Monday, November 30, 2015

Why I love '70s cards and baseball so much

It's pretty obvious that I enjoy '70s baseball and baseball cards more than baseball and cards from any other decade.

I think I've made that rather clear in seven-plus years of posts.

But because I enjoy self-examination so much and because I thought it might be handy to have it all in one place, I decided to review the reasons why I like '70s baseball and cards so much. These are solid, concrete reasons that need to be known.

And I'm going to do this with some cards that I received recently from mr. haverkamp that all relate to the '70s.

First, let's get the big one out of the way:

1. I was a kid then.

Most of us view our childhood years through a nostalgic filter. The days were carefree, candy was 5 cents, the sun shined every day and the snowstorms were epic. We don't even notice that those last two memories conflict with each other.

I'm not immune to this. In fact, I roll around in nostalgia too much. My childhood was pretty average and by no means perfect, but it certainly was less free of distractions, so I could notice that baseball and trading cards were brand new and filled with wonder. The cards I pulled out of packs for the first time and the baseball I viewed on TV for the first time all took place in the mid-1970s. It's difficult not to see those moments as the most pure and ideal of my life.

This is not unusual. It's the same reason why younger collectors regard '90s cards as the most collectible. I view them with pity, but I completely understand.

In fact, just about everything I mention after this is also related to the the fact that I was kid in the '70s.

2. The complete lack of "this is something."

In the '70s, cards still were for kids. Collecting cards didn't even cross the minds of adults. This was so obvious a kid's activity that suggesting that an adult collect cards would be the same thing as suggesting that mom go buy a Fisher Price farm toy and play with it on the floor for two hours. Cards were for kids.

Because of this, cards were not affected by adult perspective. Nobody complained about cost or collation. Nobody campaigned for better photography. Certainly, nobody talked about value. There were few gimmicks, enticements (outside of gum and maybe an advertisement on the wrapper), nor too many sets to absorb. Collectors didn't hunt for errors. Rookie cards were barely a thought. These were simply picture cards meant for kids. Nothing more. "Here you go, kid, here's your picture cards." Everyone understood the relationship. It was simple.

Simple cards are the best cards. The '70s had simple cards.

3. The '70s were colorful.

This isn't a '70s card, but it pays tribute to the '70s and the reason we know this, outside of the player pictured on the front, is because the design is practically yelling at you.

Not every set in the '70s featured loud, vibrant designs, but many of the most memorable did. And they remain among the most collectible sets to this day.

Today people rip on the '70s for the garish colors and loud clothes, but I so prefer that to drab sophistication. I think the fact that I grew up in the '70s is the reason why I enjoy color so much. The kitchen in my home was orange, yellow and green, my pants were purple, the TV shows were funky and, yes, "funky" is a color.

Baseball players wore red, orange and yellow rainbow uniforms. They wore gold banana uniforms. They wore brown-and-yellow uniforms, for goodness sake, and nobody really thought it was odd. Today, fans are so desperate for some color in their world that teams constantly bring back those '70s uniforms and the internet lights up every time they do. Let's see a uniform from the '40s do that.

4. The '70s were both "old enough" and "new enough."

The '70s were old enough that you could still view baseball in black-and-white on your TV. But the decade was new enough that you could view every program in color on your TV.

The '70s were old enough that Willie Mays was playing. But they were new enough that Willie Mays Aikens was playing.

The '70s were old enough that hippies were still protesting, but they were old enough that disco was dying.

It was a decade of change and baseball reflected that. The "We Are Family" Pirates of 1979 probably could never happen in 1970. And there was a changing of the guard in general in the sport in the '70s. Mays, Aaron and Clemente left. Brett, Yount and Dawson arrived.

5. Again, cards were for kids.

OK, I said this already. But I can't stress this enough. As a kid, cards were ours. Adults couldn't have them.

I knew this because of where you found cards that weren't in packs in the '70s. You found them on boxes of Hostess Twinkies. You found them with ice cream. You found them in boxes of Frosted Flakes. You found them in grocery items that only kids ate.

Nobody was handing out cards with an oil change or when you got your taxes done. Cards were a double-special kid treat then. You ate your twinkie and then, oh yeah, cards!

6. '70s fashion.

I didn't pay much attention to fashion when I was a kid. I wore whatever my mom bought for me. But years later, I have a certain respect for '70s fashion, particularly when it comes to hairstyles.

