(Check out our other player card posts here.)

Even the greatest of baseball teams need to fill a 25-man roster, and it’s impossible to field superstars from top to bottom of a lineup and through every inch of bench depth.

Obscure players inevitably end up with championship clubs, even with dynastic clubs.

And, once a guy sets foot on Major League soil, there is at least a chance he’ll end up on his own baseball card, nestled among the bigger names on his team.

Take the 1977 New York Yankees, for example. That Billy Martin-led team won 99 games in the regular season, barely held off the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS, and then downed the Los Angeles Dodgers, four games to two in the World Series.

1978 Topps New York Yankees Team

The Yanks were led by a stalwart rotation that included Ed Figueroa, Mike Torrez, Don Gullett, Ron Guidry, and Catfish Hunter; a bullpen anchored Goose Gossage; and a star-studded lineup featuring Thurman Munson, Chris Chambliss, Willie Randolph, Bucky Dent, Graig Nettles, Roy White, Mickey Rivers, and new free agent acquisition Reggie Jackson.

It was in that 1977 World Series, you might remember, that Reggie cemented his legend with three home runs in three at-bats against the Dodgers in the deciding Game 6.

But not everyone on that team was a huge star. And some of those lesser lights joined their more famous brethren on the field and in the cardboard firmament.

Just take a look at the back of the 1978 Topps Yankees team card for proof.

 

1978 Topps New York Yankees Checklist

 

There among Reggie and Thurman and Lousiana Lightning are guys like Dell Alston, Ken Clay, and Fran Healy.

But if you want to jump deep into the baseball hinterland, slide your eyes all the way down to the bottom listing on that card and you’ll find … George Zeber.

Now, don’t feel too bad if that name doesn’t ring a baseball bell.

After all, Zeber was nearly a career minor leaguer.

New York picked him out of Loara High School in Anaheim, California, in the 6th round of the 1968 draft. He spent the next two seasons in the minor leagues before two years of military service kept him away from the game in 1970 and 1971. When he came back, Zeber played five more full seasons in the minors, and it looked like he might never taste Big League coffee.

But on May 7, 1977, with the Yankees on the cusp of a pennant-building summer, Zeber got the call.

1978 Topps George Zeber

In the top of the sixth inning in a game at Yankee stadium against the Oakland A’s, Billy Martin lifted second baseman Willie Randolph and inserted George Zeber right there between Dent and Nettles, backing up Gullett. The Yanks were trailing 9-1.

Zeber handled a Wayne Gross popup for the second out of the inning, and then, in the bottom of the seventh, Zeber came to the plate for the first time. He grounded out, but A’s first baseman Rich McKinney bobbled the ball and Zeber was on.

He’d be forced out at second two batters later on a Fran Healy ground ball, but, gosh darn it, George Zeber was a Major Leaguer at long last.

Zeber picked up 24 more appearances that summer, including 15 starts at second and on at third. For the year, he batted .323 in 65 ABs, scored eight runs, and smacked three home runs.

As it turned out, being able to play a serviceable second base behind a young (22) guy like Willie Randolph, and being able to switch hit were valuable assets for a life-long minor leaguer who would turn 27 before September rolled around.

Zeber parlayed those skills and his in-season experience into two World Series at-bats, both of which were pinch-hitting assignments in place of the pitcher. Zeber struck out both times.

But that didn’t matter, not really.

He made it back to the Yankees in 1978, collecting a whopping six at-bats over three games.

But that didn’t matter, either.

1978 Topps George Zeber (back)

Zeber never played again after 1978, in either the Majors or minors.

And, yeah, maybe that mattered to him. Maybe he wanted to keep going.

But he was able to do what millions of little boys with big dreams never get to do — play in the Major Leagues, and play in the World Series.

Along the way, he also got his own Topps baseball card.

For that one glorious summer, George Zeber was a giant in wax packs all across America.

(Check out our other player card posts here.)

 

 

 

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New York Yankees 1936/1977/1996/1999/2009 World Series Championship Ring Heavy

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End Date: Tuesday Mar-13-2018 6:17:01 PDT
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New York Yankees 1936/1977/1996/1999/2009 World Series Championship Ring Heavy

$7.99
End Date: Tuesday Mar-13-2018 6:17:01 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $7.99
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

New York Yankees 1936/1977/1996/1999/2009 World Series Championship Ring Heavy

$7.99
End Date: Tuesday Mar-13-2018 6:17:01 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $7.99
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

New York Yankees 1936/1977/1996/1999/2009 World Series Championship Ring Heavy

$7.99
End Date: Tuesday Mar-13-2018 6:17:01 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $7.99
Buy It Now | Add to watch list