Joe DiMaggio in a private Yankee Stadium box, 1992 – Sully Baseball Daily Photo at Noon for January 10, 2018

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Sitting in my upper deck seats in April of 1992, I could see Joe D sitting in a VIP box. He was there the previous game to throw out the first pitch and came to see the 1992 Yankees do their worst.

To date, it was the last Yankee team to post a losing record.

New York Yankees Team Picture 1979 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for December 24, 2017

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It may seem counter intuitive for a Red Sox fan to put a Yankees card on his blog on Christmas Eve. But hey! I am feeling generous.

Besides, I remember these Yankee teams almost as well as I remember the Red Sox of the late 1970’s. Also I was too young to appreciate the collapse of 1978. Remember this team picture is of the 1978 World Champions.

But here is a dirty little secret from your pal Sully. I have fond memories of these Yankee teams.

No really! I do.

All year, growing up in the suburbs of Boston, I saw all Red Sox all the time. But in the summer, we would go to Fairfield, Connecticut to visit my grand parents on both sides of the family and a smattering of cousins at the beach off of Long Island Sound.

THERE the TV showed Yankees and Mets games. And seeing the Yankees were star studded and amazing while the Mets stunk, we watch the Yankees.

And I had a strong bond with my grandfather but also my mother over the Yankees. My mom grew up a Yankee fan and to this day has a soft spot in her heart for the team. And the Yankees we would watch on the TV had Yogi Berra as a coach. He was my Italian American grandfather’s favorite player for reasons that should be obvious.

The sound of the TV would be Phil Rizzuto, the same announcer my mother listened to. And Billy Martin was the manager, who my mom watch play.

Well, SOMETIMES he was the manager. Even at age 6, I knew the Yankees managerial situation was bananas. This card showed Bob Lemon as manager, as he took over the team at mid season from Billy Martin and interim manager Dick Howser. Of course midway through 1979, when I got this card, Lemon was replaced by Billy Martin. In 1980 Billy Martin was replaced by Dick Howser. In 1981, Dick Howser was replaced by Gene Michael, and then Bob Lemon… you get the picture.

My aunt Mary, another relative from the Italian side of my family, would take me and my brother to Yankees games, so I would remember seeing Reggie Jackson and Thurman Munson or Roy White or Chris Chambliss or Willie Randolph or Graig Nettles and everyone else play.

They reminded me of summer.

1979 was a sad year for Yankee fans of course because Thurman Munson, the most beloved Yankee of the era, died in a plane crash. I remember I was sad. I wasn’t a Yankee fan, but he was a face of summer.

So why is this Red Sox fan honoring a card that had one of the biggest tormenting Yankee teams of all time as its image?

It makes me happy. It makes me think of my mom and of family.

Oakland A’s Team Picture 1981 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for December 23, 2017

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I love the A’s uniforms of the 1970s and into the 1980s and yet I find this particular team picture card to be someone tragic, and I will explain why partially through an anecdote.

In 1982, your pal Sully was 10 years old and living in the suburbs of Boston. I loved New England but I was drawn to New York City. I used to draw the skyline all the time and fantasized about living in Manhattan.

I was (and am) a Red Sox fan but the history of the Yankees was undeniably powerful. At that time I was consuming every single baseball history book I could get my hands on.

That fall, my family took a trip to Manhattan. It was the first time I ever visited the island and friends, it remains one of the most magical weeks of my life.

This was dirty and grimy Manhattan and STILL it was the most beautiful place I ever saw in my life.

We stayed at the Grand Hyatt Hotel next to Grand Central Terminal. At one point I got on the elevator. I looked over and I saw an undeniably recognizable face.

It was Billy Martin.

I knew who Billy Martin was. He was a World Series hero with the Yankees as a player. He also was one of, if not THE most, respected and controversial managers of the day.

I stared at him like he was a yeti.

He saw me, not knowing I was a Red Sox fan, and smiled. “Hey kid.” He said.

I grinned. “Hi” I replied. I always knew what to say. I got off at my floor, floating 4 feet off the ground. It was magical.

What I didn’t realize then and I know now, that he was about to make one of the worst decisions of his life.

Billy Martin is always associated with the Yankees. But because of his, to be kind, combative personality, he actually bounced from organization to organization as a player and as a manager.

He played 7 years with the Yankees, and then 1/2 a year with the A’s, one season with the Tigers, one season with the Indians, one season with the Reds, 6 games with the Milwaukee Braves and the bulk of the 1961 season with the Twins.

Then as a manager he took the Twins and Tigers to the post season and turned around the Rangers before finally becoming the Yankees manager.

After back to back pennants and the World Series title in 1977, he insulted George Steinbrenner one time too many in 1978 and was fired. But wait, in that same season, they announced he would come back.

He returned in 1979 and got in a fight with a marshmallow sales man and got fired again.

Billy Martin had many demons and addictions. He famously battled with alcohol and womanizing. But his greatest addiction was to the Yankees. George Steinbrenner knew that. He knew he could abuse and torture Billy all he wanted because he had the keys to what he needed.

He needed to be in a Yankee uniform and leading them to greatness. He wore many unis but none meant as much to him as the pinstripes. He thought of Steinbrenner as an interloper from Cleveland who bought his beloved team and had the keys to the kingdom.

After the fight with the marshmallow salesman, he was courted by the A’s. Now Billy was originally from the East Bay. And in many ways, returning to Oakland was a homecoming.

The team was an absolute mess when he arrived. The greatness of the 1970’s Swinging A’s was long gone. They barely could attract 500,000 for an entire season and they were rumored to be moving to Denver.

With Finley selling the team, the whole organization was in flux. They responded with “Billy Ball” and having a winning year in 1980.

In 1981, they shot out of the gate and took first place in April and stayed there when the strike hit. Forced to play Kansas City in the stupid first round, the A’s made quick work of it.

Billy Martin had his greatest managerial accomplishment. He brought the A’s, just a few years from being a borderline minor league team, to the ALCS. He showed he didn’t need Steinbrenner or the Yankees.

In an ESPN special, Martin’s son saw how happy he was in the East Bay, free of the New York pressure. He described his dad as getting a tan and developing a healthy gut. He never wanted his dad to go back to the Yankees.

But the A’s were swept by the aging Yankees in the 1981 ALCS. Billy could not exact the ultimate revenge.

And during 1982, as the Yankees went through Bob Lemon, Gene Michael and Clyde King as manager, Billy seemed restless in Oakland. He wore out his pitchers and ultimately his welcome as the Yankees sent trial balloons to California to see if he would be willing to go back.

That fall he negotiated with the Yankees.

That fall I saw him at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York. He said hi to me. Then not long after that, he returned to the Yankees to manage the 1983 season.

He never brought the Yankees back to the post season. He managed them in 1983, then in 1985 and then for the first half of 1988. After being fired in 1988, he sat out the 1989 season. Steinbrenner was looking to bring him back for the 1990 season when he died in a truck crash around Christmas time, 1989.

I keep thinking of his time with the A’s. He had NOTHING left to prove with the Yankees. He won the World Series as a manager and lay down the foundation for the 1978 champs. If he stayed with Oakland, would they have ultimately win it all? Would he be the mentor for Rickey Henderson? Would he find satisfaction, peace and sobriety in Alameda County?

And the sobriety would not just be for drinking but the ultimate fix for him, being in a Yankees uniform. Sure the green and gold don’t have the legacy and pull of the pinstripes, but he could have done so many great things in Oakland had he stayed there.

I wish I knew that in the elevator of the Grand Hyatt. I would have said “Don’t leave Oakland! You are happier there!”

No doubt he would have listened to me.