It started, oddly enough, with an 0-for-4. Rico Petrocelli–not Carl Yastrzemski– was the star of the Boston Red Sox season opener on April 12, 1967. By the end of the year, though, Yaz would etch his name into baseball’s record book.
For those who remember, it might seem hard to believe this is the 50th anniversary season of his Triple Crown year. Yaz batted .321 with 44 home runs and 121 RBI and, not surprisingly, was the American League MVP. Not a bad effort at all for a guy who had once faced the unenviable task of stepping into the shoes of the departing Ted Williams when he first appeared on a Topps card in 1960.
A 20-year-old rookie when he debuted on April 11, 1961, Yaz certainly had Hall of Fame potential but no one really knew what to make of the lefthanded hitting son of a potato farmer. As Ted Williams slipped into retirement, Red Sox fans were clamoring for a new star. Yaz delivered and today, his cards remain among the most popular of his era.
The Yaz File
“Captain Carl” was born August 22, 1939. A Southhampton, New York product, he was equally amazing in all sports-but he hit a whopping .512 in high school baseball. He was so good at high school hoops he actually briefly attended Notre Dame on a basketball scholarship. The big league contract and signing bonus of $108,000 offered by the Bosox was too much to resist.
He finished with 18 All Star appearances, seven gold gloves and three batting titles while belting 452 home runs and driving in 1,844 runs. His batting average wasn’t so bad either at .285 for his career. Between 1967-1970, he belted 40 or more home runs in three of the four seasons.
That 1967 season had marked baseball’s last Triple Crown winner until Miguel Cabrera duplicated the feat in 2012.
Rookie Card and Beyond
Yaz’s rookie is rare among vintage cards since it was released before he actually played in a big league game. Issued in the second series, it’s sometimes plagued by printing defects and centering issues. Along with Willie McCovey’s rookie card and the always pricey Mickey Mantle regular and All-Star cards, it’s a key to the 1960 Topps set. It may not be as expensive as you think, however. Near Mint graded examples can still be found for under $700; lesser grade raw cards significantly cheaper.
In fact, most of Yastrzemski’s cards are within reach, although the condition-sensitive 1962 Topps #425 can test collectors of higher grade cards with only 15 cards rating 9 or better on PSA’s Population Report.
Yaz’s 1967 Topps is, of course, a special favorite of some collectors who remember when a Red Sox team almost pulled off the seemingly impossible, led by a hitter for the ages.
You can see the current “most watched” Carl Yastrzemski cards on eBay via the live list below.