Tuesday, January 5, 2016

1964 Topps Rookie-All Stars: The Year of the Hard Luck Superstar.

Here they are - the third class of the Topps All-Star Rookie Team, selected "by the Youth of America" following the 1964 season and featured in the 1965 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. Senators Catcher Mike Brumley didn't get a trophy on his card despite being named to the 1964 squad.
 Left Handed Pitcher - Bill McCool
Billy McCool did not have a typical career arc for a 1960s fireballer. McCool debuted in 1964 at the age of 19 and was a reliever from the very start. In his rookie year, he appeared 40 times for the Reds, starting just 3 games, but finishing 21. He racked up 7 saves his rookie year, but more impressive was his 2.42 ERA and a nearly 3 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio. His Sophomore season, McCool was given free reign at the back of the Cincinnati bullpen, recording 21 saves and striking out batters at an impressive rate of 10.3 batters per 9 innings. McCool was named to the NL All-Star team the following season, and recorded 18 more saves for the Reds. It was late in the 1966 season that McCool tore cartilage in his knee when his spikes got caught on a pitching rubber. He was advised against surgery, and the injury robbed him of the power in his legs that drove his fastball. McCool continued to pitch for a few more years in the majors, but was out of big leagues by the age of 25. He was one of the players selected by the Padres in the 1968 expansion draft. He had previously starred for San Diego in the P.C.L. before being called up the Reds. McCool later published a book on pitching called "The Billy McCool Pitching Digest." He met his wife on a double date with Pete Rose.
Billy's Rookie card is in the 1964 Topps set
 Outfield - Tony Conigliaro
Another player to see a promising career derailed by injury, "Tony C" was an instant sensation in Boston. He was a local boy, born and raised in the Boston area. His Rookie season saw him set a record for most home runs ever hit by a teenager. The 24 round trippers in his first year were followed by 32 in his second year, which was the most in the American League. By the age of 22, he was the youngest player to reach 100 home runs. In addition to hitting for impressive power numbers, Tony C could also hit all the right notes in the recording studio. Conigliaro had a pair of regional hit singles in 1965, and performed on talks shows like "The Merv Griffen Show." In 1967, Conigliaro suffered a devastating injury when he was beaned in the left cheek, breaking his jaw and severely damaging his retina. He had to be carried off the field on a stretcher, and did not return to major league action until the 1969 season. He had another pair of promising seasons, earning the Comeback Player of the Year award in 1969, and hitting 36 Homers in 1970. All the sweeter was he was now sharing the outfield with his brother Billy. He was traded to the Angels following the 1970 season, and was never quite the same. He began to experience severe headaches in California, and did not finish the season. He later made a brief comeback with Boston in 1975, appearing in 21 games. Tony C suffered a heart attack in 1982 while on the way to the airport. He was taken to the hospital, but the heart attack was accompanied by a stroke and he suffered brain damage and lapsed into a coma. When he was released from the hospital, he was essentially in a vegetative state. He survived for several more years, staying with his parents. The Tony Conigliaro Award, named in his honor, is awarded annually to the player that displays resilience in the face of adversity.
Tony's Rookie Card is in the 1964 Topps Set.      
 2nd Base - Hal Lanier
Rookie Card
Lanier's Rookie season featured a career best for batting average, and if he had played a full season, certainly would have been his best offensive season in terms of counting stats by far. Lanier became a regular middle infielder for the Giants in the late 60s, but never made much noise with his bat. In fact, his batting average, on base percentage, and slugging ranked dead last among qualified hitters in 1967, 1968, and 1969. Still, he had a regular gig in San Francisco, perhaps aided by having Willie McCovey, Willie Mays, and others to balance out the lineup... Lanier went on to become a moderately successful manager, first in the Saint Louis Cardinals minor league system, where he led two teams to league titles, then as a surprise Rookie Manager for the 1986 Houston Astros playoff team. He was NL Manager of the Year that season, and remained skipper for the Astros until 1988. He then went on to manage in the Independent Leagues, winning 5 division titles in 10 seasons for the Winnipeg Goldeyes. He managed in 2015 for Ottawa.

