Thursday, June 2, 2016

1968 Topps All-Star Rookie Team

Here they are - the Topps All-Star Rookie Team, selected "by the Youth of America" following the 1968 season and featured in the 1969 Topps set. 

I have completed the run of these up through 2016 Series one, at least all regular issue cards that bear the All-Star Rookie Trophy. 

The whole team is represented this time around, including a crowded middle infield, as you'll see in a moment.

 Left Handed Pitcher - Jerry Koosman
The dominance of the Rookie All-Star Roster by Metropolitans continues! It is well deserved for Koosman, who smashed several team records in 1968. Not just rookie records, either - Koosman had 7 shutouts (a team record), 178 Strikeouts (a team record), 19 wins (a team record), and an economic 2.08 ERA (you guessed it, a Mets Franchise record). Koosman had a fantastic career for the Mets, Twins, White Sox, and Phillies. He won 222 games in his career, and struck out over 2,500 batters. He was a 20 game winner for the Mets in 1976 and then again for his home state Twins in 1979. He was born in the small town of Appleton, MN, which has a population of just over 1,300 people as of 2013. Kooz was yet another 1960s Topps Rookie All-Star to play a major role in the 1969 Miracle Mets squad. He recorded 6 more shutouts and had a sparkling 17-6 record in the World Series season. His only NLCS start that year was a rocky one, but he more than made up for it in the World Series, with a 2.04 ERA over a pair of starts, both of which the Mets won.

Jerry Koosman's Rookie Card is shared with some clown named "Nolan" in the 1968 Topps Set, card #177 
Catcher - Johnny Bench
Hall of Famer
Another big time player with small town beginnings, Johnny Bench was born in the hamlet of Binger, Oklahoma which today has a population under 700. Johnny was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1968 at the tender age of 20. He would play a further 16 seasons after that first year, all for the Cincinnati Reds. The grind of catching eventually forced Bench to move primarily to the corner infield positions. Bench is a 14-time All-Star Selection, retired with the most home runs all-time for catchers, and developed a well-deserved reputation as an excellent fielder behind the plate, winning 10 Gold Gloves. Bench was the NL MVP in 1970 and 1972, and of course was a big part of the Reds' two world championship teams in 1975 and 76. He was the World Series MVP in 1976, hitting .533 in the 4 games including a pair of homers.  
 As you can see, he was well established as a top prospect even before his 1968 Rookie Season as the Minor League Player of the Year in 1967. Johnny was voted to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1989, named on over 96% of all ballots cast. He was named as Catcher on MLB's All-Century Team, and the MLB All-Time Team.
Johnny's Rookie Card is also in the 1968 Topps Set - Card # 247 shared with Ron Tompkins, who played in exactly 0 games for the Reds. 
 Third Baseman - Bobby Cox
Hall of Fame (as Manager)
Rookie Card
Oh, you didn't know? Bobby Cox could pick it! Well, until his knees betrayed him, anyway. He originally signed with the Dodgers, and spent time in the Braves minor league organization (put a pin in that one), before coming to the New York Yankees and making his Major League debut for the Bronx Bombers. Unlike Bench, Cox was already 27 when he broke into the bigs, having amassed over 1,000 base hits throughout his time in the Minors. His final Major league game came in 1969, but not long after that he started a new climb through the ranks, this time as a coach. He was on the 1977 Yankees staff, then became the manager of the Atlanta Braves in 1978. He spent the early 80s north of the border as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, leading the team to the post season in 1985. With that success, he returned to Atlanta as the team's General Manager, building a team that he would eventually take over as manager in 1990. That team finished in last place in the NL, but he turned the team into a perennial World Series contender. Cox was 4-time Manager of the Year, and reached a record 16 postseasons, 15 of them Division Titles. He also was known for his fiery temperment and general ornery-ness, and has the Major League record for most ejections.
Outfield - Del Unser
Rookie Card
Unser carved out a long career in the majors due to timely hitting and a reputation for being a guy that had a serious motor. Unser was a triples machine as a young player - he had 15 triples in his first two seasons, leading the AL in 1969 in the most exciting play in baseball.  The son of a former major league catcher, Unser understood what would endear him to his teammates, fans, and coaches to keep him in the lineup - maximum effort! As an older player, he became a clutch pinch hitter. In one stretch, he hit three pinch hit homers in three appearances. He became a World Series champion at the age of 35 with the Phillies in 1980, hitting .455 in his only taste of postseason action. He even got the start in game 4 of the Fall Classic, though the Phils dropped that game. Unser had 1,344 hits over 15 major league seasons.

