When the ten nominees for what the Hall of Fame now calls the “Golden Age” were announced recently, many pundits compared their careers and then offered opinions about whether any of them were worthy of the Hall of Fame tag. A committee consisting of former players, baseball executives and veteran media members will decide but what’s interesting is that card collectors have basically already determined the players on the ballot deserve a premium price as minor stars or better. Some are occasionally valued as if they were Hall of Famers.
Most of the Golden Era nominees never really had any tremendously valuable or elusive cards during their career but instead tended to be released in the more common series. So without further adieu, let’s look at the nine players who will be eligible for Hall of Fame consideration this winter (GM Bob Howsam, who built the 1960s Cardinals championship teams as well as the Cincinnati Reds ‘Big Red Machine’ teams is also under consideration). Any candidate named on 75 percent of ballots cast (12 or more votes) by the committee will be elected as a member of the Class of 2015 at the Hall of Fame. We are presenting these names in alphabetical order.
Dick “Richie” Allen: Allen’s career was checkered but he was an elite power hitter who did have some interesting cards. His 1964 rookie card is always popular as there is considerable collector interest in the 1964 Phillies in no small part due to their spectacular collapse at the end of the 1964 season. Allen would have two more reasonably difficult cards during his career with a very tough 1965 card and a 1971 high number. One card I always would have liked to see was Allen as a member of the Oakland A’s.
Ken Boyer: His rookie card is in the 1955 Topps set and the only other card of any real interest is the very difficult 1961 Topps high number All-Star. Those last series 1961 cards are among the toughest overall series in the 1960’s. While a few other Boyer cards are in the semi high or slightly more difficult series, none of the other Topps cards are as popular as these two.
Gil Hodges: His rookie card is a 1949 Bowman but he’s got a very popular 1955 Topps high number card. The 1955 is doubly tough because of its placement in the set and the fact that many collectors still look for cards of the only Brooklyn team to win the World Series. Hodges was basically on cards each year for basically a quarter-century until 1972. His last Topps-related card is very popular among collectors as O-Pee-Chee updated the ’72 issue with the notation about his untimely passing while playing golf during spring training.
Jim Kaat: As most fans know, Kaat seemed to pitch forever. His career lasted four decades and his rookie card is the second most popular card in the 1960 Topps “Rookie Stars” subset behind only Carl Yastrzemski. While none of his other cards are super difficult, there are times when his 1964 Topps high number card can be a challenge to find. Kaat also has both a regular and an In Action card as part of the popular 1972 Topps high number series. However, since his career reached into the 1980’s one can find Kaat cards for very reasonable prices at the end of his career.
Minnie Minoso: Minoso’s 1952 Topps rookie card is in the more plentiful series but there is still considerable collector interest and the photo is outstanding. His final card is the 1964 Topps and wouldn’t it be interesting if somehow Kaat, Hodges and Minoso were elected to Cooperstown since all three of those players had cards (Hodges as his first manager card) in that 1964 Topps high number series.
Tony Oliva: He had two multi-player rookie cards and although the 1963 Topps rookie is in the more available early series, there is little doubt that card has always been popular. In the New York area we called that card the Oliva/Kranepool rookie as long-time Met Ed Kranepool’s was also pictured. Oliva returned as a ‘rookie star’ in the 1964 series.
His 1965 Topps is sneakily difficult and his 1966 Topps, with only a dozen examples available on eBay as of this writing, is too. He was honored by having card #600 in the 1969 sets. In those days whenever a player had a card number with a 00 they were usually considered a major superstar. Oliva’s 1970’s cards are very affordable and the last few can be found pretty easily for less than a dollar.
Billy Pierce: His best card by far is the 1951 Bowman rookie card. However, Pierce is also in the 1951 Topps Blue Back set and those cards are far more difficult than their Bowman or Topps Red Back counterparts. Other than that, Pierce had a reasonably pedestrian card career. Pierce’s final card as a player was in the 1964 Topps set (notice a theme here about the 1964 set?).
Luis Tiant: He made his major league debut with a spectacular finishing kick to the 1964 season. Both he and Mel Stottlemyre would have rookie cards in the 1965 Topps set. However, Tiant would have a better second half to his career as Stottlemyre would end up with a torn rotator cuff before surgeries to fix that were common while Tiant had a great second half of his career mainly with the Boston Red Sox. However, his 1965 Topps rookie card is his key card and there is also some interest in his 1969 sixth series card. Tiant has major manufacturer cards as late as 1983 so his final cards can be picked up for the price of less than a fast-food value menu item.
Maury Wills: We have written over the years about WIlls’ famous battled with Topps as well as his surprise appearance on a 1960 Topps World Series subset card despite not having a contract with Topps. By the time WIlls signed with Topps it was 1967 and he appeared finally as a very tough high number card late that summer. That card is one of the more difficult cards of the 1960’s and Wills appeared as a Pirate. He would not appear as a Dodger on a Topps card until the 1970 semi-high number series. There is also a decent amount of interest in the Post Cereal Wills cards from 1961-63 and the 1963 Fleer Wills card as those cards feature Wills during his peak Dodgers years.
What is interesting is most of these players end up falling into the “semi-star” category among card collectors and if you really believe any of them are going to enter the Hall of Fame, their cards are, for the most part, very reasonably priced.