Saturday, January 23, 2016

1975 Topps Joe Niekro

Houston Astros CTNW Favorites #5

It has been months since I've made my Top 5 "Fan Favorites". For this one I've chosen to do the Houston Astros. There are several worthy players from the 90's and beyond but as usual, I chose to make cards of players I remember from my early collecting years,  which would be primarily 1980s and earlier. In case you need to be reminded, this is simply an exhibition, not a competition. So please no wagering.

Joe Niekro was purchased by the Astros just prior to the start of the 1975 season. He began his MLB career with the Cubs. He then played for the Padres, Tiger and Braves. It was in Atlanta where he honed his knuckler with the help of his teammate, future Hall of Famer, and big brother Phil Niekro. When Joe came to Houston he was used out of the bullpen. When the knuckle ball became his reliable go-to pitch he earned a starting roll. In 1980 he became the first Astro to win 20 games in two seasons.

I chose the 1975 design because Topps pictured him in a Braves uniform that year. It was also the first season the Astros wore the infamous "Tequila Sunrise" uniforms.  These unis would not appear on Topps cards until the 1976 series. That first season was slightly different than the other years in that the player's number was in a circle on the back. They also had a black #40 patch on their sleeve in honor of Don Wilson. Wilson was an All Star pitcher for Houston from 1966-1974. He died in January of 1975. You can barely make out that patch on his left shoulder.

Here is a better look at those first year uniforms. Sorry I couldn't find a decent color photo that showed both the patch and the circle number.

This photo features pitcher Doug Konieczny and manager Preston Gomez.  I know this is a post about Joe Niekro but I have to point out that in 1974 Gomez had actually brought in a pinch hitter for Don Wilson (whose patch is on his sleeve) when Wilson was pitching a no hitter after 8 innings. Granted, the Astrros were down to the Big Red Machine 2-1 on a costly 2 run throwing error by shortstop Roger Metzger. But pinch hitter, Tommy Helms grounded out and reliever Mike Cosgrove gave up a hit to the first batter he faced, Tony Perez. The 'Stros lost 2-1. Gomez was fired in August 1975 after going 47-80.  He was replaced by fired Yankees manager, Bill Virdon.


  1. I loved these uniforms as a child. I think I knew the entire Houston Astro team just because of the uniforms and the 1976 team set. I went as far as to make my own "uniform" using a white T-shirt and some markers. (Though I don't recall if I knew there an ugly circle with the number on the back as the 76 set did not have a shot of the back. (I think there is a hint of it on Doug Radar's card.) I would wear my uniform and go out in the back yard and I was in my glory with my fellow teammates Cesar Cedeno, Radar, Milt May, et al.

  2. Nice post and card!

    I'd written about the Astros uniforms recently including SSPC cards (that set has Joe in his correct uniform). This is the link if anyone's interested: