Over at The Hardball Times, I’ve been writing about my favorite baseball cards of all-time, a series that is coinciding with Topps’ countdown of the company’s 60 greatest cards. So naturally the whole process got me thinking of my favorite Yankee card ever. In the past, I’ve written about cards depicting Joe Pepitone (1968), Mickey Mantle (1969), Alex Johnson (1975), Cliff Johnson (1978), Aurelio Rodriguez (1981), John Mayberry (1983), Mike Easler (1987), Lance McCullers (1990 Score), and Matt Nokes (1991), among many others. Mantle’s was special because it was his final card. The Johnson card featured some odd airbrushing. The Rodriguez, Mayberry, and Easler cards all showcased the players with intriguing action shots. In some cases, I really enjoyed the card, or I really liked the player, and sometimes I liked both. But I don’t know that I would call any of these my favorite Yankee card.
After considering the question further, I thought I needed to pick an action card, since those have always been preferable to posed or portrait shots. It would need to be a card from one of Topps’ better sets, one with a good, perhaps innovative design. And it would certainly help if the card depicted one of my favorite Yankees. So using those three criteria, I arrived at this card as my choice:
Along with Bobby Murcer, Thurman Munson was the Yankee I felt most attached to during the 1970s. This card came out as part of Topps’ memorable 1971 set, which featured distinctive black borders. It was also the first Topps set to feature regular player cards in action shots. This was one of the best action photographs in that set, as Munson is shown, amidst a thick cloud of dirt, applying a tag to an unknown Oakland A’s player. I can only guess that the umpire called the runner out, based on the firm grip that Munson has on the ball and the position of his glove in relation to the runner. Whether the runner was out or not, the card captures Munson, a superb defensive catcher, guarding the plate in his usual attack-dog fashion. As an added bonus, Topps has included its trademark yellow trophy, signifying Munson’s status as a member of the Topps all-rookie team for the 1970 season.
So what’s your favorite Yankee card? You don’t have to pick a Topps card; it can be a Fleer, or a Donruss, or an Upper Deck. Any company is fine. Just pick a card, but more importantly, tell us why it’s No. 1 on your list.
And while you’re thinking about your favorite cards, be sure to have a Merry Christmas!
Bruce Markusen lives in Cooperstown, NY.