This is one of my favorite cards in a set that is at once ugly and beautiful. In general the funky and sometimes wild border colors of the set had no rhyme or reason, but the orange and brown scheme seems to work well for this card marking the 1974 NLCS between the Eastern Division Champion Pittsburgh Pirates and the Western Champion Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Dodgers took their first NL West crown in 1974, finally toppling the powerful Reds by four games while winning a major league-best 102 regular season games.
1974 marked Pittsburgh’s fourth NL East title in the past five seasons, as the Pirates topped the Cardinals by just 1 1/2 games. In prior NLCS the Bucs were turned away in a sweep by the Reds in 1970, knocked off the Giants on the way to a World Series championship in ’71, and lost in gut-wrenching fashion to Cincinnati in ’72.
The photo used for this card shows Pittsburgh shortstop Frank Tavares on his knees in a cloud of dust, mostly likely after a late tag on NL Most Valuable Player Steve Garvey of the Dodgers. It appears this happened in the third inning of Game 1 at Three Rivers Stadium, a Saturday day game played on October 5th, after a one-out double from Garvey off Jerry Reuss. Steve was stranded at second that inning, but Los Angeles won the contest 3-0 on a 4-hit shutout by Don Sutton.
The clubs split the next two games before the Dodgers took the pennant in convincing fashion: a 12-1 rout at Dodger Stadium. Sutton won his second game of the series and Garvey had four hits in the game, including two home runs. Steve was 7-18 (.389) in the series, and followed that up with an 8-21 (.381) performance in a 5-game loss to Oakland in the World Series.
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 new book, 1970s All-Star Baseball: A History of the Decade’s All-Star Games was just released 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: