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G.O.A.T., the '70s, 10-1

I changed my favorite listening device to Christmas music today.

I'm a big fan of this time of year. I know that doesn't sound like I'm going out on a limb until you read some miserable (yes, this is a noun, this is an entire group of people now) complain about how much they hate Christmas music.

But I think I understand the lashing out. There's a lot of stress at this time and only part of it is created by the holiday. The holiday also happens to land seven days before the new year, so businesses, etc., are always implementing end-of-the-year regulations, issuing meetings that you have no time for, calling you into work for some stupid thing because the government said so, that type of nonsense.

So you've got all that stuff in the middle of all the holiday stuff. Maybe Christmas should be in September. The decorations are up in the stores then anyway.

And while all that is going on, I'm throwing the grand finale of the Greatest 100 Cards of the '70s on you. Sorry about that.

If you have any time at all, give it a read. I'm sure you know all these cards by heart. But because they're the 10 greatest, they're worth viewing over and over.

So find your green 45 of Hall and Oates' "Jingle Bell Rock," pull that cheese log out from the fridge and flip on "The Year Without a Santa Claus".

It's the holiday edition of the greatest cards of the '70s, numbers 10-1:


Reggie Jackson, 1976 Topps, #500

Reggie Jackson's Oakland A's farewell is a titanic tribute to the man.

Perhaps guilt had set in about snubbing Jackson in the 1975 set -- he was an All-Star starter in '74 yet didn't receive a star on his card -- and Topps wanted to make it right. If that's the case, this is as majestic of a mea culpa as you will ever see.

The closeup of Jackson shows him pondering his weaponry and perhaps the damage he is about to do to his opponent. Jackson's ever-present shades add mystery and power to the photo. Best of all, Jackson's golden jersey is as potent as any color display of the '70s. You might be able to heat your car with this card.

This will always be my favorite Jackson card, the last hurrah before he plummeted into the evil darkness of his Yankee years and then basically into a parody of himself through the '80s.

This card is the end of an era, a perfect capper to the Swingin', Swaggerin' A's.


Luis Alvarado, 1973 Topps, #627

If you grew up in the 1970s, you swear you walked past this scene when you were a kid.

Everything about this card -- maybe save for the palm tree branch at the far right -- is familiar to me. The wonderful gas-guzzling cars of the period, the Chevys and Dodges. The metal fence and the concrete wall.

But the most familiar scene is the two players, appearing to play catch, on what seems like a municipal lot. How many times as a kid did you play ball wherever you could find a spot, a backyard, a schoolyard, a paved parking lot? These are two major league players, but they seem like a couple of kids in the group that I played ball with all the time.

Every time I see this card it takes me back to the '70s. I am right there -- not in my room, looking at my cards -- but on that lot, playing ball, with the wide-bodied cars waiting nearby.


Herb Washington, 1975 Topps, #407

All you need to know about this spectacular item that features every color in the rainbow is that there has never been another card like it.

Washington was one of A's owner Charlie Finley's stunts. He employed the former NCAA champion track and field star as a "designated runner." Washington had no baseball experience and never came to the plate.

So how do you make a card out of that?

Topps was up to the challenge. Not only did it feature a photo of Washington doing the only thing he did in a baseball uniform -- roam the bases -- but in a landmark moment, Topps listed Washington's "position" as pinch runner (but had to abbreviate it to "pinch run.")

The stats on the back are just as fascinating. Instead of the typical "AB R H 2B 3B HR BI AVG" on the back of every hitter's card, there is "Games Runs Stolen Bases Caught Stealing". Long before stolen bases appeared as a regular category on the back of Topps cards, it was there on Washington's card.


Eddie Murray, 1978 Topps, #36

Few cards exist that are more bad-ass than this one.

Possibly no rookie cards exist that are more bad-ass than this one.

How in the world do you convey that "bad-ass" vibe as a rookie? What kind of a person can project toughness, swagger, danger all at the age of 21?

Eddie Murray could do that. He gets a little bit of help from the rookie cup in the corner, but that's merely physical confirmation of what Murray already knew: I'm bad-ass and I'm taking a bad-ass photograph.

