Carl Yastrzemski was the last player to win the Triple Crown. His 1967 season is the stuff of legend. How tough has it been for a National League player to win the home run, RBI and batting titles in the same year? The last man to do it was Ducky Medwick...in 1937.
Now, another Cardinal is making a legitimate run. Albert Pujols leads the NL in homers and RBI and is battling Cincinnati's Joey Votto for the top average. With just over a month remaining in the season, reality is starting to sink in for fans who may have a chance to see history.
“Pujols' cards have already been elevated to such elite levels that it would be interesting to see how much further they could go," said Mike Fruitman of Mike's Stadium Sportscards in Aurora, Colorado. "The chance of him achieving something that has not been done since 1967 would elevate him to superhero status. His rookies, autographed singles and relic cards are already so popular that it is not even worth putting them in the showcases, since they move so quickly.”
For Fruitman, baseball's months-long storylines are often reflected in the bottom line. New arrivals or record chasers often bring a boost.
“More than any other sport, baseball collector's brains revolve around statistics," he said. "Just mentioning numbers like 61, .400, 56 and 4192 instantly brings to mind historical moments. The media circus his chase would bring would bring back a lot of the buzz 2010 MLB trading cards lost with Stephen Strasburg's recent trips to the DL. "
Pujols' high dollar rookie cards include the rare 2001 Bowman Chrome autograph. If you don't have $4000 or so, other Pujols rookie cards have been selling strongly. A 2001 Upper Deck Ultimate 1/250 sold for
$439 recently. Autographed relic cards and 1-of-1 inserts can bring much more. Still, there will be room to grow if Pujols adds his name to the elite roster of Triple Crown winners.
"I've been holding off on getting a Chrome auto rookie for the last four years 'cause I'm scared that if I finally jump the gun and buy one, he's going to get hurt," said a collector in a message board post at Freedom Cardboard. "But he just keeps on hitting."
Pujols autographs on baseballs, photos and bats could double in value. An autograph deal with a memorabilia company would surely include a certain number of signatures with the 'Triple Crown' notation. Pujols could practically name his own price.
"I think he'll see a little spike in his cards and memorabilia, but it will cement his legacy as one of the best ever," said collector Tim Lindren on Sports Collectors Daily's Facebook page.
While the Triple Crown chase has yet to really manifest itself in the national media, if and when the buzz cranks up, buyers will come from outside the realm of typical collectors according to Fruitman, who saw another milestone chase close up.
"Being in Colorado, I remember when Colorado Rockies Todd Helton was flirting with .400 so many years back. The result is that it brought in collectors that had never thought of purchasing his cards. Our regulars started chasing his better cards and even though he came up short, it emptied out our cases of anything featuring him."
And don't forget, Pujols is also just one home run away from another milestone--400 career homers. The ball, if brought to market in a year when he would capture the Triple Crown, could bring thousands at auction.
Don't count him out, either, in the race to break Barry Bonds' home run record. Pujols would need ten more seasons averaging about 35 per season to do it.
Check current rookie card prices on eBay