Wednesday, September 27, 2017

G.O.A.T., the '70s, 90-81


Let's face it: the people who remember the 1970s exactly as they were are getting up there in age.

For people like me, someone who was a kid during the '70s, the decade can do no wrong. Ten years of scouting for candy, building forts and playing ball in the backyard? Give me one good reason why the decade sucked. And you're going to have try harder than Anne Murray's "You Needed Me".

But for those who were very adult in the '70s, I have a feeling they associate the decade with more ... uh ... adult things. Jobs and news and gas lines and Nixon. It probably wasn't a party raising a kid among all that brown and olive green.

My folks would likely never understand an ode to the '70s, just as I couldn't relate to a tribute to the '00s.

So I realize this countdown is somewhat of a niche exercise. It isn't necessarily for those who were in their 30s during the 1970s. It's not for people who were born in 1990 either. It's for people who knew baseball cards with all their heart in the 1970s.

Every other collector can come along for the ride, of course. Because cards are cards! And maybe you can learn a few things.

So get ready. Borrow your older brother or sister's Thick as a Brick album, brush up on your Mr. Woodman impersonation and dig out a jar of Fluff.

It's' the greatest '70s cards, numbers 90-81:


90.


John Odom, In Action, 1972 Topps, #558

One thing that amazes me about major league pitchers, having never pitched beyond Little League, is how they're able to get power on a pitch from the set position.

Having grown up in an age of wind-ups, some stunningly intricate, I just naturally assumed you needed to do all that in order to propel a pitch 90 miles an hour. Look at John Odom. Do you think he would do that if he didn't have to?

Then again, it's John Odom. Maybe he would.

This is one of the best balancing acts I've seen captured on a baseball card. Not only is Odom down to one leg, he's down to the toes on one leg. Odom's nickname was "Blue Moon" and that's because you see a photo like this on a baseball card once in a blue moon.

This picture captures the finale of Odom's pitching motion. Odom veered wildly off to the left with each pitch with his head barely off the ground and his right arm even closer.


Something like that (from the 1972 ALCS).

For me, that was why the 1972 In Action subset existed, to capture moments like that.



89.



Chicago White Sox team card, 1977 Topps, #418

I covered this card earlier this year. But, that's OK. There will be plenty of repetition in this countdown. I've been rehashing a 40-year-old decade for 10 years now!

Fans of the '70s know that the 1976 White Sox wore shorts for three games in August of that season. A little something for the ladies, I guess, because I have no idea why this would be a good idea otherwise. Bare legs and spikes? How much are you paying me?

To prepare for those three games competing al fresco, the White Sox took a team picture with every player apparently wearing shorts.

The players seem delighted about it. And I know I'm delighted witnessing Brian Downing and Chet Lemon in black-collared blouses and shorts. Long live the '70s!


88.


Harmon Killebrew, 1976 SSPC, #168


If you are fortunate enough to own the 1976 SSPC set and properly page them in order by card number, you can find Harmon Killebrew situated between two Kansas City Royals legends -- George Brett and John Mayberry.

Killebrew is a legend. But he ain't no Kansas City Royal legend.

It is jarring to see Killebrew in Royals powder blue. Granted, it's not as shocking as it could be considering the Twins -- the team that bestowed legend status on Killebrew -- were also wearing powder blue uniforms at the time. But, come on, man, the Royals were only seven years old at the time! Killebrew with a seven-year-old team? At least when the Senators became the Twins, Killebrew merely moved cities, not join a whole new franchise.

Killebrew played 106 games for the Royals in 1975. He batted .199. And he retired. There is no other card of Killebrew in Royal blue as far as I know.

Probably for the best, because this card is Killer.


87.


David Clyde, 1974 Topps, #133

David Clyde is mostly forgotten among today's baseball followers. Or he is a cautionary tale in how not to manage your young pitchers.

But in the mid-1970s, Clyde was The Phenom. An 18-year-old only 20 days out of high school pitched in a major league game against the Minnesota Twins on June 27, 1973.

Clyde, who once struck out 25 batters in a high school game, pitched on front of a packed house at Arlington Stadium. He threw five innings, striking out eight, walking seven and allowing a single hit, a two-run home run to Mike Adams in the second inning.

