Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Recent Acquisitions: 1976 Topps Traded Yankees Team Set

When the news came that Oscar Gamble died, I was not alone in thinking that I would try to pick up his iconic 1976 Topps Traded card: they disappeared quickly from COMC and eBay.  When you're having trouble solving a problem, one piece of advice is to "make the problem bigger."  I searched eBay instead for the 1976 Topps Traded set.  I found an intermediate solution -- the 1976 Topps Traded Yankees Team Set.  It turns out that 6 of the 44 cards in 1976 Topps Traded were newly Yankees, and in addition to Gamble, Willie Randolph's card is also notable, as it can be considered to be a rookie card (it's his first solo Topps card, and from his rookie season).  I paid a little more than I would have for just the Gamble, but it wasn't too much in absolute terms, so it's fine -- and I even got some nice additional cards out of the deal.
Oscar Gamble.
Here he is, in his iconic glory.  Gamble was traded by the Indians to the Yankees at the end of the 1975 season for Pat Dobson.  Gamble didn't stay with the Yankees for long, as they soon traded him to the White Sox, with LaMarr Hoyt and a minor leaguer, for Bucky Dent.  Having Bucky Dent famously worked out for the Yankees.
Ed Figueroa, Traded.
1976 Topps Ed Figueroa.
Next we have Ed Figueroa, and it turns out that I already had his regular 1976 Topps card in my collection.  Figueroa and Mickey Rivers were traded to the Yankees from the Angels, for Bobby Bonds.  Unlike Oscar Gamble, who didn't stay with the Yankees long enough to win the World Series, Figueroa pitched in the 1977 ALCS (getting no decision in one start), and in the 1978 ALCS and World Series (going 0-1 in the ALCS in one start and 0-1 in the World Series in two starts).  He did much better in the regular season, going 20-9 with a 2.99 ERA in 1978.  Overall, his career wasn't too long, spanning 1974 through 1981, playing briefly with the Rangers and A's in addition to the Angels and Yankees.
Dock Ellis.
1977 Topps Dock Ellis.
Dock Ellis, Ken Brett, and Willie Randolph were traded from the Pirates to the Yankees for pitcher Doc Medich in December, 1975.  Medich went 8-11 with a 3.51 ERA with the Bucs in 1976, his only season there; he played with the A's, Mariners, and Mets in 1977.  Ellis was similarly well-traveled -- while he played 1976 and part of 1977 with the Yankees, he was traded again, and also played with the A's and the Rangers in 1977.  He pitched well in 1976, going 17-8 with a 3.19 ERA.  It turns out I already had the 1977 Topps card of Ellis, showing him in a real, non-airbrushed Yankees cap and uniform, although the card is in rough shape with multiple creases.
1977 Topps Dock Ellis card back.
The card back says that his 1976 performance earned Ellis the AL Comeback Player of the Year award.  I was unclear on who gives this award, so I just looked it up.  Each league had a Comeback Player award given by The Sporting News from 1965 through 2006.  In 2005, MLB decided to give its own award, so after they coexisted for two seasons, TSN discontinued its version.
Willie Randolph.
I never knew that Willie Randolph started out as a Pirate, playing just 30 games with them in 1975.  I really identify him as a Yankee, but even in my day, at the end of his career, he did play briefly with the Dodgers, A's, Brewers, and Mets.  I remember at one point he interviewed to be manager of the Phillies; I don't know which time that was, maybe when they hired Larry Bowa instead.  He then managed the Mets for a few years, ending with a solid 302-253 record.
Ken Brett.
Ken Brett will always be most famous for being George Brett's brother, but he had his own career as a pitcher spanning 14 MLB seasons.  He was an All-Star with the Pirates in 1974, going 13-9 with 10 complete games and a 3.30 ERA.  In 1975, he sometimes started and was sometimes used in relief, still going 9-5 with a 3.36 ERA.  While he was traded to the Yankees in December, 1975, he didn't stay long at all, being traded again in May, 1976 to the White Sox.
Mickey Rivers.
Mickey Rivers came to the Yankees from the Angels along with Figueroa, and like Figueroa and Randolph, stayed to win the 1977 and 1978 World Series.  Rivers had a career batting average of .295 over his 15 seasons, and performed consistently well in the postseason, batting .308 combined (37-for-120) in the ALCS and World Series each year from 1976 through 1978.  In the regular season, he had a career record of 267 steals (leading the AL with 70 in 1975), being caught 90 times; this didn't translate as well to the postseason, where he stole 4 bases and was caught 3 times.
1974 Topps Doug Rader.
1979 Topps Joe Wallis.
The seller threw two additional cards into the envelope, this 1974 Topps Doug Rader, and this 1979 Topps Joe Wallis.  Other than this, I have cards of Rader as manager of the Rangers in the early 80s, and as manager of the Angels in the late 80s/early 90s.  Joe Wallis played for a few years for the Cubs and the A's, and appeared on Topps cards from 1976-1980.

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