(Today is "National Joe Day." Once again, I did not make this up, but someone did. And it's an excellent excuse for all you "Joe Collectors" out there to celebrate your love for cards. Which is what I try to do every week with Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 177th in a series):
The Oakland A's team cards of the 1970s have always fascinated me.
They're difficult to obtain, which never seemed right. A team card? With a checklist on the back? Why are people holding onto those?
But sure enough, when I was looking at a dwindling list of wants for 1976 Topps and 1974 Topps and 1978 Topps, the A's checklist was one of the last ones standing in all three cases.
Make that four cases.
This A's checklist from Steve of The Card Chop was one of the final five cards I needed in my bid to complete the 1977 Topps set. I'm telling ya, that pesky A's checklist is always so gosh-durn elusive.
I think the reason for that is because the A's teams of the '70s are one of the most colorful in history. Not only with their play on the field and bickering off the field, but in the way they dressed in public. Green and gold may look commonplace and even nostalgic to us in good old 2013, but it was absolutely revolutionary in the '70s.
Here, take a look. This is how the A's presented themselves on the 1971 team card:
Bright, gleaming whites with green accents. Fashionable yet relatively tame.
Then a mere three years later, we have this:
The Swingin' A's, all mustachioed and in your face. Isn't that fun? Isn't that Dick Williams glaring at you from dead center? Isn't that Reggie Jackson all giddy and self-aware in the lower left? Isn't that Bert Campaneris barely humoring Reggie over his right shoulder?
The A's were at their World Championship best at this point, winning title after title. Unfortunately, the 1975 team card is out-of-focus and too far away. It's difficult to make who is who, although I think Reggie is fourth from the left in the middle row.
By 1976, the team began to fray. Alvin Dark was let go as manager and Topps didn't know who the manager would be at the time the set went to press (it would be Chuck Tanner) and just left out the picture inset. Dick Green and Catfish Hunter were gone. But I can still see Reggie. Fourth from the left in the second row.
This is where you see the demise of the A's, on the 1977 card. Oakland finished second in 1976, but after the departure of Hunter, Charlie Finley started selling off the team, attempting to ship Rollie Fingers to the Red Sox and Vida Blue to the Yankees. I believe -- but I'm not sure -- that Fingers is fourth from the left in the top row and Blue third from the left in the middle row. I can't tell you if Reggie is that guy at the bottom right. Could be. Could be that he had already departed for Baltimore and then the Yankees.
Ground zero for the A's. The 1977 squad, shown on the '78 team card, finished dead last. The previous offseason, Joe Rudi left for the Angels. Sal Bando for the Brewers. Fingers and Gene Tenace for the Padres. Bert Campaneris for the Rangers. Poor Bobby Winkles, who I believe is the guy standing off to the right in the white cap, had the job of managing the folks who were left.
But through it all, the players going in and out, the managers going in and out (there's Jack McKeon AGAIN), the team going up and down, the A's remained remarkably consistent in one thing.
In their team photo it was always gold jersey, then green jersey, gold jersey, then green jersey. And the white-jerseyed coaches in the middle.
The A's may have gone from back-to-back-to-back World Series titles early the decade to seventh-sixth-seventh at the close of the decade, but dammit they were going to have the most garishly regimented team photo in all of the major leagues.
And that's why I think the A's team cards are always the last ones I need to finish a 1970s set.
Steve also sent me another 1977 card that I needed.
Yeah, Pete Rose.
But he gets enough attention.
I wanted to talk about the A's today.