The crew over at Wax Pack Gods has put together a couple of postings recently discussing the statistics that are displayed on the back of cards. The first was on saves and the latter on OPS.
This reminded me of a similar column that I wanted to post regarding the Stolen Base and St Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Lou Brock.
When Lou Brock’s Rookie Card came out in 1962 it listed his offensive statistics for nine categories.
For the most part this was the case on all of Brock’s cards issued during the 1960s. The exceptions are 1967 and 1968 when the back of Topps cards were vertical in format rather than Horizontal. During those two years due to reduced width Left to Right seven categories were listed. The stats that got axed were Games Played and Runs Scored.
Then came the new decade and 1971 Topps.
1971 Topps #625 Lou Brock
The much loved set is not only noteworthy for their distinct black borders, there are significant changes on the back as well.
Most prominently the reverse features a black and white head shot. While a great idea, Topps would not return to it until after being pushed by Upper Deck and their stunning 1989 debut.
The other back of the card changes are in the stat columns. 1971 featured two new columns: Total Bases (TB) and Stolen Bases (SB). Since 1953 one could have calculated Total Bases, but the Stolen Base column is new information as far as Topps Card Backs are concerned.
To me no single player is more responsible for the Topps change than Lou Brock. Going into the 1971 season Brock had stolen 50+ bases six consecutive times, he would extend his streak to 12 seasons before settling for 35 thefts in 1977.
Alas, the new Stat columns for 1971 only remained on card for a cup of coffee. The TB remains banished today while the SB column disappeared until after Brock’s career was over. In 1981 the SB returned likely because of competition from Donruss and Fleer plus the influence of another fleet-footed Hall of Famer.
Regardless I believe that Lou Brock was a major factor in the column getting added in 1971 and influenced later Topps decisions regarding the Stolen Base stat…. That is a teaser for a future posting.
Technically if one looks at a set in numerical order the first Topps Card to feature the SB column is 1971T #3 Dick McAuliffe (Card #1 Went to the World Champion Orioles followed by a pitcher card, Dock Ellis at #2). Lou Brock at #625 doesn’t appear until the 5th series in 1971 Topps. McAuliffe finished his career with 63 steals.
Monte Irvin’s steal of Home in the 1951 World Series is the first time a stolen base is refenced on a Topps card (#26). One card later #27 Sam Jethroe is the first card to mention a season Stolen Base Total: As a rookie in 1950 led both league in 1950 with 35 steals. (To see the back of any of the cards in the above hyperlinks click on the card and it flips over)
There is one other player that I think deserves SB recogntion similar to Brock and that is Bert Campanaris, who had a string of six consecutive 40+ Stolen Base Seasons going into 1971. However, we will save Campy for a future posting….(another teaser)