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Statistical Evolution PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 22 May 2015 00:00

Baseball fans from the "Baby Boomer" generation learned all they knew about statistics from the backs of Topps baseball cards. If someone said "SABR", it was really the word "saber", referring to a swashbuckling movie starring Burt Lancaster or Stewart Granger. With the advent of Fantasy Baseball, the Internet and advanced metrics for the sport, everything has changed. The real question is, are you still judging player performance by those same stats that were on the baseball cards?

Looking at the back of the 1956 Topps cards of Ted Williams and Warren Spahn gives us a starting point for this analysis. Obviously, the stats are from the '55 season and tell you the most basic information. For hitters, you find BA, HR, RBI, Runs, Games Played and a few other categories but not even SB. There's even some fielding information like assists and errors. For pitchers, it gives you IP, W & L, Strikeouts, ERA and a few peripheral stats. In order to bring the performance up-to-date, let's see how the new age categories play out for "Spahnie" and "The Kid", as well as the current MLB leaders through mid-May.

> OBP (On-Base %) - Anthony Rizzo leads the Majors at .468 and Miguel Cabrera tops the AL at .442. Williams' '55 number was .496.

> SLG (Slugging %, determined by Total Bases / At Bats) - Nelson Cruz leads at .730 and Bryce Harper is the NL's best at .690. Williams comes out at .703.

> OPS (OBP + SLG) - Maybe the most telling of the new numbers, as it explains how many bases a hitter has accumulated for his team. Harper and Cruz lead this category also with 1.150 and 1.139 respectively, while "Teddy Ballgame" posted a 1.200 mark.

> OPS+ (Adjusted to the ballpark factors with a mean of 100) - Only four 2015 players are over 200, led again by Cruz at 219 and Harper at 207, joined by Adrian Gonzalez and Stephen Vogt at 203. Williams' number was 209.

> WAR (Wins Above Replacement) - A single number that estimates the number of wins a player is worth to his team above the level of a replacement player. Harper is at 2.9 through 37 games played and the Royals' Lorenzo Cain comes in at 2.7 in 32 games played. Williams finished '55 at 6.9 in 98 games played.

> Offense Winning % (The percentage of games a team with nine of this player batting would win. Assumes average pitching and defense) - The current MLB leader is Paul Goldschmidt at 86.5%. The "Splendid Splinter" had a  season 60 years ago that comes in at 89.2%.

> WHIP (Walks + Hits /IP) - This stat had its genesis from Fantasy Baseball and has now become mainstream. It essentially calculates how many base runners a pitcher allows per inning pitched. The best for '15 is Felix Hernandez at 0.842 while Zack Greinke tops the NL at 0.887. In '55, Spahn was at 1.278.

> Strikeouts per 9 IP - This stat tells you about pitching dominance in the modern era and the modern hitter's reluctance to put the ball in play instead of swinging for the fences. The current leader is Mike Fiers at 12.25 while Corey Kluber (with a record of 1-5) tops the AL at 10.94. A crafty left-hander in his mid-30's, Spahn's '55 number was 4.00.

> Pitching WAR - Sonny Gray and Dallas Keuchel are the mid-May leaders at 2.5. Spahn's '55 season came in at 3.9 while it was over 5.0 in both '54 and '56.

> ERA+ (Once again, adjusted to ballpark factors) - A.J. Burnett, Shelby Miller and Greinke are all currently at 247. Spahn's lifetime best was 188 in 1953.

That's probably more than enough for your introductory lesson. If you can't wait for more, try baseball-reference.com


Last Updated on Thursday, 21 May 2015 23:52
 
The Color Of The Game PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 15 May 2015 00:00

Every April when Major League Baseball celebrates the anniversary of Jackie Robinson joining the Dodgers in 1947, the conversation inevitably turns to the question about the percentage of black players in the game being in decline. Everyone seems to have a different opinion and there is probably some validity to each point of view. The Old Duck subscribes to the theory that due to the increase in popularity of basketball and football, young black athletes in this country have many more options compared to 40 or 50 years ago. Even beyond the NBA and NFL, college sports is a booming business and high school programs are feeding those universities the players they need. No longer do youngsters become "dual sports" stars because the competition in each endeavor is so fierce, they must devote 100% of their time and training to a chosen sport.

