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G.O.A.T., the '70s, 20-11

One of the many things that's distressing about getting older is that at some point not only are the people and moments and items of "your era" no longer popular, but even the nostalgia for the people and moments and items of your era no longer popular.

The key time to be nostalgic over the 1970s was the 1990s. There were plenty of shows and movies and fashions devoted to it. Unfortunately, I was too damn busy in the '90s for nostalgia. Too much devotion to developing a career, a family, tackling all those grown-up things that seem so daunting in your 20s.

By the time I had time to be nostalgic, everyone had moved on. These days people are nostalgic over the '90s -- ewww, yuck. Why do I want to remember my first jerk of a boss? Why do I want to remember the garbage tenant downstairs? Why do I want to remember foil parallels?

But that's the way it goes. The world keeps turning. Some people aren't reading these posts because they're about the '90s and these posts are about the '70s. People like what they like.

I happen to like the '70s. Perhaps you've heard.

If you're like me, then you'll grab your bean bag chair, switch on "The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew," and suck down some "full flavored" orange drink from McDonald's.

It's the greatest cards of the '70s, numbers 20-11:


Boog Powell, 1975 Topps, #625

Has there ever been a card that captured the imagination of a 9-year-old boy quite like this Boog Powell card?

My brother and I looked at this card with wide-mouthed amazement and amusement. What on earth was happening in this photo? We were in hysterics. The card was a laugh riot.

Some say they thought Powell was pleading to the heavens. Too heavy for me and my brother. We thought maybe Powell had spotted the world's largest beach ball. But mostly what we thought was Powell had just emitted a thunderous roar of:


Because he was that impressed that his own name was Boog. It was too funny. The guy's name was "Boog". What kind of name was that? And what else could he be doing but shouting that?

Looking at the card now, as a full-fledged adult, I think, "well, of course, he's either yelling, 'I've got it,' just before catching a pop up, or perhaps he's signaling that he doesn't know where the ball is.

But either way, that's not nearly as fun as:



Lou Brock, 1976 Topps, #10

All right, it's pretty well established that this was an old photo used with this card. The player behind Lou Brock is likely Jackie Hernandez, who last played for the Pirates in 1973 and is featuring the arm band the Pirates wore in memory of Roberto Clemente, in 1973.

That may knock the card down a couple of ticks on the countdown. But think of what Topps was trying to do here.

Brock had just set the record for most stolen bases in a season with 118 in 1974. Up until this time, Topps had not shown Brock on the basepaths on any of his cards, going back years. That is just not right. This was the moment to make it right.

But action shots at this time were still in short supply. Topps took what it could get, and that was a 3-year-old photo.

The picture still does an excellent job of depicting what you should know about Brock. Here, he takes a lengthy lead, either to steal or simply get the jump that will send him flying around the basepaths. The amount of green in this photo is almost breath-taking and I can't get over the color coordination in this photo. The design features red, yellow and light green. The photo features red, yellow and light green.

Beautiful card.


Roberto Clemente, 1973 Topps, #50

I admit, I am not as enamored with this card as a lot of card fans seem to be. My favorite Clemente card is his '72 Topps card and I kind of wish that was the last one. In past years I've confused the '72 card as the last one because it seems like an appropriate finish to his career and life.

But this card delivers, too, in a mournful way.

The shadowed presence of Clemente -- while probably more interpretation by the collector than intent by the photographer -- evokes his passing. Clemente died not more than three or four months before collectors started pulling this card out of packs. This card couldn't help but bring about emotion in collectors.

This is one of the few cards featuring a deceased player in a set of current players. It is probably the most proper one.


Pat Corrales, 1973 Topps, #542

I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that this card shows something that didn't happen.

This is a well-loved card that supposedly depicts the aftermath of a home plate collision between catcher Pat Corrales and Cubs pitcher Fergie Jenkins. Corrales appears to be writhing in agony as he clutches the ball in his right hand and the umpire is in the process of calling Jenkins out (why Topps cropped out the rest of the umpire but left a wide expanse of dirt on opposite side of the card has bothered a collector or two, although it doesn't bother me).

It shows the violence that can occur out of nowhere in the sport. And it has been championed by myself and others as a relic of a bygone era now that plate collisions essentially have been legislated out of the game.

However, if you watch the video of this play -- it can be found at about 43:45 of this excellent documentary on Fergie Jenkins -- you will discover that Jenkins either never touches or barely touches Corrales. (It's possible Jenkins was actually safe). In fact, Corrales had to reach to his left for the throw, allowing Jenkins a running lane, and Corrales tumbled over in his diving attempt to reach back for Jenkins.

There is no home plate collision!

*Shocked face*

That doesn't mean I don't think the card is great anymore. But I do see it in a new light. Cards can be interesting even without a body-jarring collision.


Billy Cowan, 1972 Topps, #19

One of the most creative cards ever made, this is the final card of journeyman Billy Cowan's career.

Nobody knows whether Cowan arranged with the photographer to place a halo above Cowan's head, or if the photographer positioned Cowan underneath the giant halo that used to appear above the Angels ballpark near the scoreboard on purpose.

Whatever the case, it is one of the most famous "cult" cards of all-time.

I wish I was collecting as a kid at the time to find out whether I would have noticed Cowan's halo or completely missed it.

