Spoiler Alert: It is not a card of a Hall of Famer.
Back in April I wrote a blog post about the Ugliest Topps Set Ever. I thought I would double down on crazy and write a post about the single Greatest Topps card of the 1960’s.
I actively started collecting and trading cards as a kid in 1961 and stopped after the 1969 baseball season. My cards from the 1960’s are long gone, so for this post I reacquainted myself with the cards from this era by thumbing through the book titled – Baseball Cards of the Sixties – The Complete Topps Cards, which contains pictures of all of the individual cards that were issued from 1960 to 1969.
Front Cover – Baseball Cards of the Sixties – The Complete Topps Cards
My criteria for choosing the greatest card of the 1960’s was not only the image of the player on the front of the card, but also the card design and all aspects of the back of the card – number, layout of statistics, cartoon, and the player write up. For each of the areas I gave a weighting and a grade so I could come up with an overall grade for the card.
With so many great cards of the hall of famers from that era is was difficult not to choose a card of Clemente, Mays, Aaron, Mantle, Koufax, substitute your own Hall of Famer who played during the 60’s.
Considering all the factors that I listed above my pick for the greatest Topps card of the 1960’s is the 1962 Roger Maris card.
1962 Topps Roger Maris Card – Front
In 1961 Maris smashed 61 home runs, eclipsing the record that Ruth set in 1927. For most of the season Maris and Mantle were neck and neck in the race to set a new high for most home runs in a single season. Maris was under tremendous pressure throughout the season. The press generated fake news stories about him. The fans booed him and cheered for Mantle to break the record. Rogers Hornsby said – “It would be a shame if Ruth’s record got broken by a .270 hitter.” The pressure took a toll on him. Clumps of his hair fell out. But he persevered and broke the record with a home run off of Tracy Stallard on October 1, 1961.
I was 8 years in 1961 and closely followed the M&M boys run at Ruth’s record. Every morning I turned to the sports section of the daily paper and scanned the write ups and box scores to see if Maris or Mantle hit a home run the previous day. Even my father, who only had a slight interest in baseball (he was into Y.A. Tittle and the New York Giants), got caught up in the chase. He took me to Fenway Park for my first major league game on September 24, 1961. Maris had 59 home runs at the time, and all of 30,802 fans in attendance were on the edge of their seats every time he came to bat hoping he would wrap one around the Pesky pole in right field, but it did not happen.
Setting the new home record in 1961 stands as the greatest baseball achievement of the 1960’s and Topps came out with an outstanding card of Roger Maris in 1962 to honor the accomplishment.
1962 Topps Roger Maris Card – Back
In the photo Roger has a wad of chewing tobacco in his cheek and is finishing a swing that shows off his muscular arms. The image conjures up cards of two other All Stars who played in the 1960’s – Ted Kluszewski and Nellie Fox.
This is the perfect photo to illustrate the term “baseball slugger”.
Grade A Weighting 35%
1957 Topps Card of Ted Kluszewski
1962 Topps Nellie Fox Card
Many collectors hate the wood grain border design that Topps used for these cards. I am neutral on the design. I don’t think it is the worst design used during the 60’s and I don’t consider it the best either.
Grade C Weighting 15%
Topps recognized Roger’s stellar 1961 season by designating it as the number 1 card in the 1962 set. It’s worth noting that the Maris card was the number 2 card in the 1961 set, as Topps gave the number 1 and number 2 cards to the MVPs in each league.
You can’t do better then being number 1.
Grade A Weighting 10%
1961 Topps cards of Dick Groat and Roger Maris
Layout of Statistics
Usually my preference is to see the complete minor and major league stats for a player on the back of a card, but in this case displaying only the 1961 season and lifetime stats works well since you can’t miss the 61 homers and 142 RBIs.
Grade A Weighting 10%
When I ripped open packs back in 1962 it was clear to me that the cartoons on the backs of the cards were done by one of artists that worked for that high-brow publication – Mad Magazine.
The cartoons for the 1962 set were done by Jack Davis, who I believe is the best cartoonist and illustrator of the 1960’s. His work went far beyond Topps cards, Mad Magazine, and comic books. His illustrations can be found on album covers, movie posters, and magazine covers.
As you would expect, the card features an illustration of Roger smacking a home run.
Grade A Weighting 15%
Player Write Up
There have been some excellent blog posts about baseball card prose recently that have been written by Kenneth Nichols. I am sure he will do a deep dive on prose of the 1962 set soon, so my analysis of Roger’s write up will be brief.
Since the 1962 cards only have two stat lines, there is ample room for information about the player.
Topps leads off by referring to Roger as – “The most talked about player of the decade,” – and it is only 1962! You have to love that intro.
Grade A Weighting 15%
Overall Grade for the 1962 Topps Roger Maris Card
|Card Elements||Grade||Weighting||Weighted Score|
|Player Image||A (5)||35%||1.75|
|Card Design||C (3)||15%||.45|
|Card Number||A (5)||10%||.50|
|Layout of Stats||A (5)||10%||.50|
|Player Write Up||A (5)||15%||.75|
Do you agree or disagree with me on the 1962 Roger Maris card being the greatest Topps card of the 1960’s? Let me know by way of a comment.