Topps 1960 Baseball Card Set - Baseball Cards in Camelot
September 8, 2010
The Topps Baseball Card Set from 1960 was a pleasant surprise. A split screen effect on a horizontal layout with a color head shot or top-half body pose on the right and a smaller, black and white action photo on the left. Some might say that the card set was somewhat reminiscent of the 1957 Topps Football set, but I think it was different enough to make it unique card design that was a favorite of many. Using different colors for the player's names seemed to make the cards more garish than I would have liked, making them more like neon road signs designed to grab your attention. This would be the last year for the horizontal design as Topps would move to the vertical format for the vast majority in cards of the future.
So, the sixties started mildly. Fifty years ago it was. Doesn't seem that long ago. No one could predict at the time what the sixties would be like, but the world was changing rapidly and the youngsters who were collecting baseball cards in 1960 would soon have a dramatic effect on the country and the world.
This set from 1960 is a great set not so much for how it looked, but more for what it contained. The set included manager cards (212-227). It had a Sports Magazine Rookie Prospect Series (117-148) including a player with an unpronounceable name (Yastrzem-something) which many kids threw away, along with the Topps All Rookie team series (316-325). It also contained cards to commemorate the 1959 World Series between the White Sox and Dodgers (385-391).
It had a set of cards with coaches (455-470) for many of the teams. The coach card designs made me want to cut the cards along the white lines and put the coaches on the field during my games, but something told me that it wasn't right to cut a baseball card into pieces. There were also a number of combo cards with multiple players. One of the more relevant error cards is #346 of J.C. Martin which shows a picture of his White Sox teammate Gary Peters, and card #407 of Gary Peters shows a picture of J.C. Martin.
The set also included All Star cards at the end (553-572) and while the Maris and Mantle duo would electrify the baseball world the next year, ironically there were no All Star cards for any Pittsburgh Pirates who were the World Champs in 1960. The 1960 All Star games, of which there were again two, had a number of Pirate players in the lineup. Pitchers in the game included Vern Law, Roy Face and the winner, Bob Friend. The lineup included Roberto Clemente, Smoky Burgess, Dick Groat, Bob Skinner and Bill Mazeroski.
The National League won both All Star games, 5-3 and 6-0 as the National League pitching staffs began to dominate during the sixties. Sandy Koufax won 8 and lost 13 in 1960 even though he led the league in strikeouts per game with more than 10. He never had another bad year again.
1960 was the initial year a player's name appeared on the back of a uniform to help fans identify the players. This took away the fun of finding players on the scorecard. "You can't tell the players without a scorecard." Credit or blame for the idea goes to Bill Veeck of the White Sox. In the same year, he also installed an exploding scoreboard in centerfield at Comiskey Park.
Ted Williams finished his baseball career without a card for himself from Topps. The previous year he made a deal with Fleer and had a set of 80 dedicated to him. Ted Williams closed his illustrious career by hitting a home run in his final at bat. He closed with a lifetime batting average of .344 in seventh place all time and less than a hundredth of a point behind Tris Speaker. His career slugging percentage of .634 is second to Babe Ruth. For a modern day comparison Albert Pujols currently sits in 4th place all time with a .628 average.
Roger Maris of the Yankees is the AL MVP with 39 home runs and
112 RBIs and league leading slugging percentage of .581 and
batting average of .283, giving a sample of what was to come in
1961. By the way he also won his only Gold Glove in 1960. Dick Groat of the Pirates won the NL MVP.
For the first time in major league history both batting leaders hit under .330. Batting averages would plummet in the 1960s. Pete Runnels won the AL Batting Championship with a .320 average and Dick Groat won in the NL at .325. and as a prelude to the use of relief pitchers, Frank Lary of Detroit leads the league with 15 complete games, the lowest ever to that point. Lindy McDaniel led pitcher's in saves with 26. As a comparison, last year in 2009, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum led the league with 4 complete games each. Brian Fuentes led in saved games with 48.
The Yankees were back in the World Series after a one year hiatus. The World Series would be climaxed by Bill Mazeroski's famous walk-off home run to win it for the Pirates in seven games over the Yankees. What is forgotten is Hal Smith's 3-run home run in the eighth to give the Pirates a 9-7 lead. They needed every run as the Yankees struck for two in the ninth.