Murray's swing looks powerful, regardless of how lazy it actually is. His glare -- no one could glare like Murray -- dares you to mention anyone more imposing. Or that his swing is lazy.

It is promise and arrival -- and quirkiness, don't forget the double hat and the Oriole bird -- all in one unforgettable card.


Kurt Bevacqua, 1976 Topps, Bubblegum Blowing Champ, #564

For my money the most memorable and fantastic one-off card ever issued by Topps.

It is the only bubblegum championship committed to cardboard. And like the Herb Washington card, you have to admire whoever it was that came up with the idea to make this a card and his or her abilities of persuasion. "Let's add a card of the bubble gum blowing championship!" And nobody shouted this person off the ledge.

Thank goodness.

Knowing what we know about cards now, this piece of cardboard is even more precious. There is no way something like this would appear as part of the base set today. It'd be an insert, or more probably, a super-short print.

But there is no sense in making baseball's best attribute -- it is fun -- exclusive. Fortunately, in 1976, someone understood that.


Steve Garvey, 1974 Topps, #575

For my generation of Dodger fans, this card holds a presence that I don't know if any of us can describe.

I just know that it bowled me over the minute I saw it, and any other L.A. fan from this time that I've come across says the same thing.

Perhaps it's because this card was being pulled out of packs at the same time that Garvey was becoming a sensation -- the write-in starter at first base in the All-Star Game -- that made it all that more impressive.

Looking at the card objectively as an adult, the action isn't anything special. Garvey may have just walked, or perhaps is turning toward the dugout after striking out. But the artistry of the photograph, the blurred images in the background, provides a "you are there" feeling that I've felt since I was a kid.

I can hear the sounds of the ballpark when I see this card, and hear the roar of the crowd. Garvey is a gladiator.


Oscar Gamble, 1976 Topps Traded, #74T

One of the best parts of the 1970s is how absolutely no one was self-aware.

Some of the fashions, music and food from that time is among the worst that I have ever experienced in retrospect. Yet, nobody knew it at the time. It seemed perfectly fine. Logical, even. Plaid green pants and orange platform shoes? Sure. Singing about someone having your baby? Outta sight.

This is why nobody gave any thought to airbrushing an Over-Afro'd Oscar Gamble into a Yankees cap and jersey. The end result looked perfectly sane, to '70s eyes.

Today, we know that the Gamble card is wonderfully ludicrous. Every time I see this card I think that Gamble has just sat himself into a barber's chair -- the jersey looks like a pinstriped smock -- to finally trim down Oscar's mythical hairdo.

But nobody would ever suggest that in the '70s. It was too awesome a sight to behold.

It's a hairdo that practically stretches from one end of the card to the other!

In the '70s, that's all that mattered.


Mark Fidrych, 1977 Topps, #265

When Fred Lynn was named the American League's Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year in 1975, I thought no rookie could match that combination of accolades.

Mark Fidrych didn't do that, but in the baseball card world, he did something better.

Fidrych is featuring both a rookie cup and an All-Star banner. Each of these items by themselves told you that you were holding a card worth treasuring. Both both? Together? If we put cards in safes back in the '70s, this was the first one going in the safe.

Fidrych's well-known enthusiasm is captured on this card. It is the best card representative of what Fidrych meant to the Tigers, to baseball, in 1976. His career would never be the same after '76 -- it was already on the downswing as kids were pulling this card out of packs.

But we will always have Fidrych's '77 Topps card to remind us exactly how fun he was that rookie year.


Thurman Munson, 1971 Topps, #5

Most of the cards from this countdown I have owned since childhood. They were easily obtainable, pulled out of packs purchased from drug stores, corner stores, grocery stores.

This one was not.

The '71 Munson arrived several years before I started collecting. And by the time I became aware of it, it was out of my price range. Thurman Munson was a well-known star when I first started collecting. Nobody was going to give up such a spectacular card featuring a giant rookie trophy. Especially not where I was living.

This is one of 1971 Topps' best uses of the horizontal format that it debuted for its base cards that year. Topps could portray action with a much fuller impact -- think wide-screen TV -- with horizontal cards. And this is top notch, showing Munson tagging out a diving Chuck Dobson of the A's.

