Tuesday, November 8, 2011

1975 Topps Traded Project: The Gold Dust Twins

In 1975 the Boston Red Sox were blessed to have two incredible rookie outfielders arrive to their ball club at the same time. Jim Rice and Fred Lynn (affectionately known as the Gold Dust Twins) deliver two of the most impressive rookie campaigns in baseball history. They appeared on two different "shared" rookie cards (Rice here and Lynn here) in the 1975 Topps set. For this submission to the project, I created two cards for each player, one using a posed image and the other with an in-action image.

Jim Rice grew up in Anderson, South Carolina. A decorated three-sport athlete, he was drafted directly out of high school in the first round (15th overall pick) in the 1971 draft. He played himself into a highly prized prospect during his four years in the Red Sox minor league system, making his big league debut late in the 1974 season.

In 1975 he was in the majors to stay. Tony Conigliaro was attempting his final comeback and was the opening day designated hitter. TonyC's season fizzled quickly, and Rice had the DH job to himself within a few weeks. By July, he took over left field and held it the rest of the season. Jim hit .309 with 22 home runs and 102 RBIs. The Red Sox won the East Division, but Rice did not play in either the League Championship Series or World Series because of a wrist injury sustained during the last week of the regular season when he was hit by a pitch.

Jim Rice spent his entire 16-year big league career in Boston, continuing the legacy of renowned Red Sox left fielders that included Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski. One of the most feared right-handed hitters of his era, Rice clubbed at least 20 homers in 11 of his first 12 full seasons and led the American League in total bases four times, homers three times and RBI and slugging percentage twice each. The powerfully built eight-time All-Star amassed 2,452 hits, a .298 batting average, 382 home runs and 1,451 RBIs. Rice was the AL Most Valuable Player in 1978, when he collected 406 total bases -- the most in the AL in more than 40 years. He was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009, his last year of eligibility.

Fred Lynn was born in Chicago, but his family moved to Southern California when he was an infant. A great natural athlete, he was drafted out of high school by the New York Yankees in the third round of the 1970 baseball draft. He decided not to sign, and entered the University of Southern California on a football scholarship. Playing with future NFL star Lynn Swann he left the football team after one season to focus on baseball. Lynn played for the USC baseball team enjoying three years of amazing success. His teams went 54-13 in 1971, 50-13 in 1972 and 51-13 in 1973. They won the College World Series each season. He was an All-American in 1972 and 1973 and elected into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.

He grew up a Giants fan, but Lynn anticipated the hometown Dodgers would select him with their first pick in the 1973 amateur draft. Instead the Dodgers drafted a catcher named Ted Farr (he played 5 seasons in the minors, never making it the the majors). They were hoping Lynn would still be available in the second round. The Red Sox picked one slot ahead of the Dodgers that year and drafted him in the second round (28th pick overall).

By 1975 he had played his way into the majors as Boston's center fielder. As good as Rice was his rookie season -- Lynn was even better. He ended up hitting .331 with 47 doubles, 21 home runs, 103 runs, and 105 RBIs. He became the first player to win the American League MVP and Rookie of the Year. He also brought home a Gold Glove for fielding excellence. He led the league in runs, doubles, slugging average, OPS and runs created per 27 outs. He finished second in runs created and in batting average and fifth in on-base average.

In the 1975 World Series, Lynn played in all seven games, batting .280 with a double and home run, and five runs batted in, tying for most on the team. The most memorable moment for him came on defense in the magical sixth game. In the top of the fifth inning, Lynn crashed into Fenway Park's then-unpadded wall in left center chasing a triple hit by Ken Griffey. Fenway was silent, but Lynn remained in the game. After the season, the Red Sox padded their outfield walls.

Although he didn't maintain the same level of performance after his magical rookie season, Lynn was still an excellent major leaguer. He won three more Gold Gloves and finished 4th in the 1979 MVP voting. He was traded by the Red Sox after the 1980 season to the California Angels, where he continued to shine. He was named the MVP of the 1982 ALCS (despite being on the losing team) and continued to make All Star teams. The highlight of his post-Boston career happened during the 1983 All Star game when he hit the only grand slam in All-Star history in Chicago's Comiskey Park. He was named the game MVP, marking the ninth and final time he was elected to the team. His four home runs in All-Star games is second only to Stan Musial.

After forgettable stops in Baltimore, Detroit, and San Diego -- Lynn retired after the 1990 season. His 306 career home runs place him behind only Willie Mays, Ken Griffey, Jr., Mickey Mantle, Duke Snider, Dale Murphy, Joe DiMaggio, Jim Edmonds, and Andruw Jones among regular major league center fielders. In his two eligible season, he never received more than 6% of the votes needed to enter the Hall of Fame.


Johngy said...

Like the second Rice and the first Lynn cards the best (although all are pretty nice).
Great piece.

Fleerfan said...

Great job on the cards. The portraits are more typical of look of the 1975 set, but the action shots look great with those '75 borders!

MadMaxx said...

Lynn was my all time favorate player, and these cards absolutely rock!

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