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Friday, August 15, 2008

1983 Topps Greatest Olympians

This is my favorite Olympics set. Topps put this out in 1983 in anticipation of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. 1983 was the year I got full blown addicted to cards and Topps was my favorite set so I'd get anything with a Topps logo on it. These cards have a pretty good looking design with the yellow border and red name at the bottom and the L.A. Olympics logo and the home flag of the athlete at the corners. The backs have the same red and black colors as the baseball set and feature a newspaper clipping style writeup of the athlete's achievements. It's a 99 card set with no inserts so it will display nicely in 11 plastic sheets. I've only ever seen them in 45-card rack packs, which is where I got these.

I remember getting these at Toys R' Us back in late '83. I think I bought one pack and liked them so much I went back and got a second one. I should have sprung for a third and fourth, because out of the 90 cards I only got half the set and a pile of doubles. It was my own fault though, both times I bought the pack with Muhammad Ali on the top and collation did the rest. The set is absolutely LOADED with legendary athletes like Jesse Owens, Jim Thorpe and Ali. It's also a nice set for boxing fans as it features cards of Floyd Patterson, George Foreman, Joe Frazier and Ali. there hasn't been a mainstream Olympics set in a while, it would be nice if one as good as this one came out. Here's a baker's dozen of cards from the set.

25 Doreen Wilbur

Girls in short skirts = sexy. Girls in short skirts wearing glasses = really sexy. Girls in short skirts wearing glasses and wielding deadly weapons with pinpoint accuracy = Super Sexy. Doreen won the gold for the first Women's Archery competition in the 1972 Munich games with a World record second round score.

80 Klaus DiBiasi

Ok, speaking of sexy... check out this hunk o' man. Don't look at those shorts too long though lest you become hypnotized. This is one of the few non-Americans honored in the set. Klaus was a dominant diver in the 60's and 70's and won three straight Gold Medals for the 10 meter platform dive in the 1968, 1972 and 1976 Olympics. In '76 he faced off with and defeat a 16 year old Greg Louganis, who would go on to dominate the sport himself. But those shorts, man... I just can't stop loo ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOSHORTS

55 Dick Button

Ok, this photo of Dick leaping with the mountain in the background just cracks me up. Dick's a skating legend and won Golds in 1948 and 1952. He's better known today as a skating commentator, but doin't forget that he's the first person to ever pull off a triple jump in competition.

49 Jesse Owens

There's legends and then there's LEGENDS. Winning four gold medals is an amazing achievement for any athlete. But managing to stick it to Hitler at the same time makes it that much more special. Even though he became a symbol of a triumph against racism, he was still treated as a second class citizen at home. Jesse was snubbed by the President after his victory and forced to run exhibition races to make money after his amateur status was stripped.

39 Babe Didrickson

Like I said, this set is loaded. Babe was a pioneer of Women's sports and should be more of a household name than she already is. Babe was good at everything. Basketball All-American, professional baseball player, tennis, roller skating, bowling, she competed in a little of everything. She even won a sewing competition. She was also great in track and field and won two golds at the '32 games in Los Angeles including the javelin as seen on her card. After winning Gold, she then went on to become the most dominating female golfer of all time, and has a tournament named in her honor.

36 Mike Eruzione

Hockey card! You gotta listen to the Theme Song, it's the rule... As everyone knows, Mike captained the team that beat the Russians in 1980 and also scored the winning goal.

18 Sonja Henie

Another pioneer in Women's athletics, Sonja Heine dominated figure skating for a decade. Sonja was a prodigy in the skating world and competed in the 1924 Olympics at age 11. Much like some current gymnasts... After winning three Golds at the Olympics, she parlayed her success into a lucrative film career.

22 Ray Ewry

When Michael Phelps won his 11th Gold medal, he broke Ray Ewry's record. Ray was crippled with polio as a child but exercised to build strength in his legs. This exercise not only allowed him to walk again, but made into the greatest jumper in the world.

35 Bob Seagren

The photo on this card is fantastic, isn't it? Bob won the pole vault in 1968 and probably would have done so again in 1972, had is pole not been banned right before the competition. Like Heine, Bob also tried his hand at acting, and played Billy Crystal's boyfriend on Soap.

94 Wilma Rudolph

Wilma was also crippled by polio as a child but was able to overcome the disease with the support of her family. Once she could walk, she became involved in athletics and a few years later she was running in the 1956 Olympics. She dominated in the 1960 Olympics in Rome, becoming the first woman to win three golds in one Games.

62 Bill Steinkraus

Bill won Gold for equestrian show jumping in 1968. This is another cool looking photo you don't see on cards all that often.

