Cold War politics makes an appearance in major league baseball in 1954. From 1954 through 1959, the Cincinnati Reds weren't known as the Reds, but the Redlegs. The name change was due to the Red scare, but I am not sure how going from the Reds to the Redlegs prevents any confusion. Maybe that is why they changed back to the reds after 1959. The previous four seasons, the Reds finished in 6th place in the National League, but with a name change they moved up to 5th place in 1954. The Reds/Redlegs would finish in the middle of the pack in the National League until they finally made a World Series appearance in 1961. Then of course, shortly after, the Big Red Machine started coming together.
The '54 Redlegs were in the upper half of the league in hitting, but didn't have a solid pitching staff. The offense was led by Ted Kluszewski, who had a monster year with 49 home runs, 141 RBIs (both categories he led the league) and a .326 batting average. This is one of the few players big time players that Topps had in their set, but wasn't in the Bowman set. Looking at Ted Kluszewski, he looks like he would have fit right in during the steroid era, as he would often wear his uniform with cut0off sleeves. He had several big season in the mid-1950s, but injured himself during a clubhouse fight in 1956. He was never the same, and was a part time player from 1957-1961, bouncing around from the Reds to the Pirates to the White Sox, and finally appearing with the Angels during their first season in 1961. It seems funny now, as scouting seems that no player is unfound, but in the mid-1940s, Klu was discovered when the Reds were in spring training in Indiana and he was on the grounds crew.
Starter and Hall-of-Fame/All-Star Scores
Exclusive players to a set are in italics
Topps Regulars (8): Ted Kluszewski, Bobby Adams, Roy McMillan, Jim Greengrass, Chuck Harmon, Bud Podbeilan, Frank Smith, Harry Perkowski
Bowman Regulars (11): Andy Seminik, Bobby Adams, Roy McMillan, Jim Greengrass, Gus Bell, Frank Baczewski, Frank Smith, Joe Nuxhall, Jackie Collum, Karl Drews (shown with Phillies, split time with Reds and Phillies, getting more playing time with the Reds), Harry Perkowski
Topps All-Stars & Hall-of-Famers (1): Ted Kluszewski
Bowman All-Stars & Hall-of-Famers (1): Gus Bell
This is the first team we come across in 1954 that produces no hall-of-famers. The two all-star game representatives for the Reds in 1954 are each in two of the different sets. Neither set has the top two starting pitchers, Art Fowler or Corky Valentine. Johnny Temple is also missing, but his rookie card wouldn't appear until the 1955 Bowman set. Topps scores by having the best pitcher on this team on a card, in Frank Smith, and by having the only card of longtime Reds catcher Ed Bailey, although he didn't play enough to be considered a regular in 1954. I would say this is a very evenly matched team as far as what set to collect, as Topps has more of the bench players.