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Bat patrol

If you are anything like me, and I think we've established plenty that you are not at all, then you have been looking forward to Heritage's journey through the 1970s Topps designs.

There are many reasons for that, but one of them in particular involves the greatest bat pose of all-time. It absolutely flourished in the '70s.

The picture of a batter frozen in mid-swing, eyes trained on the imaginary point of contact (hopefully), and the bat looming closest to the frame was the epitome of bat poses for me as a kid collecting baseball cards.

This pose didn't originate in the '70s. You could find it plenty on cards from the '60s, and I'm assuming it's in photos from the '50s and much earlier. But that titan bat pose erupted on '70s cards and continued throughout the decade:

That is just a small, small sampling.

That's 1970 through 1979 right there, with a bit of a bleed-over into 1980 because you've all heard Funkytown, right? Basically the same decade.

This awe-inspiring bat pose seemed to be reserved for the greatest sluggers, but almost anyone could get away with that shot as my cards of Denny Doyle, Bobby Heise and John Boccabella show. Some players seemed particularly fond of the stance, as I have multiple cards of Dusty Baker, Darrel Porter, Darrell Evans, Ken Singleton and Steve Brye striking that pose.

I don't blame them. It was the most formidable batting shot of its time and it left quite an impression on a kid collector like me.

I didn't need radioactive spiders or volcanos in the background as '90s kids seemed to demand. A player and his bat was superhero enough. Seeing that bat come at me, practically jumping off the card, made me believe that this player could do any damn thing he wanted.

This was the player with his weapon. It was everything he needed to get the job done, and as collectors, it was all we needed to see to be impressed.

I've noticed Heritage slowly ramping up the mid-swing bat pose as it's progressed out of the '60s and into the '70s. There were a smattering of mid-bat poses in the late '60s Heritage cards and into the 1970 design. But it seems Heritage has jumped in deeper with its 1971 design and that's quite appropriate.

There you go. That's how it's done. That's how you impress the kiddies.

It's clear though that some of the modern players just don't get it.

This isn't an exercise in displaying your lower-extremity prowess, Manny. Nobody holds the bat that low, and the bat looks positively tiny.

Also, as I've mentioned before, there's far too much of this going on with Heritage cards: players acting as if they just hit 600-foot moon shots. There was none of this happening on 1971 baseball cards. Sure there were plenty of backswing shots. But this is what they looked like:

Dave Kingman was known for golfing home runs (and striking out mightily). If Kingman posed like he just hit a liner to the wall, then that's what you do to make Heritage's cards look legitimate for the time. I don't know what today's players (or the photographers) are thinking.

This is what we need. Bat forward as if it's about to knock the camera out of the photographer's hands (or the little guy off the trophy). Eyes forward and down, looking at the end of the bat. Face fraught with concentration. You needed to be a good actor when posing for cards in the '70s.

As Topps progressed through the 1970s, the mid-swing pose became more and more commonplace. My 1974 and 1975 Topps cards seem to feature the pose the most, which is probably why I like it so much. Those are the first two sets I ever saw.

Also, this is the first Dodger card I ever pulled out of a pack that I bought. Notice that pose. Is it any wonder I thought then that Steve Yeager was one of the Dodgers' greatest sluggers of all-time? Imagine my surprise when I found out he was hitting eighth in the Dodgers' lineup.

In honor of Heritage finally generating some terrific mid-swing poses, I pulled out some of my '70s favorites in my collection. It goes without saying that the Yeager is at the top, but here are a few others:

1973 Topps, Bobby Darwin

The concentration makes for the best mid-swing pictures. Look at that focus from Darwin. You know he got all of that one.

1970 Topps Walt Williams

Speaking of hitting stank faces, Walt Williams has generated such a powerful swing that somehow he's managed to knock off the head of the person BEHIND him.

1975 Topps Willie Stargell

There was no better way to convince young baseball fans of your slugging ability than to make the bat you are swinging look as monstrous as possible. Willie Stargell, somehow, is swinging a six-foot bat.

