It was unanimous in the National League Monday, as Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant was named Rookie of the Year. And Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa was the American League winner. Correa’s vote was closer, as he received 17 of 30 first-place votes to edge Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor by a 124-109 vote.
Since baseball’s Rookie of the Year award was instituted in 1947, 14 players who have won the award have been elected to the Hall of Fame. Jackie Robinson won the inaugural award, and since 1949 — when the honor was expanded to each league — eight National League winners and five from the American League have earned plaques in Cooperstown.
Had it not been for his gambling activities that landed him on baseball’s ineligible list, Pete Rose (1963) would have been in that group. Dick Allen and Tony Oliva (both 1964 winners) each fell one vote shy of enshrinement by the Golden Era Committee last December. Mike Piazza, who won the N.L. award in 1993, could be entering the Hall as soon next season, depending on voters.
Derek Jeter, who won rookie honors in 1996, might become the sixth from the A.L. to join the club. And current players like Ichiro Suzuki and Albert Pujols (both won it 2001) also have a decent shot at the Hall.
Vintage rookie cards remain a coveted item by collectors, especially players who became Hall of Famers. Several Rookie of the Year winners have expensive debut cards — Rose, Johnny Bench, Tom Seaver, Rod Carew and Cal Ripken come to mind — but there are some affordable rookie cards of Hall of Famers.
Here are five of them. For clarification purposes, I am only including cards of players that were issued the year they won the rookie award. That will eliminate players like Frank Robinson, Willie McCovey and Eddie Murray, for example.
Andre Dawson Rookie Card
“The Hawk” made his baseball card debut on card No. 473 in the 1977 Topps set. He was one of four players featured, along with Gene Richards (Padres), John Scott (Blue Jays) and Denny Walling (A’s).
Dawson batted .282 in 1977 with 19 homers and 65 RBIs in 1977 to earn 10 first-place votes, edging Steve Henderson of the Mets, who had nine.
Raw versions of Dawson’s rookie card on eBay can be purchased for under $20, and in some cases, under $5. Graded cards are not terribly expensive, either.
The latest edition of The Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball cards lists a near-mint version at $25 and a VG at a mere $5.
Billy Williams Rookie Card
He was an underappreciated player outside of the Chicago area, but even savvy baseball fans far from the Friendly Confines are well aware of Williams’ Hall of Fame credentials through his hitting and amazing durability.
Williams batted .278 with 25 homers and 86 RBIs in 1961 with the Chicago Cubs, grabbing 10 first-place votes to double the total of runner-up Joe Torre, who was catching for the Milwaukee Braves.
Williams appears by himself on card No. 141 in the 1961 Topps set, with a yellow star at the top right-hand side of the card proclaiming his rookie status.
Centering is often an issue but a decent ungraded Williams can be had for under $30, while even a graded, near-mint card is affordable.
The Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards has a price fluctuation of $60 for near mint and $15 for a VG version of the card.
Orlando Cepeda Rookie Card
The 1958 Topps rookie card of Cepeda is also a standalone, as rookie cards of the late 1950s and early ’60s tended to be.
Cepeda received 21 first-place votes after batting .312 with 25 homers and 96 RBIs. He also stole 15 bases and had a .512 slugging percentage.
Card No. 343 shows a cut-out photo of Cepeda against a vibrant red background, stretching for the baseball.
Prices on eBay for Cepeda’s rookie card are higher than Dawson and Williams, but something in the EX – EX/NM range can often be found for under $50. The Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards lists a NM card at $100 and a VG at $25.
Luis Aparicio Rookie Card
Aparicio was ordinary at the plate, batting .266 with 3 homers and 56 RBIs. But he led the A.L. with 21 stolen bases to power the soon-to-be Go-Go Sox and had a .954 fielding percentage at shortstop in 152 games.
Aparicio appeared on card No. 292 of the 1956 Topps set. His graded cards are little pricier as it climbs toward near mint, but raw cards on eBay are still within a frugal collector’s budget. The Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball cards lists a VG specimen at $37.50 and a NM card books for $150.
Carlton Fisk Rookie Card
The voting wasn’t even close in 1972. Fisk received all 24 first-place votes after batting .292 with 22 homers and 91 RBIs. Surprisingly, the young catcher for the Red Sox tied for the A.L. lead with nine triples (he shared it with Oakland’s Joe Rudi, also not known for his speed) and was second in slugging percentage (.538) behind Allen’s .603.
Defensively, Fisk threw out 36 runners and had a .984 fielding percentage behind the plate.
Fisk was placed on card No. 79 in the 1972 Topps set, occupying the far right slot of a card that had three photographs. Fisk was joined on the card by pitcher Mike Garman and first baseman Cecil Cooper.
Most raw Fisk rookies can be had for less than the price of a nice dinner; graded cards are higher, of course, and while a PSA-8 might command $150, a lower-graded card (PSA-5 or 6) can be had for a third of that. The Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards has a high price of $50 (near mint) and a low of $15 (VG).
Monday’s announcement of the 2015 Rookie of the Year award winners is now history. Will Bryant or Correa make it to the Hall of Fame? We’ll find out in about 15 to 20 years. Until then, save their rookie cards.