Saturday, December 19, 2009

1976 Topps #300 - Johnny Bench

  • This is my favorite card of the set and one of my favorites of all time. Even though he isn't doing anything in the picture, it's one of the best possible cards a catcher can have. Johnny Bench was one of my favorite players in that era.

  • Johnny Bench was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1965 when he was 17 years old. Bench was the valedictorian of his high school in Binger, OK. Here is a December 1977 Baseball Digest article that discusses how the Reds were able to get Bench in the second round. After playing in the minors for three years, Johnny was called up to the Reds at the end of the 1967 season. He batted .163 in 26 games. The Reds were still impressed with Bench and made him their starting catcher in 1968.

  • Bench was the NL Rookie of the Year in 1968. He started a string of Gold Glove awards that would go from 1968-1977. He also made it to the 1968 All Star Game. In his 16 full seasons, Bench would be an All Star 14 times. He batted .275 with 15 HR and 82 RBI in 154 games.

  • Bench was the NL MVP in 1970. He led the NL in home runs (45) and in RBI (148) and batted .293. He didn't hit very well in the postseason (.222 in the NLCS and .211 in the World Series). Baseball Digest February 1970

  • Johnny slumped in 1971. He was a holdout and reported late for spring training. He played in 149 games but he batted .238 with 27 HR and 61 RBI. This article has Mr. Bench discussing what happened in 1971 (Baseball Digest June 1972).

  • Bench bounced back in 1972 to win the NL MVP award for a second time. He led the NL in home runs (40) and RBI (125), walked 100 times, and batted .279. Johnny batted .333 in the NLCS and .250 in the World Series.

  • In 1973 Bench batted .253 with 25 HR and 104 RBI. He batted .263 in 19 at bats in the NLCS. Johnny led the NL in RBI (129) for the third and final time in 1974. He batted .280 and hit 33 home runs and was 4th in MVP voting.

  • The Reds finally won a World Championship in 1975. Bench batted .283 with 28 HR and 110 RBI and was 4th in MVP consideration. Bench batted only .077 in the NLCS and it was the only playoff series in which he didn't hit at least one home run. Johnny batted .177 in the 1975 World Series. Baseball Digest September 1975

  • Johnny had an uncharacteristic year in 1976. He batted a career-low .234, homered 16 times, and had 74 RBI. Bench came alive in the postseason. He batted .333 in the NLCS and then batted .533 with 2 home runs in the 1976 World Series. Bench was named the 1976 World Series MVP.

  • Bench had his last big offensive season in 1977. He batted .275 with 31 HR and 109 RBI. All of those games behind the plate started to wear on Johnny and he asked to be moved to another position. The Reds couldn't accomodate him for a few years since they didn't have anyone to take his place. In 1978 Bench played in only 120 games. He batted .260 with 23 HR and 73 RBI. Bench had a similar year in 1979 (.276, 22 HR, 80 RBI). Baseball Digest August 1979 Johnny was a regular behind the plate for the last time in 1980. He batted .250 with 24 HR and 68 RBI. Baseball Digest December 1980
  • In 1981 Bench was moved to first base. He was batting .343 on May 28 when he was injured and missed most of the rest of the season. Bench didn't return until August 26 and ended up batting .309 in 52 games. The Reds tried Johnny at third base in 1982 but his defense at that position was below league average. He batted .258 with 13 HR and 38 RBI in that season.

  • Johnny's last season was 1983. He was named to the NL All Star team after a two-year absence. Bench batted .255 with 12 HR and 54 RBI. The Reds had a "Johnny Bench Day" on September 17, 1983. Bench went behind the plate and hit a home run (his 389th and final HR) in that game.

Sports Illustrated "Memories are Made of This" October 3, 1983

  • In the early 1980s Bench starred in the Saturday morning TV show "The Baseball Bunch." After his career Bench became a professional bowler for a time and tried to get on the Senior PGA tour but didn't quite make it. He did a lot of broadcasting and does a lot of motivational speaking.

Bench blocks the plate against the San Diego Chicken (toward the end of the clip)


  1. you never see dust around home plate anymore.

  2. This is my all-time favorite baseball card of my all-time favorite player. It was the Holy Grail of cards on Arbor Street. The kid across the street had the card but refused to trade. At one point I actually offered him every double I had from that set. He still said no. What a chump. It took me all year to pull that card out of a pack. The dust floating around almost looks like a mist. I've got a scan of that card up in my office right now. Unbelievably great card, and for me one with a lot of history.