Bucky Dent 1990 Topps and Stump Merrill 1990 Topps Update – Sully Baseball Cards of the Day for October 7, 2017


It seems strange to type this, but being manager of the New York Yankees is one of the steadiest gigs in all of baseball.

Since 1996, Joe Torre and Joe Girardi have been the only managers in the dugout in the Bronx.

2 managers over 22 seasons.

It wasn’t always like that. There was a period where being the Yankees manager was basically a temp position.

In an 18 year span, they made 19 managerial changes. Billy Martin was hired and fired 5 different times. Bob Lemon was hired twice and let go twice. So was Lou Piniella and Gene Michael. Dick Howser was an interim manager and permanent manager. Yogi Berra was fired less than a month into the season.

Making a Topps Card to reflect who was managing in the Bronx was an act in futility.

When Topps printed their 1989 set, they had a hastily airbrushed picture of Dallas Green, who took over after Lou Piniella was let go.

Dallas Green started the 1989 season as skipper but did not finish it. The team was lousy and his relationship with George Steinbrenner was worse. With the Yankee record 56-65, Green was let go.

Former Red Sox slayer and 1978 World Series MVP Bucky Dent was inserted into the managerial role. He began the 1990 season as Yankee manager and Topps printed the card on the left.

I already did a post about Mr. Bleeping Dent, so no need to rehash that. He lasted less than 50 games with the 1990 Yankees.

Oddly he was fired at Fenway Park, the scene of his greatest triumph.

Stump Merrill, a mainstay in the Yankees organization as a minor league manager and coach, was given the chance to manage a team that was a complete mess. They dumped future Hall of Famer Dave Winfield. Beloved superstar Don Mattingly was struggling through an injury plagued season.

Also their pitching was basically non existent.The 95 loss team played in front of indifferent fans and lots of empty seats.

The Topps update series printed a Merrill card and he actually finished the season and managed all of 1991 as well. The Yankees were a 91 loss squad in his second season. He was let go in favor of Buck Showalter, who basically along with Stick Michael rebuilt the team into champions and never got the credit.

Merrill returned to the Yankees minor league system. He managed their teams in Columbus and Norwich. He remained in one role or another through the 2010’s where he saw the fruits of his labor bring about several championships.

From his many positions, he saw the role of Yankee manager turn into a position of amazing stability. That was an impossibility while he and Bucky Dent were managing, keeping the editors at Topps constantly on their toes.

Bucky Dent 1983 Fleer – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for June 6, 2017


As it turns out, Bucky Dent’s middle name is NOT “Fucking.” In fact he was born Russell Earl O’Dey. But Russell Fucking O’Dey doesn’t have the same ring to it.

I wonder what Bucky Dent’s legacy is going to be moving forward. Stop and think about that. The whole Curse of the Bambino thing has been over for 13 years.

If you use “The Rule of Seven”, then there are 20 year old kids in college who have no memory of the Red Sox NOT being a World Champion or the Yankees being the eternal tormentors of all of New England.

The whole concept of a villain like Bucky Dent making a fan base shudder is recency but also the idea that the wrong has not been righted.

Compiling all the horrible events between 1918 and 2004 allowed named like Bucky Dent to be compounded. It helped that Bucky and Buckner not only sounded similar but also sounded like a certain word that rhymes with Buck that a lot of Red Sox fans would mutter.

But with the 2004 title, the Curse became a thing of the past. And with 2007 and 2013, it became clear that not only was the Curse a thing of the past but there was healing.

If 2004 was a direct answer to 2003, Aaron Boone and Grady Little, then 2007 wiped out 1986 and 2013 took care of 1978. All Red Sox fans need is the corresponding title to 1975, 1967 and 1946 and all is taken care of.

Young fans might not understand exactly how powerful Bucky Dent was. But also consider, I was too young to REALLY remember 1978. I remember the red hats and the players, but 6 year old Sully didn’t understand the pennant race etc. I didn’t understand how the Red Sox blew a gigantic lead, allowed the Yankees to pull off the 4 game sweep in September only to see Boston finish the season with a wild winning streak to force a one game playoff.

