Saturday, January 14, 2012
Hostess baseball cards in 1976 fit in with good times, bicentennial
The Hostess sets printed on the bottoms of snack boxes between 1975 and 1979 looked pretty similar, with the white borders and simple listing of a player's name, team and position.
Except, of course, for the 1976 issue.
The cards have bold red, white and blue bars across the bottom – making sure they'd blend in perfectly with everything else during that magical bicentennial year.
The patriotism that flowed in the wake of the 2001 terrorism attacks is the only other time I remember seeing so much red, white and blue. That was for healing. But in 1976, it was for celebrating.
It was a good time, even for Mets fans. Slipped in between Watergate and the Carter malaise, people were upbeat, thinking boldly.
Hawthorn elementary school did the unthinkable, conducting a massive carnival to raise enough money to send the entire fifth and sixth grades to Philadelphia for a day, a spot that was easily considered Bicentennial Central.
This was an adventure of the highest order – the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and Ben Franklin's privy, which was cooler when we learned what it was. Remember, we were 12.
Nothing was missed. Even our school photos that year had a Spirit of '76 flag in the background.
The Mets did not suck. The team finished in third place, but with 86 wins, which was the franchise's second-highest total for a long time.
Dave Kingman bashed 37 home runs, steady Eddie Kranepool hit .292, Jerry Koosman had his big 21-win season and Jon Matlack had 17 wins.
Kingman started in the All-Star Game, played in Philadelphia, of course. The National League won, also of course.
As for the Hostess set, I count seven Mets among the 150 cards: Kingman, Seaver, Bud Harrelson, Jerry Grote, Matlack, Felix Millan, and Mike Vail, who is a short-print.
Vail's presence is notable, as he was the rookie whose brief success in 1975 led to Rusty Staub's unfortunate exodus to Detroit.
I only recently acquired the Seaver,and the photo looks like it was used on some Topps leader cards. I also have the Kingman and Grote.
The rest remain elusive.
We had no idea of the horrors that awaited in 1977, but 1976 was a good time for all.