There is a reason I am putting these cards together. 1978 was the first year I collected baseball cards. It was the first year I learned about all of the teams and I began to learn about all the players.
1979 was the first season I really followed baseball day to day, understanding stats and which players were good or not.
A few things seemed set in stone. The Yankees, Royals, Dodgers and Phillies were the only teams allowed to participate in the post season.
And the “Batting Leaders” were always going to be Rod Carew and Dave Parker.
The names underneath them may change, but Carew and Parker were the Batting Kings for life. That’s what it seemed like to me. Hell, they were on the cards for the first 2 years I collected cards.
Granted, I had not yet learned the concept of small sample sizes. But in the late 1970’s there were both super reliable hitters and each won an MVP in one of the seasons represented in these cards.
They looked so serious in the first card and so happy in the second. Maybe that is the faces of men relaxing when they know they are the best.
Carew won 7 batting titles between 1969 and 1978. Modern stat lovers would be pleased to know that he also led the league in on base percentage four times. In 1977 he batted .388 and led the AL with an OPS of 1.019 despite hitting fewer than 20 homers.
His MVP campaign was in 1977 and the Sabermetric crowd today would have a hard time arguing against it. Along with being the batting champ, leading the league in hits and triples and driving in over 100 runs, he led the AL in WAR, Offensive WAR, OPS+, Runs Created, Adjusted Batting Runs, Adjusted Batting Wins, Times on Base, Offensive Win Percentage, Base-Out Runs Added, Win Probability Added, Situational Wins Added and Base Out Wins Added.
I have no clue what a lot of those stats mean. But the fact that he led the league in all of them should amount to something.
Carew would go on to the Angels in 1979. He wouldn’t win another batting title and would often battle injuries in Anaheim. But he did pass 3,000 hits continued to be a .300 hitter and would make it to the Hall of Fame.
Parker was one of the coolest players in the game, wearing the Pirates uniforms like a badass. A great power hitter with a cannon for an arm, Parker had a peak where he was in the conversation for baseball’s best player.
He had to essentially take over for Roberto Clemente in right field after the great star’s death after the 1972 season. Parker emerged in 1973 and by 1975, led the NL with a .541 slugging.
In 1977, he won the first of his back to back batting titles. He smacked 215 hits, 44 of them were doubles, as he led the league in both categories.
In 1978, his .334 average was the standard for the NL. He also had the highest slugging and OPS and total bases in the league en route to his MVP.
As with Carew, Parker’s MVP would survive the Sabermetric gauntlet. He had the top WAR and Offensive WAR as well as leading the league in Adjusted OPS+, Adjusted Batting Runs, Adjusted Batting Wins, Offensive Win Percentage, Win Probability Added, Base Out Runs Added, Situational Wins Added and Base Out Wins Added.
Imagine if they had Topps Cards for each of those categories. Carew and Parker would be on THOSE two, confirming my thoughts that they were the best in the business.
Parker had several more elite seasons with the Pirates and Reds and picked up World Series rings with the 1979 Pirates and 1989 A’s.
He didn’t make the Hall of Fame, his career stats falling short, as he stayed on the ballot for 15 years.
Sure if was a small sample size, but in 1978 and 1979, it was all the research I had.
Rod Carew and Dave Parker were the best hitters in baseball. And I had the cards to prove it.