Thursday, March 24, 2016

Comparing the Rookie Stars of 1959 and 1960 Topps All-Star Rookie Teams

This article profiles the first Topps All-Star Rookie Team, selected and announced in late 1959. I've researched Topps subsets and on-card advertising recently, but hadn't found an easy reference for the 1959 "rookies," especially the subset of rookie trophies that first appeared on 1960 cards. Topps appears to have promoted it using both Topps Chewing Gum and Bazooka brands, first referring to it as "Young America's All-Star Rookie Team" on ballots.

Young America's All-Star Rookie Team ballot (from Bob Lemke's post)

The ballot's fine print offers key details: "See the winning team on 'World Series Special'--NBC-TV Network--Tuesday, Sept. 29." September 29 was the expected eve of 1959's first World Series game, so All-Rookie Team balloting drove attention toward NBC's broadcast, not to cards per se. I assume All-Star Rookie balloting took place late in the season to focus collectors on that date. It's possible Topps targeted balloting to big media markets or teams still in the pennant race (LA, Milwaukee, SF, Chicago, Cleveland, NY) to capture maximum interest.

Some of the Topps All-Star Rookie Team also appeared on 1959 cards. Here's the full list, as shown in both the year of election and with their 1960 Topps All-Star Rookie trophy, their first year for on-card trophies.

CATCHER: John Romano (Chicago 1959, Cleveland 1960)

1959 Topps #138, John Romano (Chicago)
1960 Topps #323, Johnny Romano (Cleveland)

Johnny won't be the first to swap teams for 1960 and won't be the last guy from Cleveland.

FIRST BASE: Willie McCovey (no 1959 card, SF 1960)

1960 Topps #316, Willie McCovey

Willie won the 1959 NL Rookie of the Year award after a torrid second half. He appeared in just 52 games, the fewest ever by a non-pitcher ROY winner, but served a key role in keeping SF close to LA and Milwaukee through the season's final week. McCovey debuted too late for a 1959 Topps card, but thanks to the late-season nature of their All-Rookie Team, became a shoo-in at first base.

SECOND BASE: Pumpsie Green (no 1959 card, Boston 1960)

1960 Topps #317, Pumpsie Green

Pumpsie Green's best-known as the guy who integrated MLB's last team to integrate, the Boston Red Sox, when he took the field on July 21, 1959. Like McCovey, his debut came too late for the 1959 set, which would've been printed by that time.

THIRD BASE: Jim Baxes (LA 1959, Cleveland 1960)

1959 Topps #547, Jim Baxes
1960 Topps #318, Jim Baxes

Jim played enough in LA to garner a high-numbered 1959 card, but switched teams before the year was out, becoming our second Cleveland player with a 1960 trophy. Jim never returned to the bigs after 1959, so these are his only two Topps cards.

SHORTSTOP: Joe Koppe (Philadelphia 1959-60)

1959 Topps #517, Joe Koppe
1960 Topps #319, Joe Koppe

Koppe's striking a pitching pose on his 1959 card, but played infield throughout his career.

OUTFIELD: Bob Allison (Washington 1959-60)

1959 Topps #116, Bob Allison
1960 Topps #320, Bob Allison

Bob won 1959's AL Rookie of the Year, finishing just ahead of fellow All-Star Rookie Jim Perry.

OUTFIELD: Ron Fairly (LA 1959-60)

1959 Topps #125, Ron Fairly
1960 Topps #321, Ron Fairly

Ron's two career All-Star appearances were for Canadian teams (Montreal 1973, Toronto 1978). Trivia bonus!

OUTFIELD: Willie Tasby (Baltimore 1959-60)

1959 Topps #143, Willie Tasby
1960 Topps #322, Willie Tasby

Willie moved to Boston early in 1960 and enjoyed the best hitting of his career. Washington selected him in their 1961 expansion draft, but moved him to Cleveland in 1962, ultimately splitting his six year career across four AL franchises.

RIGHT-HANDED PITCHER: Jim Perry (Cleveland 1959-60)

1959 Topps #542, Jim Perry
1960 Topps #324, Jim Perry

Not just any right-handed pitcher, this is the elder brother of HOF Gaylord Perry and was almost as good, winning 215 career games. Thanks to team changes by Johnny Romano and Jim Baxes, Perry was Cleveland's third representative on the ten-man Topps All-Star Rookie team.

LEFT-HANDED PITCHER: Jim O'Toole (Cincinnati, 1959-60)

1959 Topps #136, Jim O'Toole
1960 Topps #325, Jim O'Toole

Jim is just one of several guys with Topps rookie cards before their Topps All-Star Rookie card.

Wrapping It Up

Thanks to the breadth of The Sporting News Rookie Stars subset (1959 Topps #116-146) and high series additions (Jim Baxes, Jim Perry, Joe Koppe), the 1960 Topps All-Star Rookies mark the first card for only two guys, Pumpsie Green and Willie McCovey.

Topps All-Star Rookies weren't the only rookies in 1960. SPORT Magazine also sponsored a rookie subset, with this Yaz RC its best known, but the tradition of Topps All-Star Rookie trophies won out thereafter.

If 1960 Topps #316 wasn't enough McCovey, he picked up a second card in 1960's high series as a SPORT Magazine All-Star Selection.

1960 Topps #554, Willie McCovey SPORT Magazine '60 All-Star

Note the 1960 Topps All-Star subset was chosen by SPORT Magazine, not MLB itself. Willie didn't appear on either roster for the 1960 MLB All-Star games (July 11 and July 13). Trivia double bonus!


Commishbob said...

Great write-up, Matthew. These are right in my wheelhouse. I became a 'fan' of Joe Koppe when doing my post of his '59 card. Someone pointed out that he posed for the Topps photographer wearing a 'lefty' glove for his '64 card. He's an interesting guy.

Matthew Glidden said...

Oh, very cool! 1964 Topps #279 Joe Koppe does indeed have a lefty glove. I bet he's one of a handful of shortstops even shown wearing southpaw gear, given the positional disadvantage.