Clyde remained with the Rangers for the rest of the season, appearing in 18 games and posting a 5.03 ERA. A publicity ploy by Rangers owner Bob Short, Clyde would never achieve what was expected of him and toiled through mediocrity and injuries the rest of his career.

I remember the excitement around Clyde. This rookie card, released today, would have broken records on ebay. Clyde was Fidrych and Strasburg before they existed.

You can see that hope in Clyde's 18-year-old face as he stands in -- holy crap is he really there at age 18? -- in Yankee Stadium.


86.


Dave Winfield, 1979 Topps, #30

What would you say are the most cited uniforms of the 1970s?

Here is a brief ranking off the top of my head:

1. Houston Astros (tequila sunrise)
2. San Diego Padres (brown and gold cornucopia)
3. Pittsburgh Pirates (pillbox hats and a dozen uniform combos)
4. Oakland A's (green and gold)
5. Cleveland Indians (blood clots)

Your ranking may vary. But I'll bet the top three are on it. And I'd be willing to wager that none are talked about more than Houston and San Diego.

The Padres' McDonald's weirdness lasts for the entire decade (and into the '80s). You'll see it again later in the countdown. But for me, the uniforms that define the times exactly are the Padres' 1978 uniforms as worn very distinctly by Dave Winfield right yere.

Look at that knowing stare. He knows he's good and he knows the uniform is odd. Gold on brown. Bubble letters. Good gosh I can hear Chic in the background just looking at it. You can't see it, but there's a bubble number on there as well, just below the "e".

The Padres wore these bubble-letter uniforms in '78 in three different combos, the brown you see here, the white, and, lordy no, a golden goose of a uniform with yellow tops and bottoms.


85.


1970 World Series Game 5, 1971 Topps, #331

The 1970 World Series gave Brooks Robinson a national audience.

While most in Baltimore already knew about Robinson's fielding prowess, others discovered him during the show he put on against the Cincinnati Reds. Cincinnati sent ball after ball toward third base and Robinson consumed just about every one.

Game 5 was the finale of the Series. Without viewing the entire game on youtube, I'm assuming that this play did not happen in Game 5. It's more likely Robinson's grab of Johnny Bench's liner in Game 3. (Someone older than 5 at the time can correct me).

But, regardless, this card is a charming view of Robinson's fielding exploits through early '70s photography. The image is taken from so far away that Robinson appears to be crawling through the desert. The Human Vacuum Cleaner is parched! Get him some water!


84.


Frank Duffy, 1973 Topps, #376

Congratulations to Frank Duffy, having his name attached to this card. Because the real star is that unknown Baltimore Oriole.

The player with a face full of dust and his butt on full display has just broken up a double play. All Duffy can do is leap out of the way.

It is a terrific leap as Duffy keeps his eye on his attacker. It's not a leap you see often on baseball cards.

The crop, meanwhile, arrives straight from 1973. You could use the blackness in the left corner to ponder the meaningless of it all.


83.


Joe Rudi, 1971 Topps, #407

This is for a future study, and probably for someone with more time on their hands than me:

Did the four-year period between 1971-74 contain more Topps action photos that rarely appeared again than any other period in history? I'm going to say yes.

This is a common baseball play. The pitcher is about to deliver. The runner takes his lead off first base. The first baseman moves to cover the hole off of first base. You'd think this would appear on a baseball card again, and it probably has. But nothing is springing to mind.

I don't know who the runner is -- I've guessed Curt Blefary before. But I do know that Rudi looks resplendent in Oakland gold with kelly green trim. This is Rudi at the fringe of greatness. His career really took off in 1971 and he'd be a key part of the A's three straight World Series titles from 1972-74.


82.


Tito Fuentes, 1976 Topps, #8

I could go on for an entire post about Tito Fuentes and so could a lot of other people.

His cards only got better as he progressed through the '70s and there are several memorable items that would probably appear if I took leave of my senses and expanded this countdown to 200 cards.

