Tagged: Rod Carew

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.

A Place For Edgar Martinez And The DH In The Hall of Fame

The designated hitter is an actual position that has been debated, discussed, probed, and prodded since the 1890s.  Since the inception of the American League position 44 years ago, the DH has served it’s purpose ably: enhancing offense, while increasing fan interest.  Each year, the best DH  is honored with the Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award.  Somehow, the player who established the benchmark for excellence at the position has been kept out of the Hall of Fame and has just two remaining years of eligibility — a slight to one the finest hitters baseball has ever seen and to the position as a whole.  

Martinez did not become a full-time player until the age of 27, which limited his career hit total to 2,247 and home run total to just 309, well short of top sluggers from his era.  But looking deeper into the numbers, we discover that Martinez was actually one of the top and most consistent sluggers of his time — or any time period — culminating an 18-year career with an eye-popping .418 on-base percentage and .933 OPS.  Jayson Stark of ESPN describes Martinez as one of the “greatest hitters of his generation.”

Martinez was just one of eight players to have 300 home runs, 500 doubles, a career batting average above .300, a career OBP above .400, and a career slugging percentage above .500.  He is also one of six players to hit at least .320 for six consecutive seasons  alongside Stan Musial, Wade Boggs, Rod Carew, Tony Gwynn, and  Todd Helton.  All but Helton are in the Hall.

Sports edgarmartinezIllustrated’s Jay Jaffe, who spends endless hours crunching numbers to evaluate Hall of Fame candidates, says Martinez is one of the top 30 or 40 hitters of all time.  Martinez outdistanced David Ortiz in career WAR 68.3 too 55.4.  Most consider fellow DH Ortiz a clear cut Hall of Famer, steroid issues aside.  Martinez is one of 25 players with at least eight seasons with OPS+ greater than 150.  All who are eligible and not connected to steroids are in the Hall of Fame except two: Dick Allen and Martinez.  He also has the fourth best career OPS (.933) among right-handed hitters in the modern era … And still not enough Hall of Fame votes.

The anti-DH faction among baseball writers has weakened over the years, but is still clearly present.  There are several players who have appeared extensively as a DH already in the Hall, including Carl Yastrzemski, Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield and Jim Rice.  But most of these players played the majority of their games at other positions — usually first base or outfield.

Elected in 2004, Paul Molitor served as his team’s DH for nearly 44 percent of the games he started.  Two years ago, Frank Thomas became the first HOFer to DH in the majority of his games played.  Martinez played DH for 71% of the games he started.  If Martinez is not elected before his expiration date, Ortiz will likely become the first almost-full-time DH to receive baseball’s highest honor.  Ortiz collected more hits, home runs, and RBI than any other DH.

The designated hitter first proposed during the 1890s as the designated pinch hitter. Connie Mack took credit for the idea in 1906. NL owners actually approved the DH rule in December 1928, but were ironically overruled by their AL cohorts. In 1940, the Bushrod League, a California winter circuit, adopted the DH. In 1969 the International League experimented with the DH for a year.

After nearly eight decades of debate between league presidents, owners, and players, the American League finally approved the DH before the 1973 season. On April 6, Ron Blomberg, became major league baseball’s first designated hitter when he drew a first-inning, bases loaded walk from Luis Tiant on a cold, windy Opening Day at Fenway Park.

A pulled hamstring forced the 24-year-old first baseman to his new position. If Matty Alou, batting third for the Yankees, didn’t stroke a two-out double in the first inning, the Red Sox Orlando Cepeda, the first player signed specifically for DH duty, would have made the history books.  Although the Red Sox won the game 15-5, Cepeda, the prototype DH, went 0-for-6, the only Red Sox starter to go hitless.

AL owners hoped the DH would increase offense, give aging sluggers the chance to extend their years of productivity, and increase attendance. The three-year experiment worked. AL teams were scoring more runs, league attendance rose from 11.4 million to 13.4 million, and older stars were extending their careers.

Cepeda was exactly what the AL owners had in mind when they adopted the DH. The 35-year-old former first baseman entered the season with bad knees and 358 career home runs, and had driven in over 100 runs five times in his career.

In 1973, Cepeda played all of his 142 games at DH for the Red Sox, hitting 20 homers and 86 RBI — excellent power numbers for the time — winning the first Associated Press Designated Hitter Award.

The DH helped sluggers such as Cepeda, the 1958 NL Rookie of the Year with the Giants and the 1967 MVP with the Cardinals, achieve Hall of Fame status. Cepeda, elected by the Veterans Committee in 1999, finished his career with 379 home runs (21 as a DH) and 1,365 RBI.

The DH is now widely accepted and used in some form in most leagues from high school to the majors. The final hurdle to its acceptance as an actual position may be a deservedly wider presence in the Hall of Fame.