Monday, January 8, 2018

Happy 80th Birthday Willie McCovey and the birth of the Topps All-Star Rookie Team

On January 10th First Ballot Hall of Famer Willie McCovey celebrates his 80th birthday.

To mark the occasion I would like to take a look at McCovey's rookie card.

 1960 Topps #316 Willie McCovey

Not only is this a Rookie Card but it is also Topps first ever All-Star Rookie Cup card.

Therefore here we have a card that historic for not one but two reasons. The card is the beginning of some interesting Topps history. 

Check out the text at the top of the yellow circle. It specifies that McCovey was "Selected by the Youth of America"

What does that mean? Well Topps actually sent out ballots to the Boy Scout, YMCA, Boys Club of America and other youth organizations to vote on the All-Star Rookie team. I believe this was part of a greater effort to attract young collectors.

The Following Ad appeared in an issue of The Sporting News during the summer of 1959.

 The Sporting News 1959 Jul 15  

A couple of things to unpack here, first The trophy looks terrific. The clipart used for the Trophy on early Topps cards looks fine, but here we have a bit more detail, I mean who knew the pedestal was a Top Hat?

The text above is where I got the info on the clubs involved in the rookie all-star election.

Further down in the ad we have additional info:

The Sporting News 1959 Jul 15
Check it out there was an actual trophy presentation ceremony with an associated bonus of $125! According to the CPI Inflation Calculator that is a little bit over a grand in today's money.

To the right is a "Sample Ballot". Kids write in the players name, team and position, and send their vote to Topps Bazooka office in Brooklyn.

The final thing I want to point out is the "Honorary All-Star Election Committee" which consists of various media representatives plus JACKIE ROBINSON, who is referred to not as Major Leaguer, World Champion, All-Star, or Future Hall of Famer. Nope for purposes of this exercise he was Vice President, Chock Full O' Nuts, Inc.

According to a TSN article the 1959 All-Star Rookie election consisted of 1.5 Million votes. Topps eligibility requirements to make the team were no more than 45 Days in the Majors, 90 Plate Appearances, or 45 innings prior to the season.

The Sporting News 1960 Apr 20

And there they are Topps Historic First All-Star Rookie Team. They are pretty much in the order that they appear on the 1960T checklist. Willie McCovey is on the left followed Pumpsie Green, Jim Baxes, Phillies Shortstop Joe Koppe (the shortest guy in the shot) Bob Allison, Ron Fairly, John Romano and Jim Perry. Willie Tasby and Jim O'Toole who could not make the outing are shown in an inset bottom left.

The Subset
The Initial All-Star Rookie subset is unique within the history of the on card award as it is the only time the cards are presented consecutively running from #316-#325.

They also run in position sequence using scoring notation, except they start at 1B rather than pitcher. I don't know if this is luck or if Topps wanted one of the two Rookie of the Year award winners to lead off the subber. The AL ROY was Bob Allison. Regardless if planned or happy accident it is a nice touch that the first All-Star Rookie card EVER went to a 500 Home Run guy and future Hall of Famer. 

1960 Topps #316 Willie McCovey (b-side)

The back of the All-Star Rookies are essentially the same as the base backs. Note McCovey took home NL ROY honors despite only getting involved in 52 games. Perhaps it had to do with his HOT start. I always loved how 1960T bullet pointed highlights from the players 1959 season. Check ou the first five of these HighLights for Stretch. The man puts up notable games FOUR days in a row right at the top of his career

Sources and Links
Phungo Willie McCovey HOF Index
1960 Topps Rookie Topps Index
The Sporting News
Baseball Card Database
Cardboard Connection
CPI Inflation Calculator


Fuji said...

Great post. Beautiful card.

Matthew Glidden said...

Wow, the award is a "Topps hat." I finally get that now. Ouch.

a thousand words

a thousand words
2008 World Champions