Tito's head band appears on three other Fuentes cards. An orange one is strapped around his cap in 1974. A gold one sits under his hat in 1976. And a white one, with the word "Tito" on it, rests around his Tigers hat in 1978.

The best remains the '76 version. When I was a kid, I thought Fuentes owned a special hat with his name on it. I wondered why he had one and no one else did. Today I only wonder why Fuentes was putting his name on his hand bands. Head bands were like paper clips in the 1970s. Lose one, get another.

Whatever, it's a wonderful card that spices up the typical spring training batting pose. Fuentes would never be able to get away with covering up a major league logo today. But that's why I'm doing a countdown of '70s cards.


81.


Willie Davis, 1973 Topps, #35

More unique action from the early part of the decade.

We want this to be a brushback pitch, because they're cool and awesome and hockey fights and all that good stuff. They also don't show up on baseball cards hardly at all.

This definitely looks like a brushback pitch (or a pitch that got away). Davis has ducked out of the way and lost his helmet, steadying himself with his bat. The catcher, Tim McCarver, is standing and looking to his right. He has either grabbed the ball high or the ball has sailed to the backstop.

But the crowd ... I'm baffled by the crowd. No one is standing. No one looks outraged. Sure, I know, it's Los Angeles. Let the laid back jokes begin. But wouldn't someone at least be pointing to what just happened? Are we much more reactive than we were then?

Or is this not a brushback pitch at all?

We may never know.


That completes the second installment. I hope you enjoyed! I also hope you don't have a toothache after eating that whole jar of Fluff.

17 comments:

  1. Tito!!!

    Another fantastic chapter. To think it's only going to get better.

    Love it!

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  2. I just hope Tito's card is well remembered for the 2025 Heritage edition of the 1976 Topps set!!

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  3. I saw Jethro Tull in Windsor Ontario last month. Great concert. I also liked fluffernutter sandwiches. I like the Joe Rudi card. It almost looks like they are dancers moving in unison.

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  4. Also the 1973 Topps Ellie Rodriquez- the most confusing card of all time ...

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  5. I'd also agree that there are more unique photo choices from 1971-74 than any other period in Topps' history. Not many brushback pitches or men (seemingly) in the desert in other Topps sets, as far as I can remember.

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  6. I'm embarrassed to say that I don't think I've ever seen that 71T Rudi card. It's awesome. Kinda like synchronized dancing or something.

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    1. I was just going to post the same thing! They look almost perfectly choreographed in motion - from the bend at the waist to the back leg. Awesome card!

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  7. We are pretty close to the same age. Your sentiments on the 70's ring true. Great choices in cards. Remember it well when David Clyde pitched that game right out of High School

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  8. Can't wait for the 1973 Topps Luis Alvarado ....

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  9. Never understood the cards like Duffy, Rudi and Davis. Why have a picture on a card for a dedicated player where you have to pick out the featured player. The Winfield and Fuentes cards are much better. I am with you on the Killebrew card. One of my favorite players.

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  10. You are right about the action cards from the early 1970s, scenes we never seen again on baseball cards. Topps 2008 Lance Berkman card reminds me just a little of Rudi's card from a different angle.

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  11. Killebrew would probably be pleased there are not more cards showing him as a Royal. I saw him speak at an event in 2010, not long before his death as it turns out, and he mentioned that he did not enjoy his stint with the Royals at all. Perhaps that .199 batting average had something to do with it.

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  12. When my longtime -and now closed- local card shop put a complete 1976 SSPC set out (for $60), I snapped it up immediately. I wanted to place it in album pages, to contrast the set and 1976 Topps, but getting the Killebrew was my main goal of buying it.

    Love that set!

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  13. "...Really don't mind if you sit this one out / your words but a whisper, your deafness aaaaaaaaa shout"
    My older brother had Tull albums, butt it wasn't until college that I discovered Thick As A Brick and Stand Up, both now my two favorite Tull albums.

    Love each of these cards. Of course.

    ...And I may have to turn in my "Seventies kid" card by admitting this, but I have never had Fluff nor a Fluffernutter. My mother didn't allow us stuff like that... But I can sing the commercial. "Oh you need Fluff! Fluff! Fluff! To make a Fluffernutter!"

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