Don Drysdale gets some love from collectors

By Larry Canale

A baseball name that may be a tad underrated is Don Drysdale. The big right-hander was the No. 2 starter (or, some might say, co-No. 1) on the same staff that featured Sandy Koufax in the 1950s and ’60s.

As players, they were the ideal dynamic duo—unless you were playing against them.

Koufax was a lefty with a high leg kick, killer curve, and over-the-top heater. Drysdale was a flame-throwing speed-baller known for working inside on hitters, a tactic that became more intimidating with his sidearm fastball. In fact, Drysdale led the league in hit batsmen five times, including a high of 20 in 1961, and he retired with a record 154.

If you were a National League hitter, you simply didn’t dig in against Drysdale. The classic quote about him came from Orlando Cepeda: “The trick against Drysdale is to hit him before he hits you.”

Stats-wise, Koufax pitched nine years and had a 165-87 record with a 2.76 ERA, retiring at the young age of 30 because of arm issues. Drysdale pitched 14 years and had a 209-166 record with a 2.95 ERA, retiring at the young age of 32, also with arm troubles. Koufax will turn 83 at the end of 2018; Drysdale, sadly, died of a heart attack in 1993 at age 56.

In the collectibles hobby, Koufax outranks Drysdale. In recent years, we’ve reported on Koufax rookie cards (1955 Topps) that have sold for $65,100 and $45,100; both were graded PSA 8.5. In slightly lesser condition, a Koufax rook often goes for $20,000 to $30,000.

On the other hand, Drysdale’s rookie—a 1957 Topps—regularly goes for $900 to $1,250 if graded 8. However, in March, a PSA 9 specimen turned up at eBay and soared to $14,215 on 22 bids. Now that’s more fitting of a Hall of Fame hurler. It barely missed our Top 10 list.

Interestingly, two dual-signed Koufax and Drysdale baseballs turned up on eBay in recent weeks and they sold for surprisingly low prices. One brought $400 (Scoreboard authentication), the other $386 (JSA authentication).

A single-signed photo of either Koufax or Drysdale can be had these days for less than $100. It’s harder to find a nice print signed by both, but one example that sold at Heritage Auctions in 2017 got away for $195—not bad.

THIS YEAR’S MONSTER

Who’s the player most likely to have a monster season in 2018? How about Bryce Harper? At 25, he’s about to enter his prime, yet he already has seven seasons in the bigs under his belt. He’s coming off two somewhat forgettable seasons (he hit only .243 in 2016, and he played in only 111 games last year, though he rebounded to .319). Plus, he’s in a contract season. And right on cue, he started off the new season with four homers in the first week.

You’ll find a healthy variety of Harper items on eBay: There are more than 19,000 listings at this writing. We’re particularly drawn to his 2016 Topps Transcendent Collection autographed card—a classy-looking piece with gold borders, circular portrait photo, and a bold blue sig. Current “Buy-It-Now” offerings of the card are into four figures in terms of asking price, yet we spotted multiple examples with high grades that auctioned for prices between $275 and $350 in recent weeks.

AIR CARD

Michael Jordan’s rookie Fleer card, from the company’s classic 1986-87 hoop set, continues to soar just the way “Air Jordan” did on those memorable drives to the hoop. In March, as our Top 10 list shows, a Gem-Mint PSA 10 specimen of the card reached $41,400.

Even though there’s a relatively healthy supply of 10-grade Jordan rooks, this one touched off the type of bidding war usually reserved for rarities. It drew 88 bids, including several jumps of $1,000 or more—even after it surpassed $20,000. The winner dropped in the final bid just five seconds before the virtual auction door closed.

As Jordan’s Fleer rookie continues to age, it no doubt will continue to climb in value. Yet it pays to be patient, too: A week after this sale, another PSA 10 Fleer Jordan rookie sold for “only” $24,100.

SWEET SID

Here’s a name that appeals to the NFL historians among us: Sid Luckman. The longtime Chicago Bears QB (he played from 1939 through 1950) was small by today’s stands: He stood 6 feet tall and weighed less than 200 pounds. And his passing numbers pale in comparison to today’s gaudy figures: He had nearly as many interceptions (132) as touchdown passes (137), and he completed only 51.8 percent of his passes.

But the game was far different in the 1940s, and Luckman was as effective as any signal-caller of his time. In fact, in 1943, he set a new single-season record for TD passes (28, a figure long since broken) and tossed seven TD passes in one game (still a record). He also led the Bears to four championships: 1940, 1941, 1943 and 1946.

What’s often forgotten by now is that Luckman was a three-way player. Besides leading the offense, he also served as a defensive back (lifetime interceptions: 17, with two returned for TDs) and as the Bears’ punter for most of his career.

Why do we mention Luckman? Because a top-condition (PSA 8) example of his rookie card—a 1948 Leaf—sold not once, but twice in March. Yes, it was the exact same card, per its PSA registration number (15812336).

On March 22, PWCC Auctions got $26,766 on 17 bids for the card. Nine days later, the buyer, listed as Springer Mountain Sports Cards, was successful in flipping it for $33,000. Luckman’s rookie is a rarity in this condition. The twice-sold item here is one of just six Luckman rookies to grade out at 8 in PSA’s Population Report.

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