The anecdotal evidence was very clear in the Spring of 2013 when the Dodgers visited Surprise Stadium for an exhibition game and rookie Yasiel Puig was in the lineup. Fans were blown away by the athleticism of this 6' 2", 250-pound Cuban Outfielder and some fans wondered out loud why we never see baseball players like this anymore. The answer seemed obvious if you thought it through. In Cuba, baseball is the national game with essentially no competition. A spectacular young athlete like Puig would be drawn to the baseball field with the dream of traveling the world as a member of the national team and then, hopefully, finding a way off the island to play in the major leagues. If Yasiel Puig had attended the local high school in your community, he never would have made it to the baseball field. The basketball coach would have wanted him to play power forward and would still have lost out to the football coach who had him slotted as a Defensive End, Linebacker or the most devastating Running Back in the state.

Another aspect of this topic interestingly came up a few weeks ago on the golf course. One of my golfing buddies and I were doing our usual damage to the course when the subject of baseball came up during a lull between hooks and slices. Over the years, he's learned about my affinity for the game but indicated that he's really not much of a baseball fan. It certainly wasn't an aversion to sports in general because he has a Pittsburgh Steelers golf bag on his cart. On this particular day, I casually asked why he wasn't also into baseball. Embarrassingly, he told me that his father gave up his season tickets to the Pirates the year the team fielded an all-black lineup and while my friend was already a young adult at that point, baseball became an afterthought. Of course, none of us should be shocked that this type of attitude prevailed in the early 1970's but a real-life story really crystallizes the significance. My friend's dad was born in 1922 and while it's easy to be critical in retrospect, is it really possible for us to completely understand the society that was prevalent while he was being raised? Think about the fact that for the first 25 years of his life, major league baseball was all-white. Ironically, the city of Pittsburgh has a rich tradition in black baseball as both the Homestead Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords of the Negro Leagues called the steel city their home.

From a historical perspective, the date in question was September 1, 1971 and the Pirates, managed by Danny Murtaugh, were on their way to the National League pennant and an eventual World Series victory over the Baltimore Orioles. With the help of a wonderful article by George Skornickel in the Fall 2011 SABR Research Journal titled "Characters with Character", let's take a closer look at this moment in the game's archives.

One caveat to the story is that the first all-black lineup isn't defined as an all-African-American lineup, as the Pirates had numerous Latin players on the team who represented Panama, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Cuba. The Bucs outstanding first baseman Al Oliver was interviewed for the article and indicated that it's doubtful that Murtaugh was even aware of the unique moment because his goal was to put the best available players on the field. Even Oliver didn't notice the situation until the third or fourth inning and also pointed out that the lineup was configured with as many right-handed hitters as possible because the opposing Phillies had left-hander Woodie Fryman on the mound. Murtaugh's quote after the game was, "I put the best athletes out there. The best nine tonight happen to be black. No big deal. Next question."

In 1971, the Pirates were baseball's most integrated team, with Black and Latino players making up almost half of the roster. Let's take a look at that famous lineup card from 9/1/71...

> Rennie Stennett, 2B - This Panamanian was only 20 years old and didn't become a regular player until the following season. He hit .353 in 153 at-bats in '71.

> Gene Clines, CF - In his first full season, he was one of the Bucs back-up outfielders and hit .308 in 273 at-bats.

> Roberto Clemente, RF - The Puerto Rican legend was 36 but played like someone 10 years younger by hitting .341 and winning a Gold Glove.

> Willie Stargell, LF - "Pops" was the glue that held the team together. He hit 48 homers and finished 2nd in the MVP balloting.

> Manny Sanguillen, C - This All-Star was in his prime at age 27 and hit .319 while throwing out 50% of baserunners attempting to steal.

> Dave Cash, 3B - Normally the starting second baseman, he was giving Richie Hebner the day off against a left-handed pitcher.

> Al Oliver, 1B - Another versatile player, the team's regular centerfielder was playing first base to give Bob Robertson a breather. Oliver was a 7-time All-Star.

> Jackie Hernandez, SS - This native Cuban was another role player, as Gene Alley was the everyday shortstop.

> Dock Ellis, P - The team's ace with 19 wins, he had appeared in the All-Star game a few months earlier where he gave up a famous home run to Reggie Jackson that cleared the right-field pavilion in Tiger Stadium.

How did the game turn out? The lineup strategy worked as Fryman gave up six runs in the 1st inning and the Pirates went on to win 10-7. Sanguillen hit a home run while Clemente and Stargell each had two hits and two RBI. A white pitcher named Luke Walker came in to relieve early in the game and pitched the final six innings for the victory.

