Those of you Yankee haters out there, feel free to skip over this one. I do hate that Yankee / Red Sox media coverage bias as well – though I will always hate the Cardinals more. But, much like I pointed out in the first Reds post that I did, the Yankees work really well in this comparison. Why? They are the Evil Empire right now – with the few baseball players like A-Rod and Jeter who are right up there with Hollywood celebrities as far as recognized by the non-sports fan chunk of America. The same was true back in 1963 – they were still the best team in the game, near the end of the Mantle / Ford / Berra dynasty.
I didn’t want to start with one of the 2 really easy guys, so I’ll go here with the greatest closer in history. You may hate the attention paid to Jeter or the overall deuchey-ness of A-Rod, but it’s hard not to respect Mo. I hope he stays around for a couple more years – it would be cool if he put that saves record over 700 and completely out of reach!
Hal Brown had just been traded to the Yankees at the end of the 1962 season. He pitched all of 2 games and 6 innings from the Bronx Bombers, starting 1 game and taking a loss. He did not pitch in the postseason, and signed with Houston in the offseason. He was out of baseball 2 years later.
Of note – Mo’s 1962 counterpart would have been Marshall Bridges, who was the Yankee closer in their last World Series win for a decade and a half. But something kept that from being feasible – Bridges never had a Topps card! There’s got to be something to that – my guess is that he just never signed the initial Topps contract.
There are some pitching efficiency statistics that show that Rivera is the most effective pitcher in the history of baseball – albeit in the limited time when he does pitch as a closer. I don’t like that Topps stuck him with the card number of a guy who basically didn’t really pitch for the Yankees. But that is more of a problem for the 1963 card than the 2012 Heritage card – so I’m giving the win to anyone other than Big Mo.
2012 Heritage leads, 14-11
Next, why not do Rivera’s battery mate – Russ Martin, who was an All-Star last year despite an average under .240. He did hit for some power and has a good eye – but his last 2 seasons have been his worst. He re-upped with the Yankees for next year, though. And according to his card, he led the AL by “nabbing 35 runners attempting to steal”.
The counterpart here is one of two catchers to win 3 MVP awards. Yogi is right up there as one of the greatest catchers of all-time – to me he’s clearly behind Bench and Piazza, and but I’d probably put him third, with Fisk and either Campanella or Pudge Rodriguez rounding out the top 5.
These two cards have some cool symmetry. The bats are on opposite shoulders, and the two guys are even smiling to the side opposite of the bat! It’s almost as if Topps asked Martin to do that. If they did or didn’t, it’s pretty cool, and I give that credit to the Heritage set. Also, this card of Yogi makes me kind of sad. Like Martin, he was an All-Star in 1962, though he was even less deserving with a .220-something average and appearing in about half of the Yankees’ games. He only had 1 more season with the Yanks before a strange 4-game stint with the Mets in 1965. Throw in the cool fact about Martin on the back – and I’m shocked to say that Heritage is pulling away!
2012 Heritage leads, 15-11
I checked, and while Martin certainly caught a bunch of Rivera’s 44 saves last year, Yogi did not catch either of Hal Brown’s two games with the team in 1962. The next guy up did. As I mentioned, Yogi was an All-Star in 1962. Well, apparently the Yankees had 2 All-star catchers that year – because Elston Howard was the best catcher in the game at this point. I didn’t realize it, but he would go on to win the AL MVP the next year.
Unfortunately the counterpart isn’t a Yankee anymore. Jesus Montero is a highly touted prospect who the Yankees traded for another highly touted prospect, pitcher Michael Pineda.
That trade for Pineda is the kind of thing that highlights the haves vs. have-nots in baseball. The Yankees can afford to give up a stud hitting (and catching) prospect because they know they can just give a guy like Russell Martin 7.5 million and not bat an eye. Because of this, they get a guy like Pineda who by all accounts could be a complete stud. This is one of those situations with Heritage – it’s cool they photo shopped the card to show him with the Mariners, but please don’t be this obvious with it:
That’s definitely from the same photo shoot – you can tell the bat is the same and the Nike undershirt is too. Interesting they went with the Yankee look for the auto but the Mariners look for the base card. Also, there’s a change in the Red parallel of Montero’s base card – they put the “S” logo for the Mariners up in the frame in the top left corner.
I don’t like that they don’t adjust the card numbers to get the team right – but I guess that’s sort of forgivable here since the Mariners didn’t even exist yet in 1963. But I still like the Howard card better – this was the card during his MVP season – so that’s good in my book!
2012 Heritage leads, 15-12
Now this is a good comparison. We’ve got a Yankee outfielder who came in and gave the team a good dose of “fun” a couple of years ago. Swisher played baseball at Ohio State with a buddy of mine – and from what my friend said, that’s just how he is. Which is kind of cool if you ask me. Though he and AJ Burnett are basically responsible for those pie-in-the-face gimmicks from a couple of years ago.
And then you’ve got Roger Maris, who was still doing pretty well around this time. He hit 33 homers in 1962 and made his last All-Star squad.
I don’t love the Maris picture here – like Yogi above it kind of makes me sad. On another level, it’s kind of cool because it makes me think. That inset photo is the swing from his 61st home run – which is one of the bigger moments in baseball history. Putting that sad look on his face next to it makes it seem like he’s watching an old video of the swing. Did that one great season take too much of an emotional toll on the Fargo, ND native? Any card that makes me think that much beats out the Swisher, even though he looks like his usual bubbly self.
2012 Heritage leads, 15-13
Now that wasn’t so bad was it? If you can bear it – come back tomorrow for some more Yankees!