As we have discussed, in the days of card being issued in series, Topps was especially adept in making the final baseball card series almost a “living set” in which information about players was updated if something occurred in spring training or a minor leaguer surprisingly made a major league team. That is one reason why over the years many better rookie cards are in the last couple of series. Think about the 1959 Norm Cash, 1960 Tommy Davis, 1963 Pete Rose or Willie Stargell… and the list continues.
Of course not every player becomes a star and even in the 1967 set we had a mix of players on those well-known two player rookie cards. Some had an impact and some did not. When was the last time you heard the name Norm Gigon in a context not related to baseball cards?
A few of the other rookie cards in 1967 last series are popular because they are tough cards such as the Don Shaw/Gary Sutherland rookie prospects card. Not only is that a difficult card but considering the two teams are both in the megalopolis they have always had extra collector interest. However, there is another rookie prospects card which is just as difficult but has retained all the popularity from the day the card was released to the present day. That card is the Tom Seaver/Bill Denehy Mets rookie card.
Sure, we all call it the Seaver rookie but actually both guys have important roles in Mets history: one for his playing ability and one for what he was used to acquire. Seaver, of course, became a Hall of Famer pitcher and key component on the 1969 and ’73 Mets World Series teams. Denehy was traded to the Washington Senators at the conclusion of the 1967 so Gil Hodges could become the Mets manager. That would not be the last time a player was traded for a manager or even a general manager. Almost a decade later, Manny Sanguillen was sent to the Oakland A’s so Chuck Tanner could become the Pittsburgh Pirates manager.
As a whole, those oh-so-tough 1967 Topps high numbers have bedeviled collectors over the years. Just ask the dealers who once sorted through 12,000 or more cards from the final series and could not find one Brooks Robinson card or those collectors who have sought after a high-grade, reasonably priced Mike Shannon card.
Sometimes scarcity is a funny thing, I remember way back in the day I found nine Shannon cards, all in rough condition, in a show for $5 total. Of course that was in the late 1980’s but I never forgot the experience of seeing so many of the same tough card in one shot. I remember reading an old Lew Lipset column in an old Trader Speaks where he said a dealer sold 80 of the Seaver rookie at one time for something like $12 each. I remember reading that and wishing I just had one at that price. Yes the 1967 Seaver rookie was the last card I needed to conclude my set.
And yes, despite those little vignettes, most people are correct in the belief that single print cards in 1966 and 1967 are all very difficult. Even at the National, you have to get in early if you want to knock them off your list. If you do eBay, be prepared to pay whatever the asking price might be because it’s not likely they’ll last. While Seaver isn’t nearly the hardest card to find, it’s never cheap and not exactly plentiful.
So, with all that background, let’s say hello to George Thomas Seaver and also honor his 1967 Topps rookie card for what is means to set collectors, Mets collectors and Hall of Fame rookie card collectors. That trifecta means it’s unlikely to lose steam anytime soon, even though Tom Terrific just turned 70 years old.