(for Part 2, click here)
And we're back. Picking up, with 1976...
1976 Topps #300
1976 was a down year offensively for bench, hitting only .234 with 16 home runs and 74 rbi in 135 games. He still garnered another All-Star nod and Gold Glove due to his tremendous defensive skills. 1976 would find 7 Reds positional players in the All-Star game followed by their second consecutive World Series title, sweeping the Yankees. Topps would put out one of Bench's best cards. While the card design isn't anything to sing about, the photo is quite great. Looks like Bench just kicked in a saloon door, bringing a cloud of dust with him, after taking out some poor schlub in the middle of the street. Very cool.
1976 Topps #195
Bench was 2nd in rbi in 1975, earning a spot on a leaders card with teammate Tony Perez. Johnny looks upset here.
1976 Topps #461
1976 would grace us with a single card honoring the two League Championship series, and Bench would make an appearance, celebrating a successful inning during their Pirates sweep. Again, nothing terribly thrilling about the '76 design choices.
1977 Topps #70
1977 would find Johnny back on track on offense, hitting .275/31/109 while continuing to be a one-man tsunami behind the plate on defense. He tallied his 10th consecutive All Star bid and his 10th consecutive Gold Glove. Topps put out a design that is pretty much loved nowadays. They abandoned the All Star 'star' in the corner for a bold box across the entire card. For Bench, someone decided to zoom right on in, giving us as close a view of Johnny's mug as anyone has, save Mrs. Bench.
1977 Topps #411/412
Topps gave us an abbreviated World Series subset, cramming all 4 games into two cards. Both would show Bench tearin' up the field during his 8 for 15, 2 home run, 6 rbi MVP performance. No one in the history of baseball was going to beat the '76 Reds in this Series. No one.
1978 Topps #700
Bench would tally his 11th All Star game in 1978, but would end his streak of Gold Gloves at 10 to future-Red's manager Bob Boone of the Phillies. Topps would only grace us with one Johnny Bench card this year, resplendent above a script Reds nameplate and beneath an All Star shield. He seems to be in the on-deck circle, contemplating which side of the ballpark to smash a home run.
1979 Topps #200
Our second straight year with only one Bench Topps card, Johnny would keep his All Star streak alive and well at 12. This is one of my favorite Bench cards, showing our boy showing a little bit of spryness in his 30's. letting that mane waft through the air. Topps would finally decide to tag their cards with their logo. It's kind of strange that they made the All Star and Reds text on the banners larger than the player's name itself. No matter. I enjoy the '79 release.
Alrighty. We'll close it out tomorrow with Part 4. Go Reds.