Two days ago, I looked at some of the stars from today’s game and saw who their counterparts were. Today, I’ll go at it from the other side – who were the best players in the mid 1960′s and who did Topps match them up with. There were a lot of great players back then, some of whom I’ve already featured. But 4 guys stick out in my mind above the rest. 3 of them are outfielders on anybody’s top-10 list when you put together the greats of the game. The other is Sandy Koufax, who didn’t do it for a very long time, but in 1963/64 was in the midst of a 5-year stretch of pitching that the game had not really seen before, and certainly hasn’t seen since.
Card #200 – Sandy Koufax / Clayton Kershaw
For the second year in a row, Topps matched these two hurlers up. They are definitely getting it right by doing this. Kershaw is off to another great start in 2012, though tough luck has him sitting at 2-2 despite his 1.88 ERA. He won the 2011 Cy Young after going 21-5, and finished 2nd last year to R.A. Dickey. Both years he led the league in ERA.
Trivia question: Who set a record in 2012 for the most franchises played for?
Trivia answer: Octavio Dotel; Detroit was his 13th.
And in 1964, Koufax was coming off his 3rd straight year leading the league in ERA. He would go on to lead the circuit for 2 more years before he hung up his spikes after the 1966 season, which may have been his best.
Trivia question: Who holds the lifetime mark for times at bat?
Trivia answer: Ty Cobb – 11,249. That’s what the card says, but that’s a typo – the recognized number of at bats for Cobb is 11,429. And Baseball Reference actually credits him with 11,434. Regardless, it’s amazing that at one point in the game’s history, the man with the most at bats was also the man with the highest batting average. Hank Aaron would go on to pass Cobb for total at bats, and then Pete Rose would go on to pass Aaron with over 14,000 at bats in MLB.
After two pretty nice cards in 2012/1963, neither of these are Topps’ best effort for Kershaw or Koufax. I’m going with a push. I don’t really like either all that much, so I’ll give a push.
2013 Heritage leads, 26-24
Card #300 – Hank Aaron / Jason Heyward
This seems to be a tandem Topps goes with quite frequently. Now that the Upton brothers are also patrolling the outfield with Heyward for the Braves, they have some options other than Jay Hey, but this is still a good comparison.
Heyward’s card has a trivia question I’ve already featured.
Aaron always has some pretty nice cards from this time frame. Even for one of those close-ups, this is a good shot and I like the M on his cap – it’s cool seeing the Milwaukee Braves logo.
Trivia question: Who was the 1963 White Sox home run champion?
Trivia answer: Pete Ward and Dave Nicholson both had 22.
I like both of these cards. Aaron always seems to be photogenic, and the old Braves uniforms are pretty nice. But Heyward has a good card here – Topps seems to have caught him in a legit baseball moment, unlike the Aaron card; Heyward is looking down, checking on his bat before he steps into the batter’s box. I’ll give this one a push.
2013 Heritage leads, 26.5-24.5
Card #150 – Melky Cabrera / Willie Mays
Oh, Topps. Even if Melky had re-signed with the Giants, this wouldn’t have been a good comparison.
Trivia question: What’s the team record for losses in a season?
Trivia answer: 134 by the 1899 Cleveland Spiders. There’s some background to this. In 1899, the Robison brothers, who owned the Cleveland franchise, bought the St. Louis Browns (now Cardinals) and moved all their good players (including Cy Young) to their St. Louis franchise. The Spiders were so bad that teams stopped traveling to Cleveland to play – saying their share of the meager ticket revenue didn’t cover costs to make the trip. So the Spiders were a) bad, and b) didn’t have a home park. This led to a 20-134 record. Ownership in multiple teams has long since been outlawed.
Mays doesn’t have a trivia question since his full statline is pretty long by this point.
Mays over the cheater who probably should have been the batting champion if you really follow the rules last year (but I’m glad they didn’t).
2013 Heritage leads, 26.5-25.5
Card #50 – Curtis Granderson / Mickey Mantle
No trivia questions for me to pass along here. Mantle is, like Mays, far enough along in his career that his statline doesn’t allow the space. And Granderson has a trivia question I’ve already featured.
I like the symmetry here. The switch hitting Mantle is shown during batting practice, with Yankee Stadium in the background, posing as a righty. Grandy man is shown posing, too, as a lefty (he bats left but throws right). I’m not sure what that background is; I’ve noticed similar backgrounds for other Yankees in the Heritage set, so I think it may be something from their Spring Training facility.
Normally it would be really difficult to beat out a Mantle card. Mantle Topps cards are iconic. And this Granderson card is pretty nice, particularly since it’s got the symmetry of the comparison (the right photo, the right position, right team). But I’m not putting a Granderson card ahead of Mantle. Mantle and Mays have brought 1964 Topps back into a tie, after being 7 points down a little while ago.