With the Fall Classic in full swing, lets get into our time machine and look back on World Series heroes from baseball’s greatest decade. My 1970s All-World Series team looks something like this:
Catcher – Thurman Munson, New York Yankees (1976, ’77, ’78)
The Yankee Captain was the most consistent of a crowded and talented field at this position. Munson went 9-17 (.529) in New York’s 4-game loss in 1976 and was overshadowed by his counterpart Johnny Bench, the Series MVP. Thurman went 8-25 (.320) in each of the next 2 World Series, knocking in 7 in ’78 as the Yankees won back-to-back championships. Overall Munson hit a torrid .373 with a homerun, 5 doubles and 12 RBI in 16 World Series games.
Catcher – Johnny Bench, Cincinnati Reds (1970, ’72, ’75, ’76)
Baseball’s best all-time catcher took over the 1976 World Series, batting .533 with 8 hits (4 for extra bases) while knocking in 6 runs, 5 in Game 4 alone when he walloped 2 homers to wrap up a sweep of the Yankees. In 1972 Bench held base stealing champ Bert Campaneris to no steals in one attempt over 7 games, and in ’76 a Yankee club that swiped 163 bases managed just 1 in 2 tries. Reds’ opponents stole just 2 bases in 10 attempts over 23 contests in 4 Fall Classics.
Catcher – Gene Tenace, Oakland A’s (1972-74)
Tenace, who won the starting catching job late in 1972, had 5 homers during the regular season but blasted 2 longballs in his first two World Series at-bats and just kept on hitting throughout the series. He hit 4 homers and a double among his 8 hits with 9 RBI and 5 runs scored, batting .348 and capturing MVP honors. The post-season magic did not return as Tenace batted just .158 and .222 in the 1973 and ’74 Series respectively.
1st Base – Willie Stargell, Pittsburgh Pirates (1971, ’79)
Stargell capped off a season where he was National League co-MVP and NLCS MVP by winning the 1979 World Series MVP, tying Reggie Jackson’s mark with 25 total bases. In the decisive 7th game against Baltimore, the Pirates’ leader came through with a 4 for 5 effort (including 2 doubles and a 2-run homer). Overall he went 12-30 (.400) with 3 homers, 4 doubles, 7 RBI and 7 runs scored.
1st Base – Steve Garvey, Los Angeles Dodgers (1974, ’77, ’78)
In losing efforts for the Dodgers in 1974 and 1977 Garvey hit .381 and .375 respectively. While he faltered a bit in the 1978 series, overall the perennial All-Star was 22-69 (.319) with 4 RBI and 8 runs scored in 17 games.
2nd Base – Phil Garner, Pittsburgh Pirates (1979)
Scrap Iron went 12-24 (.500) with 4 doubles, 4 runs scored and 5 RBI in Pittsburgh’s 7 game win over the Orioles in 1979. He hit safely in all 10 post-season games that year.
2nd Base – Brian Doyle, New York Yankees (1978)
Filling in for the injured All-Star Willie Randolph, Doyle batted .438 and scored 4 runs in the 1978 World Series as the Yankees beat LA 4 games to 2 for the second straight season. He registered 6 hits in the final 2 games, none more crucial than an RBI double to tie Game 6.
Shortstop – Bert Campaneris, Oakland A’s (1972-74)
After struggling at the plate and neutralized on the bases by Johnny Bench’s powerful arm in the 1972 World Series, Campy enjoyed two straight World Series where he could have easily been named MVP. Oakland’s sparkplug leadoff man seemed to be in the middle of every rally against the Mets in 1973, going 9-31 (.290) with 3 stolen bases, 6 runs scored, a triple, and a killer Game 7 2-run homer. He followed that up with a .353 effort in 1974 as the A’s rolled to a 3rd straight title with a 5-game win over the Dodgers.
Shortstop – Bucky Dent, New York Yankees (1977-78)
After hitting a respectable .263 in the 1977 World Series, Dent hit a soul-crushing home run in vs Boston in ’78 in a one-game divisional tie breaker contest, and rode that magic into the World Series. Dent hit safely in all 6 games, and like his keystone mate Doyle, had 6 hits in the final 2 contests. He was named World Series MVP with a 10-24 (.417) performance including a double and 7 RBI
3rd Base – Brooks Robinson, Baltimore Orioles (1970-71)
In what may be the most complete all-around World Series performance during the decade, Robinson earned his ‘Human Vacuum Cleaner’ nickname in 1970 against the Reds by making several spectacular plays at third base, while hitting .429 with 2 homers and 2 doubles over 5 games. A year later he reached base 5 consecutive times in Game 2 against the Pirates and finished that series 7 for 22 (.318) with 5 RBI.
