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.
Forty-five years ago this month, one of the worst trades in baseball history was made, prompting one of the most hideous-looking baseball cards ever to be produced.
On December 10, 1971, the New York Mets sent 24-year-old fireballer Nolan Ryan along with three prospects to the the California Angels for shortstop Jim Fregosi. In hindsight, the deal was a disaster for the Mets, but the deal made sense for both clubs at the time.
The Angels obtained one of the liveliest — not to mention most erratic — young arms in baseball. Ryan posted a 29-38 record with an impressive 493 strikeouts, but an alarming 344 walks over five seasons with the Mets.
The Mets were adding an established big leaguer believed to be in the prime of his career. Manager Gil Hodges immediately moved Fregosi to third base, where 45 players had come and gone in the Mets’ 10 years of existence. The last of the original Angels of 1961, Fregosi battled numerous physical problems in his one season with the Angels, including a bad bout with the flu, a sore arm, a strained side muscle, and a tumor in his foot. The six-time All-Star batted just .232 with five homers, and 32 RBI in 101 games for the Mets.
Ryan moved on to a Hall of Fame career that included a major league record seven no hitters, 61 shutouts (seventh all-time), 324 wins, and became all-time strikeout leader with 5,714. This is just one of many trades of a big-armed, but erratic young pitcher dealt for a proven veteran. Unfortunately for the Mets it will be remembered as one of the most lopsided deals in baseball history.
In the early ‘70s baseball card sets went to press in late-December or early-January to be ready for distribution by the start of the baseball season. As a result, Ryan’s head shot for the 1972 Topps set was taken while he played for the New York Mets. The wrong Angels logo (they went to a capital A in 1972) was poorly airbrushed over Ryan’s Mets cap. For some unknown reason, the Topps production team failed to airbrush the pinstripes clearly visible from his Mets jersey.
To make matters worse, Ryan’s doctored image was printed inside the grotesque 1972 Topps tombstone design. Keeping up with the times and looking to change the drab designs of 1970 (gray borders) and 1971 (black borders), the 1972 Topps design features a bright, almost psychedelic color scheme.
One of the most controversial baseball card sets, the 1972 Topps series draws the ire of long-time collectors for emphasizing the product and team rather than the player. The team name above the player image is energized with bright, bold lettering that creates a three-dimensional look. The player name, however, is printed in a simple black font at the bottom of the card. Going against tradition, there is no mention of the player’s position.
The 1972 Topps set is not without merit. The series includes the rookie card of Hall of Fame Catcher Carlton Fisk, which he shares with Cecil Cooper (the featured player), and Mike Garman. The series also features the last regular card issued during Roberto Clemente in addition to late cards of Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Other featured Hall of Famers include Reggie Jackson, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Joe Morgan, Frank Robinson, and Fergie Jenkins.