what team is this?: the 1985 new york yankees
why this team?: the yankees finished second in the al east in 1985, two games behind the toronto blue jays. they were 6.5 games ahead of the aforementioned royals, but those were the breaks.
which players are featured?: we get a few hall of famers, plus a couple of very solid performers. dave winfield, don mattingly, ken griffey sr., phil niekro, and yogi berra. berra is the first manager not named sparky anderson to be featured in the set.
why these players?: well, let's break it down.
dave winfield hit 26 home runs with 114 rbi in 1985. he also scored 105 times and stole 19 bases, but his batting average fell from .340 the previous year to .275. i am sure that george steinbrenner wasn't happy. still, winfield was an all-star, won a gold glove and silver slugger, and finished 12th in the league mvp voting.
don mattingly, in his second full season in the majors, won the american league mvp award thanks to his 35 home runs, 145 rbi, and .324 batting average. like winfield, he was also named to the all-star team and won both the gold glove and silver slugger awards. his rbi total led the majors, as did his totals in extra base hits, doubles, total bases, and sacrifice flies.
ken griffey sr. was the yankees' primary left fielder in 1985. he hit .274 with 10 home runs and 69 rbi in 127 games. griffey's card is one of my favorites in this set, by the way. and, i believe that the photo comes from the yankees' game against the red sox on august 19, 1995. with the yankees fighting to keep pace with the blue jays in the standings, griffey robbed boston's marty barrett of a game-tying ninth inning home run. here's a link to a story about that game. the game came just a few days after clubhouse man pete sheehy's death, and the team added the memorial black armband to their uniforms in his honor.
phil niekro won 16 games for the yankees in 1985, same as he had done for them in 1984. however, his era was up about a run in '85, and he led the league in bases on balls. the biggest highlight of his season came on his fifth try, and in his final start of the year, when he won his 300th game by shutting out the toronto blue jays on 4 hits. he would re-sign with the yankees after the season ended, but was released during spring training.
yogi berra was the manager of the 1985 yankees for all of 16 games. the team went 6-10 and he was fired by george steinbrenner and replaced by billy martin. berra went on to coach for the astros starting the following year.
the stadium on the back is...?: yankee stadium, of course. no chance for upper deck to blow that one.
did upper deck get it right?: clearly, the blue jays, royals, cardinals, or dodgers would have made more sense to represent 1985 in the set than the yankees. and, as far as the players/manager, berra doesn't really belong, although it is cool that there are on-card autos of yogi out there thanks to this set. i don't think any of the players used are bad choices, but willie randolph, rickey henderson, don baylor, and ron guidry had decent years (rickey's was more than decent), and all but henderson could have been featured as parts of other teams in the set.
the photos, well, it's tough with the yankee uniforms. the winfield, mattingly, and niekro photos could well be from 1985. or, they could be from any other year that they suited up for the yankees (in niekro's case, there is a 50/50 chance that the photo is from 1985). i am pretty sure that yogi is hitting fungoes in dodger stadium. that would mean that the photo would be from 1977, 1978, 1980, or 1981. assuming, that is, that berra was a coach on the al champion teams of '77, '78, and/or '81, or was a coach on the al all-star team in 1980. i think it is doubtful that earl weaver would have named berra to his coaching staff for the 1980 all-star game, so the photo is likely from berra's stint as a bench coach from 1976 through 1983. we can eliminate 1981 since there is no armband for elston howard on his sleeve. so, it looks like the yogi photo is from either 1977 or 1978, not 1985. however, i believe that the griffey photo, as noted above, is definitely from the 1985 season.
is this team timeless?: no. when's the last time you thought about the 1985 yankees?