I eventually did obtain this card (and the whole set!). I still sometimes can't believe I have it.


Johnny Bench, 1976 Topps, #300

I've known that this was going to be the Greatest Card of the '70s since before I started this countdown.

It is probably the most awe-inspiring card of my childhood. We held baseball players on a pedestal as kids and this was confirmation that we were doing the right thing.

Johnny Bench, known as one of the greatest players in the game at the time -- right up there with Pete Rose and Reggie Jackson -- is rising from the dust after God knows what. Had he just tagged someone out in collision more fierce than anyone had ever experienced? Had he just punched someone out? Had he just killed someone?

The possibilities were endless. Bench's facial expression doesn't give it away. It seems to be all in a day's work to him. He seems to be saying, "Well. I had to do it."

I miss the way I looked at this card way back then. Bench was 9-feet tall and roaring as he lurched out the mist after a battle to end all battles.

This is the greatest card that I knew in the '70s, one that I'm ever thankful that I own right now.

Not bad for the Krylon Spray Paint guy, huh?

That completes the countdown. I hope you enjoyed.

I'll have one last post in the series to really wrap things up. Then I'll post the countdown on the sidebar like I've done with my other countdowns.

Long live the '70s.


steelehere said…
It doesn't alway get the recognition it deserves but 1976 Topps has some of the best photography work in Topps history.

Great job on the countdown. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
deal said…
Well done as always and it was a joy to read your justification for each card. The Rookie Cup may be the greatest flair ever added to a baseball card.
Mark Hoyle said…
No argument here. Great top ten. Thanks for Putin this countdown together. Happy Holidays
Great job as always. I'm just a couple of years younger than you, and the countdown has brought back a lot of memories.

Anyone looking for a fun read about the 70s should check out "Big Hair and Plastic Grass" and "Stars and Strikes."

There will never be another decade like it.
Nick said…
At least half of these would probably be in my Top 10 for the '70s as well. Can't argue with the #1 choice here. Thanks for the countdown, it's one of the funnest things I've seen on the blogs all year.
EP said…
And now on to the 80's???
Old Cards said…
Thanks for the countdown. Your narrative for the Alvarado card is "spot on" describing our experiences as a kid. A bonus on this card is the 68 red GTO with the black vinyl top right in the center of the card. I had one just like it. 4 speed, big engine - I was king of the hill in my small town...sorry, drifted away. Your description of the 70's was great. Don't forget the baby blue leisure suits with the big collar flowery shirts.
3 Cups and Bubble Gum 40% of the Top ten fall into my Mini collections, great choices!
Anonymous said…
No arguments to your top 10, just appreciation for the amount of work that went into doing this list in the first place. Looking forward to the final post!
Matt said…
This list was a joy to read!
Rob said…
This was an awesome list! Great job, and I'm glad Murray fared so well!
Unknown said…
I've thoroughly enjoyed this series. Love pretty much all the cards in it and can see why you put 'em in. That Bench card definitely deserves to be #1. It's one of the awesomest cards in baseball history, hands down.
arpsmith said…
Great list, of your top 10 I believe 9 (all but the Garvey) would probably fall in my Top 20. Have enjoyed the journey, thanks for putting this together.
Thanks for a great look back at the 70's. My favorite card of the 70's is the 1972 Tom Seaver in action. What is he laughing at?
RAJ said…
I love the list but my only pet peeve is with the Eddie Murray card. I thought Topps put the cup in the wrong place. That top left corner is so empty that it would have been a great place for it to balance an already great card even more. Also, I loved the '73 Bench card which seemed to break all the rules since his back is to the camera as he chases down a foul pop in San Fran. I LOVED the 70s when it came to cards!!!
sg488 said…
Great list,76 Bench is the best card of the 70s.
Old Cards said…
...or back to the 60's?
Main man said…
Great job as usual! The Munson and Bench card could be 1 and 2 either way - it's that close
Fuji said…
Great job. Probably my favorite series of posts in years. I always enjoy seeing how my favorites match up with others. And you actually drew my attention to a pair of cards that weren't really on my radar.
ned said…
love the #1 runs no drips no errors
acrackedbat said…
I'm a little behind on reading but had to know how the 70s ended! Great finale!