Sunday, January 1, 2012

I'm a sucker for vintage, Pt. 2: Athletics

Picking out my five favorite vintage A's cards was 10 times tougher than picking out my favorite Angels cards. The A's had a lot of guys I like on their '60s and '70s teams. To my surprise, Rollie Fingers does not have a card in the top five.

Plus, I could've put 25 different A's cards on this list just for their flashy '70s uniforms.

It took some time, but I've condensed the list down to my favorite five A's vintage cards. The best of the best.

Honorable mentions:

1974 Topps #474 Bert Campaneris WS
1976 Topps #405 Rollie Fingers
1976 Topps #525 Billy Williams

The Countdown:


1972 Topps #111 Jim Grant

No "fun fact" on the back of this card, unfortunately.

Mutton chop alert! Mutton chop alert! 

Grant looks like he's wearing one of those stupid animal hats I see everyone walking around with nowadays. But he's not. Those are authentic 1970's sideburns right there.

Jim "Mudcat" Grant played for a lot of teams later in his career. A 20-game winner in 1965, Grant played for six teams in his last five years in the majors (including the A's twice). He'd pitch the last 15 games of his career for the A's in '71. 

"Mudcat" appears to have saved his "best" for last for his 1972 Topps card. 


1973 Topps #255 Reggie Jackson

Fun Fact: "Reggie is a real estate developer."

Isn't it funny that a star like Reggie Jackson had to develop real estate to supplement his income? The '70s seem so close, yet so far away.

I came across this one at the flea market. Some weeks, there's baseball card sellers apart from the small cluster that are there every week. I came across one of these sellers last summer. I was about ready to walk away from the table when I saw junk wax cards priced at one or two bucks a piece. I came across a small box at the table, everything inside priced at $1.50. I was really surprised to find this '73 Jackson in that box judging from everything else at the table. Honestly, I don't think this one was supposed to be there. But they sold it to me anyway.

Other than his 1969 rookie card, this may be the most famous Reggie Jackson Topps issue. It captures the very beginning of the yellow and gold "Swingin' A's" uniforms of the '70s. This is probably Jackson's final issue without facial hair.


1973 Topps #430 Vida Blue

Fun Fact: "Vida is the vice-president of a plumbing supply company."

That might be the single most unflattering "fun fact" on the back of any baseball card. A plumbing company?

The man with one of the best names in baseball history, Vida Blue had one of the best pitching seasons in recent history in 1971. He went 24 and 8 with an outstanding 1.82 ERA and 301 strikeouts. He'd win the Cy Young and MVP awards that year.

Although 1972 was a down year for him, Blue had one of the greatest cards of the '70s with this 1973 Topps issue. A perfect in-action shot. One of the many that defines the nostalgia of 1970's Topps baseball cards.


1966 Topps #36 Jim Hunter

Fun Fact: "Jim pitched five no-hitters in school."

Baseball cards can be educational. For example, I never knew that "Catfish" Hunter missed his first professional season in 1964 because of "an operation for the removal of buckshot in his leg". Hunter apparently had a "hunting" injury. In '65, he became one of the few to skip the minors all together and go straight to the major leagues.

This card is yet another flea market find. A guy at the flea market usually puts out a small box of 1960's and '70s for a quarter a piece. He brings a different box each week, so I never know what to expect from week to week. I couldn't believe it when I found this Hunter card one fateful Sunday. 

This is just Hunter's second Topps card, and his first solo issue. I don't believe that a quarter was ever spent much better than the one that netted me this card.


1975 Topps #407 Herb Washington RC

Fun Fact: "He's holder of world indoor records for 50-yard dash (5 seconds flat) and 60-yard dash (5.8 seconds)."

Just goes to show you that you need more than just pure speed to steal a base in the major leagues.

This card is #1 for a variety of reasons. The listed "position" on the front, the stats on the back, just the oddity of Herb Washington himself.

For those who don't know his story, track star Herb Washington was signed by A's owner Charlie Finley to strictly pinch-run and steal bases in 1974. He did steal 29 bases and score 29 runs in '74, but he was also caught 16 times. A 64 percent success rate isn't spectacular for any base stealer, much less for one who was brought in for specifically that purpose. Washington was caught stealing twice in the '74 World Series (one was a pickoff) without a single SB. He played in 13 more games in '75 before the experiment was discontinued.

This is the only card to date to have a player's position listed as "pinch runner". Washington's stats on the back include only games, runs, stolen bases, and caught stealing. He never took a single at-bat in the majors.

This is one of the iconic cards of the 1970's. Anyone who grew up collecting in that decade could recognize this card in their sleep.

1 comment:

Cliff said...

Great stuff. I particularly love the way you mined the backs of those cards. You might enjoy my blog, where I make fun of cards as well:

The Hunter card's the first one on that particular post