The 1970’s, A To Z: Ken Berry To Jack Billingham (Plus A Bonus Card!)

Recap: I’m going through all of the notable and somewhat notable players and managers of the 1970’s and I’m basically making like it’s an all-encompassing 1970’s throwback baseball card set. For the “card front”, I’m sharing my favorite 1970’s card of that guy. I’m also including a card back’s worth of information and thoughts about him and his cardboard.

Take note… there are some “extras” at the end of this post!


KEN BERRY

Played: 1962 – 1975
1970’s Teams: White Sox, Angels, Brewers, Indians

1970’s Highlights
Won Gold Gloves in 1970 and 1972; In 1972 he tied with Carlos May for the most assists by American League outfielders (13) and tied Reggie Jackson and Jose Cruz for most double plays by a Major League outfielder (5)

Career Highlights
Named an All-Star in 1967

Fun Stuff
Known as “The Bandit” because of his ability to steal home runs from opposing batters; Appeared in the movie “Eight Men Out” in the role of ‘Heckler’. He was also a consultant on the baseball parts of the film.

Card Stuff
Didn’t appear on a baseball card with the Indians, but did appear on a Cleveland Indians team-issued postcard in 1975


KURT BEVACQUA

Played: 1971 – 1985
1970’s Teams: Indians, Royals, Pirates, Brewers, Rangers, Padres

1970’s Highlights:
Was among the first Seattle Mariners , having been purchased from Brewers in October, 1976… but he was cut in spring training and never played for the M’s.

As the featured card shows, Bevacqua was the 1975 Joe Garagiola/Bazooka Bubble Gum Blowing Champion, which was a competition that was part of the TV show “The Baseball World Of Joe Garagiola”. Bevacqua beat out Walt Williams (Yankees), Mickey Scott (Angels) and Eric Raich (Indians) before facing off against National League champion Johnny Oates.

I’ve got video of the championship down at the bottom of this post.

Career Highlights
Made a career out of being a utility player (everywhere but pitcher, catcher and center) and a pinch hitter; In the 1984 World Series, Bevacqua was used by the Padres as a DH in all five games and even though he batted 6th for four of the games (and 9th for the first), he rewarded manager Dick Williams by going 7-for-17 (.441) with 2 doubles, 2 homers, 4 runs and 4 RBI.

Fun Stuff
His comments on a teammate’s beaning triggered Tommy Lasorda’s infamous, obscenity-riddled tirade (“F***ing Bevacqua”) in 1982; Bevacqua was featured in an episode of “King Of The Hill” as a ringer brought in to play softball for a rival propane company

Card Stuff:
His 1977 Topps card shows him airbrushed into a Mariners cap, but as I mentioned in “1970s Highlights”, he never played for that team.


JIM BIBBY

Played: 1972 – 1984
1970’s teams: Cardinals, Rangers, Indians, Pirates

1970’s Highlights:
No-hit the eventual World Champion Oakland A’s (and got 13 strikeouts) on July 30th, 1973; Had 15 strikeouts in a 10 inning game vs. Twins 8/30/73; Was one of three players traded by the Rangers to the Indians for Gaylord Perry; Lead the league with a .750 winning Percentage (12-4) in 1978; Had 19 wins (and 19 losses, a Texas Rangers record) in 1973; Member of the “We Are Family” 1979 Pirates, he started a NLCS game and two World Series games, got no decisions in any of them, but did end up with a 2.08 postseason ERA that year; in 1973 he pinch-ran for DH Bill Sudakis in the 8th inning of a close game with the Brewers, meaning that he technically became the DH as well, but his position in the batting order never came around again.

Career Highlights:
On May 19, 1981 while pitching for the Pirates, Bibby allowed a leadoff single to the Braves’ Terry Harper and then retired the next 27 batters.  In his nearly-perfect one-hit complete game shutout, he also went 2-for-3 with 2 doubles, a run scored and an RBI.

Fun Stuff:
One of just two Lynchburg (VA) College alumni to play in the majors, and the other (Lefty Thomas) played just eight games in the 1920’s; Bibby was originally a Mets prospect but was traded to St. Louis in a eight-player deal which also included the recently featured Jim Beauchamp; His brother Henry played in NBA from 1972 to 1981 and was featured on a number of Topps cards

Card Stuff:
His 1972 Rookie card shows him with the Cardinals;  Didn’t have a card in 1973, the year he threw his no-hitter and won 19 games.