Left Field – George Foster, Cincinnati Reds (1972, ’75-76)
Foster did not get any at-bats in the 1972 Fall Classic, but more than made up for it by going 14 for 43 (.326) with 6 RBI in ’75-’76, including a .429 effort in 4 games against the Yankees in ’76. In 1975 vs Boston in Game 6 his 9th inning throw to the plate nailed Denny Doyle to preserve a 6-6 tie.
Left Field – Joe Rudi, Oakland A’s (1972-74)
Best known for his incredible catch in Game 2 of the 1972 World Series to rob the Reds’ Denis Menke and nearly double off Tony Perez, Rudi hit a solid .300 (21-70) with 2 doubles, 2 home runs, 9 RBI and 5 runs scored in 19 Fall Classic games.
Center Field – Paul Blair, Baltimore Orioles (1970-71), New York Yankees (1977-78)
The stellar defender could very well have been 1970 World Series MVP had Robinson not been so dominant. As it was, Blair contributed a 9-19 performance (.474) with 5 runs scored and 3 RBI over 5 games. He played well in his other 3 series as a part-timer and late-game defensive replacement, batting .333 in 1971 and .375 in 1978. Overall Blair was 16-40 (.400) with 3 doubles, 9 runs scored, and 4 RBI in 19 Fall Classic contests.
Right Field – Reggie Jackson, Oakland A’s (1973-74), New York Yankees (1977-78)
An injured Jackson missed the 1972 World Series, but later became the only player to win 2 World Series MVP awards (1973,’77) during the decade. In 1973 he played a fine center field in addition to right and took over Game 6 with 2 booming doubles off Tom Seaver, then hit a go-ahead HR in Game 7. In Game 6 in 1977 he famously hit 3 home runs on 3 consecutive pitches and drove in 5 as the Yankees closed out the World Championship with Reggie finishing the series 9-20 (.450) with 5 HR, 8 RBI, and 10 runs scored. Then in ’78 he went 9-23 (.391) with 2 homers and 8 more RBI. Mr October batted .360 over 24 World Series games in the 1970s, and he topped all players in the decade in World Series hits (31), runs (18), doubles (6), HR (9), and RBI (23).
Right Field – Roberto Clemente, Pittsburgh Pirates (1971)
Even in a World Series with so many superstar players on hand, the 1971 Fall Classic very much felt like a Roberto Clemente showcase. Clemente hit safely in all 7 games, just as he had back in 1960, and hit .414 in the 7-game victory over Baltimore with 12 hits, including 2 HR, 2 doubles and a triple. His Game 7 homer broke a scoreless tie as Pittsburgh took the decisive contest, 2-1.
Utility – Pete Rose, Cincinnati Reds (1970, ’72, ’75, ’76)
Though his overall numbers in World Series play were not impressive, Rose did have 24 World Series hits in the decade, including one homer each in the 1970 and ’72 series. In 1975 against the Red Sox, Rose was at his best, with 10 hits (including a double and a triple) and 5 walks in 33 plate appearances (.370 BA, .485 OB%). He locked up World Series MVP honors with a clutch, two-out 7th inning RBI single to tie Game 7 for the Reds.
Starting Pitcher – Catfish Hunter, Oakland A’s (1972-74), New York Yankees (1976-78)
Hunter participated in more 1970s Fall Classics (6) than any other player in the decade. He went 2-0 for Oakland against the Reds in 1972, and facing elimination beat Tom Seaver and the Mets 3-1 in Game 6 in 1973. Then in 1974, after winning the ALCS clincher for the second straight season, he came on in relief to save Game 1 of the World Series against the Dodgers and went 8 1/3 to win Game 3, 3-2. As a Yankee he lost a well-pitched complete game in ’76, and after a bad outing vs LA in 1977, came back in 1978 to notch the clincher, 7-2 against the Dodgers. Overall Catfish was 5-3 with a save and 3.29 ERA in 12 World Series appearances.
Starting Pitcher – Steve Blass, Pittsburgh Pirates (1971)
No starting pitcher during the decade was better in a single series than Blass was for Pittsburgh in 1971. Down two games to none, Blass tamed the powerful lineup of defending champion Baltimore on a complete game 3-hitter, yielding his only run on a Frank Robinson homer. Then in the deciding Game 7, he went all the way again, allowing only 4 hits and out-dueling Mike Cuellar 2-1.
