It Was 47 Years Ago Today (Give or Take)

I’ve been spending a lot of time in 1972 the last week, the first year I completed the full Topps set (and the last year that brand new, very old Mets’ pitching coach Phil Regan had his LAST card as a player.)


The week began with a little Father’s Day present to myself – a binder and box of sheets. I tend not to put complete baseball sets I already have in binders. I reserve that for sets I’m building. It’s so much easier to put a recently acquired card or two in a binder than pull out a box that is, invariably, in a logistically hard to get place. However, in the interests of maximally efficient storage, a binder for the ‘72s was necessary.

It’s a set I love more for what it reminds me of than how it looks (though I like how it looks). We had moved to the middle of Suffolk County, Long Island (Lake Grove to be exact) in December 1971. It was a hard move to make, going from Brooklyn in 1971 to LI stuck in 1961. By spring and summer of 1972 it was getting better for me, but the baseball cards of that year were my best medicine. I can see myself on the concrete pad outside our front door opening a full box of packs, my greatest youthful extravagance, $2.40 of cobbled together loose change brought much joy.


Looking at the sets 9-card pages at a time, brought to mind a constant question of mine. Why is the last series so much brighter looking?


One Twitterer commented that he thought “The later series were much clearer images than many found in the first few. It looks like there is a blue filter on many of the earlier 1972 cards. This photography was done in spring training.” Here’s #130, Bill Freehan.


Another collector thought, maybe, that Topps used different card stock at the end of the baseball line, as they turned to football. They don’t feel any different, but I don’t know.

It seemed like the 6th series never made it to me (similar to the 1972 3rd Series Football, though less extreme). I bought tons of packs back then, so there’s no reason I can think of why I have only three doubles. I ended up buying the whole series after the season ended and, weirdly, the toughest series is my best condition one.

And, speaking of doubles, I sold 492 cards this morning to a friend who only recently found out I collected cards. As my wife said afterwards, collecting is so intrinsic to who I am, it’s amazing everyone doesn’t know. Funny, you all do, but many people who I know well don’t. That says something about me, though I’m not sure what.

I have been selling cards lately, but there’s something extra nice of getting them to someone who really wants or needs them. My friend now has a nice running start on a set in EX or EXMT condition, and he got to pick from multiples for the card he liked best.

I don’t think almost 10 year old me would have liked parting with those cards, but almost 57 year old me approves.

Author: Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is the former Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.

9 thoughts on “It Was 47 Years Ago Today (Give or Take)”

  1. I’ve been collecting for 45 years, and keeping my collecting undercover for nearly 40 years. At this point, I think that *hiding* my love for baseball cards is almost as much a part of me as is my love for baseball cards. Almost nobody I know “in real life” knows that I have a blog. I’d go into this more, but I think this may be the basis for a new post. 😀

    Lake Grove, New York… Saaaaaaaaaaaalute! I spent many a teenaged hour at the Smith Haven Mall.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I look forward to your post. I think one of the reasons most people “in real life” don’t know I collect is because it’s no fun talking about it to people who aren’t also collectors. That’s where the magic happens.

      Yup, I too spent a lot of hours at that mall.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I purchased the last two series from a card dealer in Fort Lee, NJ. Still remember the thrill of opening the manilla envelope when the cards arrived.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and memories regarding the 1972 set. The ’71’s, 72’s and 75’s are just pure cardboard gold. Finally, I do share my passion for the hobby with other adults. I have found it to be a great conversational piece with other men who typically are familiar with the financial aspect of collecting but not the joy of the card collector journey/expierence. Now, we just need another Phil Regan card-2020?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember thinking as a kid the 7th Series always looked brighter than the earlier cards. Series 6 and 7 alluded my town as a kid. There was a store in the next town that had some. A few kids ended up with some. They were the envy of everyone in the playground. This set took me 40 yrs to complete

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Weird how those high series didn’t even get to high population places. Where I lived in Long Island, you’d think Topps would want to flood the area.


  5. Question from a newbie: someone on a blog somewhere referenced the 72 set as the Magical Mystery Tour set, and 71 as the Let It Be set. Does anyone in the hobby think of them in those terms, or was the blogger just making a (brilliant) observation?

    Liked by 1 person

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