In the 1979 Topps collection, along with players, team pictures, prospects and record breakers, there were cards for the All Time Record Holders for several stats.
All time hits leaders, wins leaders, strikeout kings and home run champs were all included. The pictures were in black and white to give a uniform look whether they were honoring Ty Cobb or Henry Aaron.
I find the stolen base card to be interesting on many levels.
First of all both pictures are of Lou Brock. They didn’t just have one pic to cover both Season and Career records. One looking to his right and the other facing forward.
Another interesting thing about those two side by side is he has a helmet on one and a cap on in the other, as if to create a mental separation between the two.
Note the cap he is wearing. It is the flat top old fashioned hats that a handful of teams wore in 1976. Only the Pirates kept wearing them after that season, so the photo of Brock is instantly dated.
Also the pic on the left looks a little chubbier than the other. Maybe his profile is not his best side.
With Brock on the front twice, it gave card collectors of that year, including your pal Sully, a chance to revel in his fabulous career. That same year, 1979, was Brock’s final one and the year he hit his 3,000th hit.
There was not much that Brock failed to accomplish in his nearly 20 years in the big leagues. I covered his career in detail in his Card of the Day post for June 12 which you can read by clicking HERE. But at the time, he rewrote the record book in every way shape and form.
There is are two interesting parts of the card once it is flipped over.
Billy Hamilton was the career stolen base leader according to the back. But because of the changes of rules that made it harder to record stolen bags, the title was given to Brock. (The fact that there is another speedster named Billy Hamilton playing today just makes all of this more confusing.)
Also did you notice whose name isn’t seen there? Rickey Henderson. He made his first appearance in 1979 as a major leaguer. This card almost acts as a frozen moment in time of the stolen base landscape the moment that its greatest artist ever stepped onto the stage.
If the card was issued today, there would be a pair of Henderson pictures on the front.
Rickey Henderson stole 130 bases in 1982, passing Brock’s 118 total in 1974.
Bill North’s 75 stolen bases were the 11th single season mark listed on the card. Henderson passed 75 stolen bases 7 times.
A renaissance in base stealing would have not only Henderson but Vince Coleman, Ron LeFlore and Omar Moreno on the back of this card today.
Ty Cobb and Omar Moreno would be tied at the bottom of the list today at 96 stolen bases. Hall of Famer Tim Raines would not even crack the top 10 single season mark.
It is no coincidence that I chose to post this card the day after I honored Rickey Henderson. In a way, it illustrates his glory in the spot of stolen bases as well as any way I can imagine.
Brock was the king of his day. Henderson is the king now and may be for a long time. And this card shows the kingdom he conquered.