(for Part 2, click here)
(for Part 3, click here)
Today we finish our journey through the Johnny Bench Topps player collection. We pick up at 1980...
1980 Topps #100
Bench would play in the fewest games of his career, 114, since coming into the majors in 1967. He would still knock in 24 homers and grab his 13th straight All Star berth. The 1980 Topps issue wouldn't contain any recognition of All Stars, which is a shame. The design this year is pretty solid, though, and this card of Johnny is top notch. The framing of Bench is in contrast with the direction of the banners, giving a greater appearance of action, for which an aging Bench would be thankful.
1981 Topps #600
Riddled with injuries in 1981, Bench would only see action in 52 games, thus ending his 13 year All Star streak. So this would be the last Topps card with that designation for a while, thanks to his 1980 appearance. Topps went back to a zoomed face shot of Bench, which is a bit awkward and not helping the dull design of 1981.
1981 Topps #201
Saving the lackluster regular card of '81 was this nice record breaker issue. Here we have Bench putting his entire body into thumping one of his 389 career home runs. He broke Yogi Berra's record in 1980, and this record has since been surpassed by Mike Piazza. The goofy purple hat is the only thing hampering this card.
1982 Topps #400
Ah the Topps Hockey Stick design. Overrated in its underratedness. Bench would be back behind the plate for 119 games in 1982, but wouldn't be nearly the offensive contributor of days past. We have yet another close up of Johnny's punim. I wish there were more of Bench wearing his armor. Luckily, some modern releases are filling that void.
1982 Topps #401
Topps brought back the 'In Action' subset this year. 'Action' is a bit generous for this photo. Johnny was still intimidating at the plate, though not as much.
1983 Topps #60
In Bench's last year in the majors, he was moved primarily to 3rd base, which is still odd to see on his card. In 110 games he was still good for a .255/12/54 line as a farewell. He also would earn a 14th All Star bid, as a symbol of respect for the best career for a catcher in the history of baseball. And we have a superb farewell card from Topps. The '83 design is a favorite, and while we still have a face close-up, it's relegated to the south of the card, beneath Johnny about to put up yet another stat-padding homer.
1983 Topps #61
Topps introduced a 35 card 'Super Veteran' subset, honoring the old folks. While I understand that doing this every year would be foolish, I wouldn't mind seeing this notion again. Good lookin' juxtaposition.
1984 Topps #6
With three future Hall of Famers retiring in 1983, Topps decided to give us one extra card to honor their careers. While a nice notion, Johnny is the only one of the three who doesn't look on the verge of a heart attack. Still nice to have another Bench, though. Johnny Bench and Carl Yastrzemski would both get in on their first ballot in 1989 and Gaylord Perry would follow closely behind in 1991.
Well there ya go. I'm quite pleased that I have the entire collection of one of the Reds' Mount Rushmore players. Perhaps next I'll have to work on Pete Rose, though I'd have to both live in, be fed by, and drive the '63 Rose to justify the cost.