Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Mets and Yankees are my childhood

Last month, I joined Johnny's Trading Spot's edition of the Big Fun Game despite being extraordinarily busy with little time to pay mind to baseball card drafts and such.

My fear in joining was that I'd be so distracted that I'd end up with basketball cards or Garbage Pail Kids cards, something that I look at the way my dog looks at me when I tell him he can't have the grape that fell on the floor because it might kill him.

I think Johnny feared that's exactly what had happened when my pick yielded a bunch of 1975 SSPC cards of the Mets and Yankees. My dislike for the Yankees goes way back and is well-known. My dislike for the Mets is much milder but spikes wildly anytime they face the Dodgers in the postseason.

However, the 1970s is the great neutralizer, especially the mid-1970s, especially 1975, the very first year I started buying packs of cards. These are cards and players straight from the first time that I started making an association between the players on the picture cards and the ones on the TV in the rec room.

Not to fear, Johnny. These are the two teams I saw most often when I was a kid.

I grew up with the Mets and Yankees of the 1970s.

Like any young baseball fan of that time, I saw baseball on network TV twice a week -- the Game of the Week on NBC on Saturdays and Monday Night Baseball on ABC on Mondays. Half the time Monday Night Baseball wasn't even on, so it was Game of the Week and that's it.

But when I'd go to visit my grandparents about 20 miles down the road, their TV carried WPIX and WOR out of the New York City area. PIX carried the Yankees and WOR the Mets. When we'd visit, we'd try to watch the Mets as that was my grandfather's team and -- duh -- why watch the stupid Yankees? But the Yankees were on more often so I ended up watching more of those games.

So Phil Rizzuto, Bill White and Frank Messer are my childhood, just as Lindsey Nelson, Ralph Kiner and Bob Murphy are. Kiner's Corner and cannolis and Holy Cow, that's what I think of when I see the cards I received from Johnny's Big Fun Game.

Living in Upstate New York in the '70s, you're raised on the Mets and Yankees, even if your favorite team is 3,000 miles away. You had no choice. It tested your allegiance. But I was strong. Because there wasn't 500 cable stations and internet streaming.

These are the Mets cards I received:

There are 22 cards in the Mets set, so this is basically a starter's set. I'm missing some the key cards: Jesus Alou, Tom Seaver, George Stone, Bob Apodaca, Felix Millan, Yogi Berra and Joe Torre.

But I do have the Gene Clines, glove-on-head card!! For a long time, I thought that card was in the main 1976 SSPC set (since all SSPC sets lack a design on the front during this time period), and I was disappointed when I figured out that wasn't true.

For those curious who these guys are, in order, from top to bottom: John Milner, Hank Webb, Tom Hall, Rusty Staub, Wayne Garrett, Del Unser, Ed Kranepool, Dave Kingman, John Stearns, Gene Clines, Jerry Koosman, Cleon Jones, Mike Phillips, Ricky Baldwin and Jon Matlack.

The '75 season is just before I started watching games on TV, so I associate more with the more recent Mets acquisitions like Stearns and Kingman. However, the '75 Topps Mets were some of my favorites, thanks to a friend of mine who was a Mets fan, so it's great fun to have another '75 version of Wayne Garrett and Jon Matlack and Jerry Koosman and John Milner.

Now, here are the Yankees I received:

Again, this is a starter set, so out of the 23 cards, I'm missing Catfish Hunter, Thurman Munson, Lou Piniella and Fred Stanley.

But I have some tremendous ones in childhood favorite Roy White, "No-Neck" Williams and that incredible outlier Dick Tidrow, taken at a spring training park at dusk.

This was very weird time in Yankees history as old Yankee Stadium was being overhauled and the Yankees had to play all their home games at Shea Stadium. That's why most of the pictures are at Shea Stadium (SSPC managed to crop out the Mets logo on the scoreboard, or just make sure the players weren't posed in front of the scoreboard). I wonder how much shock and babble would occur if the Yankees had to do something like that today?

Anyway, you want to know the names of the players. From the top: Ron Blomberg, Ed Brinkman, Bobby Bonds, Ed Herrmann, Larry Gura, Roy White, Rick Dempsey, Elliott Maddox, Bill Virdon, Pat Dobson, Chris Chambliss, Doc Medich, Sandy Alomar, Jim Mason, Alex Johnson, Sparky Lyle, Walt "No Neck" Williams, Graig Nettles, Dick Tidrow.

By this stage, owner George Steinbrenner had begun acquiring players at a rapid rate, although a lot of the early guys, like Brinkman, Bonds, Dobson, Johnson and Williams didn't stick. This is before the Bronx Zoo era so I don't hold much animosity for this crew. There's no Jackson. No Rivers. No Randolph. Way before Gossage. But the signs are there with Chambliss, Nettles and Lyle.

It was fun actively rooting against the Yankees while watching the Yankees' own broadcast as a kid. I felt like I had thwarted all of their propaganda. Say all the nice things about the Yankees you want, boys, I'm still rooting for the Red Sox. Or the Brewers. Or the Royals. Anybody other than you, really. Good times.

When we watched the Mets at my grandparents, it was much more relaxed. Unless they were playing the Dodgers, I merely took in the game, with no real rooting interest. It felt more like what watching a baseball game should be.

First discovering baseball as a kid, anytime I was aware there was a game on TV, I had to watch it. Who knew when that time would come again? Often, I'd have to wait an entire week for the chance to see another game. Thank goodness the Mets and Yankees were there for me.

So, yeah, these cards are as perfect as Mets and Yankees cards could be.


  1. One of the biggest stars in the game lands in Chavez Ravine moments ago, and yet you spend the night waxing nostalgic about my Yankees. Your selflessness is greatly appreciated.

  2. I expected to see a Manny PC tonight, but you surprised me with Yankees

  3. Was hoping you would still be excited and we would see another All-Star game post, especially since it was such a good one.

  4. Sounds like my story. I grew up going to Yankees and Mets games and didn't root for either.

    Love the SSPCs. Walt Williams really didn't have a neck, did he?

  5. I think that the Yankees are a lot of our childhoods. Hate to admit this... but outside of the A's and Giants... their late 70's to late 80's teams are hands down the most recognizable. Even looking at these 75 SSPC cards, I was able to call out five of them... although I'm bummed that I wasn't able to pick out Gura or Chambliss.

  6. I have the 1975 SSPC Mets team set, but this post made me realize I MUST GET the Yankees as well. While the Mets were always my team, I also liked the Yankees for a couple of years, and 1975 was part of that brief period.

    Regarding the Shea scoreboard... when the Yankees played there, they actually swapped out the logo on the scoreboard. Squint a little bit at the Bobby Bonds card... that's a very blurry Yankees top hat over his head. I'm pretty sure I've seen cards where you can plainly see the Yankees logo, but a five-minute search only came up with the 1976 Topps Rich Coggins, where you can see a different angle on a blurry Yankees logo.

    1. I've got both and can confirm it's worth owning each. For me they nicely complement the 1975 Topps set.

  7. Tidrow with one of the more epic mustaches of all time.

  8. I grew up in NW Pennsylvania in a hick town that had cable TV in the 70's. No ESPN, of course, but we got WOR and WPIX. My father was a Yankee fan and my mother was a Met fan. As much as cut grass, summer memories are Lindsey Nelson and Phil Rizzuto, Tom Seaver and Thurman Munson, Dave Kingman and Ron Guidry.