Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Windy City State of Mind

Here they are - the second class of the Topps All-Star Rookie Team, selected "by the Youth of America" following the 1961 season and featured in the 1962 Topps set. 

I have completed the run of these up through 2015, at least all regular issue cards that bear the All-Star Rookie Trophy. Shortstop Dick Howser gets left out of the party this time around.

 Right Handed Pitcher - Don Schwall
Rookie Card
Don Schwall was the 1961 Rookie of the Year in the American League, made the All-Star team despite starting the season in the minors, and found some small success as a middle reliever in Pittsburgh a few years later. His 15 Wins in 1961 were a career high. His walk rate was quite high, however, which may have lead to a sophomore slump from which he never fully recovered. Fun fact from the back of this card - the 6'6" Schwall once outscored Wilt Chamberlain in a college game! Here's a fun "Where are they now?" interview with Schwall from 2002.
 First Base - J.C. Martin
J.C. Martin is best known for two things - he was, for several seasons in Chicago, Hoyt Wilhelm's personal catcher. In 1969, Martin played on the New York Mets World Championship team, contributing a 2-run single in Game 1 of the NLCS, and being at the center of a controversial play in the fourth game of the World Series. Martin was up in the bottom of the tenth, pinch hitting for Tom Seaver (just as he had in the NLCS). Martin was asked to bunt and managed to get one fair. Pete Richert of the Orioles fielded the ball and fired to first. It ricocheted off Martin's wrist and bounced inbetween first and second base. The umpires ruled Martin safe on the play and Rod Gaspar scored the winning run from second base. Martin somehow was named to the Topps All-Star Rookie Squad, hitting a paltry .230 for the White Sox in 100 games split between First and Third. Martin's Rookie card was from the 1960 set, though 1961 was his first full season.

 Outfielder - Lee Thomas
Thomas cranked out 24 Homers in 1961, heading west to Los Angeles in an early season trade with the Yankees that put Bob Cerv and Tex Clevenger in Pinstripes. He was stellar again in 1962, made the All-Star team and belted another 26 home runs. Thomas also has a claim to fame off the field, he was the General Manager of the Phillies from 1988 to 1997, overseeing the run to the World Series with a team starring Curt Schilling, John Kruk, Lenny Dykstra, Mitch Williams, and Darren Daulton. Thomas did not have much success following his Sophomore season, and was done playing in the majors by 1968. He does share a major league record with several other players for most hits in a double header with 9. Lee's Rookie Card is in the 1961 set.

 Catcher - Joe Torre
Rookie Card, Hall of Famer (*as a Manager)
Torre made the Hall of Fame as a manager, but he was a better than average player in his own right. Torre played in 17 Seasons as a Catcher and Corner infielder. The 9 time All-Star won the N.L. MVP award in 1971, leading the league in base hits, Batting Average, and runs batted in. He finished 2nd in the N.L. Rookie of the Year voting in 1961, hitting 10 homers and managing the Braves pitching staff. Torre's defense resulted in 2 gold gloves in his career. Most people today recall his run as manager with the New York Yankees in the 90s and 2000s that led to ahem several World Series titles for the Bronx Bombers. What makes those titles much sweeter to Torre is that he never had the opportunity to play in one himself. Torre played over 2,200 games without making it to the World Series, and managed another 2,000 more before the 1996 season.
The Backs

 Third Base - Charlie Smith 
Rookie Card
Charley/Charlie/Charles Smith played for two different teams in 1961, neither of which was the Chicago White Sox. He seemed to do his best work when he moved mid-season. 1961 and 1964 were career years, he was traded in both campaigns. His Rookie Year was split between the Phillies and the Dodgers, moving to the city of Brotherly Love in May in exchange of O.G. Topps Rookie All-Star Joe Koppe. Smith was a slick fielder at the hot corner, though he never was awarded a gold glove in his career. In 1966 Smith was traded from the Cardinals to the Yankees for Roger Maris straight up. Maris probably could have told him a thing or two about the stress of living up to high expectations, but it may not have helped. Smith's last full season was in 1967 with the Yankees and he retired after a couple partial stints around the league in 1969. This is his Topps rookie card, oddball seekers can go after his 1961 Phillies Team issue.
 Outfielder - Billy Williams
Hall of Famer
The most successful of the 1961 class, Billy Williams got an early start on the competition by winning the N.L. Rookie of the Year award. His career numbers are impressive; over 2,700 career hits, 426 Homers, nearly 1,500 runs batted in.  Williams was durable - averaging 162 games played per season from 1962 -1969. Willie Stargell remarked that the swing of Billy Williams was "Poetry in Motion," a sentiment shared in various forms by teammates and opponents alike. Williams was a six-time All-Star, won the 1972 AL Batting Title, but unfortunately like ROY runner up Torre, Williams never played in the World Series. His playing career was good enough to get him into the Hall of Fame in 1987. His Rookie Card was from the 1961 Topps Set.

 Left Handed Pitcher - Jack Curtis
Curtis had an unremarkable season as a rookie for the Chicago Cubs in 1961, bounced around the league for three seasons, and was out of baseball by 1963. His Grandson (also named Jack Curtis) plays baseball for Coastal Carolina. The Elder Jack's Rookie card was from the 1961 Topps Set.

 Second Base - Jake Wood
Jake Wood led the AL in Triples in 1961... and also Strikeouts. He played in all 162 games for the Tigers as a rookie, but never played nearly that many games in a season after that. Jake played 6 seasons in Detroit and split the last year of his career in 1967 between the Tigers and the Reds. Wood had great speed (stealing 30 bases his rookie year) but the inability to get on base to use that speed hurt his chances of being a consistent threat in the lineup. Wood's 1961 Topps Card was his official Rookie card.

Outfielder - Floyd Robinson
Rookie Card
Robinson hit for a high average and mixed in a little pop to have a nice run in the early 60s. It doesn't seem like much, but his 1962 season was ... comprehensive. He hit 10 triples, 11 Homers, walked 72 times against just 47 strikeouts and hit a league leading 45 doubles. His OPS+ was over 120 from 1961 through 1964. Robinson served in the Marines for two years, which delayed his debut in the majors. He was originally signed in 1954 by the San Diego Padres of the PCL, missed 1957 and 1958 while in a different uniform, then made his MLB debut with Chicago in 1960. He had a great arm from the outfield, throwing out 13 Runners in 1962. Robinson was traded in 1966 for fellow Topps Rookie All-Star Jim O'Toole. 

5 of the 10 members of the 1961 Topps Rookie All-Star Team were from a Chicago team. The same methods for voting in 61 must have been employed by Royals fans in the 2015 All-Star ballot... 


  1. I don't own very many 1962's so the photos are fresh to me. Some good ones there. Pretty bad one of Billy Williams but at least it was taken at Wrigley.

    1. The only one that I don't like is the Charlie Smith card. Hatless is no bueno.

  2. Love these '62s, that was a particularly nice batch of cards.

    1. Yeah it is a set that has its moments - usually the rookie all-star cards feature good images. Several of the cards from this mini collection would be high on my list of all time favorites.

  3. Replies
    1. He always has that vacant expression on his face - there's a couple in later years that make me laugh because his jaw just hangs down and his mouth is agape with this caveman look.