68 Melissa Belote

Melissa won three Gold medals in the backstroke in the 1972 Munich games. As a fifteen year old. Makes that sixteen year old age limit they have now seem silly, eh? Most of the swimming cards I have from this set have one of two types of photos. Either a picture of the athlete gasping for air in mid race, or ones like this where they are caught as they exit the pool. There's a lot of crazy looking swimsuits like this one too.

98 Joe Frazier

Smokin' Joe won Gold in Tokyo fighting with a broken thumb. The boxing legend went on to be Heavyweight Champion, and was only defeated by fellow legends Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in his long career. While he lost two of three in his epic series against Ali, Joe handed Muhammad his first loss in the Fight of the Century.

This was a really really neat set from Topps and I think I'm going to have to try to finish it 25 years later. Here's the checklist, look it over and see just how good a set it really is.


Motherscratcher said...

Here are 2 little known facts about Klaus Dibiasi that I just made up.

1. After a failed attempt at diving, Klaus's brother Ted became something of a wrestler. You may remember him as "The Million Dollar Man". He wasn't an egomaniac like Lee Majors who wouldn't appear for less than $6 million.

2. Klaus successfully sued Greatest American Hero William Katt for breach of hair, forcing William to shave his head. This prompted the premature cancelation of this fantastic show after 3 seasons, much to the chagrin of countless 8 year old boys in Cleveland suburbs.

MMayes said...

Doreen Wilbur -- nice beehive and old lady glasses.

Klaus Dibiasi -- I wonder if the technoshorts distracted young Lougayness

Mike Eruzione -- if I remember right, he's the only 1980 hockey team member to not play in the NHL

Bob Seagren -- after the '72 Olympics he showed that pole vaulters could be good all around athletes with his good showings on ABC's Superstars show (what a great show to watch!!)

Bill Steinkraus -- here's my beef. Bill gets the gold, glory and his name on a card, but it was that horse that did all the jumping......

Sonja Henie -- can you imagine figure skating held outside now?

That checklist shows a great set: Al Oerter, Dan Gable, Dorothy Hamill (man I had a crush on her), John Naber, Dave Wottle, Sheila Young (summer & winter olympics). Wow!

Sal said...

I am doing some research on this set, and am trying to confirm if Topps did or did not make it.

The Topps logo does not appear anywhere on the cards. Nor are the typical letters "TCG" for "Topps Chewing Gum" on the copyright line, like they do on their other cards.

Looking at some rack packs on eBay, not even the packaging has a Topps logo.

I'm not doubting you...but I am wondering how you know that Topps made it. Thanks for your help.

dayf said...

I bought these at Toys 'R Us back in 1983 in a rack pack. I'm pretty sure that Topps's logo was on the pack but it was so long ago there's no telling. I also seem to remember seeing these in a price guide with Topps as the manufacturer, I'll see if I can dig it up. It may be a situation where another company had the license and they contracted out Topps to print them though. The card stock is extremely similar to '83 Topps and no one else really used that back then.

Sal said...

Thanks for your follow up.

The popular consensus is that Topps made these cards. I was confusing this with the M&M's set, which look similar.

Now, two things are boggling my mind about this set:

1. Some cards have the Olympic Rings logo instead of the Los Angeles (stars) logo in the corner, and say Finer Image Inter'L. I might assume that these were the versions of the cards sold overseas...?

2. You show card #69 as a checklist. In my set, card #69 is of French skier Jean-Claude Killy. The logo on the front is the same--the Los Angeles 3-color stars logo--and the copyright line on the back is the same too. However, your checklist card seems to be printed on lighter cardstock of the O-Pee-Chee variety, so maybe it was a different print run for a different outlet / retailer.

Man, I never thought I'd spend this much time obsessing over a freakin' OLYMPICS set...

Anonymous said...

hey i have a bunch pf these types of cards that if you said you want tp collect you can take them off my hands... email me at God_wears_black @ yahoo.com

laserna84 said...

Hi Sal,
There are two similar, but different sets that came out. One with the LAOOC red white and blue stars and one with only black Olympic rings. The black rings were sold at 7-11 in ’83 and the stars were sold in several places in ’84.

The numbers do vary on some cards. For example #69 in the star set is the checklist and Jean-Claude Killy in the black ring set. Cassis Clay is #92 in both sets.

Although they look like Topps I don’t believe they were made by Topps. Finder Image was in Commerce CA and I don’t think they would make cards without some type of credit.

I am working on completing the black ring set and have extra stars to make a second set.

Sal said...

If anyone has extras of Mike Eruzione or Jim Craig cards (either version), I'd be interested.

laserna84 said...

I picked up 1-2 Jim Craig black ring if interested.

laserna84 said...

I am looking for Hostess cards to complete a set.