The early sixties were still a lot like the fifties and the things that we associate with the decade of the sixties would evolve as change happened rapidly.
1960 was an election year and someone would need replace Dwight D. Eisenhower. Many looked to Richard Nixon with his eight years of experience as Vice President. And then there was the young, affluent John F. Kennedy, who with calm but forceful declarations during the first televised Presidential Debate in front of 70 million viewers, would win the hearts and minds of the American people by a very narrow margin and become the 35th President of the United States the next year and be the youngest President ever elected. The Broadway musical Camelot would open shortly after the election and be the theme for the new first family. The White House breathed a graceful sigh and Americans enjoyed the regal elegance of its young first family. From the final Camelot number:
"Don't let it be forgot
That moment was way too short. It was snuffed out and replaced by violence, killing and unrest. The youth of the time would try to counter with a more peaceful, but unpractical approach. But, that was later in the decade. 1960 was a time of peace, but worry over the advances of the Soviet Union had everyone on edge.
One of our U-2 spy planes flown by Francis Gary Powers was shot down over Soviet air space. The event killed the Paris Summit as Khrushchev pulled out. Later in the year, a Soviet Air Force MiG-15 fighter plane flying north of Murmansk, Russia, shot down a RB-47 Stratojet reconnaissance plane of the U.S. Four U.S. Air Force officers were killed, and the remaining two survivors were held prisoner. The United States had 900 military advisors in Viet Nam, but 3,500 American soldiers would soon be sent to help. More than 2 million would eventually visit the tropical location.
More than 90% of American homes had television sets, much like
now where 90% of the people have internet access. Television,
the vast wasteland as to be defined the following year by
N. Minow, would transform the country by providing essential and
important information in the best form, while dulling the senses
with game shows, mayhem, violence and unbelievable families. The
deterioration of the American Educational System is due in part
to the communication systems which have been developed, which
while able to provide vast amounts of useful and important
information also provide a distraction from pursuing that
information for its primary purpose, that of improving the
intellect of the user. It is ironic that first
Echo I, was launched in 1960.
In Greensboro, North Carolina, four black students perform a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter. They are refused service, but are allowed to stay at the counter. The event triggers many similar nonviolent protests throughout the United States in the South. Six months later the original four protesters are served lunch at the same counter. In another incident Robert F. Kennedy secures Martin Luther King's release from jail regarding a traffic violation.
President Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, signs the Civil Rights Act of 1960 into law. The law did not do what it originally intended because of a filibuster led by Lyndon Johnson, who, ironically, three years later would sign the comprehensive Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was introduced by John F. Kennedy.
The newly-named Beatles begin a stint at the "Indra Club" in Hamburg, West Germany. Elvis returns from Army to not only to sing songs, but do so on the big screen in a big way.
Movies of 1960
Doris Day pictures epitomized the 1960s. It was her most successful time. Her romantic comedies were fresh, clean and enjoyable as well as funny. Day was the top-ranking female box office star of that time. As American attitudes about sex changed, so did their taste in movies, and subsequently, her popularity began to wane in the late sixties. Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren continued to heat up the screens, but soon their iconic images would fade as well.
The Flintstones was television's first prime-time cartoon
series. It premiered in 1960.
The Howdy Doody Show runs out of peanuts and ends after 13
What if only one person in a family worked today? There would be a surplus of jobs. The economy would be moving forward, though it would not be as large as it is today. Education was just starting to become a priority in 1960. The kids of 1960 were just beginning to be educated for the economy of tomorrow. Education systems would continue to improve throughout the decade. Today, it seems that kids from other countries are being educated for the economy of tomorrow. If you put the pieces together you can see the long-term picture. Does it mean we go back to the sixties, with the turmoil and anguish? It probably wouldn't work today. But it is certain that the education of our youth needs to improve across the board. It is not just the responsibility of the government or the schools. It is the responsibility of parents and students to make the most of the educational opportunities provided and to search for knowledge themselves. The alternative is all too evident. The kids of the sixties knew that sometimes you needed to make things happen yourself.
Today baseball cards are collected by the twenty and thirty-somethings. We need to get them back in the hands of the kids, so they can learn what it takes to pull us out of this mess.