The curiosity 40+ years later is what the reaction was in Pittsburgh at the time. One local sportswriter looked back in 1997 and said, "Baseball at that time, in my opinion, had a whole lot of racial division and I think it went on inside baseball and angered some people. There was also some hostility in the city. Pittsburgh is a conservative city and there were a lot of snide remarks made privately. I'm sure there wasn't a major reaction in the media other than to observe that it had taken place and it was a first."

Another writer's 1997 recollection was much more telling..."It's always been a problem of management. How many blacks will the fans take? I went down to the GM's office not long after that game and he had a stack of mail and told me I could take out any letter I want and it will be negative."

GM Joe L. Brown defended the team he put together and said, "I was always proud of the fact that we never paid attention to color in our organization. I don't think any club in the history of baseball had as many blacks on their roster at one time and consistently over the years."

In 2011, Dave Cash remembered Danny Murtaugh with this quote..."I remember him saying that he didn't realize who was out there, he just wanted to put the best team on the field and with the Pirate family, it didn't matter what color you were. We were about winning. That was the most important thing. In 1970, when we got into the playoffs and lost, we tasted that defeat and didn't want it to happen the next year. So in '71, we took care of business!"

 

 

 
Baseball Quotes From The Movies PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 08 May 2015 00:00

Baseball fans love baseball movies and can immediately recognize a great line from one of their favorite films. Let's not forget, however, that there are hundreds of celluloid moments where baseball is referenced by characters in motion pictures that don't have the national pastime involved in the story at all. Examples include...

> "I love baseball. You know it doesn't have to mean anything, it's just beautiful to watch." - Woody Allen in Zelig (1983)

> "Baseball should be the only thing on an eight year old boy's mind." - Aidan Quinn in Stolen Summer (2002)

> Jane: "I've heard police work is dangerous."

Frank: "It is. That's why I carry a big gun."

Jane: "Aren't you afraid it might go off accidentally?"

Frank: "I used to have that problem."

Jane: "What did you do about it?"

Frank: "I just think about baseball." - Priscilla Presley & Leslie Nielsen in The Naked Gun (1988)

> "I loved baseball ever since Arnold Rothstein fixed the World Series in 1919." - Lee Strasburg (as Hyman Roth) in The Godfather II (1974)

> "What's the matter with you? Don't you want to watch the World Series?" - Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

> "You're a tragic hero. You're Lou Gehrig." - Billy Crystal in Father's Day (1997)

> Q: "Yogi?...why it's some sort of religion, isn't it?"

A: "You bet it is - a belief in the New York Yankees." - Kirk Douglas in Ace in the Hole (1951)

> "I'm an escaped car thief. I broke out of prison to see the Cubs in the World Series." - James Belushi in Taking Care of Business (1990)

> "Hey, batter-batter-batter, hey batter-batter-batter- swing batter." - Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

> "I like baseball. I just never understood how you guys can spend so much time discussing it...I've been to games, but I don't memorize who played third base for Pittsburgh in 1960." ---- "Don Hoak!" Helen Slater, Billy Crystal & others in City Slickers (1991)

When it comes to movies about baseball, the memorable lines are endless. Here are some you might remember... 

> "There's no crying in baseball!" - Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own (1992)

> "When the ball meets the bat and you feel that ball just give, you know it's going to go a long way. Damn, if you don't feel like you're going to live forever." - John Cusack (as Buck Weaver) in Eight Men Out (1988)

> "Listen, Lupas, you didn't come into this life just to sit around on a dugout bench, did ya? Now get your ass out there and do the best you can." - Walter Matthau in Bad News Bears (1976)

> "Ahh, Jesus, I like him very much, but he no help with the curveball." - Dennis Haysbert (as Pedro Cerrano) in Major League (1989)

> "People all say that I've had a bad break. But today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth." - Gary Cooper (as Lou Gehrig) in The Pride of the Yankees (1942)

> "Hey, Dad? You wanna have a catch?" - Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams (1989)

> "God, I just love baseball." - Robert Redford (as Roy Hobbs) in The Natural (1984)

> "Tonight, he will make the fateful walk to the loneliest spot in the world, the pitching mound at Yankee Stadium, to push the sun back into the sky and give us one more day of summer." - Vin Scully in For Love of the Game (1999)

> "I'm your new Catcher and you just got lesson number one: don't think, it can only hurt the ball club." - Kevin Costner (as Crash Davis) in Bull Durham (1988)

