"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Card Corner: My Favorite Yankee Card

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.

Categories:  Bronx Banter  Bruce Markusen  Card Corner  Yankees

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1 The Mick536   ~  Dec 24, 2010 9:45 am

Not a card collector. Mother, like many others, threw out my cards when I was away at college. Could be a Toy story plot, eh?

But I carried baseball cards of my hero, Dick Allen in my wallet for years. When one wore out, I bought another. My fave-1971 Topps, number 650-Rich Allen. i loved the guy.Sat in first base boxes when he wrote in dirt with spikes. When he was on the field, you watched him. At bat, you held your breath.

So, you wonder. How good could he have been? How good could The Mick have been? Then again, The Mick heard boos, but not for being black.

2 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 24, 2010 10:31 am

I gotta say I really do like this card; it's as though he's posing for the camera, thinking "Here, now whattaya think of that, that's how it goes down!" Not to those specific words, per se, but there's a sparkle of confidence there that's interesting.

I wasn't a big card collector, though I had dozens of cards over the years. The only one of significant value I had was an autographed Willie Upshaw card from the 80's after my Dad built an in-ground pool for him. Mom never threw anything away I had, yet everything I ever had from childhood is gone except my memories. Good thing those are really good! >;)

3 knuckles   ~  Dec 24, 2010 12:11 pm

Mattingly's Topps rookie card is my favorite ever, however, the 1986 Mattingly had the best action shot, him following the path of a ball, likely headed for the RF corner and about to take off for 1st base. It also had a (partial) black border, kind of like the one above.

4 Bruce Markusen   ~  Dec 24, 2010 12:42 pm

Mick, on that 1971 Dick Allen (or Rich Allen, as it says on the card), look closely and you'll see Allen with a mustache, which was just about unheard of that time. Allen and Reggie Jackson became trendsetters when they sprouted mustaches in the early 1970s.

I remember that Mattingly, too. I'm not a big fan of the '86 set, but that is a cool picture of The Hit Man.

5 Joel   ~  Dec 24, 2010 12:43 pm

I love the "Thurman L. Munson" signature.

I'll never forget his homer well over the 430' sign in the '78 ALCS.

6 thelarmis   ~  Dec 24, 2010 2:10 pm

i was a pretty huge card collector as a kid. even worked at a baseball card store. these were pretty popular on long island for a spell. i still buy several packs each season, but i don't "collect" so much anymore. the most recent topps sets i enjoyed, were 2004 & 2005. loved those designs, esp '04. i have cool Wang and Hughes cards from those years.

i've become a Dick Allen fan in more recent years, as i've studied the game more and read so much great material online. i don't remember him much from growing up, though. Dick Allen, Vada Pinson and Stan Musial, are 3 standouts for me that i wish i knew more about when i was a kid...

yeah, the Mattingly rookie & '86 cards are both cool and i, too, dig Thurman's John Hancock on the pictured card here.

Thurman was my first "idol" growing up. he's the first death i had to experience and i'll never forget that horrible day, sitting on the floor of my apt. in Far Rockaway. i was a really little kid, but man, was that sad. i still get emotional about it and i think it's a major reason why i have such a genuine fear of flying.

just this year, i set out on a mission to collect all the Thurman Munson cards Topps issued. hell, i already have a cool Thurman t-shirt, plaque up in my den and photo behind my main kit at my drum studio.

i was successful in getting all the Topps cards he was on! i also learned that in recent years, some of the old cards were re-issued. this was fine by me. this 1971 card was reissued this year. the only difference is the lower case topps logo is in the top right corner of the action shot. looks good. glossy finish, semi thick card-stock. apparently, there were 2 different issues of this. i made sure to get the one that has the stats, picture and info that was on the back of the original '71 card. good stuff.

the other reissues i got, were the '77 All-Star and 1970 Rookie (only Thurman, not the original split); everything else i got are the original Topps cards, including the "In Action" '72 shot.

i got some weird 1980 "In Memoriam" card. looks like someone made it, put it on a metal backing. was there an official card of this? i can't correctly recall and can't find proof of it anywhere. either way, i'm glad to have it, along with the rest of my thurman topps collection! : )

7 Bruce Markusen   ~  Dec 24, 2010 7:21 pm

Thelarmis, I've seen that Munson memorial card. It was never officially published or released; someone on the Internet made it. It's a pretty cool looking card.

8 Bruce Markusen   ~  Dec 24, 2010 9:01 pm

I've got every Topps Munson card except for the rookie card, which he shared with an obscure infielder named Dave McDonald. Whatever happened to Dave McDonald?!

9 thelarmis   ~  Dec 24, 2010 10:44 pm

[7] thanks, bruce! it is a nice card. a little fuzzy when you're holding it in your hands, but i'm glad to have it.

[8] yeah, when i was researching the cards, i really didn't wanna get the original with the split. i found that in 2001, topps reissued it as part of their "topps archives reserve" series. the Thurman one is just him by himself! it's gray, glittery, shiny and heavy. not my favorite card, but again, glad to have it. the back, is #189, lists his complete minor league batting record on one line and has the following statement:

'signed out of kent state u; he was named to all-american baseball of 1968. has good arm, great desire.'

i was originally thinking of putting these all in one of the those baseball card frames; but it doesn't really work, with some cards being vertical and some being horizontal, along with some other non-artistic aspects.

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