Topps 1962 Baseball Card Set - A Time to Dream
February 15, 2011
by William Szczepanek
We were a young country with young ideas, like going to the moon. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream he would tell us about soon. We had a young President Kennedy with a beautiful first lady, Jackie, and no one in the world was going to stop us from doing what we needed to do to make the world better and safer for humanity. No one but ourselves.
The Topps Baseball Card Set from 1962 was unique for the time with its wood grain borders, but was not representative of the time. Wood grain was old-looking. That year the cards looked like something from the past. We were a country hurdling into the future. At the time it was the largest set of baseball cards ever produced, 598 cards, due to the second year of league expansion adding the New York Mets and Houston Colt 45s, later to be known as the Astros.
Many found the wood grain border to be attractive. They would affectionately be called the "Woodies". I never liked the design because the cards looked too much the same. The picture curling up on the bottom right corner to create space for the player name and information makes it look as if not enough glue was put on the picture. It was also reminiscent of the 1955 Bowman wooden television sets. Enough pickiness. The cards are still considered a classic and are favorites of many. The packs included “baseball stamp” inserts. Baseball Bucks were also produced by Topps that year, but were not an insert.
The set was issued in seven series during that year. Series One - cards 1 - 109, Series Two - cards 110-196, Series Three - cards 197-283, Series Four - cards 284-370, Series Five - cards 371-446, Series Six - cards 447-522, and Series Seven - cards 523-598.
The second series (110-196) has many variations and duplicate printings. On one printing run the set had a "green tint". It is assumed that the second series was reprinted to correct this problem. There were so many variations in this set it is hard to know what comprises a true 598 complete set. The key rookies included Lou Brock, Al Downing, Jim Fregosi, Ken Hubbs, Tim McCarver, Gaylord Perry, John "Boog" Powell, Tom Tresh, and 1961 All Star Rookies Joe Torre and Floyd Robinson.
The 1962 set included a ten-card tribute to Babe Ruth, after Roger Maris broke his single season home run record in 1961. Other special cards include #18 Managers Dream card of Mantle and Mays, #313 "Maris Blast's 61st", #318 "The Switch Hitter Connects", showing Mickey Mantle hitting a home run, #51 AL batting leaders, #52 NL batting leaders, card #53 of the AL Home Run leaders featuring Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Harmon Killebrew and Jim Gentile and a slew of other statistical leaders with just face shots and no necks.
The Space Age was upon us and dreams were portrayed in a new cartoon series, The Jetsons. The Jetsons lived in the year 2062, a time of elaborate robots, aliens and futuristic inventions that all young people felt were just around the corner, like robot Rosie who handled all the chores. This future seemed lot closer to us in 1962 than it does now.
Ask any kid in 1962 what the future would be like and they could expound on all kinds of new devices and make predictions of utopian lifestyles to come. Ask many kids today what the future will be like and you get a lot of blank stares, almost like asking why you would ask such a stupid question. Maybe kids today are just more grounded in reality and more sophisticated. If that's the case, then it is a shame.
1962 in Baseball
In the World Series the New York Yankees defeated the San Francisco Giants 4 games to 3 with Ralph Terry the MVP. In game seven the Yankees score the game’s only run beating the San Francisco Giants for their 20th championship in team history.
For the last time two All Star games were again on the agenda. On July 10th at D.C. Stadium the National League took the first game 3-1 with Maury Wills the MVP. On July 30 at Wrigley Field the American League won 9-4 with Leon Wagner MVP. Maury Wills was under contract with Fleer and had a card for 1963. He didn't get a Topps card until 1967.
The Most Valuable Player awards went to
Mantle of the New York Yankees, OF (AL) and
of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who had 104 stolen bases for the
year. This was amazing at the time, since Willie Mays
had the most stolen bases, 179, for the entire decade of the
The New York Mets lost their first game as a new team to the Cardinals 11-4. They would win only 40 games the entire season. The Mets tied a NL mark by losing their first 9 games of the season.
On the other side of the coin the Pirates tied a record by winning 10 straight to begin the season. Imagine after their first 9 games of the season the Mets were 9.5 games out of first place.
For the first major league game in Houston, the Colt .45s beat Chicago Cubs, 11-2.
