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Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Card #175, Butch Wynegar (Article 33)

by Paul Semendinger



This has nothing to do with the real Butch Wynegar, but I’ll always remember one of the first times I ever played Strat-o-Matic Baseball with my son Ethan. I had a Yankees team from the 1980’s, Ethan had a modern team. Ethan was winning the game. It was late in the game. My team had little of winning. Butch Wynegar came up, as I recall with the bases loaded, and hit a grand slam to give me the lead. It might have been a walk off grand slam. Who knows? I know that Ethan never liked Butch Wynegar after that.

This is what baseball is… a game of memories that we make with each other.

***

The real Harold “Butch” Wynegar was a wonder kid. He reached the Major Leagues for good as a 20-year-old switch-hitting catcher with the Minnesota Twins. In his first two seasons, he was an All-Star. Wynegar played in 149 games his rookie year. He batted .260 and hit ten homers. In a normal year, he might have been the Rookie of the Year, but that year, 1976, was the year of The Bird – Mark Fidrych. Wynegar had to settle for being the runner-up.

In Wynegar’s sophomore season, he again hit ten homers, this time batting .261. He played in 144 games that year and he was again an All-Star.

While Wynegar would eventually have a solid 13-year career, he would never again hit as many as ten homers in a year (his next highest output was seven which he reached twice -one in 1979, the other time in 1986). He’d also never again be an All-Star.

But, overall. Butch Wynegar stayed pretty consistent…For his first five seasons, he averaged 145 games played each year. His batting average for that period was .256. One season (1978), he hit just .229. The other years were all pretty similar: .255 (1980), .260 (1976), .261 (1977), and .270 (1979).

On May 12, 1982, Butch Wynegar was traded to the Yankees. The Yankees made out in that deal giving up Pete Filson, Larry Milbourne, and John Pacella to get Wynegar and pitcher Roger Erickson. The prize was Wynegar.

Before acquiring Wynegar, the Yankees were still searching for a steady catcher to replace Thurman Munson who had died in 1979. After 1979, the Yankees used the following catchers:

Rick Cerone

Johnny Oates

Bruce Robinson

Brad Gulden

Dennis Werth and

Barry Foote.

In 1980, it looked like Rick Cerone would be the heir apparent and the starting catch for many years, but his production dropped year-after-year. In 1982, Cerone suffered a broken thumb that prompted the Yankees to acquire Wynegar.

Butch Wynegar played so well that Rick Cerone soon became his back-up.

Butch Wynegar, it can be argued had his best seasons as a Yankee. He didn’t play all the time, like he originally had with the Twins, but he was, for the most part, the Yankees go-to guy behind the plate.

In 1982, he hit .293 as a Yankee following the trade from Minnesota.

Then, in 1983, in 94 games, Wynegar batted .296.

1984 was a solid, typical Wynegar year. He batted .267 while playing in 129 games.

And then, 1985 came and Butch just wasn’t the same. He played in 102 games, but batted only .223.

In 1986, he batted just .206 in 61 games.

After the 1986 season, the Yankees traded Butch Wynegar to the California Angels where be played two more seasons before closing out his career.

His star didn’t shine for as long as the Yankees probably wanted, but for a few years, Butch Wynegar was as solid a catcher as a team could hope for.

***

Final note – Butch Wynegar did hit one grand slam in his big league career. That blast came in the bottom of the 5th inning on July 30, 1976 against the Oakland A’s in Minnesota. Lenny Randall, Roy Smalley, and Rod Carew all scored on Wynegar’s lone grand slam – a blast that cut the A’s lead to 7-6 in a game the Twins would eventually win 8-7.

(As noted, Butch Wynegar’s other grand slam came via dice roll on a dining room table in Wyckoff, New Jersey.)

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