Any day? I was shocked. How could anyone dispute the greatness of the 1976 card? Bench looks like he just stepped out of a desert battle in the Sahara! It is so cool.
But I thought I'd let everyone decide which 1970s Bench card was the best of the decade. Bench, at least in my eyes as a kid, was the most revered player in baseball during the '70s. More than Rose, Schmidt, Jackson, Carew or even Seaver. So his cards from that period meant a great deal then.
I'm going to show each of the Topps cards of Bench from the '70s. The poll is up on the sidebar. So vote!
(Full disclosure: All of these cards, except the 1972 card, are mine. I borrowed the '72 image because I don't have that card. The 1970 card is not the actual card -- it's one of those 50th anniversary cards --but it's the same in every way except for the gold-foil stamp).
1970 Bench: You have to like the requisite catcher's pose shot, but Bench is going to lose some fingers on his right hand catching like that.
1971 Bench: Here is wistful Johnny, looking to the horizon. Not a great shot.
1972 Bench: Your standard batter's pose. I don't know what else to say.
1973 Bench: OK, there are a couple of cool things about this card. First, it's one of those distant action shots from the early '70s that would never fly today, but is quirky and great. The shot of the ball landing in Bench's glove as he prepares to cradle it is a coup for the photographer (is Bench about to kill himself stepping on that glove?). But I hate that you can't see his face in the shot.
1974 Bench: Nice action, which is something we craved as kids. Bench is "sprinting" out of the box. But the photo almost looks like a painting. The '74 design that matched the team's colors worked well with the Reds cards.
1975 Bench: One of the most important cards of my childhood. Everyone wanted this card during the first year I collected cards. I've mentioned before that I was afraid to hold it, for fear that it would spontaneously combust.
1976 Bench: To quote Mr. Billy Ocean: "simply awesome."
1977 Bench: Bench was pretty much an icon by now, even though he had a subpar '76 season. I guess Topps figured they could take a super close-up shot of him batting. But it disappointed us kids.