Monday, July 5, 2010

Card back countdown: #50 - 1978 SSPC Yankees Yearbook

A few things about 1978: I became a teenager. I moved to a new city. I continued my habit of one crush per year. This time I had one on a girl named Allison. By the end of high school, the entire male student body had a crush on Allison. But I saw her first.

My love for baseball did not waver. In fact, it grew in many amazing ways in 1978. I saw a complete set of baseball cards for the first time. I attended my first major league baseball game. And I became acquainted with the concept of the "team yearbook."

I saw my first yearbook on the same day I attended my first baseball game. It was at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees were playing the Royals. My brothers went to New York with some friends, most of whom were Yankee fans. One of the main objectives of the trip, was to acquire some memorabilia. Sadly, all the memorabilia at Yankee Stadium featured, ugh, Yankees. There were Yankee faces and Yankee logos and Yankee slogans and other equally repulsive accoutrements.

My two friends bought 1978 Yankee yearbooks. I did not. Instead I quietly enjoyed the Royals' 8-2 victory. Pete LaCock hit a home run.

But on the way home, in the wee hours while riding through southeastern New York countryside, I discovered that I actually wanted a Yankee yearbook.

My friends pulled out their yearbooks and leafed through them. I saw that each yearbook contained a complete set of baseball cards, special cards made to celebrate the Yankees' 1977 World Series championship team. At the time, Topps, Kellogg's and Hostess were the only companies that we knew that made cards. And we rarely saw Hostess cards. The thought of another set of cards that featured completely different photos of the players than the photos we knew from Topps cards was practically intoxicating to a young card collector.

It didn't matter that all of the cards were Yankees. I wanted a yearbook.

Later that year, I acquired that yearbook. I don't remember how I found it, probably in a drug store magazine rack. I pulled the sheet of cards out of the yearbook and ignored the rest. Not long afterward I threw out the yearbook, but not the cards.

I kept them and cut them out haphazardly. I still have those cards and one of my favorite parts of the set is the card back.

The card backs are as shockingly simple as the card fronts, and you may wonder why this particular card back is on a countdown of the top 50 card backs of all-time. But it is the simplicity of the back, combined with the fact that the card back helps contribute to a set that nicely sums up an entire season of one baseball team.

Each card back lists highlights of each player with dates and corresponding accomplishments. I love "this date in history" rundowns and each player in this set has their own "this date in history" as it pertains to winning a World Series title.

The concept isn't new. As I mentioned in my last card back post, the 1960 set used the same format on the back of most of its cards (Donruss used it as well in its 1981 debut). But the '78 SSPC Yankee set is special for me because it was the first time I had seen such a format and because of its ability to encapsulate an entire season. It was like a Casey Kasem year-end countdown on a set of 27 baseball cards. It's a nice keepsake of the season.

The card fronts are typical SSPC fair from the mid-to-late 1970s. There is no wording on the front. A photo fills the entire space, leaving a white border and a black outline of the picture. It's hard to distinguish the set from other SSPC issues from the period. Unless you turn the card over. That's where it stands out.

Best of the set:

I may have spent the last 13 paragraphs fawning over a set filled entirely with Yankees, but that doesn't mean I didn't bring my Yankee-hating ways to the collection.

My favorite card is of utility infielder Mickey Klutts.

 Klutts played in just five games for the Yankees in 1977. So the back of his card looks like this:

Two meager accomplishments. Believe me, it was frustrating seeing a long list of achievements on the back of every card in the set. Thank god Mickey Klutts was around so we could poke fun at somebody.


  1. "My two friends bought 1978 Yankee yearbooks. I did not. Instead I quietly enjoyed the Royals' 8-2 victory. Pete LaCock hit a home run."

    Obviously my favorite part!

  2. I think I pulled at least a dozen Pete LaCock cards from wax packs in 1978. That card has been permanently burned into my memory.