Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Selected by the Youth of America

Here they are - the inaugural class of the Topps All-Star Rookie Team, selected "by the Youth of America" following the 1959 season and featured in the 1960 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.

 First Base - Willie McCovey 
Rookie Card - Hall of Famer
Willie McCovey was the first player to be depicted as a Topps All-Star Rookie, and his career is one of the best of any player named to the squad since. Willie won the NL Rookie of the Year award in 1959 at the age of 21 and never looked back, finishing his career in 1980 with 521 career Homers, over 1500 runs batted in, and a career OPS of .889. In his MVP year in 1969 for the Giants, he scored over 100 runs, had over 150 hits, clubbed 45 home runs and knocked in 126. "Stretch" led the league in on base percentage and slugging, and was feared by his opponents so much that he was intentionally walked a league best 45 times.

Second Base - Pumpsie Green
Rookie Card 
Elijah Green, Jr. is probably best known for being the first African-American to play for the Boston Red Sox, the last major league team to integrate. Green was the MVP of his league in 1955, playing for the Stockton Ports of the California League. In 1958, Pumpsie was a star for the Minneapolis Millers, then a Red Sox affiliate. His Coach in Minneapolis, Gene Mauch, spoke very highly of the star infielder. "He can beat you in so many ways - a cinch to make the grade . . . and in a big way, too." After being demoted to Minneapolis following a blistering Spring Training with the Sox, Green finally debuted with the big league club July 21st, 1959. His first major league hit came a week later off fellow Topps All-Star Rookie, Jim Perry of Cleveland. A hip injury ended his playing career in 1965, Green went on to coach baseball and teach in Berkley, California until 1997 when he retired. A great bio on Green by Bill Nowlin can be found HERE

 Third Base - Jim Baxes
Baxes only played in 88 major league games, all in 1959, but appears on two Topps cards, for two different teams. Baxes was a 30 year old rookie for the Dodgers, and made it through just 11 games of the '59 season before being traded to Cleveland. Baxes finished out the year playing more second base than third, but managed to hit 15 homers for Cleveland. His road to the majors was a long one, starting in 1947 after signing with the Dodgers and serving in the military in 1950 and 1951. Baxes spent the bulk of his playing days in the Pacific Coast League. He hit 228 home runs in his Minor League Career. His Rookie Card is a 1959 Topps card showing him as a Dodger.

 Shortstop - Joe Koppe
Like Baxes, Joe Koppe spent nearly a decade in the minors before making it to the show. Koppe's first taste of the big leagues came in 1958 with the Milwaukee Braves. Traded to Philadelphia, Koppe saw regular action at short in 1959. His major league career spanned 8 seasons with 3 different teams, Finishing in 1965 with the California Angels. His 1959 season ultimately was a career high in hits, doubles, home runs and batting average. His Rookie card is from the 1959 Topps set.

 Outfield - Bob Allison
The 1959 AL Rookie of the Year, Bob Allison had one of the better careers of the first All-Star Rookie Squad. Allison had over 250 Career Homers, surpassing 25 in a season five times. Teaming up with Harmon Killebrew in the early sixties, Bob Allison was a formidable middle of the order bat and a competent defender with flashes of brilliance, as shown here in the 1965 World Series (bonus! Vin Scully has the mic):
 Allison, known to local sportswriters as "Mr. America" due to his imposing figure and muscular physique, died at the age of 61 from ataxia, a neurological disorder. Allison's Rookie Card is in the 1959 Topps Set as well.

 Outfield - Ron Fairly
Though not as successful, Fairly stacks up well with Allison and McCovey in terms of longevity. Ron Fairly played in the inaugural seasons of both the Montreal Expos in 1969, and the Toronto Blue Jays in 1977. He also made the All-Star squad as a member of both Canadian clubs, with the Expos in 1973, and with the Jays in 1978 at the age of 38. Fairly was a key part of four Dodger World Series Teams, winning three championships. He surpassed a batting average of .300 twice in his career - as a 22 year old and not again until he was 36. An on base machine and dependable righty masher, Fairly finished his career with over 200 homers. His rookie card is in the 1959 Topps set.

 Outfield - Willie Tasby
Tasby was the Orioles' Opening Day centerfielder in 1959 and had a solid campaign for Baltimore with 13 homers in 142 games. He played sparingly in 6 seasons with multiple MLB clubs and never quite put it all together. He had some very successful minor league seasons in the 50's, leading some to compare him to Willie Mays - a tough act to follow, to be sure. Like Pumpsie Green, Tasby played high school ball in Oakland, California. Tasby's rookie card - you guessed it - 1959 Topps.

 Catcher - Johnny Romano
Romano could have suffered the same fate as Joe Koppe and Jim Baxes, toiling in the minors for years while his hitting skills faded. Romano was fortunate, however, to have a AAA manager, Walker Cooper, that was a former catcher. Cooper taught Romano the finer points of the tools of ignorance and Romano's bat did the rest. A two-time All-Star, Romano was a heavy-hitter for Cleveland and the Chicago White Sox for the better part of ten years. He had a 20 game hitting streak in 1960, which stood as the longest streak for any Cleveland backstop until Sandy Alomar, Jr. passed him in 1997. Romano's rookie card comes to you from 1959.

 Right Handed Pitcher - Jim Perry
In 1959, Cleveland finished a respectable 2nd place in the American League with 89 Wins. Rookie Right Hander Jim Perry appeared in 44 games that year, 13 as a Starter. He hurled 2 shutouts, 8 complete games, while finishing 18 others from the bullpen, notching 4 saves in total. Perry won 20 games with the Twins in 1969, then improved to 24 - 12 the following season and took home the Cy Young Award. Jim and his brother Gaylord are the only two siblings to take home that honor. Gaylord actually finished 2nd to Bob Gibson the year Jim won in the AL. Perry was a 3 time All-Star and finished his career in 1975 with 215 wins. Perry has a rookie card in the 1959 set.

 Left Handed Pitcher Jim O'Toole
Jim O'Toole had a comparatively lackluster year in 1959, but his career as an anchor in the Reds' rotation through the early 60s was impressive. He was an All-Star in 1963, and Started two World Series Games for the Reds in 1961, facing Whitey Ford each time. O'Toole had shoulder issues that derailed his career at the age of 30. His rookie card was also in the 1959 set.
The Backs

A list of all players named to the Topps All-Star Rookie Team can be found HERE


  1. That McCovey guy turned out just fine. Nice post Brian!

    1. Yeah, not too shabby! I think at some point I'll make a top ten All-Star Rookie list (based on the cards more than the player). McCovey's is iconic.

  2. Great set. Is this going to be a continuing theme.

    1. I think so - I've actually already started a draft post for the 1960 Topps All-Star Rookie Team featured in the 1961 set, so at the very least there should be another one next week some time. Thanks for reading this one!