How to Know You’re a 70s Baseball Kid

February 25, 2024

15 min read


The 1970s were a great time to be alive for baseball fans. 

Kids who grew up in this era saw baseball go through huge transformations, from the start of free agency to the colorful personalities dominating the game. 

Take a trip down memory lane with us and reminisce on one of the most interesting eras in baseball.

Coolest Ballplayers 1970s B P040

The Coolest Ballplayers of the 1970s

Major-league baseball in the 70s was full of bombastic personalities.

Here’s some of the most memorable. 

1. Al Hrabosky

We’d be remiss not to include “The Mad Hungarian” on our list of noteworthy 70s baseball players. Hrabosky earned his nickname for his unorthodox tactics as a pitcher. 

He would slam the ball into his glove, glare like a movie villain at opponents, and stomp around the mound to intimidate batters.

He’d even pick “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2” as his entrance song.

2. Oscar Gamble

Oscar Gamble was the prototype for cool 70s ballplayers.

Playing for the Cleveland Indians, he wanted a way to stand out so he could get more playing time. 

To accomplish his goal he grew a giant afro, which supported neither cap nor helmet successfully.

3. Dave Parker

Oscar Gamble was memorable with his fro in the 70s, but Dave Parker was the king of cool in baseball. 

Parker’s career stats were impressive enough to go along with his persona, with 2,712 hits and 339 home runs.

But it was his quirks – like waving his bat around to land him the nickname “Cobra” – that made him stand out to young baseball fans across the country.

4. Reggie Jackson

We can’t leave a player with the nickname “Mr. October” off the list.

Jackson played with the Athletics, then the Yankees, rounding up five World Series titles in the 1970s. 

Jackson was so influential in baseball that the Standard Brands company made a special candy bar in his honor, which was handed out to fans as they walked into Yankee Stadium for the 1978 home opener.

Reggie Jackson Bat Yankees 1979 Jim Accordino B P040
Reggie Jackson at bat for the Yankees in 1979. Photo by Jim Accordino shared under a CC BY 2.0 license via Wikimedia Commons.

5. Luis Tiant

Tiant makes the list for his signature windup, of course.

The twisting delivery motion – that every kid tried at least once – had him fully turn his back to the batter. 

The Cuban pitcher became known as El Tiante when he played with the Red Sox, and starred in a few commercials, including a now infamous one where you couldn’t tell if he was saying “winner” or “weiner” because of his accent.

70s Baseball Had a Rebellious Side

The 1970s were a pivotal moment in broader American culture, or rather, counterculture.

The rebellious attitudes throughout the 1960s which upended conservative values were finally making their way to baseball in the 70s. 

Players wrested power away from owners with the advent of free agents, forcing teams to spend more money on their individual players. 

In 1970, the highest-paid baseball player was earning a $150,000 salary.

By the end of the decade, that was just the average.

Jim Palmer 1977 B P040
Jim Palmer, 1977. Unknown Author / Public Domain

On-field Gimmicks and Competitions in the 70s

To help compensate for big-ticket players, owners and managers started coming up with gimmicks to put more fans in the seats

The on-field antics we’ve grown to love today (the Sausage Race at Miller Park, anyone?) were unprecedented before the 70s. 

With tightrope-walking demonstrations, bathtub races, and even wet T-shirt contests, games grew ever more exuberant and flamboyant throughout the 1970s.

For many 70s baseball kids, these events are inextricable with their best ballpark memories.

Sausage Races Miller Park Daveynin B P040
Sausage races at Miller Park. Photo by daveynin shared under a CC BY 2.0 license via Flickr.

Larger-than-Life Personalities in the 1970s

Owners and stadium managers weren’t the only ones experimenting with a newfound sense of wackiness. 

As we’ve seen, many baseball players in the 70s had colorful personalities as well.

From the Mad Hungarian’s temper on the mound to the uber-cool Dick Allen recording a music single with the Ebonistics, baseball players in the 70s were not short on character. 

One of the most wild episodes of the decade was when pitcher Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter while high on LSD

The Pittsburgh Pirates were in San Diego the day before the June 12, 1970 game and the 25-year-old pitcher got high and lost track of time. He saw in the paper he was supposed to pitch that day, so he showed up at San Diego Stadium and ended up throwing a no-hitter. 

The feat remains unmatched (as far as we know) in major-league baseball and is the epitome of 70s counterculture for many baseball fans.

Those Memorable 70s Uniforms

Player eccentricities were certainly rampant in the 1970s. But personalities weren’t the only colorful standouts in the decade – the uniforms during this era took on ostentatious new heights as well. 

Bright colors were in, from the Astros’ horizontal rainbow of reds and oranges, to the unrestrained use of powder blue by several teams.

Baseball kids of the 70s often got to watch their favorite players in colorful get-ups.

Entire teams took on distinct personalities as well.

The Cincinnati Reds were so dominant in the 70s the team was nicknamed the Big Red Machine. During the decade they won two World Series.

The Pittsburgh Pirates also had a great decade, earning them the moniker “The Lumber Company” for the first time in 1971.

Journalists gravitated toward these nicknames, making the teams from this era even more embedded in the minds of 70s baseball kids.

Hank Aaron Became the Home Run King

On April 8, 1974, baseball history was remade when Hank Aaron hit his 715th career home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s all-time record. 

Baseball kids everywhere, no matter who their favorite team or player was, were in awe of Aaron. His record would stand until 2007 when it was broken by Barry Bonds.

Hank Aaron 1974 B P040
Hank Aaron in 1974. Unknown author / Public domain 

Disco Demolition Night in ‘79

Any baseball fan of the time will remember the Disco Demolition Night in Chicago in 1979, the culmination of the decade’s gimmicky promotions. 

Fans were admitted to Comiskey Park to see the White Sox play the Tigers for only 98 cents if they brought a disco record with them.

The turnout for the July 12 game was estimated at 90,000 people. Comiskey Park only had 52,000 seats. 

The second game of the night’s double-header had to be called off when fans rushed the field. Riot police were then called in to disperse the crowd. 

The night would go down in baseball history as one of the “most ill-advised promotions of all-time, but arguably one of the most successful as 30 years later we’re still talking about it” according to baseball analyst Jeremiah Graves.

Comiskey Park 1986 Baseball Bugs B P040
Comiskey Park in 1986. Baseball Bugs / Public domain

True 70s Baseball Kids

Kids of the 70s remember baseball for what it was – a roaring good time. The shenanigans seemed endless, the uniforms were colorful, and the personalities were larger than life. 

Baseball fans remember the decade as one of the most enjoyable in the game and we certainly enjoyed rekindling some of those fond feelings.

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About the Author

Courtney Withrow

Professional Writer

Originally from the U.S., Courtney is a Brussels-based freelance writer with a Master’s degree in International Relations. She grew up playing softball and still loves the game.

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