> "If you build it, he will come." - Ray Liotta (as Shoeless Joe Jackson) in Field of Dreams (1989)

> "You gotta stop thinking. Just have fun. I mean, if you were having fun you would've caught that ball." - Benny in The Sandlot (1993)

> "Do you know what we get to do today, Brooks? We get to play baseball." - Dennis Quaid (as Jim Morris) in The Rookie (2002)

> "This is how we do business in Cleveland." - Reed Diamond (as Mark Shapiro) in Moneyball (2011)

> "Pick me out a winner, Bobby." - Redford again in The Natural (1984)

> "From here on in, I rag nobody." - Michael Moriarty in Bang the Drum Slowly (1973)

> "Juuuuussssst a bit outside." - Bob Uecker in Major League (1989)

If the Old Duck wasn't such a "Lollygagger", another entire column could be filled with more great lines from Major League, Bull Durham, A League of Their Own and a few others. And let's not forget the soliloquies offered up by Burt Lancaster (as Moonlight Graham) and James Earl Jones (as Terrance Mann) in Field of Dreams.

Hope your favorite was mentioned. If you think coming up with a new topic each week to keep you entertained is easy, remember the words of Jimmy Dugan, "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard...is what makes it great."

 

 
The View From The Cellar PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 01 May 2015 00:00

For fantasy baseball players who are lucky enough to participate in keeper leagues, the worst nightmare is to have five months of planning blow up in your face in April. Of course, if you're a long-time owner who plays in a handful of leagues, there's usually some success to help you sleep through the night, but what if you looked at the standings for your three auction-style leagues on April 22nd and found all of your teams in last place?

Of course, expectation might temper your depression but what if you've been very successful in all of these leagues for many years? You might wonder about the challenge of actually trying to have three last place teams 2+ weeks into the season and realize that nobody could really be that horrible of a player. In other words, your best efforts have created an almost impossible outcome. When you wake up at 3:00 AM in a cold sweat, you might wonder if those grey cells have finally aged to the point of incompetence and you'll certainly be able to visualize your 35 opponents laughing with glee at your dilemma.

So, as an exercise in fantasy reality (is that an oxymoron?), let's see how the Duck's teams achieved this dubious distinction and what the strategy should be going forward.

> Donald's Dux: 15-team, Mixed, 5x5 (w/OBP), 40-man rosters with 23 active each week, $260 budget for 23-player draft in November, maximum of 15 keepers including Farm players, Supplemental snake draft in March for 17 additional players, monthly in-season free agent additions, salaries of players drafted increase $5 each year, salaries of Farm players increase $3 each year (once activated), established 2003. In 12 seasons, the Dux have won four championships and finished 2nd the last two seasons.

Coming away from the November draft, the squad looked pretty strong with a powerful offense, six SP's and three closers. The first issue took place during the off-season when Max Scherzer's signing with the Nats shoved Tanner Roark out of the rotation and into long relief. At the supplemental draft on March 31st, we added Brett Anderson to fill in for Roark, but didn't see any other SP's that were worthy of a pick. That lack of depth came back to bite us within days when Ervin Santana got his 80-game suspension. Kyle Lohse got obliterated on opening day and then Mike Redmond decided Steve Cishek should "get some work" in a blow-out game to the tune of 4 earned runs in 1/3 of an inning. Anderson hasn't done the job, Roark doesn't have a role and two of the closers only have one save each. The result (as of 4/25) is last place in Wins, 14th place in K's and 12th place in ERA.

On the offense side, Carlos Gomez is on the DL, Devin Mesoraco should be on the DL, Michael Brantley and Yasiel Puig have been hurt and Ben Revere might as well be Paul Revere. The result is last place in Runs and 13th place in SB's.

Can the Dux overcome this disaster? One industry projection has the team finishing in the middle of the pack, showing an inability to recover in Runs, Wins and K's. Another projection is much more optimistic with the Dux actually having the best stats for the remainder of the campaign. One thing for sure is that once the hitters all get healthy, adding some starting pitching will be a priority.

> Fusco Brothers: 12-team, AL-only, 4x4, 23-man rosters (14 hitters, 9 pitchers), $260 budget, maximum of 15 keepers and 3 Farm players, established 1987. The Brothers have captured 12 championships.

