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1967 Topps Celebrates Carl Yastrzemski, Rod Carew and Tom Seaver

The 1967 Topps set is celebrated for its simple, yet eye-pleasing design, a Hall of Fame checklist, rookie cards of two baseball greats and card No. 355 featuring Carl Yastrzemski.

In 1967, the man they called Yaz had one of the greatest seasons in baseball history, winning the Triple Crown and leading a fading franchise to the World Series.  Yastrzemski hit .326 for his second consecutive batting title, tied Harmon Killebrew with 44 homers and and led the American League with 121 RBI.  He also led the league in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs scored, hits, and total bases to earn American League MVP honors. Thriving in the clutch, Yaz hit .417 and slugged .760 with nine home runs and 26 RBI in the month of September while leading the “Impossible Dream” Red Sox to the AL Pennant.

The ‘67 Topps Yaz card is a must for any long-time Red Sox fan or Triple Crown memorabilia collector.  Excellent to near mint versions are readily available on eBay for $30-$45.  Crisp, highly-graded samples sell for as much as $950.

The 1967 Topps set is arguably the most popular set of the decade.  Advances in photo and printing technologies produced the most vibrant-looking cards to date.  The clutter free, borderless design is ideal for both head-and-shoulders and close-up “posed action” shots featured throughout the series.  Unlike other Topps issues from the ‘60s, the emphasis is clearly on the player, not the team name or card design.

The card backs lend a hand in grading the 50-year-old cards. The solid lime green backs help identify wear and damaged corners almost as well as the black borders of the 1971 Topps issue.  With flaws easily identified, mint conditioned 1967 Topps cards are a true rarity.

The card backs also display a vertical design, allowing more length for season-by-season statistics, while leaving room for the Topps cartoon and player notes.  Did you know that Yaz won two batting titles and finished second twice in his first eight seasons of professional ball?  The card back also tells us that Yaz signed a $100,000 signing bonus while attending Notre Dame and worked at a Boston printing firm during the winter months early in his career.  Amazing how much we learned about our favorite players on  2 ½ x 3 ½ in. baseball cards in the days before the internet.

The 1967 Topps Set also includes the first Topps card of Maury Wills and the last Topps card of Whitey Ford.  Wills is pictured in a Pirates uniform (he played with the Pirates and Expos in the middle of a standout career with the Dodgers), while Ford is pictured completing his famed Hall of Fame pitching motion. At this stage of his career, Ford — still one of the game’s most popular players — battled injuries, while serving as an unofficial pitching coach for the Yankees.  You will find classic cards of baseball greats Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks and the last card to list Mickey Mantle as an outfielder.

The “Rookie Stars” checklist is headlined by Rod Carew and Tom Seaver.  In 19 major league seasons with the Minnesota Twins and California Angels, Carew compiled 3,053 hits while winning seven batting titles and hitting .300 or better for 15 consecutive seasons. Topps didn’t include Carew in its original release, but after a hot start at the plate, the 22-year-old second baseman was added to the more limited high-number series. His ‘67 Topps rookie sells for $175 in excellent to near mint condition, while highly graded versions are valued over $1,000.  This card is a double print, making it a bit more common than most cards from the high-numbered series.

Seaver achieved 311 wins, 3,640 strikeouts, and 61 shutouts over a 20-year career.  His arrival in New York began to change the fortunes of the Mets, a perennial doormat since joining the league in 1962.  The Mets all-time leader in wins, Seaver was the 1967 National League Rookie of the Year and a three-time Cy Young Award winner.  His highly coveted ‘67 Topps rookie — an extremely limited high-series card — commands $700 or more in decent condition, while highly graded versions are valued over $2,000.

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1959 Fleer Ted Williams Baseball Card Set: As Splendid As The Splinter

When Fleer entered the baseball card business 58 years ago, the first-year sports card manufacturer turned to the greatest hitter who ever lived.  Ted Williams not only established new slugging standards, he also changed the way the sports collectibles hobby was marketed.

During this era, Topps was the exclusive baseball card manufacturer, so Fleer — the only other major trading card producer at the time — had to take a more creative approach with its prWilliams52F#2oducts. Facing the daunting task of going head to head with the mighty Topps Co., Fleer, a longtime bublegum manufacturer, signed Ted Williams away from Topps. The result was 1959 Fleer “Life of Ted Williams” — an 80-card series capturing a medley of snippets detailing Williams’s legendary career.

One of the more popular cards of the set (#2) pictures Ted in his Red Sox uniform gripping a bat with his idol, Babe Ruth. The card back chronicles Ted’s time at Horace Mann Junior High School in California. Card #5 details Ted’s brilliant high school career for Herbert Hoover High School (San Diego, California). He was considered one of the top amateur players in California, drawing the attention of big league scouts.

