As mentioned yesterday, I picked up the tough 1970 Topps Johnny Bench, thus completing his Topps base collection. Starting with the 1968 rookie card and ending with a 1984 tribute card, Bench was with the Redlegs the entire time, playing 2158 games with 389 home runs and 1376 rbi. He was a Rookie of the Year, a National League MVP twice, a 14-time All Star, a World Series MVP, an 8-time Gold Glove, and perhaps the best catcher of all time. Let's journey through his immortal cardboard, one crease, dent, and rounded corner at a time.
1968 Topps #247
1968 was Johnny's first full year behind the plate. He garnered Rookie of the Year honors as well as his first All Star nod and Gold Glove. A 20-year-old Bench was showing signs of greatness. I suppose it's nice that by the late 60's Topps had long abandoned the four rookies per card motif, settling on only two per. Any Ron Tompkins super collectors might find this one a tough add. The '68 design is a favorite, though I could use a team logo instead of just a big, blue circle with 'Reds' in block letters. Mine has seen better days. But a pristine Johnny Bench card just wouldn't feel right.
1969 Topps #95
Johnny earned the famous Topps All Star Rookie Cup. Quite easily, no doubt. Bench gathered his second All Star appearance and his second Gold Glove. Only 21 years old, he was finally learning how to hit home runs, his total went up from 15 in 1968 to 26 in 1969. Though I wish mine was centered, I got it from someone who sent it in to be graded and it came back with the dreaded '1' despite no creases and good corners. He couldn't get rid of it quickly enough. I couldn't relieve it of its case quickly enough. That ugly blue circle is back, adding an unwanted splotch to an otherwise classic photo of Bench in his stance.
1969 Topps #430
Topps gave Bench a second card this year in their Sporting New All Star subset. It's rare to see a mix of color photography and black & white, but it works nicely here. The National League would certainly get used to seeing Johnny Bench behind the plate at the All Star game over the next decade.
1970 Topps #660
1970 Topps #464
Topps would again have a Sporting News All Star subset. The previous year, the players seemed to be in front of a newspaper. This year, they were bursting through. Quirky little subset. I don't think it would have been a good running theme, but it was a nice one-time design.
1971 Topps #250
1971 was an off year for Bench, but he still nabbed both his fourth consecutive All Star berth and his fourth consecutive Gold Glove. This was the first card of substance I ever owned, so it hold a special place in my heart. Topps hadn't tried a black border design before. It looked very cool, however the card stock wasn't that great, so it tended to magnify damage. No bother for me though. I will always love this set.
1971 Topps #64/66
We can see who the cream of the National League was in 1970, with Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, and Billy Williams leading the league in the power categories. There is surprisingly little demand for these leader cards even though they typically feature multiple Hall of Famers. These are no exception as all three would go on to Cooperstown.
1971 Topps #327/328
Topps would also memorialize the 1970 World Series with a 6 card subset. While neither are really a Bench card, we have a couple rare action shots of Johnny behind the plate, so they deserve a little love. You may notice, all of my 1971's could use some upgrading. But I don't see that happening.
Great start. I'd say Johnny deserves more than a single post as we still have miles to go. I'll be back tomorrow, picking up with 1972. Go Reds.