A couple of items which seemingly are not related caught my memory bank the other day and reminded me of a special team in baseball history. This is the 25th anniversary of the Major League movie (as honored in the recent Topps Archives set) which featured a fictional downtrodden team making their move from worst to first. Then, the Boston Red Sox recently started five rookies in a game for the first time since 1987.
Well, 47 years ago, a similar Red Sox team featured mainly young players trying to become a contender for the first time since the early 1950′s. Today, there’s a call for 1967 Red Sox baseball cards because of the memories fans have of that special year and team.
At the beginning of the 1967 season, no one, not even the most optimistic fan expected the Red Sox to even be competitive in the American League, let alone end up completing the Impossible Dream on the final day if that season. Currently, the oldest virtually complete MLB game broadcast in color is this Red Sox-Twins game from September 30, 1967, when Red Sox mania was at a fever pitch (that’s senator Hubert Humphrey at the beginning by the way).
Thanks to how Topps issued cards back then, you can actually do some tracking of the team as the personnel moved during the season. In the lowest series 1967 cards, you see players such as Don McMahon, Bob Tillman and Dalton Jones. The only names who were truly important as every day fixtures for the Red Sox were George “Boomer” Scott and first year manager Dick Williams.
hen after the first two series were squared away, the next two series which were probably issued during times when kids were starting to enjoy summer vacation included a joint rookie card of Reggie Smith and Mike Andrews, two players who were having an impact on the team at the time. In a fascinating twist, Smith actually started the season at second base before moving to the outfield to let Andrews take over at 2nd by the end of April.
Cards numbered 201-400 also included Tony Conigliaro, Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Lonborg. The youthful Tony C. would be on his way to another fine season until his career was permanently altered by a Jack Hamilton pitch.
Lonborg would have his career season and look to be on the way to a fine career until he hurt his knee in an off-season skiing accident. In case you’re wondering why you don’t see baseball players skiing any more, the Lonborg injury is the primary reason. Teams began writing clauses into player contracts forbidding it.
We could write books about Carl Yastrzemski’s 1967 season (and there were books actually written about the team). Suffice it to say, he was the last 20th century Triple Crown winner and batted an amazing .500 in his final 44 at-bats during the intense 1967 pennant race. To use an overworked term, he was truly ‘in the zone’.
The final series in the 1967 set feature a mix of some players like Rico Petrocelli (#528), a card which always sells well and #604 which is a Red Sox team card. The latter is by far the most difficult 1967 card to collect if you are just collecting a basic Red Sox team set. In a way, it honors a special team and special time and while the Sox didn’t win a World Series for a few more decades, the team never again had droughts that lasted the better part of two decades as they once did.
Here’s a link to all of those great old cards on eBay.