I just generally liked the comparisons for these cards.
Let’s jump right into it!
Card #356 – Adrian Beltre / John Schaive
Beltre is a very good player. In general, I think he’s a fairly underrated player. I was curious who he’d get matched up with, since he’s a very good player for a Texas team that didn’t exist in 1963.
Topps went with a good choice – the Washington Senators in the 1960’s eventually became those Texas Rangers. John Schaive, however, was not quite on par with Beltre. He was a lifetime .230 hitter over parts of 5 seasons, though he really only saw significant time in that 1962 season, when he played 82 games. This was Schaive’s 3rd and final Topps card.
Bob Johnson was the main 3rd baseman for the team in 1962, but he was card #504, and he was actually listed as an Oriole because he was traded to Baltimore in the offseason. Plus, he’s card #504 anyways – which is outside of the range for Heritage.
Not sure where the background of Beltre’s card is – it’s got that Opening Day type banner in the stands. Pretty cool, especially since a lot of the Heritage backgrounds look more like spring training backgrounds. I’m not sure what’s in the background for Schaive – it doesn’t look like RFK Stadium. Either way, this one’s a pretty easy call – I’m going with Beltre. This gives Heritage its biggest lead thus far.
2012 Heritage leads, 27.5-23.5
Card #248 – Kosuke Fukudome / Tito Francona
Kosuke Fukudome was another interesting card. Fukudome is a bit of a Japanese baseball legend – he was the youngest Olympic baseball player in history, playing with the Japan team that won a silver medal in Atlanta in 1996. After a decent career in Japan, which included a batting title, he came to the states a few years ago and started off well enough to make the 2008 All-Star team. Since then, he’s largely been a disappointment. He was with the Indians last year, hitting .249 in only 60 games. He signed with the White Sox this year.
I found this card interesting for a couple reasons. First, I like the pose. It’s always interesting to see an action shot in Heritage, and this one is done very well in my opinion. Enough so that I wish they went with this option a little bit more frequently. More importantly, the counterpart was the original “Tito”.
This is a pretty close one. As mentioned, I really like the action shot of Fukudome, even if he has been a disappointment in America. Both these cards prominently feature Chief Wahoo somewhere in the player’s gear – so that is cool (and probably politically incorrect or something for me to say that). But the Tito has a super chaw in there, which is probably even more politically incorrect. Baseball changed the rule for chewing tobacco in the most recent agreement – players are allowed to use it on the field, but not at promotional events. I think somehow that this will (or already has) seep into baseball cards. That makes me lean toward Tito.
What puts it over the top for me is the back of Tito’s card. It points out that he almost won the batting title in 1959, but he lacked sufficient at bats. He hit .363 that year in 443 plate appearances, going 145 for 399. To qualify, he’d have needed 477 PA’s (3.1 times 154 games). So he was 34 PA’s short. There is a rule that you still win the title if you can extrapolate every needed at bat as hitless and are still ahead of the next highest hitter (Tony Gwynn once won the award this way when he was 3 or 4 PA’s short). Adding 34 hitless at bats would have put Tito at .335, which would have been gravy for him except for one man. Harvey Kuenn, however, hit .353 and took home the title. Al Kaline was 3rd in the race, hitting .327 – so only Kuenn kept Francona from the title.
Any card that makes me figure something like that out is doing pretty well. Add the lost art of the chewing tobacco card, and I’m giving the win to Tito!
2012 Heritage leads, 27.5-24.5
Card #163 – Matt Cain / Don Larsen
It’s funny how Fantasy Baseball can skew everything you do. A couple of years ago I picked up Matt Cain in the draft, and I’ve been a fan of the guy ever since. I keep thinking he’s going to make that jump from a very good pitcher in Lincecum’s shadow to a Cy Young candidate. A little more run support from the Giants would help improve what is still a good W-L record. Either way, he’s one of my favorite non-Reds.
But his counterpart from 1963 is particularly interesting – it’s Don Larsen, with the San Francisco Giants. Larsen is best known for his 1956 perfect game, but what’s often forgotten is that he won 4 World Series games. In addition to that perfect game, he won a game in the 1957 and 1958 World Series. His game 3 win in 1958 was a combined shutout with the Bombers’ bullpen, and he was the starter in the game 7 win that year (though he went less than 5 innings and didn’t factor in the decision). But the 1962 Series was his last hurrah – he was a reliever for the Giants and he pitched well against his old team. He kept the Giants in games 1 and 3 despite coming into the game facing a deficit. He picked up the win in game 4 in relief.
Let’s see, Larsen has a) a much better photo, b) the back of the card points out his 1956 perfect game, and c) the back also points out that he won 4 World Series games. That overcomes my man-crush on Matt Cain pretty easily. I do give Heritage credit for picking a good comparison here, but Larsen’s card is better, period.
2012 Heritage leads, 27.5-25.5
Card #46 – Michael Bourn / Tommie Aaron
Trivia question: What brother combination has the most home runs in baseball history? Answer – the Aaron brothers. Tommie wasn’t nearly the success Hank was – but he did tack 13 home runs to the total to put the two of them ahead of the DiMaggio’s, the Murray’s, the Canseco’s and the Giambi’s. Over half of those homers (8) came in the 1962 season.
This is Tommie Aaron’s rookie card, and it’s a very colorful card at that. Nothing against Bourn’s card – it’s a decent card, for sure. But the younger Aaron takes the cake.
2012 Heritage leads, 27.5-26.5