1st Base - Bob Chance
Bob Chance was selected by Cleveland in the Rule V Draft in 1962 from the Giants. He went on to win the Triple Crown with Charleston in the Eastern League in 1963, and had a nice late season call-up with Cleveland that year. 1964 he split time with Fred Whitfield at 1st Base and cranked out 14 homers in his half of the platoon. He was traded the following off-season to Washington, but was stuck behind several players on the Senators' depth chart. Without much playing time to speak of, Chance left the states in 1969 to play for the Sankei Atoms in Japan. He finished his career in Japan in 1970.
Bob's Rookie Card is shared with Tommy John in the 1964 Topps Set.
Shortstop - Bert Campaneris
Rookie Card
The fleet footed Campaneris excelled all over the field in 1964, splitting time in the outfield and at Short. "Campy" would later be the first to play all 9 positions in a single game. His very first swing came on the first pitch he saw in the big leagues - the result was a home run off Twins great Jim Kaat. It was his speed that set him apart, however. "The Road Runner" led the majors in stolen bases 6 times, and finished with 649 Steals in his career. He spent the bulk of his career with the Athletics, moving with the team from K.C. to Oakland, where he was the table setter for the great run of success for the A's in the 1970s. Campy only lasted on the Hall of Fame ballot for one season, though his career numbers are similar to Ozzie Smith and Luis Aparicio. Campaneris did not have nearly the same defensive pedigree as those two greats, but his impact on the game should be remembered. He finished his career in 1983 with the New York Yankees.
Right Handed Pitcher - Wally Bunker
Wally Bunker had a blistering rookie season in 1964, winning 19 games and hurling 12 complete games. He didn't strike out a ton of batters, just 4 per nine innings, but he showed impeccable control for a youngster. Bunker followed up his great 1964 season by tossing a shutout for the O's in game 3 of the 1966 World Series, his only career postseason appearance. Bunker went to the Royals in 1969,  by then a savvy veteran at just 24 years old, anchoring the expansion team's staff. He pitched in Kansas City until 1971, his final season in the big leagues.
Wally's Rookie card is in the 1964 Topps Set.

Outfield - Rico Carty
Rico Carty could flat out hit. As a rookie in 1964, Carty hit .330 with 28 doubles and 22 Homers. He led the National league in 1970 with a .366 average as well as the top on base percentage of .454. His career was shortened by a bout of tuberculosis that cost him the 1968 season, and leg injuries in Winter Ball following the 1970 season that kept him from defending his batting title. Carty can thank the AL for adopting the DH rule, as it allowed him to continue to contribute despite his limited mobility. Carty persevered and reached the 200 homer mark at the age of 39, serving as the expansion Toronto Blue Jays' primary DH.
Rico's Rookie Card was from 1964.
Outfield - Tony Oliva
Speaking of brilliant baseball talents that lost time due to unfortunate injuries, "Tony O" is exhibit A. Oliva was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1964, leading the league in Hits, Average, Runs, Total Bases, and Doubles. He successfully defended his title in 1965, leading the AL again in hits and average. He led the league in hits again in 1966, ultimately leading the AL a total of 5 times between 1964 and 1970. His .337 average in 1971 was tops in the AL, his 3rd and final batting title. Late in 1971, Oliva shredded his knee while attempting a diving stop in Right Field on a ball hit by Oakland's Joe Rudi. The maximum effort by Oliva was appreciated, but the resulting injury was tragic. Oliva would only appear in 10 games in 1972, snapping a string of 8 straight All-Star appearances to start his career. His career was extended with the introduction of the DH rule, playing three and a half more seasons for the Twins in the 70s. The sky was the limit for Oliva, and had he been able to stay healthy, he would almost certainly be enshrined in Cooperstown today. 
Oliva's Rookie Card is in the 1963 Topps set, featuring his given birth name Pedro. "Tony" (Antonio) is his brother's name, the brother that was a couple years younger than Pedro.
The backs- hitting .323 lowered his career average...

3rd Base - Richie Allen
Oliva's counterpart for 1964 Rookie of the Year in the National League was Richie Allen, known in later years as Dick Allen. Like Tony O, Richie led the league in Runs Scored. He also had the most Triples in the National League. The other category, which would become his calling card? Richie also led the Senior Circuit in strikeouts. Allen was a 7-time All Star and was the 1972 AL MVP with the White Sox, leading the league in Homers, RBI, OBP, and Slugging percentage. Perhaps people will point to the fact that Allen's career was only 15 seasons, he retired with over 350 Homers, but under 2,000 career hits. His career Slugging percentage of .533 ranks 41st all-time, right alongside greats like Ken Griffey, Jr., Mel Ott, Mike Schmidt, Willie Stargell, and Chipper Jones to name a few. His Career On Base Percentage is on par with Napoleon Lajoie, Duke Snider, David Ortiz, George Sisler, and Yaz to name several Hall of Famers. His peak may have been relatively short, but it was quite a sight to see.
Richie's Rookie was in the 1964 Topps Set.


  1. The Tony Conigliaro story always bums me out.

    1. Yeah this whole class is bittersweet. So much talent and potential, but the injury bug bit hard.

  2. One of my favorite themes. I also get to get a ready made checklist year by year.

  3. This is probably the best class featured so far. The fact too that this is 1965 Topps makes it even better.

  4. Some great players in this group. Tony C. Is one of my PC guys. Allen should be in the Hall