Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Card #148, Fran Healy (Article 27)
By Paul Semendinger, Ed.D. July 11, 2020
When I think of Fran Healy, the first thing I think of is the fact that during that tumultuous 1977 season, Healy was Reggie Jackson’s best (and possibly only) friend of the Yankees.
I also remember when Fran Healy left the game in 1978 (he played in just one game that year) and became a Yankees announcer. Soon after, if memory serves me correctly, he started calling games for the New York Mets.
When I was in fourth grade, right around these same years 1977 and 1978, I had a student teacher named Mr. Healy. I always wondered if they were related, but I knew they weren’t. When the school year ended, Mr. Healy wrote a note to me that read, “Keep swinging for those singles and doubles.” It was sound advice, I was the smallest kid in the grade. Except in Wiffle Ball in my backyard, I never hit a homer. There’s a lesson there as well – Kids remember the things the adults in their lives say to them. They remember some of those words forever.
Fran Healy first came up the the Major Leagues in 1969 with the Kansas City Royals. He played in all of six games that year and was back in the minors for the 1970 season.
Healy didn’t make it to the big leagues for good until 1971, then with the San Francisco Giants.
In 1973, he was back with the Royals.
Healy was, almost always, a back-up catcher. Only once did he play in more than 100 games (139 in 1974). Only one other time (1973) did he appear in more than 56 games, appearing in 95 that year.
In his one full season in New York, 1977, Healy played in all of 27 games batting .224/0/7. Healy never hit a home run as a Yankee. The last time he ever homered was in 1975 in a game came in New York against the Yankees on May 21 and it wasn’t a bad homer to end one’s homering days with. Healy launched a three-run shot in the top of the 10th inning of Doc Medich to help propel the Royals to a 4-1 victory that day.
Healy had homered three days earlier (on May 18) in Boston. Those were his only two homers in 1975, and, as noted, he never went yard again.
During the 1976 season, Fran Healy was traded to the Yankees in a straight-up trade for Larry Gura, a trade that the Royals got the better of. Gura became a top-flight pitcher and one who always seemed to beat the Yankees.
Between 1976 and 1982, his first seven years with the Royals, Larry Gura went 88-51, 3.33. He was a top-notch pitcher.
Looking at the numbers, it is clear that the Royals got the better of the Yankees in that deal. By far. In a landslide.
Well, at least that’s what the numbers say…
As Reggie Jackson’s closest friend on that 1977 squad, Fran Healy played a pivotal role in helping Reggie through some difficult situations such as when Reggie was pulled from the game and almost fought Billy Martin in the Red Sox dugout on live television. After that episode, it was Fran Healy who went to the clubhouse and convinced Reggie to leave the stadium before the end of the game to let the situation cool down.
Much later in the year, when Reggie Jackson was benched before Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. It was Fran Healy who kept Reggie focused and calm. So much so that later in that playoff the game, Reggie came off the bench to deliver a clutch hit that helped propel the Yankees to the eventual victory.
If the Yankees didn’t make it to the World Series in 1977, there would never have been Reggie Jackson’s magical three homer night.
Reggie Jackson so appreciated Healy that he even mentioned him in his Hall-of-Fame induction speech.
Looking back, if Reggie and Billy Martin had fought later that day in Boston, disaster would have probably ensued. It would have been ugly for Jackson, Martin, and the Yankees. The entire 1977 season could have imploded right there. But, Fran Healy interceded and saved the day. He probably saved the season.
If we give Healy an assist for Reggie’s heroics, which he certainly deserves, he might have been the most valuable player on that 1977 World Championship team. With no Fran Healy, there would have been no Mr. October in the Bronx. With no 1977 Championship, I doubt the 1978 World Championship ever happens.
You know what?
Fran Healy’s off-the-field contributions were vastly more important than all of Larry Gura’s wins.
The numbers say otherwise, but the fact is, the Yankees got the better of that trade.
By a long shot.
Fran Healy’s last game came on April 21, 1978. He replaced Thurman Munson as the catcher in the top of the ninth inning in a game the Yankees were losing 9-2. He made the final out in the game by striking out against Bob McClure.