Only in Yankee-land can a manager who wins 103 games wind up getting canned at the end of the season. Only 4 times before, in their illustrious history, has a Yankee team ever won more regular season games, yet Dick Howser was sent packing. Sure his team had some lulls during the season, but what team doesn't during a 162 game marathon? When reviewing this team you find no glaring weaknesses. In fact you find mostly strengths, which might be the logic behind the firing. Being swept by the Royals in the ALCS might have been Howser's undoing. The Royals - Yankee rivalry was based on 3 consecutive (1976-78) LCS wins over the Royals. Steinbrenner couldn't handle losing to a small market team with half his payroll.
The Bombers had 9 guys in double figures in homers. "Mr. October" himself (Reggie Jackson) had his best overall statistical year. He hit .300, smashed 41 homers and knocked in 111 runs. Playing for the calm Howser and not the fiery Billy Martin more than likely led to his resurgences. Willie Randolph had another one of his quiet consistent years (.294-7-46-30SB), while wielding a slick glove at second. The big disappointment would be newly acquired centerfielder (from SEA) Ruppert Jones, who hit just .223 with 9 homers. Jones was the quintessential guy who did well in a small market low pressure situation, but melted under the bright lights on Broadway. Stealing Rick Cerone (.277-14-85) from Toronto was a huge win for this club that had a major hole to fill with the passing of their captain Thurman Munson in 1979. The New Jersey native played in 147 games and put up Munson-like numbers. Of course you can't replace the presence of their fallen leader, but the Yankees did better than expect statistically speaking. Tommy John (22-9, 3.43) and Ron Guidry (17-10, 3.56) were the workhorses of the #2 rated staff in the AL. Tommy Underwood (13-9, 3.66) and Rudy May (15-5, 2.46) made the 3 and 4 slot in the rotation better than most other teams. 39 year old Luis Tiant (8-9, 4.89) looked just about done, but everyone loved his Colonial Beef Hot dog commercials just the same. The true strength of the staff was the pen. Goose Gossage (6-2, 2.27, 33sv, 99IP) was at the height of his HOF powers. Ron Davis (9-3, 2.95, 7SV) pitched 131 innings setting up for the Goose, who himself would more often than not get a 3 inning save. This was flat out a great veteran (31 years avg) Yankee team that should have won it all if not for facing a tough post season opponent.
23 new cards were created for this set, which is an incredibly high amount for a team that finished in first and won 103 games.
7 or 8 of these cards were created with photos that I scanned out of my 1980 Yankees Yearbook. The Cerone photo is my favorite. They took it of him in Ft. Lauderdale during spring training that year. I also like the Ruppert Jones one as well, which probably came from the same photo shoot. Wish there was a color Yankee shot of Ted Wilborn. The Dennis Sherrill photo is a reuse from the one I airbrushed last year from a Columbus Clippers card. Guess I’m starting to get as lazy as the boys from Whitehall street, LOL ! The Soderholm shot also came from the yearbook. It makes me crack up. With those glasses and that ‘stache he looks like one of the hold up men from the original Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 movie.