In the second half of the 1970s, there was another major baseball card set distributed nationally available to collectors. These were the Hostess Baseball Cards, which were issued in both individual size and in three-panel formats if you bought a box of Ding Dongs or Twinkies. These were officially licensed, too, so you had the full logos and no airbrushed caps. There were good selections of players in these sets, produced from 1975-1979.

By the time these came out, it was well known that the Post cereal cards from the 1960s were more valuable if you had the entire panel, rather than cutting them out along the dotted lines. Still, the panels came with those same cut lines if you just simply had to have them at a normal card size.

My collection includes a bunch of panels from the initial set, yet fewer as the decade grew on. Not sure why this is. Maybe they were traded for other cards. Or maybe Hostess products got more expensive and mom started buying No Frills stuff, instead. And that was ultimately the issue with collecting these Hostess cards – if you were a child of the 70s, you had to depend on mom to buy these for you. Kids would go to the store and buy packs of cards. But generally we didn’t go to Shop Rite, Pathmark or the A & P and buy a whole box of Suzy Qs to get three baseball cards.

I can remember going to Mary’s department store, the only place in town that sold rack packs. And even though it was a cramped little store, and even though those rack packs were right by the register, I would look through them all to see the cards that were on the top and the bottom, looking for Mets cards or cards that were needed to complete my set.

But did mom do that with these Hostess cards? No, she just grabbed whatever box was most convenient. Which means there was a shocking lack of Mets cards in my collection. No doubt other kids’ moms were going through those boxes, looking for the Tom Seaver ones. At least that’s what I tell myself now, when noticing the almost complete lack of Mets Hostess cards in my collection.

That’s what makes the panel with Lenny Randle stand out.

The Mets got Randle because he got into a fight with his manager. Not just a shouting match, a case where Randle actually punched his manager in the face. It was a story, a big story in fact, at the time. But to my recollection, there was no outrage that they traded for a violent guy. If that happened today, Randle would likely have to go on a major PR blitz to rehabilitate his image, perhaps even to get a chance to play again.

Back then, all he had to do was play. And he ended up one of the few bright spots on that 1977 Mets team, as he hit .304 in an era when being a .300 hitter meant just about everything. That big year led to his inclusion in the 1978 Hostess set, alongside better known 70s stars Frank Tanana and Oscar Gamble.

Being included in the Hostess set didn’t spur Randle on to greater heights. He hit just .233 that season and the Mets released him during Spring Training the following year. Randle went on to play four more years in the majors and had another signature moment in his career, this time with the Mariners. Randle got down on all fours and successfully blew a slow-hit ball foul. Hey, it’s better than being known for punching out your manager.

And on that same note, my mom shouldn’t be known only for her failure to search for Seaver cards on Hostess boxes, either. In the winter of ‘73-’74, she took me and my brother Gary to a card show in Manhattan that was absolutely mobbed with people. And she didn’t balk as we spent all the money we – well, mostly Gary – had buying every Hank Aaron card we could find, including his ‘54 rookie.

I had a lot of fun that day and still think about that trip fairly often. And as an adult and parent, I got to thank mom for doing it. She didn’t think it was anything all that special – but it was. I’m sure she’d rather be remembered for taking me to the Grand Canyon or to Mount Rushmore. And those places were important to see, in their own little way.

But they couldn’t hold a candle to going to a baseball card show. Thanks mom – I miss you.

20 comments on “Mets COTW: 1978 Hostess Lenny Randle

  • JimO

    Brian – enjoyed the article. Hostess cards were great. Drake cards too.

    The best part of these was that you could see the cards you were getting. So you didn’t have to pick up a box without a Met.

    • Brian Joura

      Thanks Jim!

      I have a bunch of Drake cards from 81, I think. Did they put out cards any other year?

  • Rich

    I remember that he was the one bright spot on that 77´ team. He was a hustler and a scrapper.

  • Bob P

    Brian, you brought back some great memories. I remember the Hostess cards and I know that I always cut them apart. I also spent a lot of time at that same Mary’s store going through the rack packs looking for Mets or cards I needed to complete my sets.

    If I remember right Randle became a big star in the Italian league after he finished his MLB career.

    • Brian Joura

      Glad to know I wasn’t the only one to do it at Mary’s! Maybe that’s why they never made me stop.

      As for Randle – I’m sure Chris F. knows – he’s our resident Randle fan. FWIW, Randle has a Facebook account that – at least at one point – he was fairly active at.

  • Rob

    Great article. I would try to get my parents to by anything with a baseball card. Purina, kellogs and kahns.

    • Brian Joura

      What were the Purina cards? I’m drawing a blank

      • Rob

        Nothing special just hard cardboard cards of players in a bag of dog food.

  • José

    “According to PSACollector.com, the most valuable Aaron card is his Topps rookie card from 1954. Its price? $26,976. It’s the only officially recognized rookie card of Aaron’s in existence.”

    • Brian Joura

      If only – mine isn’t graded and if it was, it would probably be either a 3 or 4. Still nice to have, though.

  • José

    Many years ago, I found a Topps Ozzie Smith card encased in plastic in a box in my home. I had no idea where it came from, because I never collected cards. But I kept it nonetheless.

    A few years back I came across it while sorting through some stuff, and again puzzled over it. Looking at the back, it suddenly occurred to me that it was his rookie card.

    I googled the card, and my heart skipped a beat when I saw its estimated worth was $30K!

    Turns out that most of Ozzie’s Topps rookie cards were off-center, so the $30K price tag was for a non-off-center pristine card. My card is worth about 0.1% of that.

    I still like the card and plan to keep it

  • Chris F

    Brian, You had me at “Lenny Randle”

    http://mets360.com/?p=40238

    12 months ago if you asked me whether Lenny Randle would be in a Mets 360 article title twice in 2020, I would have taken the under and put 100 buck-a-roos on it!

  • Jamie Horvath

    Anyone remember Big Yaz bread?? It was marketed to kids as white bread that would improve your fitness – lol!! No card included; just a picture of Yaz on the wrapper… Even though I was a total Mets fan, I still liked the bread & was convinced that it was tastier than any other bread that you could buy!

  • Remember1969

    Wow . I have no recollection of those Hostess or Drake cards. I pretty much stuck with Topps back in the day. I remember the coins they came out with for a year or two. .not sure what year that was or where mine got to.

    So are any of you still collectors that would be interested in trading at all? I have been going through my ’72 set and find that I need some to finish the set . . anybody have any doubles? Most of my cards are a bit later. I have a lot of doubles from the late 70’s and early 80’s if anyone needs to fill sets from then.

    • Brian Joura

      I’ve got some doubles from ’72. Send me your want list and I’ll see what I have.

  • Remember1969

    Thanks . .I’ll work on that over the few days.

  • JImO

    The best cards, of course, are those which have survived from our youth.

  • TJ

    Brian,
    Thanks for the walk through memory lane. I had forgotten about those Hostess cards, but you awoke memories of my brother and I coercing my mother into buying the boxes and cutting out the cards carefully. Of course, our cards are long gone. And like you, a thanks to my late mother for going against her better judgment on the food choices to make her Met fan kids happy, especially when the team was so bad.

  • JERseyjack

    just picked up a ’63 Richie Ashburn coin , which was packaged in Salada tea boxes !

    • JimO

      The Salada coins are all very nice……

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