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G.O.A.T., the '70s, 100-91

It is here.

The moment I've been teasing for two or three years now.

I've compiled what I believe to be the greatest 100 cards of the 1970s.

This is one groovy decade, the decade in which I first became a card collector. The cards from this decade are the ones to which I pledge the greatest allegiance. There is no question in my mind that if I was forced to live inside a cardboard box, I would ditch all other cards except the ones in my '70s binders and then figure out how to jam all those '70s cards inside that box.

Cards from the '70s may be limited in variety, parallels, inserts, shininess, gimmickry and wow factor. I don't give a fig. Don't ever tell me there are better cards than those from the '70s. That's a falsehood. I will never listen.

What '70s cards do contain is the colorfulness of the decade. They feature cards found with food, cards created on the sly, and cards constructed on dingy, gray cardboard. They contain poses inherited from the '50s and '60s, captivating cartoons on the back, and memories of walking to the corner store just hoping that there is enough money in your pocket for two packs.

Most of these cards are in my collection, although I reviewed as many '70s cards that I could find in hopes of unearthing something even I -- someone who wore toughskins and slept next to a bicentennial-themed lamp -- had never seen. I did find a few (surprisingly, most didn't make the list). There will be maybe five or six cards that I do not own yet on this list. But many of them you have seen on this blog before.

Like previous countdowns on this blog, I've broken this into segments of 10 cards apiece. I'll likely space out the countdown with once-a-week posts.

The criteria for making the countdown comes down to really one thing: is this card interesting? I tried to dismiss personal favorites (you won't see the '75 Topps Ron Cey on this countdown). I want cards that have a broad appeal in terms of making an impact. It should be a distinctive card.

So, I think I've given you enough time to dig out your Peter Frampton records, find a few Electric Company episodes on youtube and fix yourself an olive-loaf sandwich.

Dig it! It's the greatest '70s cards, numbers 100 to 91:


 Mets Celebrate, We're Number One, 1970 Topps, #198

Sorry, Mets. You're not No. 1 on this countdown, merely No. 100. But don't pack away those smiles!

Although this card celebrates a feat from the '60s, it cracks the countdown because of its celebratory nature, the rare shot on cardboard of players in the locker room, and most of all, a bare-chested Nolan Ryan.

Think of all those "10 Nolan Ryan cards you must have before you die" lists. How many of them feature Ryan without a shirt? None. That alone makes this card worth owning.

Surrounding Ryan, second from right if you are new to baseball, are Duffy Dyer, Tommie Agee and Wayne Garrett. All four of these players would continue to appear on their own baseball cards through the 1970s. But only one of them shows up again in this countdown.

Ryan can deliver with his uniform on, too.


Glenn Beckert, 1973 Topps, #440

As a kid, I began to notice a rhythm to the batting ritual of walking to the plate.

The batter would remove the batting doughnut, maybe swing the bat low a time or two, step into the batter's box, dig in with a spike just a bit, and then turn casually to the umpire and exchange a quick word or two.

I had no idea what they were saying, but it seemed pleasant. I got the sense that everyone was in this game together when I saw that, that every person on my TV screen, batter, catcher, umpire, really cared about baseball, just like I did.

That's the same feeling that I get when I see this card.

It's not the typical shot you see on a card. (It's also sort of a Dodger card as backup catcher Duke Sims squats in the foreground). And the Wrigley Field outfield of the '70s is on prominent display.

This is a very "baseball" card, which seems odd to say, but I think you know what I mean.


Gary Carter, 1976 SSPC, #334

Gary Carter Expos cards are the best Gary Carter cards. And young Gary Carter Expos cards are even better Gary Carter cards.

Even after reducing it down to that sub-subcategory, which one are you going to pick? 1976 Topps? 1977 Topps? Both are nice. Some rookie mojo collector may even suggest the four-player Carter card from 1975 with Carter in the top left corner, but, of course, that ain't it.

For me, this is the best Young Expo Carter card. It's a nice close-up taken at night (that camera flash is almost blinding). The helmet is so '70s and so apparent that it almost makes my teeth ache.

Carter was known for his youthful exuberance and to me no card says "Kid" like this one.


