We pick up the Johnny Bench Topps player collection with 1972.
1972 Topps #433
1972 was the second monster year for Mr. Bench. 40 home runs, 125 rbi, his fifth consecutive All-Star/Gold Glove combo, and his second National League MVP award. Like his previous MVP season, the Reds made the World Series, only to have their hearts broken, this time going down in seven to Oakland. The 1972 Topps design is a favorite among many, and Topps has been paying homage to it recently with their Archives base set and flagship inserts. It's definitely a 70's style with the bright colors and soaring letters. In order to give Bench as much card space as possible, the framer chopped off his left paw, which is a shame. Otherwise, Bench is looking rather regal.
1972 Topps #434
The 1972 release introduced the 'In Action' subset. Action shots were understandably rare. Photo printing was too expensive and the translation onto cardboard obviously left a lot to be desired. But Topps did well with most of these, and I appreciate that they didn't limit the shots to only stars. Luckily, among the scrubs, Bench made it into the group getting ready to chase down a pop foul.
1973 Topps #380
In 1973, Bench came down from his stellar MVP performance the year before, but still had a nice year, gathering yet another All-Star nod and Gold Glove. The Reds would make the playoffs this year, losing to the Mets. This is the first card I posted on this blog, and it's a great one. Topps made many of the regular cards action shots, thanks in part to the popularity of the 'In Action' subset from '72. Bench is about to steamroll the Giants' dugout. Poor bastards.
1973 Topps #62/63
Bench, along with American Leaguer Dick Allen, were the powerhouses of 1972, leading to this remarkably similar pair of leaders cards. Left profile/right profile vs. right profile/left profile. Not a huge difference, but at least Topps was using a unique photo each time, unlike today.
1973 Topps #203/208
Topps would continue with their World Series subset, honoring the A's victory over the Reds. Two of the eight cards would include Bench in the field, first watching an A cross the plate in Game 1 then crossing the plate himself in Game 6. These were cool subsets that eventually went away and have resurfaced as a single card.
1973 Topps #410
This qualifies as an honorable mention. As you can see, this is a Willie McCovey card with an action shot of Willie watching a ball go foul. Ah, but who's that behind the plate? That's our boy Johnny. I usually don't count cards like this as Reds cards, but I'll make an exception for vintage Bench.
1974 Topps #10
1974 would be another solid year for Bench, improving on his home run and rbi totals from '73 (25/104 to 33/129) while getting his batting average back on track with a .280 performance. He lead the league in both rbi and total bases. Oh, and, ho-hum, another All-Star/Gold Glove pair. My '74 card, which has seen better days, show an excellent shot of Bench cranking one into the outfield and getting ready to barrel toward first base. Also, nice sideburns.
1974 Topps #331
Topps brought back the All Star subset, pairing each league's positional starters. Here we have the Hall of Fame pairing of Carlton Fisk and Johnny Bench. These two would gather 25 All-Star nods between them in their careers. Nice.
1975 Topps #260
1975. Another AS/GG. .283/28/110 line for Bench. General awesomeness behind the plate. A standard year for our boy. Oh, and how about a WORLD SERIES VICTORY FOR THE REDS! The Reds first World Series win since 1940 was a seven-game triumph over the Red Sox. This being the World Series year for the Redlegs combined with the uber-70's Topps design makes the Reds cards from 1975 in very high demand. For Bench, Topps returned to the classic catcher's pose and honored the All Stars of the previous year with a big ol' white star in the corner in lieu of a second card. I am in the minority not caring for the '75 design, but it's really hard not to have a soft spot for anything involving the Reds in 1975.
1975 Topps #308
Johnny also made the Leaders subset for his rbi performance in '74. Jeff Burroughs made the most of 1974, winning the American League MVP.
1975 Topps #208/210
Topps tried something new in '75, honoring past MVP's by reprinting their Topps cards from their MVP years. A nice idea, but it lead to some clunky cards. Here we see Johnny from his 1970 and 1972 MVP seasons. This was the closest I had to owning the 1970 Bench for quite a long time.
That'll do nicely for Part 2. See you tomorrow for Part 3. Go Reds.