Friday, June 19, 2009

Card Spotlight: 6-19-09

1961 Topps #42 - American League Batting Leaders (Runnels, Smith, Minoso, Skowron)

I'll let you in on a little secret. Maybe it's not that much of a secret, but most collectors tend to overlook it. You can get vintage cards with popular players for a fraction of the price of a regular star card by picking up league leader cards.

This card features the top four American League hitters from the 1960 season. Pete Runnels of the Red Sox sported a .320 average to rise to the top of the AL hitters. Al Smith of the White Sox followed with .315. Minnie Minoso of the White Sox sneaks in at third with .311 and Moose Skowron of the Yankees rounds out the top four with a .309 average.

Sixties cards are great to pick up. Most of them are still on the cheaper side and they can be found in wonderful condition. I collect mostly White Sox cards, so this card fits in perfectly with bust shots of Al Smith and Minnie Minoso in South Side attire. A bonus goes to Moose Skowron, who would later join the White Sox. Here, he is pictured with the Yankees, which is always a plus when dealing with vintage cards. Pete Runnels is pictured in another fan favorite team, the Boston Red Sox.

This makes a near perfect card from the standpoint of getting my money's worth from a 1961 card. Occasionally, the prices will inflate if a more popular player, like Mickey Mantle or Ted Williams appears. That's actually a good thing. While everybody else is concentrating on high profile players of the era, you can swoop in and find some great deals on cards with star players that don't quite live up to the superstar billing. All four went to multiple All-Star games.

The interesting thing about the two White Sox players is that they were traded for each other in 1957, along with two other players. Al Smith came to the White Sox with Early Wynn and Minnie Minoso went to the Indians with Fred Hatfield. A few years later, Minoso would be back in Chicago.

Topps still has league leader cards in their sets, from time to time. One feature that you will not see on those cards is a list of American League batting champions from 1901 until the card was created. Looking at the list from 1901 until 1960, I see a disturbing trend. Ty Cobb won the batting title 12 times, including an amazing 9 in a row! It's not nearly as impressive as it sounds. There is a mistake in this list. Ty Cobb hit .383 in 1910, according to He lost the title to Nap LaJoie's .384, even though Ty Cobb is listed as hitting .385 in 1910 on the back of this card.

Even if Nap LaJoie beat Ty Cobb in 1910, that still leaves him with a run of three years, then five years, then three years, only broken up by one single year twice. No one has come close to Cobb's 11 batting titles in either league.

As fun as it is to study the backs of the cards and find potential errors, the front of the cards are the eye candy. The design on the 1961 Topps cards are minimal, some would say boring. It has always been a favorite of mine, but I can see why some people would think the design is a flaw of the set. The league leader cards really pop out with the minimalist design. Bold colors permeate the cardboard almost like a Warhol painting.

Normally, four sixties All-Stars would set you back a few bucks. I won this beauty at auction for ninety nine cents with two dollars shipping. So for under three dollars, I now possess a card that is just shy of being fifty years old with four All-Stars. That's what I call value. Any day that I can get a card of Al Smith, famous for the beer shower in Game 2 of the 1959 World Series, and the ageless Minnie Minoso for mere pennies is a great day!

1 comment:

csd said...

This is a great card. When I was a kid I was lucky enough to get Minnie to autograph it. If I was smart I would get Moose to do the same.

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