Classic Yankees card: CC in '09

December 8th, 2021

As part of the celebration of the 70th anniversary of Topps baseball cards, we've asked fans (as well as our staff) to submit their all-time favorite baseball cards, and we've broken them down by team. We'll be revealing submissions regularly throughout the season, ranging from the famous to the weird, and everything in between.

CC Sabathia, 2009 Allen & Ginter

The look on CC's face says it all. He's coming after you, and he's going to get you out.

The big lefty arrived in the Bronx with a bang in 2009, dominating on the mound for the Yankees and leading them to a World Series championship in his first season in New York.

Sabathia led the Majors with 19 wins in '09, and he posted a 3.37 ERA in 230 innings with 197 strikeouts. The Yankees fan favorite was a workhorse and finished fourth in AL Cy Young Award voting.

Bobby Murcer and Stan Bahnsen, 1967 Topps

“I arrived in New York as a 9-year-old from Ireland. I knew nothing about baseball but was mesmerized by the cards my schoolmates played with in the street at lunch break. I immediately became a collector and though I returned to Ireland, I am still collecting 54 years later.”

Wow. That’s a really great story from Jonathan W. of Dublin, who submitted this gem for our survey. His boyhood hero was Bobby Murcer, who is featured as one of the two Yankees rookies on this 1967 Topps card.

Murcer was a five-time All-Star, with all five selections coming in the best stretch of his career, from 1971-75. Over that span, the outfielder hit .299/.374/.469 with 101 homers for New York.

Appearing on the card alongside Murcer is Stan Bahnsen, the 1968 American League Rookie of the Year who posted a 2.05 ERA in 37 appearances (34 starts) in '68 for the Yanks. The right-hander went on to enjoy a 16-year MLB career and finished with a career 3.60 ERA over 2,529 innings. -- Manny Randhawa

Derek Jeter, 1993 Topps

With the sixth overall pick in the ‘92 MLB Draft, the Yankees selected a shortstop named Derek Jeter out of Kalamazoo (Mich.) Central High School.

Long before he would don the pinstripes at Yankee Stadium and become a baseball legend, Jeter made his Topps debut in the ‘93 set. Appearing in front of a generic baseball-field illustration, the future Hall of Famer is depicted mid-throw. The header identifies him as a "1992 Draft Pick."

The card was submitted by multiple fans, including Dhilan Amin and Robert Gates.

“I love this card because Jeter was always my favorite player,” Amin wrote. “I’m only 15, so I didn’t get to see him play when he was younger ... but I still got to grow up watching an amazing player with amazing skills and incredible leadership. He taught me hard work, dedication and respect through his talents on the field and his stories in his books. He was a perfect role model for a young kid learning the game. He shaped me into the Yankees fan I am today, especially because I got to watch his older highlights from before I was born, which introduced me to older Yankees teams. It was one of my first cards and is almost like a piece of my love for baseball.”

“My favorite card was given to me by my father,” Gates wrote. “Baseball was the one passion we both shared. We both read Baseball America, and when I was a kid we would work around the yard listening to the Yankees play. In 1991 we started a fantasy league called the Gatesfruit League. Though my dad passed in 2003, the league is still going 30 years strong; it's my version of the virtual Sandlot.” -- Thomas Harrigan

Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra, 1957 Topps

You can’t go wrong with a baseball card that features two of the most celebrated players in the game’s history -- and teammates, no less.

That’s what we have on this gorgeous 1957 Topps card of Mantle and Berra. Both are in the classic “take a knee” pose with a bat on their shoulders. They’re in the home Yankees pinstripes, and you can tell that they were in the Yankee Stadium dugout when this photo was taken.

Together, Berra (1954-55) and Mantle (1956-57) won four straight American League MVP Awards and seven World Series titles as Yanks teammates.

The only sad part here is there’s only one autograph. Of course, that’s better than none -- is there a Yogi-ism for that? -- Manny Randhawa

Best Yankees facial hair card: Thurman Munson, 1975 Topps

The Yankees may be known for having their players stay clean shaven, a policy that started in 1973, but the policy didn’t ban mustaches outright. The late Thurman Munson showed off perhaps one of the club’s most iconic mustaches in his 1975 Topps photo. The combination of the Fu Manchu mustache and sideburns perfectly encapsulates a long lost era in baseball history where it seemed every player was ready to be an extra in a Bee Gees music video.

While it seems like Munson was sticking it to the man, a.k.a. George Steinbrenner, Munson was actually named the captain of the Bronx Bombers in 1976, the first Yankees captain since Lou Gehrig. As captain, he led the Yanks to two World Series victories in 1977 and 1978.