And I didn’t understand the cruelty of not only losing the one game playoff by one run and with the winning runs on base, but that the entire game hinged on a 2 out fly ball homer by the lightest hitting member of the Yankees on a ball that would have been caught in any other park.

As I wrote in a post in 2015, historically, that loss still stings. So many great Red Sox could have received their rings in 1978. But that sting is getting more and more distant as a generation of Boston fans have grown up expecting a championship at least every other year.

He was raised by his mother’s brother and adopted the name Dent in Georgia. He later moved to Florida and was drafted by the White Sox. He was an adequate shortstop, arriving in White Sox camp as a 21 year old in 1973. By 1974, he had supplanted Hall of Famer Luis Apparcio.

He made the 1975 All Star team and was a steady player. But the pressure of replacing a legend was not pleasant to Dent. He needed to go somewhere where the fans could be easier on him and he’d have less pressure.

Before the 1977 season started, he was traded to the Yankees, the same place where George Steinbrenner, Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin turned the clubhouse into a tabloid newspaper paradise.

Circumventing the lunacy, Dent made a nice double play combination with Willie Randolph and helped the Yankees win the 1977 World Series.

In 1978, he was serviceable as the shortstop but only had 4 homers in the entire season before showing up to Boston for the one game playoff.

His hot hitting extended into the World Series where he batted .417 and was named the MVP. (It should have been Reggie but I digress.)

He made a few more All Star teams but was traded away to Texas in time for this Fleer Card to be printed. (I barely remember that logo for the Rangers.)

After a few games with the Royals in 1984, he called it a career, briefly resurfacing as the Yankee manager in 1989 and 1990.

So now he goes on, a fading specter and a ghost who has lost his haunting powers. The more sports curses are broken, as we saw with the White Sox, the Cubs and the city of Cleveland, the more their tormentors are weakened.

Dent will always be beloved in Yankee Stadium. The glory of victory is eternal. The fear of the conqueror is no longer as great if you’ve done some conquering since then.

Greg Gagne 1987 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for March 20, 2017

The 1980’s were a strange time for the New York Yankees. They did not win a World Series in a decade for the first time and they had a hard time developing a new young core.

Sure Don Mattingly and Dave Righetti came of age in that decade. But young pitching stars like Jose Rijo and Doug Drabek were shipped off as were young bats like Fred McGriff and Willie McGee for veterans who did not help their cause.

George Steinbrenner’s impulsiveness was always in the way.

With Bucky Dent, hero of 1978 fading, the Yankees also had a revolving door of shortstops. As always, the team coveted proven veterans in place of young up and comers.

Greg Gagne was a young prospect in the Yankees farm system from Massachusetts. At the start of the 1982 season, he joined the parade of talented future big leaguers who would be dealt away. He was sent to the Twins for Roy Smalley, an established big leaguer.

By 1985 he was the starting shortstop of the Twins at age 23 while the Yankees were still struggling to fill the void in the infield.

Steady but hardly spectacular, Gagne provided some pop at short in an era where they were expected to field and not hit much. He would smack double digit homers and get his share of doubles and triples as the Twins formed a slugging team that resembled a beer league.

He hit a pair of inside the park homers on October 4, 1986, being just the second person since 1930 to achieve that feat.

In 1987, the Twins shockingly made the post season. Gagne homered twice in the ALCS win over the Tigers, posting a 1.187 OPS. He also homered in the World Series against St. Louis and the Twins won the franchise’s first World Series title since they were the Washington Senators in 1924.

Former Yankees Joe Niekro and George Frazier were also on that team. Also on that team? Roy Smalley, who was reacquired by Minnesota. Being a Twin was an easier path to a World Series than being a Yankee.

That was the case in 1991 when the 29 year old Gagne was once again starting in the World Series. (The Yankees had not appeared in a Series at that point since dealing away Gagne. )

He hit a key homer in Game 1 of the World Series, helping give the Twins the win over Atlanta. The two would play one of the great World Series in baseball history with the Twins coming out on top.

He bounced between the Royals and Dodgers between 1993 and 1997, making the post season again with Los Angeles in 1996.

That was the year the Yankees finally DID win a World Series title. They did so with a lot of homegrown players including a young shortstop named Jeter.

Maybe they would have made it back to the World Series sooner if they held onto a few of their homegrown players.

I’m just saying.