A subset, which began more than 50 years ago and has continued to this very day is the Topps ‘All-Star Rookie Team’. The company makes its selections after the season and those players are usually noted with a little trophy on the front of their card the following year.
While there are some quirks along the way and the mix of players runs from future Hall of Famers such as Johnny Bench to guys out of baseball within two years of the honor such as Dwain Anderson (1973 Topps) there is little doubt this grouping of cards, along with the All-Star subsets are the two longest running topical subsets in any Topps set.
These “trophy” cards began way back in 1960 after the concept was created to honor the best rookies of the 1959 season and for the only time, all these cards were placed together within the Topps set. Here’s what became of some of the players in that inaugural 1960 Topps ‘All Rookie Team’ issue.
316 Willie McCovey: This was an appropriate card to start things off. McCovey had the best overall career of the 10 players on that first Topps All Rookie Team and has since been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
McCovey finished with more than 500 career homers and also ended up as a player who played in four decades. McCovey has several cards which are popular with collectors including semi-high number 1961 and 1967 cards, and tough series cards in the 1962,1963 and 1966 sets. In addition, the rare and pricey 1969 Topps white letter variations included McCovey. Thus collecting a full run of McCovey cards can be problematic for the pocketbook.
317 Pumpsie Green: Green is the brother of long-time Dallas Cowboys defensive star Cornell Green and also was the first black player for the Boston Red Sox. Even with all that, Green is probably remembered as well for his little misadventure during the 1962 season as he and Gene Conley left the Red Sox team bus and ended up attempting to purchase plane tickets to Israel. Green ended his major league career as one of the first New York Mets the following season.
318 Jim Baxes: Baxes hit 17 homers as a rookie in 1959 but this was the last major league card on which he appeared. His only other card is a 1959 Topps high number. He hit his first home run off a young Bob Gibson in April of ’59.
Baxes had spent the better part of 12 years in the minor leagues before getting his opportunity. He was sent to the minors after the 1960 season but if he hit 17 homers, it seemed he still had some big league ability. Instead, he retired in 1961.
319 Joe Koppe: Koppe became the starting shortstop for the franchise now known as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in their very early years until he was supplanted by Jim Fregosi. Koppe came alive after a trade from Milwaukee to Philadelphia and had a solid 1959 season. He suffered a wrist injury and eventually wound up with the Angels where he hung around, primarily as a backup, for a few more years. He has a really cool error card in the 1964 set in which he is posed as a left-handed shortstop.
320 Bob Allison: Allison was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1959 and as such one figured he would be included in this card grouping. Collecting Allison cards is a fairly easy process as his hardest card is his final card which is part of the 1970 last series. Other than that, every Allison card should be available for the cost of a value meal at any hamburger joint—unless you’re shopping in Minneapolis. Perhaps the biggest challenge is Allison did suffer some health issues and thus did not sign autographs very much over the last few years of his life.
321 Ron Fairly: Fairly had the second longest career of these 10 players pictured and like McCovey continued to be a productive player basically to the end of his career. Fairly ended up a hero for both inaugural Canadian teams: the 1969 Montreal Expos and the 1977 Toronto Blue Jays. If Fairly had been able to play one more season he would have joined McCovey as a four-decade player.
322 Willie Tasby: Tasby’s career was fairly short but he does have a great baseball card variation in the 1962 Topps set (along with Bob Buhl) as it comes to two different logos on his caps. That card exists with either no emblem on his cap or that of the Washington Senators. Tasby also has a slightly more difficult 1961 Topps card and his card career was concluded in 1962.
After this card, Romano’s only somewhat difficult card until his final card is a 1964 semi-high series card. As a player, Romano had a couple of nice years but with injuries and advancing age, his card and playing career both ended in 1967.
324 Jim Perry: Perry, like Baxes and Koppe, had his rookie card as part of the last series in 1959 Topps. Both pitchers featured had decent careers but Perry’s lasted longer and was far better as he concluded his career with more than 200 victories. Perry also won a Cy Young award in 1970 while pitching for the Minnesota Twins.
Considering he was used as a spot starter/long reliever for what should have been the best years of his career, one can even wonder if he had a slightly different career path whether he would be considered for a Hall of Fame berth. Perry does have tougher cards in the 1961, 1962, 1965 and 1970 set and has a high number All-Star card in the very difficult 1961 last series and also a 1963 last series card. While the Perry run can be completed fairly easily, those little surprises can bring up obstacles.
325 Jim O’Toole: Our final player in this set was also featured as a 1959 Rookie star along with several others in this set. O’Toole had an much earlier peak than Perry as he was an star pitcher for the 1961 National League champion Cincinnati Reds. However, by 1969 O’Toole was out of baseball and he was done with baseball cards even earlier than that.
There is a great line near the end of Ball Four in which Jim Bouton chances upon a cab driver who knew of O’Toole, who had competed for a pitching job with the 1969 Seattle Pilots but was now just pitching for the love of the game with the Ross Eversoles.
O’Toole does have cards in tougher series in both the 1962 and 1967 Topps sets and if you want a laugh, look at the cartoon on the back of his 1963 Topps card. Amazingly that artist must have known quite a bit about O’Toole as he and his wife had 11 children.
So, much like any grouping of young players, this set is a mix of those who made it long-term and those who left the game early. Nothing is every guaranteed in baseball, even if you do have a good rookie season. You can see all of these cards on eBay here.