1. Baltimore Orioles
My #1 choice for all time. The O's are my local favorite. I remember watching their World Series in '83, and with much less excitement in '79. Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, Ken Singleton, Scott McGregor, Rick Dempsey, and Al Bumbry were among the most familiar players I've ever known.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have one of the best winning traditions, and continued it in '81 with another championship. Garvey, Cey, Russell, Lopes, (you're welcome), Sutton, Hooton, Baker, Yeager, Reuss, Pedro G, and the emergence of Fernandomania kept the Dodgers in the spotlight for a while in the 80's.
3. St. Louis Cardinals
I kinda remember the Cards under Whitey Herzog winning the '82 World Series. Ozzie & Lonnie Smith, Willie McGee, Bruce Sutter, Bob Forsch, George Hendrick, Keith Hernandez, Garry Templeton. The team was loaded with productive stars. And they also have a long dignified history. Not to mention this was the peak of the powder blue uniforms.
Orioles, Dodgers and Cardinals were my three favorite teams. The rest of the list was only worked out to arrange cards in teams, and had as much to do with the aesthetics of the cards as it did with the players portrayed on them.
4. Boston Red Sox
These are the Red Sox of Yaz, Jim Rice, Dewey Evans, Mike Torrez, and formerly Cecil Cooper and Luis Tiant. They are not the fratboy Yankee wannabes of today. After the gang broke the drought in 2004, I'm done with them and they'd be a lot lower. Still not the Yankees, but almost as obnoxious. But in the 80's I liked them a lot, even though they rivaled the O's in the division.
5. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies had a lot of success in the 80's. The battle with the Royals in the '80 World Series is one of the more significant ones in my fandom's formative years. Schmidt, Rose, Perez, Carlton...It seemed like the HOF'ers were migrating to this team. And there was Bowa, Maddux, Bake, Boone, Matthews, and Trillo. This was also the time where they wore their version of the powder blue unis.
6. California Angels
Had a buddy named Mike who was a big fan of the Angels, especially Nolan Ryan. Didn't see them play much, but they had a bunch of the old veteran stars - Reggie, Carew, Lynn, Baylor. And they had the prettiest cards. Their scarlet uniforms looked the best against the grass and sky, and more so when the design added the right colors. Look at these:
Aren't they nice. Colors just pop!
7. New York Yankees
Now I hated the team itself. All they did during the Steinbrenner era was buy champion- ships. All the really hyped superstars inevitably ended up on the Yankees. But for some reason, I couldn't put them in the lower echelons of the rankings. They won too much. It was sickening, but they didn't belong with the losing teams. And I guess I liked Tiant, Randolph, Guidry, Piniella, and a few more of my player guys who had stops there.
8. Cincinnati Reds
The Big Red Machine. Their exploits weren't so far in the past in the 80's, and most of those guys were still around. At least until they moved to the Phillies. Loved Foster, Bench, Seaver, etc. so they had my respect. And they were still contenders for the most part.
9. Chicago Cubs
The Cubs at this time were Dave Kingman, Bruce Sutter, Willie Hernandez, Bill Buckner, and Barry Foote. It was before Ryno arrived, so they were fairly decent, but not a perennial contender yet. Nowhere near what they are today. They were the traditional Loveable Losers. So you liked them but didn't expect a whole lot. Good tradition, but it isn't a winning one.
10. Montreal Expos
The Expos (and Blue Jays) were the oddball Canadian teams. Until Pete Rose led the star migration there, they were basically novelty teams, not contenders. Took me years to figure out the logo wasn't "elb" but a stylized "M". Figured it was french for something.
11. San Francisco Giants
I really like the old New York Giants. The west coast version....meh. They had a couple stars along the way ~ Morgan, Vida Blue, etc. but were more a middle of the pack team to me. I like the uni that The Count is sporting here. They got some weird color combos on their cards sometimes, though. Not sure how they ended up this high.
