Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Card #8 (Article 2)
The eventual 1977 Cy Young Award winner would be a relief pitcher, but it wouldn’t be either of these relief aces from 1976, instead it would be Sparky Lyle of the Yankees. In 1977 Sparky Lyle pitched to a 13-5, 2.17 saving 26 games in 72 games, but that was yet to come.
I chose this card because of the National League relief ace who was pictured – Rawly Eastwick would become a Yankee after the 1977 season.
The Yankees in this period were, of course, known for paying big money to acquire the greatest stars of the day. Catfish Hunter arrived as a Free Agent following the 1974 season. Reggie Jackson would arrive for 1977. After the 1977 season, the Yankees purchased Goose Gossage. All three of those players are now in the Baseball Hall-of-Fame. The Yankees often stuck gold in their signings…but not always.
Prior to the 1977 season, the Yankees acquired Don Gullett a star left-handed pitcher from the World Champion Cincinnati Reds. Gullett would go 14-4 for the 1977 Yankees, but he’d get hurt and would only pitch in eight more games after that season.
Another big time pitcher the Yankees signed was Rawly Eastwick. Eastwick was signed by the Yankees as a free agent on December 9, 1977. He was added to a bullpen that already contained ace Sparky Lyle and new ace Rich Gossage who was signed on November 22, 1977, just a few weeks before. One thing is for certain, the Steinbrenner Yankees of that era had no problem overspending and having an abundance of players at various positions. Why can’t a team have three ace relievers, all who have been top-notch closers?
Unfortunately, for Eastwick and the Yankees, this signing just didn’t work out. Eastwick would appear in just eight games with the 1978 Yankees. Yankees Manager Billy Martin wasn’t a fan of Eastwick’s and he used him sparingly, if at all. On June 14, 1978, Eastwick was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for two outfielders – Bobby Brown and Jay Johnstone.
In Sparky Lyle’s famous book The Bronx Zoo, Eastwick plays a small role as a character in the Yankees bullpen. It seems that Eastwick loved collecting small items and was one day going to make a sculpture with them. I don’t think that sculpture was ever created.
Eastwick would pitch through the 1981 season with stops after Philadelphia in Kansas City with the Royals and in Chicago with the Cubs.
As we continue with this series, we’ll encounter yet another free agent pitcher the Yankees signed during this period – another former star, a starting pitcher, whose career just didn’t work out in pinstripes because he, like Don Gullett, also got injured.