Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Card #383, Stan Bahnsen (Article 70)
by Paul Semendinger
(Continuing a series…)
There is a right-handed pitcher on the Yankees. He’s a young kid, just 26, but he’s already pitched in four big league seasons. He has won 14 games twice and 17 games once. In each season, he has pitched well over 200 innings.
Imagine that guy had a lifetime 3.10 ERA and that he had once been the American League Rookie of the Year.
Yeah, that was Stan Bahnsen.
Now, imagine that the Yankees traded that pitcher – a 26-year-old, Rookie of the Year Award winner who has already won 55 Major League games.
Imagine they traded him for an infielder with a lifetime batting average of just .246 who had hit all of 12 homers in 157 games in his career and who was, at best, an average defender, but was probably not even that good.
If I told you that all of this took place in the 1970s, I can almost guess your reaction, “STEINBRENNER! He always traded good pitchers away!”
Except, Stan Bahnsen was traded in 1971, years before George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees.
Yes, it’s true, even during the CBS years, the Yankees traded good young talent away in trades that seem to make little sense today.
They player Stan Bahnsen was traded for was Rich McKinney. He lasted one season (1972) with the Yankees. He played in 37 games, hit .215 and that was that. McKinney was traded to the Oakland A’s as a player to be named later in the deal that brought the Yankees Matty Alou.
McKinney then played for the A’s from 1973-75 going up and down from the minor leagues and again in 1977. Since he didn’t play in the Major Leagues in 1976, he wasn’t issued a Topps card in the 1977 set. That’s too bad. 1977 was his last year in the big leagues, and it was also the year he played in the most games (86) other than the year he played on the White Sox (114 games) before becoming a Yankee. McKinney batted just .177 in 1977.
Stan Bahnsen though started off great after leaving the Bronx. He won 21 games for the 1972 White Sox. (What were the Yankees thinking?)
In 1973, we won 18 games, but also led the league in losses with 21. Someone once said, “You have to be a good pitcher in order to lose 20 games in a season.”
In June 1975, Bahnsen went to the A’s in a trade and was, at least when McKinney was called up to the big club, teammates with the player he was traded for. From 1977 through 1981, Bahnsen pitched for the Montreal Expos. His least season in the big leagues was 1982. That year he pitched for both the California Angels 97 games) and the Philadelphia Phillies (8 games).
All told, it was the 21 losses that most defined Bahnsen’s career after that first great year after leaving New York. From 1974 through the end of his career, Bahnsen went a combined 52-60, 4.10.
Bahnsen’s last game came as a member of the Phillies in a game against the New York Mets. He pitched 1.1 innings walking one batter, getting a fly out, and striking out three – George Foster, Dave Kingman, and Brian Giles.