A few weeks ago we featured a posting on how the Stolen Base column was added as a statistical category to 1971 Topps. I believe that the impetus for the update was the base stealing ability of Lou Brock.
Two years later Brock would once again be a cardboard pioneer.
Topps first produced league leader cards for their 1961 Set. There were five categories Batting (Average), Home Runs, ERA, Pitching (Wins), and Strikeouts. The RBI category was added in 1964. Those six categories made up the League Leader subset for close to a decade. In 1973 Topps updated the subset by adding two new statistical categories: Fireman (Combined Saves and Relief Wins) for pitchers and Stolen Bases for position players.
The stolen base king of the era remained Lou Brock. Appropriately, he and Bert Campaneris had the honor of being on the first Stolen Bases League Leaders card. The way we look at modern stats may have diminished Lou Brock’s Hall of Fame credentials, but it is notable that he was a stolen base trailblazer in not one but two editions of Topps cards.
We documented a few of Lou Brock’s base stealing accomplishments in the previous posting which can be found here. Bert Campaneris put together pretty dominant base stealing numbers of his own. The 1973 League Leaders Card honors his last of six AL stolen base crowns. Those six seasons were part of a 14 year run in which Campy stole at least 20 bases. His 649 career thefts still ranks 14th in MLB history.
The depiction of both league leaders on a single card was also new in 1973. Previous League Leader cards were typically comprised of the top three players (sometimes two, or four) for each category and Topps had one card for each league. The switch in 1973 was likely due to the addition of the 2 new categories. Had Topps remained with a card per category for each league that subset would have ballooned to 16 cards. The eight League Leader cards in 1973 is more in line with the original 10 card subset that was produced in 1961.
The back of the cards feature the top 10 finishers in the category for each league. Always some fun names on these lists. It’s a shame about Dave Nelson, as the change over from three player leader cards to winner-only bumped him out of his chance to get on a league leader card. Freddie Patek eventually made it onto an LL card in 1978.
It is a bit of an oddity that Topps produced League Leader cards for Stolen Bases starting in 1974 but the SB column did not permanently make it onto card backs until 1981. The impetus would be a combination of competition for new card makers (Fleer & Donruss) and new base stealing legend, Rickey Henderson.
Sources and links
SABR Bio Lou Brock by Dave Williams
SABR Bio Bert Campaneris by Rich Schabowski