Across 11 seasons in New York, Munson put together a stellar career, winning the 1976 American League MVP Award, the 1971 AL Rookie of the Year Award, three Gold Gloves and making seven All-Star Game appearances. Munson sadly passed away in 1979 following a plane crash. His number, 15, was retired by the team shortly after.

To this day, the Yankees have kept their facial hair policy intact. Many iconic mustachioed members have passed through New York, from Dave Winfield and Don Mattingly to Brett Gardner and Brendan Ryan, but none of them have come close to replicating Munson’s iconic ‘stache.

John Elway, 1998 Pinnacle

Yep, that’s Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway in a Yankees uniform. And no, Elway wasn’t a guest at Yankees Spring Training, a la Russell Wilson a few years ago.

Elway played one season of Minor League ball for the Oneonta Yankees in '82, the year before he was selected first overall in the NFL Draft by the Baltimore Colts. Elway didn’t want to play for the Colts, so he used his baseball career as leverage to force a trade to the Broncos.

Elway’s brief time with the Yankees was depicted on this 1998 Pinnacle card, which was submitted by Dudley Cable of Berkeley Springs, W.Va. -- Thomas Harrigan

Mickey Mantle, 1951 Bowman

Oh, what could’ve been. Mantle will forever be known as one of the greatest players of all time, but if he had been healthy throughout his career, he may have ended up as the greatest player of all time.

This 1951 Bowman gem gives us an opportunity to ponder that, but also to see an image of Mantle before he hurt his knees and experienced a host of other ailments that plagued him the rest of his career. Somehow, despite all of the injuries, he launched 536 home runs, won the 1956 Triple Crown, three American League MVP Awards, seven World Series rings and was one of the best hitters in the game’s history from both sides of the plate.

This card, which is the only recognized Mantle rookie card, was submitted by Rick S. of Naples, Fla., who noted that it was his first Mantle card. That suggests he had or has more than one, which is awesome, but also that his first was a Mantle rookie card. We know how it all turned out for Mantle, but it’s special to have a card from the year he was fully healthy and could not only hit a 500-foot home run, but also beat out a routine ground ball to second.

There is a lot of myth and legend surrounding Mantle’s career, but this card takes us back to where it all began. The 1951 Bowman Mantle is overshadowed by the famous 1952 Topps Mantle, but it is nevertheless beautiful with its artistic flair, giving it more depth than a photograph and capturing the Mantle mystique as it was seen by countless youngsters in the 1950s. -- Manny Randhawa

Don Mattingly, 1984 Topps

The 1980s were a golden era for baseball card collecting, and Mattingly was one of the best and most popular players of the decade, so it’s not surprising that the first baseman’s rookie cards were among the most coveted in the industry during that time.

Mike from St. Louis has an affinity for Mattingly’s 1984 Topps card.

“Like many Yankees fans my age, Mattingly was my childhood hero,” he wrote. “In Little League, I wore sweatbands just like he did in the picture on this card.”

The 1984 Topps design is easily distinguishable, featuring team nicknames rendered in vertical block lettering and two images -- an action shot and a smaller headshot in front of a brightly colored background.

Mattingly’s 1984 Topps card shows the first baseman on defense, clad in Yankee pinstripes and preparing to field his position. Interestingly, Mattingly is clean shaven in his action shot, but he has a mustache in his inset headshot.

A 4 is visible on Mattingly’s back. While he wore No. 23 for much of his career, Mattingly sported No. 46 his first three seasons. Mattingly is also listed as an outfielder and a first baseman on the card.

Mattingly actually debuted in 1982 and lost his rookie eligibility in ’83, but he wasn't included in baseball card sets until '84. That season proved to be the first baseman's big breakout, as he won the American League batting title with a .343 average and had 23 homers, 44 doubles and 110 RBIs in 153 games. The next year, Mattingly was named AL MVP.

From 1984-89, Mattingly hit .327 with 160 homers, 257 doubles, 684 RBIs and a .902 OPS and won five Gold Glove Awards. Mattingly was hampered by injuries thereafter, but in his prime, few players were better. -- Thomas Harrigan

Thurman Munson, 1971 Topps

Munson was one of the most popular players in our survey, and his 1971 card -- his first Topps solo card after he appeared with Dave McDonald on his rookie card in ‘70 -- was submitted by multiple fans.

