Thursday, June 28, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 1978

Part 17 of our 50 year wait for the late game on the West Coast...

What is it: 1978 Topps #621, Craig Swan

What makes it interesting: From an aesthetic standpoint, not much. The '78s are pretty bland as Topps' cards go, and in many cases, the photographic composition isn't especially good either. It's also rather odd in that many cards, mostly of non-noteworthy players, were double printed due to the number of cards in the set and the number of cards on the printing sheets, so some of the cards in this set are especially plentiful.

Craig Swan, in a similar mold to John Stearns, was a fine performer on a number of really lousy Mets teams. After weaving his way in and out of the Majors for a few seasons, Swan stuck around for good in 1976 and was a mainstay in the Mets rotation for several seasons. Though he was never a big winner (a byproduct of pitching on bad teams), he always competed and his numbers generally reflected that. He peaked when the Mets were more or less at their worst, in 1978 and 1979. '78, in particular, was a signature season for Swan. Although he could muster no better than a 9-6 record, he posted a 1.67 ERA pitching at Shea Stadium and his 2.43 ERA led the National League. He posted a team leading 14 wins in '79, impressive considering the Mets won only 63 games that year. After signing what was, at the time, the richest contract the Mets ever gave to a pitcher (a show of faith from the new owners), Swan started off 1980 just as well. But, unfortunately, injuries struck Swan, just as they struck Stearns. A torn rotator cuff short-circuited his season. A freak rib injury derailed him in 1981, when he was hit by a throw from Ron Hodges attempting to throw out a basestealer. Though he would have a good rebound season in 1982, arm problems would dog him in 1983 and by 1984, he was relegated to a bullpen role, and, eventually, released on May 9th, just as the youthful Mets of the era were beginning to rise to prominence.

Swan's career is mostly overlooked. He received no mention during the Mets Top-50 countdown, though he certainly proved himself worthy of consideration. Generally, he's remembered as a good, heady pitcher who won on guts and guile as opposed to eye-popping stuff. Swan also boasts what is probably the most unique post-baseball career, as he is currently a leading practitioner of Rolfing, a rather excruciating technique of muscle manipulation.

Card back:

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