Wednesday, December 17, 2008

1965 Topps Baseball #5, AL RBI leaders

The 1964 AL league leaders include a range of players and teams, all skilled with the bat. (Most are known for more besides.)
  • Ah yes, Mantle, Topps icon and regular run producer. He continued to light up the scoreboard, even as the late-1960s Yankees sank to the second division.
  • Harmon Killebrew's towering shots equaled the Mick in force, if not in lasting fame. Like other tailing sluggers from the mid-70s, Killer dipped a toe in the new free agent market to finish his career in Kansas City. One year, 14 HR, .199 batting average.
  • Dick Stuart, a.k.a “Dr. Strangeglove,” tallied more errors than round-trippers some seasons. Observers agree that every play at first felt like an adventure.
  • Finally (and firstly), Brooks Robinson, who took advantage of his prime of life to pound out 118 RBIs in 1964 and set career highs in many offensive categories. “The Human Vacuum Cleaner” added an MVP to his credentials that year, beating out a second-place Mantle.

    Card front

    Topps debuted league leader cards in the 1960 set and they continue to this day. Multi-player cards stretch back significantly further, both post-war and pre-war. As baseball fell increasingly under the spell of statistics, the cachet of plating the most runners or striking out more hitters than the next guy also rose. Hence, I assume, the desire to add this kind of subset to the mix. Perhaps it's also an easy way to get less-than-the-best photos onto cardboard. This LL card shows alternate poses for each player, kind of like home-and-away jerseys. One particular player jumped around enough that we need the Internet just to keep track of things.

    • The Mick's regular card shows him batting righty, kind of a cool switch from this lefty close-up.
    • Killebrew's #400 moves the portrait to a different angle.
    • Brooksie's smiling mug dominates his “regular” card, not far removed from 1957's rookie pose.
    • Dick Stuart's card throws a bucket of cold water over the whole process. First, the picture's clearly a hatless Pirate uni, probably taken in 1962. Pittsburgh traded him to Boston prior to spring training 1963. He indeed finished runner-up in 1964 AL RBIs, but the Sox shipped him to Philadelphia around Thanksgiving. Topps slapped a PHILLIES flag on the old photo and voila, he appears for both American and National League teams in the same set.

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