LARRY BIITTNER

Played 1970 – 1983
1970’s teams: Senators, Rangers, Expos, Cubs

1970’s Highlights:
Biittner was the starting right fielder in the first-ever Texas Rangers game (1972); In the first game of a July 4th 1977 double-header and with his Cubs down 11-2 to the Expos, Biittner (who had been drafted as a pitcher) came in to pitch 1.1 innings of relief. He allowed 6 earned runs on 5 hits, 3 of them homers… but he did also strike out three batters. His career ERA is 40.50

Career Highlights:
An excellent pinch-hitter, he retired in 12th place all-time with 95 pinch hits; Was the first free agent ever signed by the Reds (January, 1981)

Fun Stuff:
While with AA Pittsfield in 1970, he lost Eastern League batting title to Reading’s Greg Luzinski by .0001; Is a member of the Iowa High School Athletic Association Baseball and Basketball Halls of Fame


JACK BILLINGHAM

Played 1968 – 1980
1970’s Teams: Astros, Reds, Tigers

1970’s Highlights:
In 1973 he was an All-Star and got two first-place Cy Young votes while leading the league in shutouts (7, a Reds team record), games started (40) and innings pitched (293.1). He also lead the team in wins (19) and complete games (16); Billingham shut out the Oakland A’s for 8 innings to get the win in the 3rd game of the 1972 World Series; Won Game 2 in 1976 World Series with 2.2 innings of hitless relief; His career World Series record is 2-0 with a 0.36 ERA over three seasons; The Reds opening day starter in 1972 and 1974; Gave up Aaron’s Ruth-tying 714th home run

Career Highlights:
Inducted into the Reds Hall Of Fame; Originally signed by the Dodgers, he was selected by the Expos in the October 1968 expansion draft and traded to the Astros the following April

Fun Stuff:
A distant cousin of Christy Mathewson; Played for the Orlando Juice in the Senior Professional Baseball Association

Card Stuff:
His 1969 card lists him with the Expos but he never pitched for them; He’s in the 1978 Burger King Tigers set while his regular Topps card shows him with Reds


BONUS CARD – 1974 TOPPS DICK BILLINGS
I have a lot of 1970’s players to get through, and I couldn’t find a lot to say about Dick Billings (who played for the Senators, Rangers and Cardinals and converted to catching after he’d played in the Majors as a 3B/OF), but I’ve always liked this 1974 Topps card, so I’m throwing it in anyway.


The promised videos of the Bubble Gum Blowing Championship… Part 1:

Part 2:

 

13 thoughts on “The 1970’s, A To Z: Ken Berry To Jack Billingham (Plus A Bonus Card!)

  1. I followed baseball and collected these cards in the 70’s, so I am really enjoying this trip down memory lane. I’m usually compelled to check BB-Ref for more information after I read your posts.

    • I’m fighting a constant battle between including more info and knowing that I’ve got a lot of players to get to yet. I tell myself “Eh, they can always do their own research on bbref”. I’m glad to know that is the case.

    • I’ve been brainstorming on different ways of finding fun stuff….Finding lists of no-hitters, lists of postseason MVP winners, Topps All-Star Rookies, and so on, and entering them in a spreadsheet. I also use baseball-reference and SABR bios, plus the backs of the cards themselves. It’s been challenging but fun research

  2. Not sure how I don’t already have a copy of that ’70 Ken Berry with the random elbow cameo, but I need to rectify that immediately.

  3. The best Jim Bibby story is that he once drilled Rod Carew, intentionally–on one of those “goodwill” exhibition tours of Japan!

    You see, in 1977, when Bibby was with the Indians, Carew slid hard into Indians second baseman Duane Kuiper, slashing Kuiper with his spikes. Kuiper was livid, wanting to fight and threatening to injure Carew the next time he was on base. Bibby calmed Kuiper down by promising to bean Carew. But Bibby didn’t face Carew in that game, and before he pitched against the Twins again he was traded to Pittsburgh, and of course in those days that meant he wouldn’t face Carew again unless they ended up in the World Series, or one was traded again.

    Or in a meaningless exhibition game in Japan! So Bibby sent a hard pitch into Carew’s ribcage, and bellowed “THAT was for Duane Kuiper!”

  4. Wait – Ken Berry’s the guy asking Joe Jackson if he could spell “cat”? I never knew that!

    Jim Bibby was the pitching coach for the Lynchburg, VA Carolina League team from 1985 to 1999 – going from the Mets organization to the Red Sox organization to the Pirates organization in the process. The team retired his number. I got his autograph at a rain out in Frederick, MD in I think 1989.

  5. I love the White Sox’ “ghost” roadies so much! Heck the Sox unis from about ’66 or so up until they went nuts with the clamdiggers are were so sweet that I have sometimes wished I was a White Sox fan. OK, not really true but I do think that they had terrific duds.

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