It was easy to tell when “Disco” died. In the classic movie “Airplane” (1980), you hear a DJ say “WZAZ, where disco lives forever” just before the plane’s wing shears off the radio station’s tower on the final approach into Chicago. As usual, baseball managed to skirt the social issues of the day and create some classic memories for fans.
The decade began with the Orioles (and Series MVP Brooks Robinson) topping the Reds and included three titles for the Oakland Athletics as well as two each for the Reds, Yankees & Pirates. It was the end of an era for many Hall of Fame players and the beginning of legendary careers for others. The Topps company still dominated the marketplace and issued large sets (as many as 726 cards) to satisfy collectors. While some of this writer’s choices may not be the most valuable of the decade, they all have historic significance for baseball fans. As requested by some readers, you’ll also see the current value of each card in Near Mint (NM) condition as defined by a grade of “7” by PSA or Beckett.
1) 1975 Topps George Brett (#228) – Topps finally got away from multiple player rookie cards in this beautiful set and the Royals 3B is the key card ($90). For the first (and only) time, Topps also made a “mini” version of their set and the values are slightly lower.
2) 1973 Topps Mike Schmidt (#615) – Even though the Phillies star had to share his rookie card with two other players, it is still one of the high-demand collectibles of the decade ($225).
3) 1970 Topps Nolan Ryan (#712) – Despite the fact that is the 3rd year card of the “Express”, it is difficult to find because it is part of the scarce “high series” ($150).
4) 1973 Topps Roberto Clemente (#50) – The final card of the Pirate legend was actually issued after his tragic death in December of ’72 ($32).
5) 1979 Topps Ozzie Smith (#116) – The rookie card of the “Wizard”, it is a tough card to find in nice condition, as many of the cards were off-center due to poor quality control in this set ($55).
6) 1976 Topps Hank Aaron (#550) – The final active card for “Hammering Hank”, it is one of two Aaron cards in the set…the other one commemorates his home run record ($22).
7) 1971 Topps Thurman Munson (#5) – The best looking card of the Yankee Captain, its black borders make it challenging to find in nice condition ($220).
8) 1978 Topps Eddie Murray (#36) – The rookie card of the Orioles great switch-hitting 1B ($45)
9) 1975 Topps Robin Yount (#223) – Imagine two Hall of Famers who each played for only one team and accumulated over 3,000 hits having their rookie cards in the same set and only five numbers (see Brett) apart ($55).
10) 1974 Topps Willie McCovey (#250) – There were two versions of this card…the Padres were close to leaving San Diego and re-locating to Washington, D.C., so Topps issued an alternate card with “Washington” on the front ($15).
Other cards of note included the rookie cards of Don Baylor / Dusty Baker in ’71 ($42), Dave Winfield in ’74 ($35), Jim Rice in ’75 ($25), Dennis Eckersley in ’76 ($27) and Paul Molitor / Alan Trammell in ’78 ($60). As an example of the depth of baseball history streaming through the decade, the 1978 set has over 20 members of the Hall of Fame. Sorry, John Travolta and the Bee Gees aren’t inlcuded.