Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Three White Sox, Two Reds, and One Grand Orange

Here they are - the third class of the Topps All-Star Rookie Team, selected "by the Youth of America" following the 1963 season and featured in the 1964 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. Mets Catcher Jesse Gonder didn't get a trophy on his card despite being named to the 1963 squad.

Outfielder - Jimmie Hall
Rookie Card
Jimmie Hall was a revelation for the Twins in 1963. Hall crushed 33 homers (a new major league record for Rookies) and drove in 80 runs, finishing third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. His first four major league seasons in Minnesota hitting at least 20 homers each year and holding his own in a formidable batting order. He was a key piece in the trade that sent last year's Topps All-Star Rookie Dean Chance to the Twins from the Angels. In California, Hall had a decent first year, but his production fell off precipitously after going west. His loss of power is traced by many to a vicious beaning he suffered while still with the Twins. The Angels' Bo Belinsky hit Hall in the cheek with a pitch that Hall seemed to not see until it was too late. The lefty slugger had extreme lefty/righty splits, managing only 4 of his 121 career homers against left handed pitchers. His lack of power against lefties started to catch up with him, and his role as a regular diminished by the late 60s. The writing was already on the wall in 1965 - during the World Series, Hall was benched against lefties Claude Osteen and that other Dodger lefty... Sandy Koufax. His 8 at bats in the Series came against righties, but still had disastrous results. 5 strikeouts and no hits. In his 4 years with Minnesota, Hall averaged 25 homers. After the trade, Hall bounced from LA to the Yankees, to Cleveland, Chicago, and a brief stint with the Atlanta Braves. His last four uniforms came in just two seasons of baseball.
Third Baseman - Pete Ward
Pete Ward came to the White Sox from Baltimore in the Hoyt Wilhelm/Luis Aparicio trade. Ward's 1963 season was tremendous. He totaled career highs in homers and batting average, and racked up an OPS+ of 134. Ward finished just ahead of Jimmie Hall on the AL Rookie of the Year ballot, finishing in second place.
Ward was a mainstay of the White Sox lineup in the 60s, appearing in over 900 games for the pale hose. The son of an NHL player, Ward was born in Montreal, but moved to the states by the time he was in high school. His second year with the Sox saw his star status rise even higher, he continued his excellent performance at the plate and finished the season in the top ten for the MVP award.

Ward was known for his unorthodox batting stance:
Ward's Rookie Card was in the 1962 Topps Set.

First Baseman - Rusty Staub
Pete Ward was born in Montreal, but it is the place that Rusty Staub became a star and a fan-favorite. Staub had a pretty unremarkable rookie campaign for the Colt .45s - except for the fact that Rusty was just 19 years old. By 1967 Staub had grown into his body and started a run of 5 straight All-Star appearances. twice in Houston, then three with the expansion Montreal Expos. His career high 30 homers came in 1970 as a member of the Expos. Le Grand Orange, as he was known by the Montreal faithful, was already a fan favorite in Houston. Staub is the only major leaguer to have more than 500 hits with four different teams (Houston, Montreal, the Mets, and the Tigers). Staub nearly lasted as long in the majors as the next guy on this list, retiring in 1985 after a successful run as a pinch hitter for several seasons with the Mets. Only 12 players have played in more Major League games than Rusty Staub, and all of those players above him on the list are in the Hall of Fame... well, almost all of them.
Rusty's Rookie Card was in the 1963 Topps set.

Second Baseman - Pete Rose
Oh Boy. Where to begin? Pete Rose was a hometown hero, growing up in Cincinnati then becoming a star for the Reds. He was the emotional leader of their run of World Series champion teams of the 70s, as well as a key contributor to the 1980 Phillies team that won it all. You know about the hits, you know about the "Hustle," so what can be said about Peter Edward Rose that hasn't been said hundreds of times before? Rose was the 1963 NL Rookie of the year - with 170 base hits, scoring over 100 runs, 25 doubles, and stole 13 bases. Rose started his career with an 0 for 12 streak, but Reds manager Fred Hutchinson stuck with him, and once he got his first hit, they just kept piling up. Rose won Batting Titles, led the league in Hits multiple times, and finished his career as the All Time leader in base hits. Is there a more divisive figure in sports than Pete Rose? Loved, hated, respected, feared, and reviled.  
You know all about Pete Rose's Rookie Card. This ain't it. But it's a better card.
The Backs... wait 30 Triples and just 20 Doubles in 1961?!?