I like '70s hairstyles. Everyone had long hair. I like long hair. Baseball players grew out their hair and added a mustache. As a kid, these were the coolest players that existed. I wanted to look like that and play like that when I got big.

Today, people are a little too well-groomed. I cringe when I see current ballplayers' hair. It looks like they spent the entire day getting work done. It's entirely too much thought when all you need to do is go without a haircut for a few months. Keep it simple, stupid.

7. Simple '70s delights.

The Bicentennial. The Expos. The forced baseball poses. Spotting someone in gold slacks in the background. Large sunglasses. Young mothers with printed scarves over their heads. When I see these things on cards, I know I'm in the '70s. It feels good.

Realistically, the '70s aren't any better or worse than any other decade when it comes to baseball or baseball cards. It has its good and bad, although I challenge you to find a bad baseball card from the '70s because it doesn't exist. I SAID it doesn't exist.

But I will prefer to collect cards from the '70s for the rest of my life. And I will discuss with anyone who has any interest (youngsters who respect their history are my favorites) the Swingin' A's, the Earl of Baltimore, The Bird, the Big Red Machine, the Great Dodger in the Sky, Nolan Ryan as an Angel, the powder blue Royals and Phillies, Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek, and many other baseball aspects from that decade.

That will then morph into discussion of the '70s sitcom and '70s rock n' roll.

I can even list for you every No. 1 song from that decade. Just don't make me do it in order. Not that you want to hear that anyway.

The '70s had its bad points, sure, but I still prefer a lot from that decade, beyond baseball and cards. For example, saying "have a nice day" and actually meaning it was a product of the '70s. Today I am forced to hear "have a good one," which has always annoyed me, but if I do hear "have a nice day" I wonder if they're being sarcastic.

Yup, the '70s were a simpler time.

That's what I want to collect.


  1. When I read this post I suddenly had KC and the Sunshine Bands' song (you know the one) play in my head. And now I think I need aspirin.

  2. That Jorgensen is cool... I think that was taken at Jarry Park..

  3. Oh so well written NO. The 70s were my time too, for many of the same reasons. I wish I could say I knew about baseball cards then. My life changed dramatically in 1975, as a ten year old. My mom died and the world around me spiraled out of control. I think I'm still trying to get those years back. Perhaps when I've completed 75 Topps, I will have undone all the unhappiness those years brought. If not, then I'll move on to 1972...1974...

  4. As someone who started buying cards in 1978 I agree with a lot of what you are saying. I grew up in a time with the Baseball Bunch, NBC game of the week, This Week in Baseball, and listening to games on my transistor radio. I feel a connection to those simpler times when I only had to worry about homework, not bills and work.

  5. I know you have a certain distaste for the Cubs; but, when discussing the 70's and baseball fashion, the Cubs' poweder blue "pajama uniforms" have to be mentioned. Those were absolutely glorious!

  6. Mom buying a Fisher Price farm and playing on the floor for 2 hours killed me. Hopefully by 2035 i'll feel the same way about the 90s still

  7. Yup, funky is definitely a color. I can't describe it, but I know it when I see it.

  8. Great post. Very enjoyable. 70's POWER!

  9. Good job. I enjoyed reading about my childhood.

    It's all relative and we all understand this. I recall an uncle comment in the early 1980's how unfortunate it was for "today's kids not able to experience the beauty and happiness of his childhood" and how "simple life was at the time." He grew up in a small agricultural village in Mexico during the 1920's.

    I truly understand his comment and joy for his childhood, but I had 1970s baseball cards during my decade.

    I enjoyed the post and comments from your readers.

  10. Great post, N.O.

    I think this is the reason I love the late 1970s and early 1980s so much. Being born in 1971 means I missed out on the mid-70s color explosion, for the most part, but I caught the Hostess, the Kellogg's, and the addition of Fleer and Donruss in 1981. My golden era would be 1977 to 1984, I suppose. After that, I get older and more jaded...and here I am today feeling older and jaded. :-)

  11. The 70s were the best. I will never forget that the 3 telephones we had in the house all were different colors to match the décor. I had the shaggy bowl cut for a hair style. I played baseball in the back yard from sun up until sun down. It was great being a kid back then I do agree.

  12. So true. The 70's were a great time to grow up.

  13. In an odd conicidence, my wife is nostalgic for that Fisher Price Barn set and may be getting one for Christmas.