When the 1981 Topps Traded Baseball set was released, I had just started collecting baseball cards. The first baseball card set that I completed by buying packs and trading cards with friends was the 1982 Topps Baseball set.
I don’t remember how I initially heard about the 1981 Topps Traded Baseball set; I’m guessing it was from Baseball Cards magazine. I also don’t remember why I decided to buy the Traded set, but I did. That was the first of at least 10 years in which I bought the Traded Baseball set released by Topps. That set was a must-have for me each year.
I do remember the chase for rookie cards, so the mania surrounding Fernando Valenzuela may have pushed me toward buying the set. I also remember the hype surrounding the set’s Danny Ainge card.
Whatever the reason was, I still have that set, along with all the other Topps Traded Baseball sets released into the early 1990s.
When reading the article in the March 31, 2017 issue of Sports Collectors Digest about the 1981 Topps Traded Baseball set and searching for images, it brought back a lot of childhood memories. This included one of my best baseball memories as well as one of my worst baseball memories.
Let’s get the disappointment out of the way first. If you’re a loyal reader of this column, you already know the Milwaukee Brewers are my favorite baseball team. The Brewers don’t have many glory years to hang their hat on, but 1982 was one of them. The 1981 Topps Traded Baseball set is loaded with cards of players who played in the 1982 World Series.
Star players in the set in their new Brewers uniforms included Rollie Fingers, Pete Vuckovich and Ted Simmons. Don Sutton, who was a major contributor for the Brewers down the stretch, in the playoffs and in the World Series is also included, although in a Houston Astros jersey. He wasn’t traded to the Brewers until late in the 1982 season.
There are also two players included in the set who were a thorn in the side of the Brewers in 1982.
Fred Lynn had an unbelievable American League Championship Series, batting .611 against the Brewers in 1982. It was so good, in fact, that he won the MVP Award in the series, despite being on the losing team. Lynn’s first card featuring him in a California Angels uniform was in the 1981 Topps Traded Baseball set.
And then of course there was Bruce Sutter, the dominant closer for the St. Louis Cardinals, who shut the door on the Brewers in the World Series. Sutter’s first card featuring him as a member of the Cardinals appeared in the 1981 Topps Traded Baseball set.
Now to the pleasant memory. The 1981 Topps Traded Baseball set also includes a card of a player who helped cement my joy for baseball when I was seven years old. That player was Sixto Lezcano.
I had an aunt and uncle who lived in Waukesha, a suburb of Milwaukee. They took me, my mom, my sister and several of my cousins to a Brewers game in the summer of 1978. We sat in the right field bleachers of County Stadium and Lezcano was the Brewers right fielder that day. I remember cheering for Lezcano, and followed his career after that.
He was one of the players the Brewers traded to the Cardinals prior to the 1981 season in order to obtain Fingers, Vuckovich and Simmons.
Oh the memories.
Bert Lehman is the editor of SCD. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.