Thursday, May 31, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 1972

Part 11 of our 50-year dinner in the Diamond Club...
What is it: 1972 Topps #163, Tug McGraw

What makes it interesting: The '72s are another one of my favorites. The art-deco bordering is great. This set is sort of the continuation of a golden era for Topps, running pretty much from '69 through '75. It's also one of the more massive Topps sets, checking in at 787 cards. The Mets team set alone contains 43 cards, although it's important to note that Topps crammed a whole bunch of "In Action" cards of many players (several Mets, including Seaver, Koosman, Harrelson, McGraw, Ken Boswell and Danny Frisella), and other subsets that include "Boyhood Photos of the Stars," featuring childhood photos of players, including Seaver, Harrelson and Jim Fregosi. No one Mets card in this set is especially notable, although the '72 set does have Gil Hodges' final card as Mets Manager. Tug McGraw gets the call here, particularly because he must be represented somewhere on this list, and also because he was in the midst of a Golden Era of his own.

McGraw began his career as a starter, although he was moved to the Bullpen after a few years of him not pitching especially well. This proved to be where he would make his living for the next 15+ seasons, primarily with the Mets and another team in their division. By '69, McGraw had cemented himself as the Mets best reliever, and this continued well into the 1970s, peaking in '71 and '72, when he was selected to his first All Star team. '73,. however, saw him struggle most of the season. But his rallying cry of "YA GOTTA BELIEVE!!!" spurred both himself and his team on to an incredible pennant drive that saw McGraw go 3-0 with a 0.57 ERA and 10 saves in the month of September. The Mets rode the energy generated by McGraw past the Reds in the NLCS and all the way down to the 7th game of the World Series against Oakland before falling a few runs short. McGraw departed the Mets following the '73 season, but his legacy with the Mets continues to live on.

McGraw will always be remembered as perhaps the most colorful personality in Mets history, or at least he's right up there with a select few. In addition to the innumerable quotes he gave during his playing days (a favorite is, of course, his response to being asked whether he preferred natural grass to AstroTurf, "I don't know, I never smoked AstroTurf"), and his staunch dislike of American League Baseball ("Commie Baseball," he called it). But he's most remembered for making all of us Believe. "YA GOTTA BELIEVE!" and its variations seem to have become a mantra for Mets fans throughout their history, whenever the chips have been down.

Card back:

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