Wednesday, July 26, 2017

1970 Topps: Bat Rack Boys

I've been busy lately knocking off my 1970 Topps needs list...with the help of some very generous bloggers, friends and Twitter pals. Those of you that have contributed...I'm very grateful. As I type this I am 37 cards shy of completing the 720 card checklist. More than half of those are high numbers but I've been lucky in finding nice copies at good prices. The only costly card of those 37 is Johnny Bench.

So far it's been a fun ride. I've grown to appreciate this set quite a bit. I know it's not everyone's cup of tea (Cardboard Connection is pretty brutal in it's description) but that's fine. 1970 was a significant year for me as the Orioles won the Series and I headed to Houston for college. Baseball was a big part of my life. I was in my nerdy Strat-O-Matic playing days. There are very few players in this set that I don't remember.

I have no plans to do a card-by-card blog for this set. God knows I'm very far behind in posting on my '58 and '60 blogs. But I do want to do some updates and a few 'theme' posts as this effort winds down. This is the first. Players posing at the bat rack is a favorite card photo scenario of mine. It goes back to the wonderful 1961 Wes Covington card.

There may be a few more similar poses in the '70 set. One or two probably got by me as I quickly flipped thru the binder but these are enough for one post.

Up top Tony Taylor squints at the camera. He was nearing the end of a long run as a starter for the Cubs and Phillies. He'd move to the Tigers before ending his career back in Philadelphia in 1976. He played in the majors for 19 years.

Jay Johnstone casts his gaze towards home plate in what I believe to be Yankee Stadium's visitors' dugout. Another three of these cards have a similar background. You'd never know by looking at this card that he was known as one of the sport's great pranksters.

OK, Del Unser isn't actually at the bat rack. He's holding a few bats at what appears to be a shopping cart or wire basket. Unser finished second to Yankee pitcher Stan Bahnsen in the AL ROY voting in 1968.

In an interesting side note the NL ROY award went to Johnny Bench in a narrow one vote win over Jerry Koosman. Bench outpolled the pitcher 10.5 to 9.5. That surprised me until I looked at the two players' numbers. Bench showed promise with his .275 average and 15 homers but Koosman won 19 games and had a 2.08 ERA and 1.10 WHIP for the not-so-Amazi' Mets who finished 9th in the NL.

Here is the universally loved Coco Laboy rookie card. Again the bats are in a basket. I'm sure this was a spring training thing. The rookie trophy, Laboy's pose and the colorful Expos uni all combine to make this a great piece of cardboard.

Like Del Unser Laboy was a ROY runner-up. He trailed Ted Sizemore in the NL vote in 1969. 1970 was his last season to appear in over 100 games.

Juan Rios' pose is not unlike that of Wes Covington as he leans over and smiles (sort of). His only big league action came in 1969. By the time this card was issued he was back in the minors where he played in four different organizations before he retired in 1974.

Harmon Killebrew is by far the best player in the bunch and I'd venture a guess that he could use any bat in that rack successfully. In Killebrew's 22 year career he was named an American League All-Star 13 times, the 1969 American League Most Valuable Player and a six-time American League home run leader. At the time of his retirement, he hit more home runs (573) than any right-handed hitter.

Gerry Moses made the AL All Star team in 1970. He was the third catcher and didn't see any action but he did get to witness teammate Carl Yastrzemski bang out 4 hits in 6 trips to the plate. That was his only AS game and 1970 was the only year he had more than 200 at bats.

And finally here is Bob Oliver sporting the old school 'windbreaker under my jersey' look in what feels like a spring training photo. He played eight big league seasons, mostly for the Royals and Angels. 1970 was his best year as he hit 27 homers and barely missed a 100 RBI season. He is the dad of longtime major league pitcher Darren Oliver

I'll be posting some other cards from this set over the next few months. My goal is to track down my remaining needs by the end of the year.


  1. Wow. Had no idea there were so many bat rack cards in the 1970 set. Very cool.

  2. Yes! Great stuff. Harmon's card might be my favorite Topps card of the 1970s.

  3. That's a fun "subset"... I just checked to see if I was missing any so I can flag them as "wants" (but I've got 'em all).

    How did I not know that Bob Oliver is Darren Oliver's father?

    Funny thing... Because I liked both New York teams in 1975, I think of Bob Oliver as a Yankee... and I just looked and realized he played only 18 games in pinstripes and never appearing on a mainstream card as a Yankee. Huh.