This team had a much different circumstance, as the small (and relatively weak) keeper list had us thinking about 2016 early on in the planning. Only one of our eight keepers had an expiring contract and we concentrated on drafting players who would be with their current team through at least next year. Injuries have already plagued this squad as Derek Holland and Ben Zobrist have hit the DL while Carlos Sanchez has been sent to Triple-A. Slow starts from Victor Martinez, Lonnie Chisenhall, Jose Ramirez, Matt Shoemaker and Phil Hughes haven't helped and the results show the Bro's being last in HR's, last in WHIP and 11th in ERA.

Is there hope for 2015? Probably not, as the two industry projections have the team finishing 11th and 10th. Of course, the team was in last place at this time in 2014 and finished in a tie for 4th. And, we're adding pieces for the future. Our last place spot in the standings allowed us to replace Holland with Danny Salazar and our 1st round Farm pick Carlos Rodon has already joined the White Sox. Also, spending that extra dollar on Andrew Miller at the table seems to have been a good idea. At this point, it's all about the future.

> Donald's Ducks: 12-team, NL-only, 4x4, 25-man rosters (15 hitters, 10 pitchers), $280 budget, maximum of 15 keepers and 3 Farm players, established 1984. The Ducks have captured 15 titles over the years.

Another league where facing reality was very difficult, but looking at the 12 keeper lists, this squad was dead last in dollar value vs. salary and had already lost Zack Wheeler to the Tommy John epidemic. So, as with the AL, the priority was keeping and drafting players who would have a secure spot in 2016. The problems started before opening day when the Diamondbacks decided to trade Trevor Cahill and move Archie Bradley into the rotation. That was good for the Ducks, as Bradley was on our Farm, but bad for the draft because he would be our 9th pitcher and leave no flexibility at the table for end-game pitching success. So, the answer was to trade our only pitcher with an expiring contract (Michael Wacha) for a multi-positional player we could keep for two years (Arismendy Alcantara). I don't have to tell you that Wacha is 3-0 and Alcantara is in Iowa after going 2-for-April. Then there's Jonathan Lucroy, who hit .156 before going on the DL with a broken toe. And then there's Ben Revere...again! Wily Peralta, Kyle Hendricks and Jason Hammel all have ERA's over 5.00. The result is a team last in HR's and next-to-last in AVG.

Is there any hope? The great thing about this league is the parity due to the expertise of the players. In 2014, only one team had more than 61.5 points, so it seems like there is some room to compete even when re-building. Even the projections can't figure it out as one has the Ducks finishing 10th while the other claims 4th place is the spot. There is optimism on multiple fronts because Jayson Werth and Kris Bryant will probably each hit a home run before the season is over, Ken Giles could end up as the Phillies closer and Rafael Montero might be in the Mets rotation at some point.

In the meantime, the Old Duck will continue to hang out in the cellar. There just might be some wine down here.

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 April 2015 23:24
 
The Heritage of Topps PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 24 April 2015 00:00

Everyone you know probably considers themselves an expert at something, but Fantasy Baseball players are at the top of the food chain. Even though we play the game for money and bragging rights, the real truth is that we actually think we're smarter than MLB GM's and managers. After all, would you call up a $68.5 Million prospect to be a fifth outfielder and pinch-hitter? Or would you hesitate to make a trade because you believe that Gregor Blanco is an everyday player? Or would you take on $6 Million in salary to put Trevor Cahill in your rotation? Or would you pay a pitcher $10 Million to pitch for another team? Or, even in today's inflated salary environment, do you think Rick Porcello is a $22 Million pitcher? Or did you really think Joe Nathan and Brett Cecil would be closing by the All-Star break? The Old Duck participates in a 15-team Fantasy Baseball "experts" league where it is abundantly clear that each owner considers himself to be smarter than the other 14, but none of them would make those moves. It isn't arrogance, only knowledge gained from experience.

Avid baseball card collectors are no different in their approach to the hobby. After watching card manufacturers flail away at each other in the 80's and overproduce products in the 90's to the detriment of the industry, it's easy to criticize almost any product offering. Card enthusiasts are quick to complain about too few autograph cards but also aren't happy when the autographs are on stickers applied to the cards because they want the authenticity of "on-card" signatures. They also don't like redemption cards (when players have not yet had the opportunity to sign), but also whine when the better players aren't included in a product. It is the nature of the consumer to always want more for less and consider themselves smarter than the folks in charge.

In an attempt to remove myself from this category (even temporarily), I'm willing to admit that the people at The Topps Company are brilliant!