Card #14 highlights his amazing rookie season (1939) in which he became the first AL rookie to lead the league in total bases. A favorite among collectors is card #41, which displays a head shot of Williams above the title “1941 — How Ted Hit .400”. The card back discusses how Ted played both games of a doubleheader on the last day of the season to raise his average from .400 to .406.

The Fleer set also features Ted’s distinguished military career. Card #24 titled “1945 — Sharpshooter” shows a concerned, but anxious Williams taking the Naval eye test. According to the card back, “Navy doctors said that eyesight like Ted’s occurred only six times per thousand persons.”
Williams52F#41
This set includes three of the hobby’s hardest-to-find All-Star cards. Card #34 pictures Williams sliding into second base in the 1947 All-Star Game. The card back details the new runs scored record established by Williams that year.

Card #40 shows Williams crashing against the wall to make a spectacular catch in the 1950 All-Star Game at Comiskey Park. The card back tells the story of how the catch destroyed the Red Sox Pennant hopes and nearly ended Ted’s career. Williams didn’t realize that he had broken his elbow and gamely played for 8 more innings, hitting a single and driving in a run.

Card #48 features Marine Captain Ted Williams throwing out the first ball and serving as an honorary member of the AL team at the 1953 All-Star Game in Cincinnati while still serving on military duty. The card back expressively reads, “Not only was he a baseball hero of the finest magnitude, but he was in two wars within the short span of one decade.”

The Williams set successfully put Fleer on the sports collectibles map, but not without incident. Card #68 pictures Ted preparing to sign a contract with Red Sox general manager Bucky Harris, who was one of the handful of baseball executives under contract with Topps at the time. Rather than face a lawsuit from Topps, Fleer withdrew card #68 by defacing the lower right corner of the card on the printing sheet, and then destroying the cards after they were cut from the sheet. A very limited amount of mint #68 cards were packaged before Fleer started its disfiguring process, making this one of the most sought-after Williams cards.
Williams52F#68
The back of the Harris card reveals just how much times have changed: “Ted signed his 1959 contract in Boston for a reported $125,000. He has been baseball’s highest paid player for several years.”

This affordable set details the extraordinary career of the legendary Ted Williams. Much of the history written about the Splendid Splinter came directly from the backs of these cards. Every card — except the Harris card, which commands $1,000 — can be found on eBay in decent condition
for under $25.

The (David) Price Is Right

New Red Sox president/GM/baseball czar Dave Dombrowski is bold, decisive, and clearly the man running the show.  By signing left-handed ace David Price to a seven-year, $217 million contract, Dombrowski was able to persuade owner John Henry to make a complete philosophical change in how to build a baseball team while laying the groundwork for the next Red Sox championship run.  
2016-topps-heritage-priceLast offseason, Jon Lester took his two World Series rings and boto Chicago after Henry told the world that spending lavishly on a 30-year-old pitcher was not sound business.  Today, the 30-year-old Price is on the verge of becoming the highest paid pitcher in the history of baseball.

Dombrowski has been preaching the need for an ace since he landed at Logan
Airport wearing Red Sox gear.  Henry opened his wallet and Dombrowski has his man.  Price is a bonafide, card-carrying, innings eating front of the rotation ace — arguably one of the game’s top five pitchers.  His resume includes a Cy Young Award and two runner-up finishes to go along with two ERA titles.  A true workhorse, he ranks fourth in the majors in innings and strikeouts, and third in wins since his first full season in 2010.  He was arguably the AL’s best starter in 2015.

The Red Sox get Price at the peak of his career and durability has not been an issue He has only one minor injury in his career, sitting out six weeks in 2013 because of a sore triceps.  He’s also been transitioning from a power thrower to a more complete pitcher over the last few seasons.  While maintaining a mid-90s fastball, Price has become more reliant on curveballs and changeups, which accounted for 25% of his pitches last season.  Not having to rely on the heat pitch after pitch will limit the wear and tear on his arm.

Price has also had tremendous success against stacked AL East lineups of recent years past and is 6-1 with a 1.95 ERA at Fenway Park over his eight-year career.  With the best defensive outfield in the league covering his back, Price has positioned himself well for continued success.

The one drawback?  And it’s a big one:  Price is 0-7 as a starter in his playoff career with a 5.27 ERA.  At $31 million annually, the man signing the checks and the win-at-all-costs fan base will  have much higher expectations over the next seven years.    Clayton Kershaw, the game’s top pitcher is also trying to figure out the winning formula for October. Both have been consistently strong early and late in seasons. Both are accustomed to performing in the spotlight. Both are aces instrumental in getting their teams to the playoffs.  I’m guessing that both will figure out how to win in the postseason with age and experience.

A bigger concern may be the opt out clause that will allow Price to enter the free agent market again in three years.  If Price performs as expected, the Red Sox will likely have to shell out even more money to retain Price or explore other pitching options.  In short, we may be looking at a three-year, $93 million contract.  A  World Series title or two in that time period would satisfy everyone.