“It was unique in two ways in that it was presented horizontally instead of vertically and it was part of the first year to show players in ‘action’ rather than the standard pose.” Tim McLean of Evans, Ga., wrote. “I feel like the 1971 set was an attempt by Topps to break out of the old boring presentations of years past. Although I'm nearly 60, I still remember seeing that card for the first time and remembering how great it looked.”

Pat Adair also wrote in with this eloquent description:

“It's an easy question for me to answer. It's one of those questions I have an answer for without any pause or time needed for consideration. It literally leaps from my tongue! The 1971 Topps Thurman Munson No. 5, is without question, the representation of everything that could be perfect in a card, and so very much more. The reasons are too many to list, but first and foremost it's the aesthetics. The 1971 set is at the apex of perfection in design, player selection, and condition scarcity due to the beautiful black borders. Add to all this the subject of a youthful Munson, in one of the best action shots ever used on any sports card, from any era, in any set. The rookie trophy adds an air of royalty to the eye appeal. It seals and authenticates its own excellence. It's sublime. It's an exceedingly rare renaissance painting. It's in possession of all of the vital elements and then you commingle a rare visual experience with the story of Munson.

“Thurman was part of the first chapters of baseball mythology, lore, and romanticism that my father gave to me as a young fan. The story, as my father told it to me many times, left me ever in awe. The captain. The salt of the '70s Yankees teams, tragically taken from the sport and this earth before he could pen his final chapters. This is it for me. High art, the attachment to my youth, love of my father, and my ongoing romance with the greatest sport that was ever created.”

Thanks to Tim and Pat for their submissions.

Whitey Ford, 1954 Topps (1994 reprint)

Great-looking card. Great story behind it.

With the color scheme and the two photos of the "Chairman of the Board," this is a very aesthetically-pleasing card. Thanks to Michael M. of Canterbury, Conn., for submitting this beauty and telling the tale behind it.

"Back in December of 1977, at a Holiday Inn in Islip, Long Island, my aunt and uncle were having their wedding reception and my dad noticed the New York Yankees' Hall of Famer and six-time World Series champion pitcher Whitey Ford sitting at the bar and invited him over," Michael wrote.

"I had just turned 9 years old and I wish I could remember more about that meeting, but I don't. But I'm truly glad to have met him and still have the picture with him and the personalized autograph on a linen napkin from the reception. It's in rough shape from being taken to many show-and-tells at school back in the day. The Topps card ties me back to the day of meeting Mr. Ford."

Mickey Mantle, 1996 Topps

After Mantle passed away in 1995, Topps’ set the following year paid tribute to the legendary Hall of Famer with a subset entirely dedicated to him.

For the set, Topps reprinted 19 classic Mantle cards -- one per year from 1951 through ‘69. The reprints are identical to the originals except for a commemorative foil stamp on the front and a note on the back stating that they are “Mickey Mantle Commemorative” cards.

The original issues are obviously much more valuable, but the reprints are a nice consolation for collectors who weren’t fortunate enough to snag one of the originals.

This is the reprint of Mantle’s card from the 1956 Topps set, one of the best-looking sets ever made. -- Thomas Harrigan

Al Downing, 1962 Topps

Downing had appeared in just five games before his 1962 Topps card was released, but for Al B. in St. Catharines, Ontario, that was more than enough to find a childhood hero.

“Baseball has always been my favorite sport and, at age 7, I became a New York Yankees fan primarily because of our proximity to New York State and the CBS television feed from Buffalo,” Al wrote. “In 1962, the Yankees promoted a pitcher from their Birmingham affiliate to help the team’s starting rotation. This player, Al Downing, became my instant favorite. At age 10, Mr. Downing became my childhood hero, so much so that from 1962 until present I identify myself as Al and not Alex.

“Many years later, in 2006, my wife and I attended a Ferguson Jenkins Charity Golf Tournament, in St. Catharines. When we stepped into the hall, I felt like that 10-year-old again as there in front of us stood Mr. Downing. I purchased an MLB Rawlings baseball and made my way over to Mr. Downing in hopes of him signing that ball. I relayed to him my aforementioned story about a 10-year-old boy changing his name from Alex to Al all because of him. Mr. Downing signed the baseball ‘To Al, Best of Life, Al Downing.’ Mr. Downing spent the next hour of the evening with my wife, Cathy and I. I was in heaven!” -- Nick Aguilera

Roger Maris, 1962 Topps

Maris is, of course, known primarily for breaking Babe Ruth's then-single-season record of 60 home runs in 1961, but this beautiful card commemorates his game-winning home run in the 9th inning of the third game in that year's World Series against the Reds.