 First Baseman - Gary Holman
Rookie Card
Holman hit .294 for the Senators in 1968. You might be saying, so what? Well, the AL batting champion that season was Carl Yastrzemski, who hit .301 - Holman would have been 2nd in the league in hitting. I say "would have been" because he only played in 74 games, and did not qualify for the leaderboards. He was a member of the 1963 College championship USC Trojans, and was originally signed by the LA Dodgers. The Senators picked him up in 1964 and he spent a few years working his way up to the major leagues. Holman split time in 1968 and 1969 between the Senators and their AAA affiliate. He did not play beyond the 1969 season.
 Right Handed Pitcher - Stan Bahnsen
What Jerry Koosman was to the Mets in the National League, Stan Bahnsen was to the Yankees in the AL. Tall and thin, the "Bahnsen Burner" was the AL Rookie of the Year, striking out 162 batters and tallying an ERA+ of 140. He won 17 Games for the Yankees in 1968, and was immediately the team's 2nd best starter. He was part of a trio of starters in Chuck Tanner's White Sox rotation in the 1970s (along with Wilbur Wood and Tom Bradley) that Tanner trotted out as much as possible. In three seasons, Bahnsen started 130 games for the Sox. He later converted to reliever, and was a key man in the Expos bullpen in the late 1970s.
Stan's Rookie Card was in the 1967 Topps Set - Card #93, shared with Bobby Murcer.

 Second Baseman - Ken Boswell
Rookie Card
Boswell, like Gary Holman, earned the Topps All-Star Rookie nod despite playing in just 75 games. He would make up for it in 1969, playing in over 100 games as the Mets primary 2nd Baseman. He was platooned for much of his career, and played in just 1 World Series game for the Miracle Mets. He played 11 major league seasons in all - 7 with the Mets, and the final four as a Houston Astro. He would return to the World Series in 1973 with the Mets, this time falling to the Oakland A's. Boswell became a valuable utility player in Houston, appearing all over the infield and corner outfield.

Outfield - Dave Marshall
Rookie Card
Dave Marshall. Played in 76 games in 1968 - hit .264 in limited duty. He was a bit player in 7 seasons total for the Giants, Mets, and Padres. He never played in the post season, and was used as a pinch hitter for the Mets and Padres to close out his career. But hey, TOPPS ALL-STAR ROOKIE! Can't take that away from him.
 Shortstop - Hector Torres
Rookie Card
Here comes a regular! Torres was the primary Shortstop for the Astros in 1968. He had career highs in base hits and pretty much everything else. After his rookie year, his hitting fell off a cliff and he was replaced by Denis Menke. He played for both Canadian teams, retiring after 91 games with the expansion Blue Jays in 1977. He was a career .216 hitter over 9 seasons, a prototypical light hitting reserve middle infielder.

 Second Second Baseman - Dave Nelson
Rookie Card
HEY! Wait a minute. Ken Boswell was the Topps All-Star Rookie 2nd Baseman. What gives? I guess the Youth of America could not decide between Boswell's 74 base hits and Nelson's 23 steals. The steals, which would be a hallmark of Nelson's game throughout his career, are actually quite impressive when you consider Nelson only had 44 hits in 1968. Maybe the Youth of America wanted us to combine the two players to make some kind of Frankenstein's Monster.

(DavKen NelBowson had 118 Hits, 11 doubles, 7 Triples, 4 Homers, and 30 Steals. Not Bad!)

Nelson was an All-Star in 1973 with the Rangers, having moved with the team from Washington. He even scored the last run at RFK Stadium for the Senators. Dave Nelson is well known as a radio broadcaster and T.V. Analyst, having worked in Kansas City and more recently in Milwaukee, where he is the pregame analyst. He was a coach and roving instructor for several big league teams following his playing days.

Outfield - Bobby Bonds
Rookie Card
His son may have become more famous, but Bobby Bonds was no slouch. He was Baseball's first 30/30 man, hitting 32 long balls and stealing 45 bases in 1969. He also led the league in runs scored with 120 that season. His rookie year was just a half season but he started his career with a Grand Slam for his first major league hit. Bonds was a 3 time All-Star, and finished his career with over 300 doubles, 300 Homers, 450 Stolen Bases, and 1,000 RBI. His potential was clear in 1968 - he forced his way onto the Giants' roster by hitting .370 and slugging .616 in his first 60 games in AAA. Bonds covered the outfield well, and earned 3 Gold Gloves in his career. 


  1. That is an awesome class. How does it stack up against all the the other classes, past and future?

    1. I think the 1964 Class (on 1965 Topps Cards) with Tony Oliva, Tony Conigliaro, Dick Allen, Bert Campaneris,and Rico Carty was really good, even though none of those guys are in the Hall of Fame.

      First Class had a pretty good team, too, Willie McCovey, Bob Allison, and Jim Perry.

      The best class overall? Maybe 2001 (2002 Topps set) - Ichiro, Pujols, Adam Dunn, Jimmy Rollins, Alfonso Soriano, C.C. Sabathia, and Roy Oswalt all on that team.

  2. That is an awesome class. How does it stack up against all the the other classes, past and future?

  3. These are so informational. Great work as usual!