Friday, May 4, 2012

1980 TOPPS WILLIE WILSON

FIRST BASE WAS USUALLY A TEMPORARY STOP
 WHEN WILLIE REACHED.
YOU WOULD'VE THOUGHT HIS 83 STEALS IN '79
WOULD MERIT MENTION.

THE FRONT PAGE

  • Every time I think "Willie Wilson, 1980,'' I think about him flailing and failing in the World Series, where he set the all-time record for strikeouts with 12 in six games and hit only .154. The Phillies' Ryan Howard got him off the hook and out of the books with 13 in the '09 Series. Wilson's Series performance overshadowed one terrific regular season.

THE BACK PAGE

  • The '79 season was Wilson's coming-out party. The leadoff hitter definitely excelled on the base paths that year, swiping 83 bases and being caught only 12 times.
  • The inside-the-park-HR bullet-point is appropriate; he hit the most inside-the-parkers (13) since 1950. 
  • Not listing yearly steals bugs me to no end.

PHOTO PLAY

  • I think this photo is from '77; that's the year Wilson wore No. 32. He began wearing his more famous 6 the next year.

EXTRA, EXTRA

  • Wilson was a flyer who always had the green light. He followed his 83-steal season with 79 in '80, when he led the league in plate appearances (745), at-bats (705), runs (133), hits (230) and triples (15). 
  • He was seventh in hitting (.326) in '80, fourth in MVP voting and won a Gold Glove in center and the Silver Slugger. And all I can remember are his Series strikeouts, especially the last one against Tug McGraw that clinched the Phillies' win? I should be ashamed of myself. 
  • As the six-game whiff-fest proved, he wasn't patient, never walking more than 39 times a season during his 19-year career. Consequently, his lifetime on-base percentage was only .326.
  • Wilson's next best season occurred in '82, when he won his only batting crown with a .332 average. He became the first AL switch-hitter to do that since Mickey Mantle in '56.
  • It all began going downhill the following season. He was involved in a drug scandal with teammates Willie Aikens, Vida Blue and Jerry Martin, all of whom pleaded guilty to attempting to buy cocaine.
  • They became the first active players to serve time in jail, going to the Big House for 81 days. Looking at it another way, it was a day for every strikeout Wilson had in '80.
  • Wilson got the chance to erase his World Series failures in '85 by hitting .367 in the win over the Cardinals. 
  • With the A's in '92, he tied Lou Brock's record for steals in one postseason with seven against the Blue Jays in the ALCS.
  • Wilson, who left the Royals after the '90 season, was elected to the team's Hall of Fame in 2000. 

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