczepanek
As we move through the 1970s the USA reasserts itself as the most powerful nation on earth. While problems are abundant, the war in Viet Nam begins to wind down though protests do not; we continue to land men on the moon in spite of the setbacks of Apollo Thirteen; women continue to move forward in the world obtaining the right to vote in Switzerland; racial issues continue, but violence is down; and, the country is poised to enter the digital age with the entrance of the Intel 4004, the first microprocessor, the first pocket calculator, the first email, and the inventions of the floppy disk and liquid crystal displays (LCD). Meanwhile, 15 sites were connected to the ARPANET, the precursor of the internet. And, to prove to the world we are the best, Disneyworld opens in Florida with plans for Epcot Center in the next decade. The NASDAQ debuted. Opportunity existed for all.
1971 in Baseball Cards - Men in Black
Topps created a stunning design for baseball cards in 1971. The black borders give a new look to baseball cards that accentuate the prominent team names, colorful lower case player names and white position designations. To the picky collector the black borders would disappoint by easily chipping. For those with an eye for the beauty of the card the 1971 set was among the best. My only personal gripe is that Topps gives preference to the team name over the player name in both font size and placement. Another common oversight, as exemplified in the card above is that Hank Aaron wanted to be called "Henry", as his signature reflects.
This set of 752 was the largest to date. Topps added a black and white head photo to the back of the card, but that took the space of the very valuable year-by-year career statistics. Collectors protested and Topps would resume seasonal statistics the following year.
Subsets included League Leaders: #61-72, Playoff Highlights: #195-202, World Series Highlights: #327-332 and scattered Team Rookies.
Action shots would be more common and some baseball cards would again come to life. While I still consider 1956 to be the first action shots, many will disagree since those cards had painted images, most of which came from game photos.
Baseball in 1971
In the World Series the Pittsburgh Pirates would defeat the Baltimore Orioles 4 games to 3 with Roberto Clemente the Series MVP.
On April 27th Hank Aaron became the third player to hit 600 home runs.
On June 3rd Ken Holtzman of the Cubs threw the second no-hitter of his career, beating the Cincinnati Reds 1–0 and scoring an unearned run in the third inning.
On June 23rd Rick Wise of the Phillies no-hit the Cincinnati Reds, 4–0, and clouted two home runs in the game.
On July 9th the Oakland Athletics beat the California Angels 1–0 in 20 innings for the longest shutout in American League history, with the A's Vida Blue striking out 17 hitters in 11 innings for Oakland, and the Angels' Billy Cowan fanning six times. Both teams set a new record for 43 total strikeouts in a game.
On July 13th the American League would defeat the National League, 6-4, the only AL victory between 1962 and 1983. Reggie Jackson would hit a prodigious 520 foot home run.
Awards and Honors
Average: Tony Oliva (AL)
Joe Torre (NL)
In the World in 1971
In 1971 President Nixon removed the backing of gold and silver on the US Dollar ushering in the era of freely floating currencies that remains to the present day. Money was no longer backed by tangible wealth but by confidence in the maker. The concept has gotten us to where we are now where global money supply is a fairly fragile thing, and where economic wars are now the prevailing method for lesser or greater powers to seek vengeance.
Cigarette ads on television which glamorized the habit were now banned. The effect did much to stop younger people from starting the habit, by eliminating the "you've come a long way baby" woman and "the Marlboro man", but the social pressures of today have destroyed the negative impetus giving everyone the right to have lung cancer in the most unglamorous ways possible.
Federal Express got started in the air, while Amtrak hit the rails rolling and the Congress stopped the American Supersonic transport program. China was admitted to the United Nations and the US ended its trade embargo to that country. The voting age was lowered to 18 years from 21. The Pentagon Papers showed that the government had been lying to the people (unusual for the time).
Nixon formally began the "War on Drugs", a war which we continue to lose. The World Trade Center became the second tallest building in the world, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts was inaugurated.
My Life in 1971
Being stationed at Fort Benning Georgia was in no way a confinement for me as I spent my first year away from my family. While my daily tasks were largely spent on the development of computerized firing ranges for testing of military gear, my travels would take me up and down the East Coast. My time in the Army was anything but boring. I spent a month outside of Boston learning the ins and out of the PDP 10 Digital Equipment computer system. I made it to Orlando Florida for the grand opening of Disney World. I made numerous trips to the white sand beaches of Panama City, FL. There was hardly a road I didn't travel on in Georgia using my weekends to investigate a new world.
On a particularly memorable weekend my roommate asked if I'd like to tour Washington, DC for a couple of days. Within a few hours we were on a standby flight to our capital where we toured the Capitol Building and the White House. We walked around the lobby of the newly built Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Smithsonian, climbed to the top of the Washington Monument and toured Mount Vernon. It was an exhilarating weekend dampened only by the occasional passers-by who would taunt us as the bad guys killing innocent people in View Nam. To this day I do not know how so many people could recognize us as military when we were not in uniform. It must have been the haircuts.
But, this is supposed to be about baseball so I can't leave out that I had quite a few opportunities to see the Atlanta Braves and Henry Aaron, including getting to witness his 599th home run. It seemed odd to watch Henry Aaron at this time so many years since I saw him with my father from box seats at Wrigley Field in 1956.
1971 in Music
The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour premiered on CBS and appealed to young and old, bringing musical and variety guests to TV on a weekly basis with comedy and glamour. Why wouldn't something like this work today?1. "Joy to the World" Three Dog Night
2. "Maggie May" Rod Stewart
3. "It's Too Late" Carole King
4. "One Bad Apple" The Osmonds
5. "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" Bee Gees
6. "Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)" Paul Revere & the Raiders
7. "Go Away Little Girl" Donny Osmond
8. "Take Me Home, Country Roads" John Denver
9. "Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)" The Temptations
10. "Knock Three Times" Tony Orlando and Dawn
1971 in Movies
1971 in TV
Archie and Edith meet the Jeffersons, while Masterpiece Theatre, the Electric Company and Sonny and Cher debut.
Number One for How Long
To live in 1971 was pretty good, overall, for most people. Let's face it. The war was winding down, people played golf on the moon, Disney World became a destination for everyone in the world and technology was creating jobs for many. We liked being #1.
But, it may just have been the time we started to take things a little too much for granted.