Left Handed Pitcher - Gary Peters
How do you beat the guy that set the major league record for homers as a rookie and win the Rookie of the Year award? How about leading the league in ERA, throwing 4 shutouts, and winning 19 games? Not bad. And hey, Gary Peters was no slouch at the plate himself - he managed to hit 19 homers in his career (3 in his rookie season), quite respectable for a pitcher! He was used regularly as a pinch hitter throughout his career. Peters followed up his exceptional rookie campaign with a 20 win season in 1964, losing the Cy Young race to that pesky Topps All-Star Rookie Dean Chance. Peters anchored the White Sox rotation in the 60s, named twice to the All-Star squad and finishing on top of the ERA race again in 1966 with a 1.98 mark for the season.  A back injury in 1968 and a rotator cuff injury in 1969 did not keep him out of the rotation, but limited his effectiveness. The cumulative effect of the injuries caught up with Peters and his was out of the league by 1972. In 2000, the White Sox honored Peters by naming him to the White Sox All-Century team.
Peters had a long road to a regular gig in the Majors, his Rookie Card is from the 1960 Topps set!
Shortstop - Al Weis
The third White Sox player named to the All-Star Rookie team, Al Weis wasn't a starter for his team, playing behind Nellie Fox and fellow All-Star Rookie Ron Hansen (formerly of the Baltimore Orioles). Weis seemingly got the nod at Short by virtue of playing on the same team as Peters and Ward. Or possibly for having the same rookie card as Pete Rose? Weis did lead the White Sox in Stolen bases, which he did again in 1964. Weis' other claim to fame was his involvement with the 1969 Miracle Mets. Despite being a lifetime .219 hitter, Weis played in all 5 World Series games and hit .455 ! His game 5 homer off the Orioles' Dave McNally tied the game late.
Weis' rookie card is worth thousands of dollars. He shares it with Ken McMullin, Pedro Gonzalez, and some mouthy kid from Cincinnati. You'll find it in the 1963 Topps set, but beware of fakes!

Outfield - Tommy Harper
Harper's rookie season was not that far off from his teammate Pete Rose. He didn't hit leadoff, so he had about 200 fewer plate appearances, but hit .260 with 10 homers and 12 steals. Harper combined speed with power for 15 seasons in the majors, finishing with just under 1,000 career runs scored and over 400 stolen bases. His best season came with the expansion Seattle Pilots in 1969. He got the franchises' first hit and over the course of the season stole 73 bases, the most in the majors since Ty Cobb stole 96 waaay back in 1915.  Or maybe his best season was in 1970 with Milwaukee, when he belted a career high 31 homers and stole 38 bases. Or maybe his best season was in 1965 with Cincinnati, when he lead the league in runs scored and collected 166 hits. Tommy Harper could beat you a lot of different ways.
Tommy's Rookie Card is also in the 1963 Topps Set
Right Handed Pitcher - Ray Culp
Culp made the NL All-Star Team as a rookie and hurled 5 shutouts. He was a little wild, leading the league in Walks allowed, but was still an effective pitcher. In 1964, Culp struggled with an elbow injury, and missed the final two months of the season. Some point to his absence as a contributing factor to the Phillies late season swoon that year. He later found success in Boston as the team's Ace pitcher, winning 14 or more games in 4 straight seasons. His signature pitch was the palmball.
Ray's first Topps Card was in the 1963 set, a savvy collector will seek out his 1960 Leaf card, his true rookie card.
Outfield - Vic Davalillo 
When Ichiro Suzuki came to the states and set the majors on fire, his style of play was reminiscent of the swift footed Vic Davalillo. A great centerfielder with a strong arm, Vic was one of the few players from Venezuela to become an MLB regular (following in the footsteps of superstar shortstop Luis Aparicio and Chico Carrasquel) in the 1960s. He only appeared in 90 games in his rookie campaign, but he hit .292 which was saying something in the offense starved and pitching rich era. Davillilo was traded in 1968 for fellow Topps Rookie All-Star Jimmie Hall. He was a regular contributor in Cleveland before that trade, making an All-Star team in 1965, winning a Gold Glove in 1964, and stealing over 20 bases 3 times for the tribe. His other claim to fame later in his career. Along with Manny Mota, Davalillo formed a dynamic pinch hitting duo for the Dodgers in the late 70s and early 80s. Davallilo played in to the 80s and played his final game at the age of 44. After his major league career ended, he continued to play in Venezuela, hitting over .400 for his team in 1981. His final game as a player came in 1987(!). He was part of the inaugural class of the Venezuelan Baseball Hall of Fame. Not only for his MLB contributions, but also his dedication and love for his home country and the development of baseball in Venezuela and throughout Latin America.


  1. Man, I just looked at Staub's Baseball Reference page. That was a heck of a career. Could you imagine the career earnings a player like that would have now starting at age 19.

  2. Great post, great feat, I'm still a long way from completing my run, but I'll get there.