Although I’m a life-long Mets fan, I also liked the Yankees when I was a kid in the mid-1970’s.
There, I’ve gotten that off of my chest. I’ve been meaning to write about that for… well, since the beginnings of this blog in late 2011.
…But to summarize: For my first three years of collecting (1974-1976), I also enjoyed having cards of the other New York team. I was young and naïve, everything was sunshine-y and there were no villains, just different strata of heroes.
So let’s get into the Yankees team set from 1975 Topps …
The 1975 Yankees went 83-77 and finished in 3rd place in the American League East. At the time, Yankee Stadium was undergoing an extensive renovation (and having all of its personality surgically removed), so the Yankees were in their second year of playing their home games at Shea Stadium. I’m still weirded out by any photos which show the Shea scoreboard with a Yankees logo featured up top. Heresy!!!
George Steinbrenner had purchased the team in 1973, and while I was too young at the time to know who Steinbrenner was, looking back it seems like 1975 was when the Yankees reached significant levels of Steinbrennerosity. GM Tal Smith resigned during the season, and manager (and Shlabotnik favorite) Bill Virdon was fired and replaced by Billy Martin… one of numerous reasons why Billy Martin was a first-ballot inductee into my “Hall Of Disdain”.
Best Position Player:
Thurman Munson was in his prime, batting .318 with 83 runs, 102 RBI and 12 homers. He was an All-Star, won a Gold Glove and finished 7th in MVP voting..
Munson played in 157 games in 1975, 130 games as a catcher and most of the rest as a DH. He also made appearances at 1st, 3rd and in the outfield.
Best Pitcher Appearing in the set as a Yankee:
George “Doc” Medich was in his final season with the Yankees; he went 16-16 with a 3.50 ERA, 2 shutouts and 132 strikeouts.
Best Pitcher; Best Player Pictured With Another Team
Jim Hunter had his best season as a Yankee in his first season as a Yankee. He lead the league in wins and complete games, went 23-14 with a 2.58, 7 shutouts, 177 K’s and a 1.009 WHIP. Hunter was an All-Star and finished second to Jim Palmer in Cy Young voting after winning the award in 1974 with the A’s.
1975 was the 5th straight season he won 20 games, and the last season he would do so.
Favorite Card and Best On-Field Photo:
This photo of Bill Sudakis might not look great on a 2018 card, but it was pure gold in 1975.
Had there been a 1975 Traded set, Sudakis may have appeared in it as he had been traded to the Angels in December 1974 for reliever Skip Lockwood. My reaction to this information was “Skip Lockwood pitched for the Yankees?” only to find out that he didn’t make it to opening day; he was cut by the Yankees in early April, picked up by the A’s and later sold to the Mets.
Best Rookie card:
Easily the best career of any Yankee on a 1975 Topps rookie card belongs to Scott McGregor… and he never actually pitched for the Yankees. In the Major Leagues McGregor was a career Oriole who would win 20 games in 1980.
I found out something fascinating about McGregor while researching this post. Before the 1974 season A’s manager Dick Williams, who had quit his position in Oakland, was the Yankees first choice to be their manager. The A’s demanded compensation for Williams, however, and at one point the two teams agreed on outfielder Otto Velez and Scott McGregor. George Steinbrenner then decided that prospects were more important than managers and scuttled the deal. The Yankees instead hired Bill Virdon, who had been let go by the Pirates.
Best 1975 Yankees Position Player Who Didn’t Appear On A 1975 Card:
I couldn’t decide on one player who should represent the “Best who didn’t appear on a 1975 card” category, so I split it into two categories. Walt Williams is the best Yankees position player not to appear in the 1975 Topps set.
In 1975 – his final season – Williams appeared in 82 games, batted .281 with 27 runs and 16 RBI.
Best 1975 Yankees Pitcher Who Didn’t Appear On A 1975 Card:
Tippy Martinez would have half as many appearances as Sparky Lyle, yet managed to lead the team with 8 saves.
Favorite Cartoon (on the back of Bill Sudakis’ card):
As a kid, I thought “Cecil Upshaw” sounded like a British movie character, perhaps played by Terry-Thomas… Someone who would say “Oh, drat!” after giving up a home run.
Fred “Chicken” Stanley – Fred’s a baseball lifer (currently a Special Assistant with the Giants) and every time I see him referenced somewhere, I think of him as “Chicken”.
You may be thinking “Hello? Catfish Hunter?”, but I would rank Catfish no higher than 4th on this team, behind “No Neck” Williams and “Doc” Medich.
Most Notable Airbrushing:
This Yankees team had a lot of roster turnover, so there were plenty of airbrushing jobs to pick from, but there’s no doubting which is the most… ahhh… NOTABLE.
What makes this even more… um… interesting is that the Yankees had purchased May from the Angels the previous June… Rudy May pitched in 17 games, 15 of them starts, in 1974. There really should’ve been a photo of May in a Yankees uniform, but then we wouldn’t have had THIS.
Card which looks terribly odd to any Orioles fan:
Rick Dempsey is so thoroughly associated with the Orioles these days that it’s strange to see him pictured with the Yankees… even though that’s how I first knew him.
The previous cards of Tippy Martinez and Scotty McGregor also fall into this category. All three of them were involved in the same 10 player, June 1976 trade which saw Doyle Alexander, Ellie Hendricks, Ken Holtzman and Grant Jackson heading to the Bronx.