1976 Topps Mike Hargrove

My favorite mid-swing pose from the '76 set and one of my favorite cards when I was collecting that year. Looking down the barrel of a gun is scary. Looking down the barrel of a bat on your baseball card is simply a thrill. This was my introduction to Mike Hargrove (never saw his rookie cup card in '75), and I was sure he was hitting 30 home runs a year.

1974 Topps Cookie Rojas

I am still concerned for the welfare of the man sitting in the background after seeing Cookie swinging that mighty bat.

1972 Topps Rich Reese

The very best mid-swing bat poses make it appear as if the batter is using his weapon as a propeller and it is about to vault him around and around and through the air and out of the stadium. Rich Reese is prepared for the ride. And if I was collecting in '72, I would be mad if he wasn't batting cleanup.

1975 Topps Rod Carew

Another bat propeller photo. Carew doesn't even look anchored to the ground. It appears that the bat swing has started to pull him off the field and on his way to outer space. That is some swing!

1977 Topps Tony Perez

Just a fantastic shot. It has it all. And that facsimile signature is perfect.

The mid-swing bat pose died out in the 1980s. I checked my 1981 Topps set and couldn't find a single one, which was a little surprising as action shots didn't begin to dominate Topps sets until 1982/83.

I hope as Heritage moves through my era -- 1974 through 1980 -- that we see some cards similar to the Perez or Reese or Stargell. I know that collectors don't need giant bats on their photos anymore. Action photography has dominated for four decades and the departure from reality that dominated '90s sets has convinced a whole generation that a simple photographic trick is somehow boring or "cheesy."

You'll never hear me say that though. These are the pictures that captured my imagination and convinced me that baseball was filled with powerful superstars who could launch themselves into the stratosphere with a swing of their 20-foot bat.

For that, and many other reasons, I can't wait for 2021 through 2028 Heritage.


Zippy Zappy said…
A whole post about big wood.
Brian said…
Counterpoint - Dave Winfield and Bobby Valentine in the 1976 set are admiring their imaginary homers... But yes, it's an overused pose in the modern Heritage sets. They might as well go all in and do posed bat flips.
Bulldog said…
Fun post. I'd never put any thought into the pose but seeing them all together like that is pretty awesome. Leading off with Freddie was a good move.
night owl said…
@Brian ~

I did notice the Winfield. It's the only one from that era that I noticed. Valentine I always thought was taking swings in the on-deck circle. Doesn't look like a HR clout to me.
Call me bias, but I love that 75 Stargell more than any other image on here.
The 76' Hargrove is pretty sweet. You can see the wood grain just shining through.
sg488 said…
Take a look at 82 Fleer Garvey,love that card.
Brett Alan said…
I'm enough like you, NO, to really dig these cards. Not like you enough to be able to identify the trend, let alone write so well about the cards!
Nick Vossbrink said…
Nice call pointing out an aspect of he 1970s photography that Topps IS emulating.

In terms of photographic technology, a lot of the 1970s portraits use a wider angle lens than the 1960s ones. I don't want to say that these were all shot on 35mm film since I suspect there's still a lot of medium format going on, but many of these take advantage of the wide angle both throw something at us in the foreground while still keeping a ton of background information visible and in-focus on the frame.

By the 1980s Topps was playing more with fill flash in its portraits (eg all those dark background skies in 1985 and 1986) and wide angles were no longer fancy and new. (Mike Aldrete's 1986 Fleer still captures a bit of this midswing vibe though).
That 71 Clemente is unreal. What a bunch of awesome all the way around. Machado looks like he's lining up for a putt. What a tool.
Fuji said…
Love the photo gallery. It was really cool to see this pose featured all in one place. That 75T Stargell and 76T Carter stand out, but the 72T Holt and 77T Perez cards are my favorites, because you can see the entire bat.
Bo said…
I was going to make a post about modern players like Manny Margot not taking the pose as seriously as the '70s guys. Then I went back and looked at the '70s cards again and it looks like Frank Robinson is barely holding back a big laugh.
acrackedbat said…
This post has my heart pounding. I have to say Machado may think he looks hot there but it says a lot about who he seems to be. Wayne Garrett is a favorite here. I love seeing the grain in the bat. You also chose my favorite Aurelio Rodriguez card. He was a happy man that day. Great locks of hair and stache, sunshine beating down; a true boy of summer.

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