The 1970’s, A To Z: Joe Niekro to Bill North

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.


JOE NIEKRO

1976 SSPC #50

Played 1967 – 1988
1970’s Teams: Tigers, Braves, Astros

1970’s Highlights:
Had a career year in 1979, leading the league with 21 wins and making the All-Star team for the only time in his career; He was named the Sporting News 1979 NL Pitcher of the Year – Bruce Sutter narrowly beat Niekro for the Cy Young; Also got a 1979 NL MVP vote but finished 6th; His 21 wins in 1979 stood as an Astros team record until 1999 (Mike Hampton, 22 wins); In 1970 he took a no-hitter against the Yankees into the 9th inning and lost it when Horace Clarke hit a 1-out single

Career Highlights:
Holds the Astros career record with 144 wins (one more than Roy Oswalt); Earned 221 career wins; Started and won a one-game playoff against the Dodgers in 1980; Won 20 games in 1980 and finished 4th in Cy Young voting; Pitched 10 scoreless postseason innings in 1980 and 8 scoreless innings in 1981

Fun Stuff:
His son Lance Niekro played for the Giants from 2003-2007; Joe hit his only career home run off of his brother Phil, 5/29/76

Card Stuff:
Appeared in every flagship Topps set of the 1970s; Spent most of the 1969 season with the Padres, but because he was traded to the Tigers after the season he never appeared on a card with the Padres


PHIL NIEKRO

1976 SSPC #5

Played 1964 – 1987
1970’s Teams: Braves

1970’s Highlights:
Pitched a no-hitter against the Padres, 8/5/73; In 1974 he lead the league with 20 wins and 18 complete games, and finished in 3rd in Cy Young voting; Was an All-Star in 1975 and 1978; Won Gold Gloves in 1978 and 1979; Lost 20 games in 1977 and 1979; In 1979 he had 21 wins and 20 losses, the last pitcher to win and lose 20 games in the same season; Lead the league in complete games and innings pitched in 4 different seasons; Got four strikeouts in an inning in 1977 when one of his third strikes got away from the catcher and batter Rennie Stennett made it to first base

Career Highlights:
Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997; Famous for his knuckleball, a pitch which involves relatively little strain on the arm and can be attributed to prolonging Niekro’s career; His 1.87 ERA in 1967 lead the National League; Won 318 career games and had 3,342 career strikeouts; Is the Braves career leader for games pitched (740) and losses (230); Was a five-time Gold Glove

Fun Stuff:
Born on April Fools Day, 1939; Was the last active player born in the 1930s and the last active player who had played for the Milwaukee Braves; Managed the Colorado Silver Bullets, a barnstorming all-female baseball team

Card Stuff:
Was included in every flagship Topps set of the 1970s; Appeared in all five of the 1970s Hostess sets


GARY NOLAN

1970 Topps #484

Played 1967 – 1977
1970’s Teams: Reds, Angels

1970’s Highlights:
Won a career-high 18 games in 1970 and lead the NL in winning percentage (15-5, .750) in 1972; Was an All-Star in 1972; His 1.99 ERA in 1972 was just points behind leader Steve Carlton’s 1.97; Was the Reds’ opening day starter in 1971 and 1976

Career Highlights:
Finished 3rd in 1967 Rookie of the Year voting (Tom Seaver won the ROY that year); Was inducted into the Reds HOF in 1983

Fun Stuff:
His middle and last name are the same as Nolan Ryan’s 1st and middle name (Gary Lynn Nolan, Lynn Nolan Ryan)

Card Stuff:
Appeared in every Topps set from 1969 to 1978 despite pitching only 2 games in 1973 and missing the 1974 season entirely


FRED NORMAN

1974 Topps #581

Played 1962 – 1980
1970’s Teams: Dodgers, Cardinals, Padres, Reds

1970’s Highlights:
Won two World Series with the Reds in 1975 and 1976; His 6 shutouts with the Padres in 1972 is tied for the franchies record (with Randy Jones, 1976)

Career Highlights:
Inducted into the Reds HOF in 2018; Broke into the majors as a teenager in 1962 and had cups of coffee in 1963, 1964, 1966 and 1967 before establishing himself as a Major Leaguer in 1970

Card Stuff:
Was included in every flagship Topps set of the 1970s; The featured 1974 Topps card of Fred Norman has a bit of infamy for me… I thought I had completed the 1974 Topps set back in the 1970s, but I either misplaced Fred Norman years ago or I was mistaken when I thought the set was complete


BILL NORTH

1975 Topps #121

Played 1971 – 1981
1970’s Teams: Cubs, A’s, Dodgers, Giants

1970’s Highlights:
Was the first designated hitter in A’s history; Set a San Francisco single-season record with 58 stolen bases in 1979; Lead the American League in stolen bases in 1974 (54) and 1976 (75); Played on two World Champion teams with the 1973 and 1974 A’s

Card Stuff:
His 1973 rookie card shows him in a Cubs road jersey and an airbrushed A’s cap

For no good reason, here’s a blurry picture of Bill North’s Cadaco All-Star Baseball disc from my 1978 edition of the game

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