For Baby Boomers and even the older members of Generation X, MLB in the ‘70s provided some of their best baseball memories. They include Hank Aaron beating Babe Ruth’s home run record, Pete Rose’s 44-game hitting streak, the Big Red Machine, the heroics of Reggie “Mr. October” Jackson and some of the most outlandish uniforms in baseball history.
Those who play sim baseball from history can enjoy games using some of the great players from the era, including Jackson, Rose, Joe Morgan, Willie Stargell, Thurman Munson, Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Cesar Cedeno, Gaylord Perry and Bert Blyleven. All of them made MLB in the ‘70s one of the most memorable decades in baseball.
The following are some of the best baseball moments in the 1970s.
Hank Aaron Breaks Babe Ruth’s Record
On April 8, 1974, Atlanta Braves hitter Hank Aaron hit his 714th home run off pitcher Al Downing in the 4th inning, breaking the home run record held by Babe Ruth. He achieved the record in front of a home crowd of 53,775, the largest in Atlanta’s history. The Braves traded him to Milwaukee at the end of the season. He finished his career with two seasons as a Brewer, retiring with 755 home runs after the 1976 season.
Pete Rose’s 44-Game Hit Streak
In 1978, playing for the Cincinnati Reds, Pete Rose hit safely in 44 straight games, falling just 12 short of the record set by Joe DiMaggio in 1941. He is the only player to come close to DiMaggio, tying the hitting streak of Willie Keeler from 1897. The streak began on June 14 against the Chicago Cubs and ended Aug. 1 against the Philadelphia Phillies. Rose went on to retire with the Major League Baseball records for games (3,562), at bats (14,053), hits (4,256) and singles (3,215). However, he was banned from baseball in 1989 for betting on games.
The Big Red Machine
The Cincinnati Reds dominated baseball in the mid-1970s. Called the Big Red Machine because of a fearsome hitting lineup, the Red rolled to World Series victories in 1975 and 1976. The lineup included Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, George Foster and Tony Perez.
Three Dominant Teams
In addition to the Reds’ championships, two other teams won at least two in a row: the Oakland Athletics from 1972 to 1974 and the New York Yankees in 1977 and 1978. Also, the Pittsburgh Pirates won in 1971 and 1979. The only other team to win the World Series in the decade was the Baltimore Orioles in 1970.
Reggie Jackson Becomes Mr. October
In the 1977 World Series, Reggie Jackson of the New York Yankees hit three home runs in the clinching Game 6 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Jackson hit three home runs in three straight at-bats, all on the first pitch. If there’s a definition of “locked in,” it’s Jackson in this game. He hit the home runs off three different pitchers: Burt Hooton, Elias Sosa and Charlie Hough. His performance earned him an MVP award and the nickname, “Mr. October.”
Free Agency Begins
Owners had used the reserve clause to keep players on their team, but in 1975, arbitrator Peter Seitz made a decision in a case involving pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally that led to free agency. Players then had the right to offer their services on the open market, which is one reason salaries went from a high of around $150,000 in 1970 to that amount being about the average player salary by 1979.
Bucky Dent’s Home Run
Much like the Boston Celtics-Los Angeles Lakers rivalry in the NBA, the Yankees-Boston Red Sox rivalry often has people across the country picking a side. That was the case in 1978 when the Yankees caught the Red Sox to tie them atop the division, forcing a one-game playoff. Bucky Dent delivered on one of the most famous home runs in the 1970s and all of Yankees history, smashing a three-run blast that gave the Yankees the lead in the 7th inning.
Until MLB in the ‘70s, uniforms for the most part had meant that the home team wore white and the visitors wore grey. However, teams began adding a lot of color in the 1970s. The most (in)famous are the orange- and yellow-striped uniforms of the Houston Astros. The burgundy uniforms of the Philadelphia Phillies, the all-orange 1971 Orioles uniforms and the yellow-and-black duds of the Pittsburgh Pirates also provided some standout moments in this dubious category.
The decade provided many great moments, but these rank among the best baseball moments in the 1970s. It was a great decade for baseball fans, especially those in New York, Cincinnati and northern California.