I'm in a bit of a ornery mood for some unknown reason. So I might as well feature a card that brings all of my childhood hatred for a certain team to the surface.
My brothers and I have despised the Yankees for a long time. I can't pinpoint the exact moment that this began, but I can relay my first recollection of disliking the Yankees. It came on May 2, 1976. That was the day that the Red Sox and Yankees were involved in a brawl that led to Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee missing much of the season with a shoulder injury.
It was the first baseball brawl my brothers and I had ever experienced. The way we saw it, the Yankees' Lou Piniella came into Carlton Fisk way too hard during a play at the plate. Fisk took exception, and we believed he had every right to do so. We had a subscription to Sports Illustrated at the time, and we absolutely loved this cover. Beat him senseless, Carlton!
Piniella enraged us so much that we heckled the guy for the rest of his Yankee career. We could not stand Piniella. As unlikeable as many of the Yankees were in the '70s -- Reggie, Munson, Billy Martin -- Piniella took the brunt of our abuse. We laughed every time he struck out, we taunted him every time he struggled to catch a fly ball. He was the outlet for whatever schoolboy injustice we were experiencing at the time. My dad, who is a Red Sox fan, even got into the act. To this day, he'll say "Sweet Lou" in a derisive tone.
So when Topps issued this card of Fisk the very next year, we recalled that play with Piniella. Never mind that it's Willie Randolph sliding into home. We saw Piniella. And we wanted Fisk to level the guy again. Add the fact that it was a great action photo for its time (the play is centered, there is nothing obstructing or distracting the main subject), and it was one of our favorite cards.
This, in fact, is the very same card I had as an 11-year-old. One day I'll have to upgrade it, but I won't dispose of this card. It will always remind me of when I learned that some teams are "good" and other teams are "bad."
In a way, it's sad that a lot of fans consider the Red Sox just like the Yankees nowadays: two peas in a diabolical pod. They don't get to direct all their venom toward one single team, like we did.
I do see their point to an extent. The Red Sox spend and spend just like the Yankees have done for years. But I don't see them as the same at all. Partly because I don't think they go about their spending the same way. But mostly because for years, the Red Sox were just like the Indians, Orioles, Royals, Tigers, and especially, the Dodgers. They were all partners in a worthy cause -- taking down the evil empire. I think the Red Sox have decades and decades to go before they can match the level of animosity that the Yankees have crafted in the last 80-plus years.
That's the legacy of the Yankees in many ways -- giving fans a villain to jeer. And that's the legacy of this card, reminding us of conflict, and taking sides, and going to battle. As unpleasant as that sounds, 1977 Topps Carlton Fisk, I appreciate you for all of that.