If you are a baseball fan of a certain age, there is a baseball card set that is your favorite. For some, the appeal is the format and style. For others, it is the memory of opening packs when you were ten years old and finding the star player from your hometown team. And, for many of us, it is the recurring nightmare of that moment when your Mother decided to throw your cards away.
As I had the good fortune this past weekend to acquire a small collection of 60+ year-old cards in unusually nice condition, it brought back a flood of memories about my favorite all-time set.
For the Old Duck, the 1956 Topps set combines all the attributes that make baseball card collecting such a great hobby. This 340-card set used a horizontal format with beautiful photography and a dual image of each player. On the back, you’ll find previous year and lifetime stats along with a three-panel story highlighting moments from the player’s career. If that wasn’t enough, over 30 of the individuals pictured on cards in this set are in the Hall of Fame.
For this visit, we’ll focus on the Hall-of-Famers and the values listed are for cards in Excellent (EX 5) condition. A complete set in this condition books for $6,000.
> #’s 1 & 2 League Presidents ($35 & $25) – Will Harridge of the AL and Warren Giles of the NL are pictured on these one-of-a-kind cards.
> #5 Ted Williams, Red Sox OF ($180) – The third most valuable card in the set, the Hall of Famer was still a few years away from hanging up his cleats.
> #8 Walter Alston, Dodgers Manager ($20) – The skipper of the ’55 World Champs, he was entering the 3rd of 23 years leading the Dodgers in Brooklyn and Los Angeles…and he never had more than a one-year contract.
> #10 Warren Spahn, Braves P ($40) – The winningest left-hander in baseball history with 363 victories.
> #15 Ernie Banks, Cubs SS ($55) – “Mr. Cub” hit 44 HR’s in ’55 and was well on his way to becoming the most popular player in the history of the franchise.
> #20 Al Kaline, Tigers OF ($40) – Hit .340 in ’55 with over 100 RBI’s…played all 22 years of his career with the Bengals.
> #30 Jackie Robinson, Dodgers 3B ($175) – This legendary figure was entering his last season with the Brooklyn franchise.
> #31 Hank Aaron, Braves OF ($135) – ’55 was his second season in the majors and the signs of his potential were already there…27 HR’s & 106 RBI’s.
> #33 Roberto Clemente, Pirates OF ($225) – ’55 was his rookie season and he would go on to accumulate 3,000 hits before his tragic death on New Year’s Eve 1972.
> #79 Sandy Koufax, Dodgers P ($150) – Another ’55 rookie, it would take until the early 60’s in Los Angeles before he became the best pitcher in the game…led the NL in ERA the last five years of his career.
> #101 Roy Campanella, Dodgers C ($60) – “Campy” won his 3rd MVP award in ’55, leading the Dodgers to their World Series title.
> #107 Eddie Mathews, Braves 3B ($35) – Hit 41 HR’s in ’55 on his way to 512 lifetime “dingers”.
> #109 Enos Slaughter, A’s OF ($15) – In the twilight of his career at this point, “Country” will always be remembered for the 1946 World Series when he scored the winning run in game 7 for the Cardinals.
> #110 Yogi Berra, Yankees C ($75) – Better known in his later years for his commercials and “Yogi-isms”, this legendary player won three AL MVP awards in the 50’s and was one of the cornerstones of the Yankee Dynasty…and he always cut his pizza into six slices because he couldn’t eat eight slices.
> #113 Phil Rizzuto, Yankees SS ($50) – The “Scooter” was one of the most popular players of the era…later a Yankee broadcaster, he was in the booth and screamed “Holy Cow” when Roger Maris hit his 61st HR in 1961.
> #118 Nellie Fox, White Sox 2B ($25) – Only 5′ 8″, he led the AL in hits four times on his way to the Hall of Fame.
> #120 Richie Ashburn, Phillies OF ($25) – Led the NL in hits three times and was one of the fastest baserunners of the era.
> #130 Willie Mays, Giants OF ($130) – The “Say Hey Kid”…there was never a better all-around player.
> #135 Mickey Mantle, Yankees OF ($925) – This card was the prelude to what was one of the most impressive offensive statistical seasons of all time…he won the Triple Crown with 52 HR’s, 130 RBI’s and a .353 BA.
> #150 Duke Snider, Dodgers OF ($50) – The third member of the great CF debate during the 50’s…can you sing, “Willie, Mickey and the Duke”?
> #164 Harmon Killebrew, Senators IF ($50) – A 1950’s “Bonus Baby”, he languished on the bench for the better part of five seasons before breaking out with 42 HR’s in 1959.
> #165 Red Schoendienst, Cardinals 2B ($20) – Ten All-Star teams and the roommate of Stan Musial.
> #180 Robin Roberts, Phillies P ($25) – Won 23 games in ’55, his sixth consecutive season with 20+ victories.
> #187 Early Wynn, Indians P ($20) – Played from the 30’s to the 60’s and had exactly 300 Wins.
> #194 Monte Irvin, Cubs OF ($20) – One of the first black players signed after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947…in 1940, he hit .422 for the season in the Negro League.
> #195 George Kell, White Sox 3B ($20) – Ten All-Star appearances and a lifetime BA of .306.
> #200 Bob Feller, Indians P ($50) – Came off an Iowa farm at age 17 in 1936 to become one of the most intimidating pitchers ever…missed almost four seasons while serving in World War II and still led the AL in strikeouts six times.
> #240 Whitey Ford, Yankees P ($55) – The “Chairman of the Board” before Sinatra, he has the highest winning percentage (.690) of any pitcher in the modern era.
> #250 Larry Doby, White Sox OF ($20) – The first player to cross the color barrier in the AL…only three months after Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Dodgers.
> #255 Bob Lemon, Indians P ($15) – The stalwart of those great Cleveland staffs of the late 40’s & early 50’s, he won over 20 games in six seasons.
> #260 Pee Wee Reese, Dodgers SS ($55) – Harold Reese, the diminutive leader of the “Boys of Summer”. The nickname wasn’t due to his height (5′ 9″), but for winning the national “Pee Wee” marbles championship as a youngster.
> #292 Luis Aparicio, White Sox SS, ($60) – The rookie card of “Little Louie”, who won multiple Gold Gloves and amassed over 2,600 hits.
> #307 Hoyt Wilhelm, Giants P ($20) – Possibly the greatest Knuckleball pitcher in baseball history, he didn’t get to the Majors until age 29 and pitched for 21 years.
Quite an impressive group, wouldn’t you say? In a future visit, we’ll look at other famous and infamous players included in this beautiful set.