On April 13th Stan Musial scores his 1,869th run, a new NL record at the time.
On April 24th Sandy Koufax pitches his second 18 strikeout game.
On April 30th Willie Mays hits 4 home runs.
On May 22nd Roger Maris walked 5 times (4 intentionally ) in a 9 inning game.
On June 30 Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers no-hits the New York Mets 5-0. He began the game by striking out the first three batters on nine pitches.
On July 6, Mickey Mantle hits his 4th consecutive home run.
On July 18 The Minnesota Twins becomes the first major league club to hit two grand slams in one inning. Bob Allison and Harmon Killebrew accomplish the feat in an 11-run first inning against the Cleveland Indians.
On July 22nd Floyd Robinson gets 6 singles in 6 at bats.
On September 12th Tom Cheney of the Washington Senators strikes out 21 batters in a 16 inning game. Tom Cheney was not under contract with Topps, so we show his 1963 Fleer card.
On October 4 Whitey Ford's World Series scoreless inning streak ends at 33 2/3.
In 1962 ground was broken for the Houston Astrodome, the first domed stadium. The intention was to have real grass in the infield, but it would not grow. They later installed Astroturf. Leo Durocher would call it a multi-million dollar stadium with a 10 cent infield.
1962 in the World
U.S. national debt rose above $300,000,000,000 as the Senate rejected Medicare for aged. The U.S. performed nuclear tests at Nevada test sites throughout the year, while the Soviet Union did the same in their country. Both countries had enough nuclear power to annihilate each other many times over.
On February 20th, with everyone in the country watching on television, including kids in classrooms, John Glenn in his rocket, Friendship 7, rose off the launch pad and orbited the earth, the first American to do so. And, at that moment the people in the United States would overcome their fear of the Soviets and would begin to challenge the world.
As President Kennedy bans all trade with Cuba, the Soviet Union begins trading with Cuba and arms start to flow to the island. The Cuban Missile Crisis begins. A U-2 flight over Cuba takes photos of Soviet nuclear weapons being installed on the ground, just 90 miles off the Florida coast.
The threat of nuclear war was never stronger and would never be stronger than at this time. On October 22, in a televised address, President Kennedy informs the nation of the existence of Soviet missiles in Cuba. A few days later the U.S. Navy confronts a Soviet cargo vessel. The vessel changes course. Missiles are removed from Cuba and the world breathes again.
Richard M. Nixon loses the California governor's race. In his concession speech, he states that this is his last press conference and that "...you won't have Dick Nixon to kick around any more".
The first black student, James Meredith, registered at the University of Mississippi, escorted by Federal Marshals.
Entertainment in 1962
In May of 1962 Marilyn Monroe sang Happy Birthday to John F. Kennedy at his celebration. A few months later at the age of 36, the person everyone still thinks of today as just "Marilyn" was dead. A plot by the mafia, the government, a suicide or a drug overdose ─ the cause is still unknown.
Walter Cronkite, the most trusted man in America begins anchoring CBS Evening News. "And that's the way it is." And that's the way it was.
"There is no such thing as a little freedom. Either you are all free, or you are not free." ─ Walter Cronkite
The first published appearance of the superhero character of Spider-Man occurs in Marvel Comics.
Top songs of 1962
I Can't Stop Loving You
We extended the hits list to 12 for this year just to include an old favorite of mine. I hate to admit it, but I would make excuses to not play baseball with friends so I could watch Shelley Fabares on the Donna Reed Show. Some things are more important than baseball.
Top Movies of 1962
Lawrence of Arabia
Top TV Shows of 1962
To Dream is to See the Future
Yes, people in 1962 could dream. While not everything that was dreamt was accomplished, dreaming was popular. Can we dream today of a time that will be better? It seems harder to do today than it was back then. Can we dream of a time when cars will fly in precise multi-lane highways above the ground? Can we dream of a time when skin color will have no more significance than hair color? Can we dream of a time when people will want to give more than they want to get? Can we dream of a time when health is something that is replenished rather than lost? Can we dream of a time when baseball cards are collected by kids just for the fun of it. Can we dream of a time when dreaming will again be popular? Can we dream of a time when the American Dream will be restored?
I have a dream... and I'm not just dreaming.