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.