December 2, 2011

1982 Topps Carlton Fisk In Action won the card-of-the-year award from Baseball Hobby News; presentation made at Yankee Stadium

Click on photo to enlarge

Vivian and Frank Barning with Sy Berger of Topps and future Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk at Yankee Stadium in 1982


For several years, the readers of Baseball Hobby News (BHN) were invited to vote for the baseball card-of-the year. In 1982, the winner was the Topps Carlton Fisk In Action. This was an important award for the card companies and when the votes were tallied, I called Sy Berger at Topps.

Excited by the news, Berger, the long-time head of the baseball card division at Topps, volunteered that he could arrange for Vivian and me to present the BHN award to Fisk at Yankee Stadium the next time that the Chicago White Sox were in New York and that one of his photographers would shoot a photo. And so a date was arranged with the ever gracious Mr. Berger.

On the appointed day, we picked up credentials at Yankee Stadium that allowed us on the field. Carrying a plaque for Fisk and a duplicate for Topps, we hooked up with Mr. Berger in the White Sox' dugout. He introduced us to his photographer and explained that as a catcher Fisk had a busy pregame schedule but eventually would have a few minutes for a photo. He told us to hang out in the dugout until Fisk was available.

Hanging out in a dugout at Yankees Stadium was like a dream. Players and manager Tony La Russa and his coaches were coming and going in preparation for the game. It was so businesslike and trying to stay out of the way, Vivian and I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible.

We were carrying the plaque for Fisk and only one of the White Sox was interested, busy as they were. He inquired what was going on and asked to see the plaque, with an interesting chat ensuing. I recognized most of the White Sox' but had no idea with whom we were conversing

Eventually, the photo with Fisk, Berger and the Barnings was taken and the future Hall of Fame catcher was most gracious in accepting his award. Fisk was wearing what is now a vintage uniform and the Yankee Stadium background was perfectly captured.

When we got to our seats for the game, we just had to find out from our scorecard who the man was who took the time to find out about the plaque. It was a name we did not know, but from then on we followed his career. He was Jim Leland, La Russa's third-base coach. It was his first year in the big leagues after more than a decade in the minors and he stayed with the White Sox until 1985. On November 20 of that year, Leyland was named the 33rd manager in Pittsburgh Pirates' history.

Although our day at Yankee Stadium was about Fisk, Berger and the card-of-the year award, my strongest memory is of Leyland. In 20 years as a manager, he has won 1,588 games with two pennants and one World Series title (1997 Florida Marlins). Among managers, he ranks 18th in victories.

We treasure the photo from that day.

1 comment:

Board Administrator said...

Great post. I was a huge BHN fan as a kid, and used to send in letters and get excited when they got printed. Frank & Vivian if you're reading this, thanks for a great magazine! --Steve L, Los Angeles