Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Card #244, John Mayberry (Article 46)
by Paul Semendinger
(Continuing a series…)
Big John Mayberry.
That’s what they called him.
And they usually didn’t call him just Big John, they usually used the whole name – Big John Mayberry.
He was a left-handed slugger, and a good one at that, at least until the end of his career. It was unfortunate that by the time he wore pinstripes, Mayberry was at the end of his career.
A few articles ago, I shared that I first became aware of Tom Buskey when I played Strat-o-Matic with the first cards I ever had – the 1979 Toronto Blue Jays. John Mayberry was also on that team. He was probably the best player on that Blue Jays squad.
In 1979, for the Blue Jays, John Mayberry hit .274/21/74. That season was a typical season for Mayberry. Between 1972 and 1980, nine seasons, he hit 20 or more homers eight times. Mayberry’s high was 34 round-trippers in 1975. He also hit 30 home runs in 1980. Those were his two best seasons. In that period, the only year he didn’t hit at least 20 homers was 1976 when he hit only 13.
Over the years, John Mayberry was considered on of baseball’s better players. He was a two-time All-Star (1973 and 1974).
In 1975, the year that Fred Lynn won the American League MVP, Big John Mayberry placed second in the voting. That year, Lynn, a rookie, got all the attention, but Mayberry was almost as good. Lynn’s 1975 WAR was 7.4 compared to Mayberry’s 7.2. (Not mentioned in the 7.9 WAR accumulated by Rod Carew.)
John Mayberry reached the Major Leagues in 1968 with the Houston Astros. Over four seasons with them, he played in only 105 games. In December 1971, he was traded to the Kansas City Royals where he starred until he was sold to the Blue Jays before the 1978 season.
The Yankees traded for Big John Mayberry in May 1982. He stayed with the Yankees for the remainder of the season.
The only problem was by that time, Big John didn’t hit any longer. He played in 69 games for the Yankees and batted only .209. In those 69 games, he clubbed 8 home runs.
Big John was one of a long line of players who the Yankees tried out to replace Chris Chambliss after the 1979 season. First base was somewhat of a revolving door for the Yankees in that era. The revolving door wouldn’t stop spinning until Don Mattingly took over the position for good in 1984. .
When I say “revolving door,” I truly mean revolving door. Here are the Yankees’ first basemen between 1980 and 1984:
1980: Bob Watson, Jim Spencer, Dennis Werth, Marshall Brant
1981: Bob Watson, Jim Spencer, Dave Revering, Dennis Werth, Steve Balboni, Aurelio Rodriguez, and Barry Foote
1982: John Mayberry, Dave Collins, Steve Balboni, Lee Mazzilli, Dave Revering, Butch Hobson, Bob Watson…Don Mattingly
1983: Ken Griffey, Don Mattingly, Steve Balboni, Roy Smalley, Don Baylor
Of note: Jim Spencer was traded for Dave Revering who was traded for John Mayberry.
John Mayberry’s last big league homer came in the second game of a double header at Yankee Stadium against the Texas Rangers. The homer was of the three-run variety giving the Yankees the runs that were the difference in a game they won 8-5.
Mayberry’s home run came off Jon Matlack.