Starting Pitcher – Ken Holtzman, Oakland A’s (1972-74)
Holtzman was a consistent winner for Oakland during their 3-year run as World Champions, and he did not disappoint on the big stage, going 4-1 with a 2.55 ERA in 7 starts. He was the winning pitcher in Game 1 all three years, and closed out the Mets in Game 7 of the 1973 Fall Classic beating Jon Matlack 5-2. He even wreaked some havoc with his bat, doubling twice in 1973 and hitting a double and a homer in 1974; his World Series batting average was .308 with 4 runs scored.
Starting Pitcher – Luis Tiant, Boston Red Sox (1975)
After shutting out Oakland in Game 1 of the ALCS, Tiant nearly willed Boston to victory over the Big Red Machine in the 1975 World Series. He tossed a 3-hit, 100 pitch shutout in Game 1 and another complete game victory 4 days later in Game 4, this one a 9-hitter that took 155 pitches to escape by a 5-4 margin. El Tiante went again in the iconic Game 6, lasting into the 8th inning, before finally giving way to the bullpen after Cesar Geronimo’s homer tied the contest at 6. Boston’s record that year in Fall Classic games not started by Tiant: 0-4.
Relief Pitcher – Rollie Fingers, Oakland A’s (1972-74)
Fingers appeared in 6 of 7 games in the 1972 World Series, picking up a win and 2 saves. The following year he again pitched in 6 of 7 games, with 2 saves but also a loss in Game 2 when he yielded his only earned run of the Series in 13 2/3 total innings of work, which included 2 outings of 3 1/3 innings. Fingers was just as dominant in 1974 against the Dodgers, going 4 1/3 to earn the win in Game 1. He also closed out close wins in Games 3 through 5, getting what would be considered 3 saves today but officially only 2 by 1974 standards. He was named the MVP of that series, and over the 3 years tallied a 1.35 ERA in 33 innings.
Relief Pitcher – Clay Carroll, Cincinnati Reds (1970, ’72, ’75)
The underrated Carroll threw 9 shutout innings in 1970 against Baltimore over 4 games, and was scored upon only once in his first 9 World Series appearances. In all Carroll pitched in 14 World Series games with a 2-1 record and 1.33 ERA in 20 1/3 innings.
Relief Pitcher – Kent Tekulve, Pittsburgh Pirates (1979)
Despite his rail-thin frame Tekulve was actually a rugged workhorse who had 70 or more appearances in 10 different seasons, including a career high 94 in 1979. He pitched and finished 5 of the Pirate’s 7 World Series games that year, saving 3 and allowing just 4 hits while striking out 10 in 9 1/3 innings. He did blow a save in Game 4, yielding his only runs of the Fall Classic, but rebounded with saves in Game 6 (a 3-inning effort), and Game 7 (1 1/3 to close out the series).
Relief Pitcher/Spot Starter – Jack Billingham, Cincinnati Reds (1972, ’75-76)
Billingham pitched 8 shutout innings for a win in Game 3 of the 1972 series vs Oakland, came back to save Game 5, and was the hard-luck loser after giving up 1 unearned run over 5 innings in Game 7. He also pitched well in one start and 2 relief outings vs Boston in ’75, and earned a win in 2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief against the Yankees in Game 2 in ’76. Overall Billingham made 3 starts and 4 relief World Series appearances, compiling a 2-1 record and a sparkling 0.36 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings.
Joe Gersbeck is a baseball historian and lifetime fan/student of the game who lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons. His most recent book, 1970s All-Star Baseball: A History of the Decade’s All-Star Games can be found on Amazon:
His bestselling 1970s Baseball: A History and Analysis of the Decade’s Best Seasons, Teams, and Players is available on Amazon, B&N, and iBooks:
With NY down 2-0, Nettles single-handedly saved the ’78 series for the Yankees. I agree with Brooks, but Nettles omission makes this list almost invalid.
More than Clay Carroll, what about Rawley Eastwick?
Hello? Joe Morgan?
yea right….no Joe Morgan……..exempts the whole list…..
Great stuff …
The Cincinnati Reds of the 19 garnered more World Series appearances than any other team during that decade, with an overall record of 953 wins and 657 losses.
Thanks for making note of Jack Billingham. Too often he is overlooked for his valuable contributions in regular and post-season games for the Big Red Machine.