12. Chicago White Sox
I thought the '83 unis were really cool. Numbers on the pants? Big graphic logo across the chest that wasn't the default script? Hell yeah! Beats the hell out of the 1800's tunics with the shorts, that's for sure. And they had Fisk, Sparky Lyle, Luzinski, and Harold Baines.
13. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Buccos beat the heck out of my Orioles in '79, so they got sent low in the rankings. If they hadn't done that, I'd have kept them higher. Sanguillen, Parker, Stargell, Madlock, Moreno, Teke, were all cool until that Fall Classic. Then they lost points. I root for them a lot more now.
14. Kansas City Royals
KC was the villain team to the Phiilies during the early 80's. Brett was the guy, and Wilson, McRae, Otis, and Leonard supported him. The Pine Tar incident (and Brett's reaction) was priceless. Visually, they were middle of the pack. Occasionally, the blue uni would stand out in a photo or two.
15. Oakland Athletics
Rickey was the man. The 70's were good to the A's. They faded a little in the 80's. Joe Rudi, Sal Bando, and Tony Armas were the biggest names. Mike Norris and Mitchell Page were familiar faces on their cards. Didn't see them play much being on the left coast.
16. Houston Astros
It's all about the rainbow uni. And Nolan Ryan. Add in a couple guys like Enos Cabell, Juaquin Andujar, and Cesar Cedeno. They made the playoffs, but didn't win much otherwise. The unis were awesome though. And the Astroturf.....or not.
17. Texas Rangers
Now we're into the lower half of the scale. These teams didn't impress me much. Rangers were OK with the white unis, but the blue ones were really plain. They had who? Buddy Bell, Charlie Hough, Al Oliver, Fergie Jenkins a little while? Kinda vanilla. Didn't loathe them, so they stayed ahead of some teams.
18. Atlanta Braves
Before there was TBS, and we all got to know about the Braves, they were a generic team with plain blue uniforms who had Dale Murphy, Bob Horner, Phil Niekro, and Jerry Royster. If they'd still played in these, I'd put them higher:
19. Milwaukee Brewers
Alliteration matched the Brewers to the Braves in my list. Regular blue uniforms, now fondly remembered for being in the AL. Gorman Thomas, Cecil Cooper, Ben Ogilvie, Sixto Lezcano, Yount, Molitor, Larry Hisle. I liked those guys, but didn't get behind the team so much. Later, Harvey's Wallbangers picked up their popularity.
20. New York Mets
They're from New York. Their unis are blue. And they don't win much. Doc & Darryl picked up their prospects for success later, but until then, I wasn't interested. Kranepool, Apodaca, Stearns. Not exactly exciting star power.
21. Cleveland Indians
Supposedly, the Indians were really good in previous decades. Didn't ever see them do anything. Now and then they'd have a nice card, but not very often. Put them down near the Braves....
22. Detroit Tigers
Tigers had some guys that were consistent for a while. Trammell, Gibson, Whitaker, LeFlore, Parrish, plus Morris and Fidrych. But they were like, the brown team. Brown is plain. I didn't know my friends in Michigan yet. Check with me again after Sparky Anderson comes in....
23. Seattle Mariners
One of several expansion teams I saw come into the league. They kept playing like an expansion team for a while too. The unis didn't live up to their potential. Eww. To this day, they're one of the few teams that it seems no one collects. At least no one that wants all the hundreds of Mariners commons I have in my tradeables boxes.
24. San Diego Padres
We look back at the Brown and Yellow fondly today, but not back then. Ugly unis on a bad team. Even with Rollie and Winfield and Ozzie Smith. Nothin'. Guhhh.
25. Toronto Blue Jays
Expansion team that lives in Canada. Rico Carty, Dave Stieb, and Jim Clancy. Wooo. And that funky number font. Hmmm....No thanks. I don't like them now because they're pesky good and a division rival.
26. Minnesota Twins
No offense Minnesota, but the Twins were the most useless team I knew back then. Hrbek was the only star name I could ever think of. Took me a while to figure out what the heck the C was for. A .500 team at best all decade. No Oliva, No Carew, and nobody good. It's the basement for you.
I think I'll leave the present day rankings for another post.