When I was reading the Facebook reaction to my article on the 1967 National League Batting Leaders card in which all three of the players pictured were from the Dominican Republic, my mind wandered back and started thinking about the 1959 Topps set and the rookies that were in it. To me, the ’59 set is truly a transition set, because it’s was the first one which featured over 500 base cards.
With that man cards–nearly 80 more than the previous high–more cards of rookies and unproven players can be featured. One can make a pretty good team out of all of the rookie cards in that set. You will certainly have a good pitching staff led by Bob Gibson, Mike Cuellar and Jim Perry, all of whom won Cy Young awards in their career. And the hitting will be assisted by having Norm Cash at first base and Bill While moving to the outfield.
But for me, one of the most interesting aspect is the number of 1959 Topps rookie cards featuring players who later became major league managers. Of course, not all of these managers were smash hits. Eddie Haas was one of a grouping of totally forgettable 1980’s Braves managers.
However, there were some success stories, too. George Bamberger was best known for leading the Milwaukee Brewers to their first winning season in 1978 and helping turn the tide of that franchise. Bamberger also later managed the Mets and although he never made the playoffs, perhaps his influence helped both teams to go to the World Series exactly four years after he began managing them. “Bambi” was a huge fan favorite in Milwaukee.
Our second manager is Felipe Alou who led both the Montreal Expos and the San Francisco Giants. Alou never got to the World Series as a manager but was almost universally beloved by his players and will go into history as manager of the ill-fated 1994 Montreal Expos who appeared to be ready to make their second playoff appearance before the baseball strike ended those dreams.
1959 also included a one-year playing wonder who was a manager for more than a quarter century. George Anderson wasn’t long for baseball cards as his entire major league career was in 1959. However, as Sparky Anderson, he did so well in winning World Series while managing in both leagues that he later became enshrined as a Hall of Famer. And, for the longest time, shrewd dealers and collectors would ask for George Anderson cards hoping to catch the 1959 card as a common instead as a key rookie card in that set. And yes, that did work for many dealers and collectors for the longest time.
We like the stories of some of these 1959 rookie cards and their later roles in baseball. You can see their cards on eBay here. And, as always, we love to hear from our readers about their favorite subsets such as these. Please send any responses to the email address listed below.