Expectations were high for the New York Yankees entering the 1979 season. Coming off two consecutive World Series victories and one of the greatest comebacks the game had ever seen, the Yankees had an All-Star lineup, had added All-Stars Tommy John and Luis Tiant to their pitching staff, and had a strong bullpen anchored by future Hall of Famer Rich Gossage.
The team failed to live up to its expectations. While John and Tiant were exceptional additions, pitcher Ed Figueroa, coming off a 20-win season, would pitch just 104 innings and win only four games. The team’s power numbers were off, and an early season fight between Gossage and backup catcher Cliff Johnson would keep Gossage on the disabled list with a tendon injury for three months. Tragedy struck in early August, when team captain and All-Star catcher Thurman Munson was killed in a plane crash. The team, by that point 14 games back in the standings, never recovered, failing to win 90 games for the first time since 1975.
Despite the injury, the 27-year-old Gossage managed to pitch 58 innings during the season, posting a 5-3 record with a 2.62 earned run average and 18 saves. All but three of those saves occurred after July 23, when he returned from the DL; Munson was gone just over a week later.
Presented here is an outstanding document of Gossage’s tumultuous 1979 season: a game-worn road jersey. The jersey was obtained by a long-time collector quite some time ago, and despite being in outstanding overall condition, exhibits outstanding signs of wear, including considerable soiling and perspiration staining. The staining alone is responsible for the MEARS grade of A-8, as they deducted two points from their 10-point grading scale as a direct result. The jersey is otherwise original, with the proper tags and numbers. Most notably, however, is the jersey’s left sleeve, which bears the black armband worn in tribute to Munson, the team’s fallen captain.
An outstanding jersey from a Hall of Fame pitcher and Yankees fireman, exhibiting outstanding signs of use, and bearing the black armband memorializing the team’s deceased catcher, as applied to each player’s uniform in August of that season.