1971 Rookie Stars Pitchers, 1971 Topps, #664

I am in the middle of charting the sixth and final series of the 1971 Topps set on my '71 Topps blog.

It is very obvious to me from the cards in that series that Topps was running out of subject matter. Some players included in that series would have never shown up had it been a 660-card set.

And then there are cards like this one.

I don't know how many multiple-player rookie cards are in the 1971 set, but it's a lot, and by card No. 664, just about all of the prospects had been documented.

So, there's the Topps team trying to fill out the set, hoping for one more multiple-player rookie card and grasping at straws. One guy pipes up and says, "hey, there are three guys coming up who all have the last name of Reynolds, and they're not related."

It's too good of an idea to pass up. And, so, for the first time ever -- and maybe the last -- Topps puts three rookies on the same card with the same last name who are not related. Then, it doesn't mention anywhere why they are doing this. No acknowledgement that each guy has the same name except the fact that they're all there on the same card and one guy is wearing a train conductor's hat.

This card is so amusing I can't stand it.


Dave Ricketts, 1970 Topps, #626

This is another card that could be considered more 1960s than 1970s, but it's too wonderful not to include.

Dave Ricketts wore his horned-rim glasses on baseball cards throughout his career, and the vast majority of those cards appeared in 1960s sets. He even has his cap turned backward on his 1967 Topps card.

But there is something about the whole ensemble here. The horned rim glasses, the backward cap, the chest protector, the catcher's glove, the catcher's mask, the shin guards. The fans looking through the screened-in barrier as if he's an animal in the zoo.

He is practically an exhibit. Because this is what Jerry Lewis from "The Ladies Man" would look like if he donned catcher's equipment (and then commenced to gallop across the commons of Milltown Junior College).


Dave LaRoche, 1976 SSPC, #510

The beauty of the SSPC set is cards like this. Dave LaRoche would have never been able to get away with wearing his cap sideways on a Topps card. Any photo submitted of this would have met the cutting room floor.

But LaRoche is preserved forever as a Fernando Rodney/Pedro Strop precursor in the SSPC set. The photo is made all the more striking by the Cleveland Indians' blood clot uniforms from the mid-1970s (check out all the Indians from this set).

In baseball-only circles, LaRoche is known for his lob pitch and for fathering two major-league baseball playing sons. But if you're a collector, then you know him for one other thing: he wore a cap sideways on a baseball card and how many other players can say that?


Tony Taylor, 1970 Topps, #324

The bat rack is one of the greatest backdrops in baseball card history. It virtually guarantees a memorable card.

Why that is should be the subject of a psychological study, but I will simply say that this ranks among the best of the "choose your weapon" baseball cards.

Taylor has indeed selected his artillery. He seems quite determined, so it had better be the right bat. The lineup of Phillies helmets in the background adds to the drama. And if you can pull yourself away from the moment for just a second, you'll notice a pay phone in the corner.


Frank Tanana, 1977 Topps, #200

Back in the '70s, cards featuring a double zero in the card number were the most distinguished in the set.

Sometimes, Topps even selected a photo that underlined that double zero in triplicate.

This is one of those examples. Tanana won 19 games in 1976, struck out more than 200 batters for the second straight year, and just to get that point across, Topps found a photo of Tanana in action, having just released a 200-mph fastball toward the batter.

That "empty space" just to the west of Tanana's left hand is not really an empty space. It's smoke, emanating off the trail of fire headed toward the batter.

This is one of the greatest double-zero '70s cards that there is. I admit I have a bit of a bias with this one, but I have the feeling it's the same bias possessed by any kid who pulled this card out of a pack in 1977.


Jim Kaat, 1973 Topps, #530

A card issued the same year that the designated hitter was implemented in the American League.

Never again -- or so seldom that it would be an occasion when it happened -- would an AL batter pitcher come to the plate.

Topps issued a card to commemorate that moment. Or maybe it didn't. Maybe it was just a cool photo. But whatever the case, there aren't a lot of cards of pitchers bolting out of the box prior to the 1990s. This is the only one that rings a bell right now.

Kaat hit .289 in 1972, going 13-for-45. It was his best year at the plate for that many at-bats. He doubled three times and hit two home runs.

This is a good example of an appropriate card representing a noted feat by the player one year earlier. Nice work. And if you look at it for long enough, you might wonder why the DH is a thing anyway.