Not only is it a card that captures that moment in baseball history, but it also proved very helpful in learning the art of hitting for Bob R. of York, Pennsylvania, who submitted this card in our survey.

"Staring at this card for hours taught me how to hit better," Bob wrote. "Look at how his knuckles line up. How perfect is that swing? I wasn't a Yankees fan but I loved Roger Maris." -- Manny Randhawa

Mickey Mantle, 1960 Topps

Mantle was one of the most oft-mentioned players in our survey, and his 1960 Topps card was a popular submission.

The 1960 Topps set was characterized by its colorful borders and graphics and included a full-color large photo as well as a black and white shot. Mantle’s large photo shows him posing with a bat on the field, while his black and white image depicts the switch-hitter in his batting stance from the left side.

“I love the color on this card, and the awesome stats and information on the back. Every time I look at it, I can't believe I own an authentic Mickey Mantle from his prime years!” wrote Andrew Ginter of Fort Wayne, Ind., one of the fans who submitted the card, along with Alan Daggett of Conroe, Texas, John Wootton of Fort Sumner, N.M., Christopher Gust of Alden, N.Y., and James Holloway of Monroe, La.

“I received the card as a gift for my 16th birthday in 1984,” Gust wrote. “I grew up a huge New York Yankees fan and admired the card in a local shop that I used to ride my bicycle to. It was a huge surprise to receive the card as a birthday gift from my parents. That would have been a very expensive purchase for them back then. I still own the card today.” -- Thomas Harrigan

Don Mattingly, 1991 Donruss

"Donnie Baseball" was on his way to a Hall of Fame career as the 1980s turned into the 1990s. But nagging injuries contributed to limited playing time and declining production, making the final few seasons of Mattingly's career underwhelming at the plate. Nevertheless, Mattingly was one of the greatest first basemen in Yankees history, and this 1991 Donruss card captures him in his familiar hunched stance as a he prepares to take aim at the Yankee Stadium bleachers.

Andrew C. submitted this card in our survey

"I am a Yankees fan and pulled this out of my very first pack of baseball cards when I was five years old," Andrew wrote. "It’s what really sparked my interest in the game of baseball. I still have it to this day. It’s not in the best shape, but thanks to the magic of eBay I was able to find a mint condition graded copy so I will be able to enjoy it forever."

Smart man. -- Manny Randhawa

Mariano Rivera, 2000 Topps World Series Highlight

This card is simple and brilliant -- the dark background putting all the attention on Mariano celebrating the Yankees' second straight World Series championship in 1999.

Rivera was about to be named the MVP of that World Series, in which he recorded two saves in the Yankees' sweep of the Braves. The closer was also brilliant that season, leading the Majors with 45 saves, posting a 1.83 ERA and finishing third in AL Cy Young Award voting.

Ivan Rodriguez, 2008 Topps Updates & Highlights

Pudge in Yankee pinstripes? It happened, but you might have missed it, as he only played 33 of his 2,543 career games with the Bronx Bombers.

Rodriguez is best known for his time with the Rangers, Marlins and Tigers. But he bounced around over his final four seasons, adding the Yanks, Astros and Nationals to his list of teams and even returning to the Rangers for a brief stint.

New York acquired the future Hall of Famer from the Tigers prior to the ’08 Trade Deadline in a deal that sent reliever Kyle Farnsworth to Detroit, and Topps’ Updates set that year included a card depicting him with the club. -- Thomas Harrigan

Frank Thomas “Mr. Baseball” card, 1992 Upper Deck

This is so cool. A famous movie star playing an aging star first baseman for the Yankees, and just who happens to be the new kid everyone’s raving about? None other than the Big Hurt himself, Frank Thomas.

Thomas plays the role of a slugging first baseman in his rookie season for New York, about to take the job of Jack Elliot, played by Tom Selleck.

“Tom Selleck and Frank Thomas,” wrote Jean L. of Caracas, Venezuela, who submitted this beauty. “I like this one as it is very unique in nature. It is about a movie character, but then you see Frank Thomas wearing a Yankees uniform as well.”

Surely a sight that sends chills down the spines of White Sox fans everywhere. -- Manny Randhawa

Derek Jeter, 2015 Topps

Jeter retired at the end of the ‘14 season, and Topps gave the legendary Yankees shortstop a grand sendoff, making him Card No. 1 in its ‘15 base set.

And Topps didn’t just pick some random snapshot from his final season, either. The card, which was submitted by Austin from Fortuna, Calif., features the classic image of Jeter leaping into the air with his arms raised in celebration after his iconic walk-off hit in his final game at Yankee Stadium. -- Thomas Harrigan