Almost any vintage card collector can tell you about the Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and Whitey Ford rookie cards in the 1951 Bowman set. There are also plenty of stars that will put your Paypal account to the test.
However, that all-important release has plenty of other significant rookie or early-career cards worth your attention. Many fly under the radar at very budget-friendly prices. Here are ten of them.
1. Joe Garagiola (No. 122)
Garagiola had a nine-year career playing with the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, and New York Giants. He won a World Series with the Cardinals in 1946, but is more widely known for his long broadcasting career after his playing days. Garagiola would go on to work for NBC for nearly 30 years, doing everything from baseball broadcasts on the Game of the Week to guest hosting for Johnny Carson.
His 1951 Bowman card is inexpensive, starting around $40 in mid-grade condition.
2. Monte Irvin (No. 198)
Irvin was a long-time Negro League star before he got his chance to play in the majors. He became an All-Star and World Series champion before being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Good quality, ungraded examples of his rookie card are available starting at around $40.
3. Vernon Law (No. 203)
Law was one of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ greatest pitchers in franchise history. He was a member of the 1960 World Series championship team and also won the Cy Young Award that season.
A decent Law 1951 Bowman card can be had for $15-$20.
Almost all fans can tell you that Jackie Robinson was the first African-American to play in the major leagues. But many won’t be able to tell you that Dan Bankhead was the majors’ first black pitcher. Bankhead earned that distinction in 1947 when he appeared in four games as Robinson’s teammate with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Jensen broke in with the New York Yankees and even won a World Series with the club in 1950. But it wasn’t until he joined the Red Sox that his career really began to flourish. Three times in a five-year span, he would go on to lead the league in runs batted in with Boston and in 1958, was the league’s Most Valuable Player.
Raw mid-grade copies of his short-printed 1951 Bowman card start around $30-$40.
6. Luke Easter (No. 258/SP)
A mountain of a man, Easter was a prolific home run hitter in the Negro League before playing six seasons with the Cleveland Indians. He was already into his 30s by the time he debuted in the majors, but still could hit the long ball. Easter clubbed 86 home runs in a three-year span from 1950-1952 while driving in 307 runs.
His 1951 Bowman card can be found in the $15-$20 range.
Erskine wasn’t as big a name as many of the 1950s Dodgers, but he was a key player for the team just the same. He had a record over .500 in each of his seasons in Brooklyn and with a 20-6 year in 1953, led the league in winning percentage. He was an All-Star the following season and the year after that, helped the Dodgers win the 1955 World Series.
Erskine’s 1951 Bowman card generally starts around $30 for decent raw issues.
8. Jim Piersall (No. 306/SP)
Piersall had a long, fruitful career in the majors, lasting 17 years. A defensive specialist of sorts, he won two Gold Gloves in the outfield and was also a two-time All-Star. He also ran the bases backwards once, which has to count for something, right?
At $35-$50, his card is fairly affordable.
A career .295 hitter, Forrest “Smoky” Burgess turned in an outstanding 18-year career. Playing for several teams, including the Cubs, Phillies, Reds, Pirates, and White Sox, he would go on to become a six-time All-Star catcher. Burgess also was a member of the Pirates’ 1960 World Series team.
Solid copies of his card are only about $25.
10. Joe Adcock (No. 323/SP)
Adcock was a power-hitting first baseman and outfielder that had the respect of pitchers in his 17-year career. He was an All-Star in 1960, won a World Series with the Milwaukee Braves in 1957, and finished in the top ten in the league in home runs on five different occasions.
Despite being a short-printed card, you can find it for around $25 in respectable shape.