Jim Grant, 1972 Topps, #111

When I teased to this countdown a couple weeks ago, I mentioned that this card was probably not going to make the list.

I received one comment questioning my decision, but the truth is I was already questioning it when I wrote that post. And the list hadn't been set in stone yet anyway.

One more look at Mudcat's card was all it took to shove this card back into the countdown. I had grossly miscalculated the length of Grant's mutton chops, which have to be the most glorious chops ever featured by a baseball player on a baseball card.

This is Grant's final card from his career and he may own one of the best final cards ever. The '70s was about hair and baseball cards from the '70s need to recognize that.

Grant's finale does.

Hope you enjoyed that first installment!

And put the olive loaf down. That stuff is nasty.


John Bateman said…
Awesome let the count down continue. The world anticipates this more than war with North Korea.

The Tony Taylor card is a minds eye card, It is a card I can easily remember in my minds eye.

The Reynolds Wrap is a great surprise, I have owned this card for over 30 years and never noticed this.

Fred Pike said…
Great selection of cards. The Jim Kaat, 1973 Topps, #530 is the one I like. The DH I do not like. Never have. Never will.

The toughest part of these types of countdowns is pushing down personal favorites in the interest of broader appeal. Great selection so far ... I particularly like the contrast of Kaat looking like a real hitter with the silhouetted pitcher in the lower right-hand corner.

Can't wait for the next round!
steelehere said…
Great start to the countdown. (A part of me wishes you were a basketball fan because your take on the 100 best basketball cards from the 1970's would be amazing).
Billy Kingsley said…
This is going to be fun. The players had to use a pay phone? That seems like something that the team would have provided for them!
Nick said…
Think my favorite from this batch is the Kaat. That's probably one of my Top 20-25 cards not just of the '70s, but of all-time. Looking forward to the rest of the countdown!
Rob said…
I NEED to see Eddie Murray's RC on this countdown. No pressure.
Old Cards said…
Great start. My favorite is the Tony Taylor. Least favorite is the rookie card. Just don't like those multiplayer head shot only cards. Jim Kaat is a close 2nd favorite. A true athlete can pitch and hit.
I did a series on my 1970 blog of all the "bat rack" cards (I think there were 10). Tony Taylor's card may be the only one that included a helmet rack as a bonus. (Which is ironic, because Taylor did not wear a batting helmet - opting for that cap insert that a few players wore.)
Matt Prigge said…
im stoked for this list. I can't wait for Billy Martin and his middle finger.
Mark Hoyle said…
Looking forward to this countdown.
shoeboxlegends said…
Great start, I’m eagerly anticipating the remaining 90 cards!
Kevin Papoy said…
I love lists like that one, with many insightful comments. I'll definitely be taking notes. Might even try to complete the 100 card Night Owl box set (but without the actual owl inside the box)
GCA said…
I really like the Reynolds trio. This is how I think rookies should have stayed. (Because I don't care much about rookies).

The Tony Taylor is my binder spine card (actually a printout) for my '70 set.

Think you meant to say that "Never again...would an AL pitcher come to the plate". Would be weird if they just randomly tossed the ball into the outfield and ran the bases :)
But I like Olive Loaf..... Great post, looking forward to the rest.
Matt said…
Right on! You are a groovy cat! Do me a solid and keep writing these far out posts!
David said…
Excellent. Not only your card choices but the write-ups are outstanding. I think I laughed aloud three times and enjoyed all ten explanations. Your writing and observation skills are what sets this blog apart from all others that I have seen.
Old Cards said…
You don't care much about Pete Rose on the same card with Ken McMullen, Pedro Gonzalez and Al Weis or Johnny Bench on the same card with Ron Tompkins or Fred Lynn on the same card with Ed Armbrister, Terry Whitfield and Tom Poquette?
BobWalkthePlank said…
Look forward to a top ten of Kent Tekulve....
Ana Lu said…
Mets Celebrate, We're Number One, 1970 Topps, #198 card... That's some... hairy card...
Fuji said…
A. I need new glasses and hope I can find a pair of Ricketts.
B. Great action shot on that Tanana.
C. Glad to see Muscat's mutton chops made your list.