Finally Having It My Way

The ‘70’s were a wasteland for cards. There simply wasn’t a lot of product, especially not compared to the flood soon to come. (Après moi le deluge indeed!) So when Burger King issued Yankees cards in 1977, it was a big deal, such a big deal for me that I didn’t have the set. Not only didn’t I have the set, but I didn’t have a single card.

Why? I can’t quite figure that one out. I was collecting seriously, and in 1978 and 1979, I finished complete BK Yankees sets with doubles to spare. The 1977 cards passed me by and I don’t understand it to this day.

Some background info (from the Standard Catalog):

The first Topps-produced set for Burger King restaurants was issued in the New York area, featuring the A.L. champion Yankees. Twenty-two players plus an unnumbered checklist were issued at the beginning of the promotion with card #23 (Lou Piniella) being added to the set later. The “New York Post” reported production of the first 22 player cards at about 170,000 of each. The Piniella card was issued in limited quantities. Cards are 2-1/2″ x 3-1/2″ and have fronts identical to the regular 1977 Topps set except for numbers 2, 6, 7, 13, 14, 15, 17, 20 and 21. These cards feature different poses or major picture-cropping variations. It should be noted that very minor cropping variations between the regular Topps sets and the Burger King issues exist throughout the years the sets were produced.

Here are the variations, regular Topps on the left, Burger King on the right.

No All-Star banner. Burger King is an egalitarian enterprise.

Better cap, same puzzled look.

Nice to see Torrez in an airbrushed Yankee cap, but he’s still stuck in the Coliseum. Updated card, though not a better one.

NEVER play without a cup!

Bucky gets two great cards in ’77.

No point in the difference in cropping. The Topps card is nicer, with more of the new stadium in view.

The Topps issue for Reggie that year is one of the worst cards for a marquee player. The Burger King card remedies that, and shows Jax looking a bit nervous in NY. Airbrushed Reggie seems more cocky.

You’d think The Toy Cannon would be happier moving from the Braves to the Yankees. Doesn’t seem like it.

Good cards, same backdrop. Key detail – Yankees don’t choke up!

#23 of a 22 card set.

At the time, the story about the Piniella card was that George Steinbrenner, always used to having things his way, was incensed that Lou, a personal favorite and Tampa native, was passed over in the initial run. Besides the typical Boss tirade, it is odd. Piniella was certainly more important to the team at the time than Paul Blair or Jimmy Wynn.

I bring this set up because my 40+ years of drought has ended. I picked up a beautiful set this week, with Piniella. It makes me very happy to have them in hand after all these years.


Author: Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is the former Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.

13 thoughts on “Finally Having It My Way”

  1. I’m always tempted to treat these BK cards (and OPC) as precursors to Topps Traded. Not sure I feel the need to have the sets but as I get close to completing 1978 Topps I kind of like the idea of getting the cards that show the updated trades.

    Also what’s with 1977 seeming to have one card per team with the player name in the “wrong” color. Don Gullett should be black instead of green here.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. As with the 1978 Burger King Tigers, this is a case where the Topps BK set is much better than the “real” Topps set. For some reason the only BK cards I remember seeing in L.A. when I was a kid were BK Phils. Not sure if a friend’s family had made a trip there or if they came from a card show.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I don’t know that the ’70s were such a wasteland. I love my Shakey’s Pizza Hall of Fame cards (and have posted about ’em) and there’s lots of Kellogg’s and TCMA sets, many of which are very nice. And it’s hard to think of the decade in the negative in comparison to the deluge of the ’80s, which I imagine many of us would rather forget.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Sure, the oddball sets are memorable, but the various versions of Fleer, Donruss, Score and Topps on on and on into the ’90s, were a bit much, to me at least.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh for sure. I was just commenting that the 1980s Topps/Donruss/Fleer thing plus copious oddballs is a period of time where there was both nice diversity without being ridiculous.

        The deluge starting in 1989 though when companies started releasing multiple huge sets targeted at different market segments (I’m starting things with 1989 Bowman but it’s really 1991 when things started to get ridiculous) is a completely different thing.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: