Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Card #301, Toby Harrah (Article 59)
by Paul Semendinger
(Continuing a series…)
You have to understand context.
Things are what we perceive them to be. Real or not, it’s what we perceive them to be. We understand the word through our own perspectives.
Toby Harrah was an ALL-STAR.
Consider that. Among the first cards I ever purchased, the ones in that 1977 set, there were only a select number of all-stars and Toby Harrah was one of them. Every time I looked at my cards, and sorted them, and re-sorted them, and sorted them again, whenever I’d see Toby Harrah, I’d see that he was an All-Star.
That had to mean he was the best. It had to. He was a star. Not just that, he was an ALL-STAR.
I don’t even think I knew what the All-Star Game was back then. I probably wouldn’t have cared, but even if I did, all that would have done is cement the idea further in my mind.
The best shortstop in the A.L. was Toby Harrah. He had to be. He was the guy that got the card with the words “A.L. ALL -STAR” on it.
I loved that banner. Those 1977 All-Star cards are great. And this is a great card.
He was one of the first all-stars (whatever that was) that I ever new.
In my eight- or nine-year-old mind that had to mean that he was one of the game’s all-time greats. He had to be.
He was a star!
Perception is reality.
And Toby Harrah was an excellent player. He was a star. Toby Harrah wasn’t just an All-Star in 1976. He was a four-time All-Star in his career.
In five different seasons, he hit twenty or more homers.
In two different seasons (1975 and 1982), he earned MVP consideration.
Toby Harrah had a long and distinguished career. His 51.4 lifetime bWAR ranks him as the 283rd best MLB player of all-time. In this, Toby Harrah ranks above such stars as Bobby Doerr, Kirby Puckett, Fred Lynn, Bernie Williams, Jim Rice, Tony Lazzeri… and a gazillion others.
Toby Harrah was a great player.
Of that there is no question.
In my time as a Yankees fan though, there were few Yankees I rooted against more than Toby Harrah.
All-Star or not, I didn’t want him anywhere near the Yankees.
By the time he became a Yankee, in February of 1984, I saw him for what he was – the guy who would replace my favorite player, Graig Nettles, on the roster and at third base.
How dare he?
The Yankees traded for Harrah on February 5, 1984.
On March 30, 1984, Nettles was gone. He was traded to San Diego.
Because he was the guy who took my favorite player’s job away, I rooted against Toby Harrah throughout the whole single season he was with the Yankees.
And in that 1984 season, Toby Harrah struggled. He may have been a star, but he was not good when he was a Yankee. That season, Harrah batted just .217/.331/.296 (His slugging percentage was actually lower than his on-base percentage!).
Meanwhile, in San Diego, Graig Nettles batted. 228/.329/.413
Harrah swatted just one home run. One.
Nettles clubbed 20 for the Padres.
Harrah’s bWAR was 0.5. Nettles’ was 2.3.
The 1984 Yankees ended up in 4th place.
The 1984 Padres went to the World Series.
I remember feeling so happy for Graig Nettles to be in the World Series again. I just wished that he had helped lead the Yankees there…not a team 3,000 miles away.
In February 1985, Toby Harrah was traded by the Yankees to the Texas Rangers in exchange for outfielder Billy Sample.
After the 1986 season, Harrah’s career was over.
Nettles bounced to Atlanta in 1987 and Montreal in 1988 and then he too was done. Those last few years weren’t kind to Nettles, but in my heart I was glad he was still playing.
At least he outlasted Toby Harrah.