A baseball card mystery: Ken Holtzman’s 1974 Topps card

Whether you call it gold or mustard or just plain old yellow, the color simply glows on the 1974 Topps card of the underrated Ken Holtzman. A’s owner Charlie Finley liked to refer to this color as “California Gold,” which may or may not be available at your local paint store.

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In 1964, Finley adorned his Kansas City Athletics in green and gold, making them the first team in major league history to sport multi-colored uniforms (that is, if we don’t consider white and gray to be true colors). The A’s retained that look when they moved to Oakland in 1968. In addition to California Gold, Finley proudly boasted about his A’s wearing “Kelly Green” and “Polar Bear White,” giving the A’s the most distinctive look of any team in the ’60s and early ’70s.

By 1972, the A’s switched from a button-down, vested look to a pullover design, but retained the green and gold color scheme. They generally wore white pants, switching the jersey color from green to gold on a given day. For Sunday home games, the A’s wore all-white uniforms. Only occasionally during the 1973 and ‘74 seasons did the A’s sport the all-green or the all-gold look, the latter being quite evident on Holtzman’s 1974 card.

Given the relatively few number of times that the A’s used the all-gold uniforms, I’m wondering if it’s possible to pinpoint the exact date of the game seen on the Holtzman card. We have only a few clues. The photo, presumably from the 1973 season, appears to have been taken at the Oakland Coliseum. Obviously, it is a day game. We can assume that it is not a Sunday afternoon game, due to the absence of the all-white uniforms. We also know that Reggie Jackson, seen in the background, was playing the outfield that day, most likely in right field.

This might be our most challenging baseball card mystery to date. Most of the time, I’ve been confident that our sharp readers would come up with a correct answer, and they have. But this time, I’m not so sure due to the lack of information. Do we have a sufficient number of clues to pinpoint the date? Well, it’s worth a shot.


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Bruce Markusen is the manager of Digital and Outreach Learning at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He has authored seven baseball books, including biographies of Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda and Ted Williams, and A Baseball Dynasty: Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s, which was awarded SABR's Seymour Medal.
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Bruce Markusen
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Bruce Markusen

One correction that needs to be made: Finley made the switch to green and gold in 1963, not ‘64.

heyblue
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heyblue

According to BBRef, he only pitched in 12 day games in 1973, but I don’t know how to parse out which were at home other than checking each of his 40 starts individually.  But it seems like it could be narrowed down fairly quickly to a handful of suspects at least.

scott
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scott

Did the A’s have all-green unis?  I don’t remember the green pants.

Mike
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Mike

Ken Holtzman made two non-Sunday day game starts in 1973 in the Coliseum with Reggie Jackson starting in right field:

April 28 against Baltimore
June 9 against Detroit

Both days were Saturday.

Jason
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Jason

I’m having trouble finding any historical newspaper accounts of either game to see if they mention what uniforms were worn.

Rich
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Rich

Feels like April 29th, because would Holtzman be wearing green sleeves during a June day game. Well it is Oakland so with their weather it’s a possibility it’s not a scorching hot June day.

Rich
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Rich

meant April 28th, but interesting nonetheless

Jim G.
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Jim G.

I happened to check the Farmer’s Almanac for the weather on those dates…. yes, I have a problem…… and April 28th was about 54 and June 9 was 70. I wouldn’t wear sleeves when it’s 70, but many would. Especially pitcher types. The limited data there would indicate they were both at worst partly sunny.

Bruce Markusen
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Bruce Markusen

Well done, gentlemen. You’ve boiled it down to two days, April 28 and June 9, very quickly. I’m going to check The Sporting News to see if there are notations involving those dates.

Scott, to answer your question, the A’s did use all-green uniforms occasionally in 1973 and ‘74. I like green, but the all-green look was a bit much.

Nick
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Nick

If you notice in the picture, Reggie Jackson is also wearing long sleeves.

John
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John

Has anyone checked attendance?  Given the sparse attendance on a saturday day game, I’d vote for April.  Would think a June game would draw better, but then again, Oakland never has drawn well.

BlftBucco
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BlftBucco

Maybe the Athletics wore other combinations on Sundays.

See this link from Getty Images from Sunday July 22, 1973:

http://www.gettyimages.com/Search/Search.aspx?contractUrl=2&language=en-US&family=editorial&p=Ken+Holtzman+July+22+1973&assetType=image#

Jason
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Jason

Well, that opens up the possible dates a little more. I think there were 6 saturday and sunday day games with the right combo of Jackson, Holtzman, etc.

Joe Tillery
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Joe Tillery

This write up doesn’t mention Jackson as the fielder but gives two other possibilities.
http://1974topps-pennantfever.blogspot.com/2011/06/180-ken-holtzman.html

Bruce Markusen
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Bruce Markusen

Joe, it couldn’t be either North or Mangual because both of those players threw right-handed. The outfielder on the card has a glove on his right hand.

jimmymac
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jimmymac

here is a clue that might help   I remember distinctly the all yellow uniforms were worn for a 6 game winning streak after their debut

Jay
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Jay

That’s actually a Topps 1972 card…

Dante Quartermaine
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Dante Quartermaine

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