In 2001, Topps was celebrating the 50th anniversary of their entry into the baseball card business. They utilized the framework of their historical 1952 set to develop a new product. Topps Heritage came into the marketplace with current players pictured on cards that had the format of the iconic 1952 set. The detail of the set and the photography took collectors back to the time when packs were a nickel and included a stick of gum. The set was designed for card enthusiasts to build it completely by opening packs and sorting through the cards. It even had some of the quirks of the original, like short-printed cards, checklist cards and even bubble gum...even though the gum was enclosed in a plastic wrapper. To all of this, Topps also added some autograph and relic cards to make the set even more attractive. The real draw, however, was the 1952 look and the opportunity for kids of the 50's to build a new set of cards for the 2000's.

Topps Heritage has been a consistent top-selling product at a mid-range price (around $3 a pack) for over a decade. Each year, the cards mirror the old design of the appropriate Topps set with new players and this year's release (which just hit stores last month) uses the 1966 card as its platform. If you collected cards in the 50's and 60's, this is the product for you.

For 2015, Topps added a few more twists with short printed cards that have variations of throwback uniforms or an action image. They even tugged at old-timers' heartstrings by randomly adding a section of white on some of the card backs, emulating how they would have looked had a dusty piece of gum been sitting against the card...very cool!

The Old Duck purchases a few boxes each year and builds the set from scratch. Of course, some of the insert cards are in the packs and this time, game-used memorabilia cards of young stars Mike Trout and Bryce Harper both appeared. The coolest card, however, was a beautiful '66 replica card with an autograph from Marty Keough. You see, Keough was a Red Sox Outfielder in the late 1950's while I was learning about baseball at Fenway Park. Marty played 11 years in the big leagues and his brother Joe played for the Royals in the late 60's and early 70's. Adding to the family tradition, Marty's son Matt was a starting pitcher for the Athletics from the late 70's into the mid-80's. The best part of the story is that Marty is still in the game and last season at Chase Field, Hall of Fame baseball executive Roland Hemond was nice enough to introduce me to Marty, who was sitting in the scouts section behind home plate. Roland told Marty that I had seen him play at Fenway Park in the 1950's, at which point the 80-year-old Marty looked me up and down and said, "That's strange, you don't look familiar."

In honor of this year's release, let's look back at that beautiful 1966 set of 598 cards, which includes over 25 Hall of Famers. The card values are based on "Near Mint" (NM 7) condition.

> #1 Willie Mays, $265 - The "Say Hey Kid" was coming off a MVP season where he established a career high with 52 homers.

> #50 Mickey Mantle, $325 - "The Mick" had just started his career decline by hitting only .255 in an injury-plagued season in '65. He played three more years and never again hit .300 or slugged 25 home runs.

> #100 Sandy Koufax, $110 - '66 was the last season for this Hall of Famer at age 30. Talk about going out on top, how about a record of 27-9 with a 1.73 ERA and the Cy Young Award?

> #126 Jim Palmer, $95 - The rookie card of the Orioles ace.

> #254 Fergie Jenkins, $70 - One of three Hall of Fame pitchers to have their rookie card in this set.

> #288 Don Sutton, $65 - The third of the rookie hurlers to make it to Cooperstown, this was season 1 of 23 in the Majors.

> #300 Roberto Clemente, $125 - In his prime at this point, he won the '66 MVP with a .317 AVG, 29 home runs, 119 RBI and a Gold Glove.

> #500 Hank Aaron, $160 - "Hammerin' Hank" was very much taken for granted while he played. Think about this - during a pitchers era in '66, he led the NL with 44 homers and 127 RBI but finished 8th in the MVP voting.

As with many Topps sets of the time, the high number run (#'s 523-598) was very scarce and has inflated the value of numerous cards for collectors. Some examples of expensive non-star players include...

> #540 Denny McLain, $65 - Two years before his 31-win season.

> #547 Horace Clark, $90 - The rookie card of the Yankees second baseman. His lifetime batting average was .256.

> #555 Ron Perranoski, $80 - Had six wins and six saves in '66.

> #591 Grant Jackson and Bart Shirley, $225 - This two-player rookie card is very difficult to find in nice condition.

There were many other memorable cards in this iconic set, including Bobby Murcer's rookie card and a Bob Uecker card long before he was Harry Doyle. In addition, there were team cards of each major league squad except for the Astros, who were going through a legal battle after changing their name from the Colt 45's. The complete 598-card set is valued at about $9,000 and if there's one in your garage, please let me know.

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 April 2015 23:02
 
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