The Golden Age of Baseball Cards™

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Topps 1973 Baseball Card Set - The Beginning of Where We Are Today

March 29, 2015

by William Szczepanek

Topps Baseball Card Checklist - 1973

1973 Topps Willie Mays #305The Watergate scandal drags on for President Nixon, the first oil crisis occurs, the Viet Nam War ends bringing our soldiers home and our relationship with China begins, though many doubt our ability to work with China. It is amazing to still feel the effects of these events of more than 40 years ago. In spite of the upheaval we continue to move on, not necessarily forward, in returning to a more normal lifestyle.

Baseball Cards in 1973 – A Brief Step Back in Time

While the prior 1972 Topps set was vintage 1970s in design, the 1973 set dragged the industry back to the 60s, or possibly the 50s with its simplicity. In general I prefer cards that showcase the players without all the glitz, but the 1973 set leaves me wanting more. The graphics are excellent with a blend of headshots and action shots in predominantly a vertical layout, with an occasional horizontal version. The black graphic in a colored circle highlighting the fielding position reminds me of the 1963 Fleer set.

The 1973 Topps set went back to 660 cards which was a significant drop from the 1972 set of 787 cards. It was also the last set to be distributed in a multiple series which is significant in defining the Golden Age of Baseball Cards.

1973 topps rookie third basemen #6151973 Topps batting leaders #061

Though the number of cards were down there were still some interesting subsets: League Leaders: #61-68, Playoff Highlights: #201 and #202, World Series Highlights: #203-210, All-Time Leaders: #471-478 and Topps Rookie Stars: #601-616.

All Time Home Run LeadersThe card set includes over 25 Hall of Famers along with notable rookies like Mike Schmidt, Goose Gossage, Dwight Evans and Bob Boone. A highlight of the set was card #1 which brought the race to catch Babe Ruth’s home run mark into focus by depicting Ruth, Aaron and Mays on the card.

The backs are displayed in a vertical fashion for the first time since 1968, and include a cartoon, a short fact about the player, biographical info and previous season’s statistics.

It was the last card of Willie Mays, whose first card debuted with Topps in 1952, and tragically the last card of Roberto Clemente.

Baseball 1973

On January 1, 1973 news reports hit the country regarding the death of Roberto Clemente in a plane crash while providing relief to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. He had reached the 3,000 hit level at the end of the prior season. His induction into the Hall of Fame occurred posthumously without the normal 5 year wait. Arriba was gone.

1973 Topps Roberto Clemente #050In January George Steinbrenner and a group of investors purchased the New York Yankees for $10 million.

On April 6th  Ron Blomberg became the first designated hitter, and walks in his first plate appearance.

On May 15th  – Nolan Ryan of the California Angels pitched the first of his seven no hitters.

On September 27th – Nolan Ryan struck out 16 Minnesota Twins. The final strikeout was his 383rd of the season, breaking Sandy Koufax's record.

On October 21st – the Oakland Athletics defeated the New York Mets, 5–2, in Game Seven of the World Series, winning their second straight World Series Championship. Reggie Jackson was selected the Most Valuable Player.

Awards and Honors

Most Valuable Player  Reggie Jackson (AL): Pete Rose (NL)
Cy Young Award  Jim Palmer (AL)l; Tom Seaver (NL)
Rookie of the Year  Al Bumbry (AL); Gary Matthews (NL)

1973 Topps Nolan Ryan #220MLB Statistical Leaders

Average: Rod Carew MIN (AL) .350; Pete Rose CIN (NL) .338
Home Runs: Reggie Jackson OAK (AL) 32; Willie Stargell PIT (NL) 44
RBIs: Reggie Jackson OAK (AL) 117; Willie Stargell PIT (NL) 119
Wins: Wilbur Wood CHW (AL) 24; Ron Bryant SFG (NL) 24
ERA: Jim Palmer BAL (AL) 2.40; Tom Seaver NYM (NL) 2.08
Strikeouts: Nolan Ryan1 CAL (AL) 383 Tom Seaver NYM (NL) 251

1973 In the World

On March 29 – The last United States soldier left Vietnam.
The first handheld cellular phone call is made by Martin Cooper in New York City.

The World Trade Center officially opens in New York City. The Sears Tower in Chicago is finished, becoming the world's tallest building (held until 1998).

Nixon WatergateFederal Express begins operations on a small scale from Memphis International Airport. That night, Federal Express delivered 186 packages to 25 U.S. cities.

Secretariat wins the Kentucky Derby.

Watergate issues and hearing are center stage all year long.

"People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook. I've earned everything I've got." President Richard Nixon

Top Movies 1973

The Sting1. The Sting Universal Pictures
2. The Exorcist Warner Bros.
3. American Graffiti Universal Pictures
4. Papillon Allied Artists Pictures
5. The Way We Were Columbia Pictures
6. Magnum Force Warner Bros.
7. Last Tango in Paris United Artists
8. Live and Let Die United Artists
9. Robin Hood Walt Disney Productions
10. Paper Moon Paramount Pictures

Top Songs 1973

Carly Simon So Vain1 "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree" Tony Orlando and Dawn
2 "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" Jim Croce
3 "Killing Me Softly with His Song" Roberta Flack
4 "Let's Get It On" Marvin Gaye
5 "My Love" Paul McCartney & Wings
6 "Why Me" Kris Kristofferson
7 "Crocodile Rock" Elton John
8 "Will It Go Round in Circles" Billy Preston
9 "You're So Vain" Carly Simon
10 "Touch Me in the Morning" Diana Ross

Top TV Shows 1973

January 14th – Elvis Presley's concert in Hawaii was the first worldwide telecast by an entertainer.

Gunsmoke is the lone western in the top ten indicating a move away from this genre, from which it has never recovered.

Comedy and mystery were popular, with violence not yet on the horizon.

Mary Tyler Moore1. All in the Family CBS
2. Sanford and Son NBC
3. Hawaii Five-O CBS
4. Maude CBS
5. Bridget Loves Bernie CBS
6. The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie NBC
7. The Mary Tyler Moore Show CBS
8. Gunsmoke CBS
9. The Wonderful World of Disney NBC
10. Ironside NBC


While the country was still recovering from the 60s and Viet Nam it was struggling to return to normalcy. With its simplicity the Topps set appeared to try to regain part of the 50s and 60s.  It was the last year cards were released by series. Not releasing cards by series throughout the year would eventually doom the hobby from a pure kids enjoyment point of view.


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