Regardless it is a fun card that can't help but produce a smile all these years later. Baseball is meant to be fun. I appreciate the reminder.


Nolan Ryan, 1971 Topps, #513

Another "well-position" photo, this is the first Topps card featuring Nolan Ryan in action.

The action is what drew me to this card way back when I first acquired it when I was around 12 or 13. I loved the distant action shots of '71 Topps and Ryan's card was at the top of the list.

Today I look at the card and wonder about the cropping in the background. Of course it's fun that Ryan's head pops between the words "Royal" and "Crown." But do you wonder whether someone was making commentary, did Ryan deserve a "royal crown"? Was it sarcasm? (Ryan was 7-11 in 1970). Or was someone trying to give RC Cola free advertising?

As someone who loves advertising in cards, that billboard is one of the most prominent displays of baseball card advertising that there is.


Robin Yount, 1975 Topps, #223

When I pulled this card from a pack in 1975 Topps, I didn't know what it meant.

I didn't know who Robin Yount was. I didn't know that he was 18 years old. Even if I did (and it's on the back of the card so I eventually did know), it wouldn't have meant anything to me.

If I was 16 or 18 years old at the time, I'd know why it was a big deal. If I was 30, I'd know why it was a big deal. I'd take one look at the card and notice how young Yount was. He was just a baby, in a major league uniform. I'd know that this was the best possible pose you could ask an 18-year-old player full of promise to take.

This card is full of promise. It exudes promise. It is one of the "rookiest" rookie cards ever made.


Carlton Fisk, 1977 Topps, #640

Another card that delighted me as a kid, it was issued just as my family's dislike of the Yankees and appreciation for the Red Sox was taking shape. This year was when I began to loathe the Yankees, but at the same time feel the excitement created when the Red Sox and Yankees met.

This card captures that excitement. It is one of the clearest views of a play at the plate that you are going to find. And if you can't feel the anticipation coming off the cardboard, just look at the fans in the Yankee Stadium stands. Some of them are up on their feet to get a better look at the play.

It appears that Willie Randolph is going to be safe on this play. I don't know exactly which play this is. It could be the finale to an extra-inning affair between the Red Sox and Yankees on May 22, 1976, which the Yankees won on a run scored by Randolph. Or it could be another play.

No matter. The card isn't about who was safe or out. It's about what happens before someone is called safe or out. It is about the intensity, the concentration, the skill, the color and the dirt. It is one of my favorite cards from the time when I was a kid.


Vida Blue, 1971 Topps, #544

There was no bigger deal on the mound than Vida Blue when this card was issued.

Barely known going into the 1971 season, Blue won 24 games and posted a 1.82 earned run average. And if that wasn't enough, Blue was telling us "peace," everything is going to be all right, on his card issued that very year.

I first saw this card in 1975, when it showed up on Topps' MVPs subset. I was fascinated forever. It is so unlike any card in the 1971 set or really any card issued that decade.

It shows personality. Just look at Vida's smile.

I don't know what was really being attempted with this pose. If this was a pitching motion, where's the ball? Your hand doesn't look like that after the ball is released either. But a failure as a fake pitching motion is success on cardboard. It is one of the most memorable cards ever created this decade.


Doug Ault, 1978 Topps, #267

This card hits me with the biggest issues in life: lost youth, lost promise, growing older, despair and death. I've written about it before.

For me, that's why the card is ranked as highly as it is. But it's still a masterpiece without all of that extra baggage. Pictured is a young, rookie star, the biggest hopeful on a brand new team. The rookie cup confirms it.

Behind him is an established star, glancing down -- perhaps even spitting -- barely acknowledging the presence in front of him.

It's high noon and something is about to go down. It's all in the hands of that tall fellow dressed in baby blue.

I love cards that tell a story and this is a story I can never put down.

So concludes this edition of the Greatest 100 Cards of the '70s. I hope you enjoyed.

There is just one more episode left.


Fred Pike said…
Another great post. All great cards. Can't wait to see the last 10.
Another great post. After reading this, I had to go to YouTube to watch a Miller Lite commercial I hadn't seen in almost 40 years. "Hey, you're Boog Powell!"
Brett Alan said…
Ferguson Jenkins, Thurman Munson, Jerry Grote, Willie Randolph, and Jackie Hernandez. As we used to say in the 70s, one of these things is not like the others.
Unknown said…
Can't wait for the 1973 Luis Alvarado...will it be # 1 ??
Trevor P said…
I may be all about the 90s, but rest assured that I am still reading and enjoying every one of these countdown posts.
bamlinden said…
Another terrific post. Really enjoy your personal connection to these cards as well.

This is either going to be the greatest list ever compiled.....or I may have to stop reading this blog. :)

Mark Hoyle said…
I collected in 72. And never noticed the Cowen card
acrackedbat said…
you are choosing my favorites, one right after the other! The Doug Ault post was very moving. What a sad ending to a difficult life. It's a reminder for me that, as much as I enjoy living in the past (the 70s in particular) today/NOW should be embraced and lived fully. Thank you.
Fuji said…
Great writeup on the Ault. I would have never seen it from that point of view. So far this is my favorite list... which makes sense because it's a countdown. The 77T Fisk, 75T Powell, and the 71T Ryan are three of my personal favorites from that decade.