The other players in the subset were Pumpsie Green, Jim Baxes, Joe Koppe, Bob Allison, Ron Fairly, Willie Tasby, Johnny Romano, Jim Perry and Jim O’Toole.
The oval on the right of these cards said these “Topps All-Star Rookies” had been “Selected by the Youth of America.”
Indeed, according to information found in a 1960 issue of The Sporting News, 30 million “Elect Your Favorite Rookie” ballots had been distributed to “youth organizations” and as ride-alongs in wax packs of 1959 baseball cards. At least three of the youth groups were named in the article: Boy’s Clubs, Boy Scouts of America and YMCA. There was no indication of how many ballots those groups had received, or how many were in gum packs.
If we knew that ratio, we’d know how many wax packs were sold in 1959 and would be well on the way to coming up with at least a wild guess as to how many cards were issued.
The Sporting News article revealed that the “Youth of America” had been aided in the selection process by an “Honorary Rookie All-Star Team Election Committee.” Looking over that list, it is evident the committee was selected with an eye toward maximizing the publicity for Topps.
In alphabetical order, the committee comprised:
- Tim Cohane, sports editor, Look magazine
- Dan Ferris, honorary secretary, National Amateur Athletic Union
- Ed Fitzgerald, editor-in-chief, Sport magazine
- Frank Frisch, Hall of Famer
- Tom S. Gallery, director of sports, NBC
- Dave Grote, public relations director, National League
- Sid James, managing editor, Sports Illustrated
- Carl Lundquist, public relations director, Natl Assn. of Professional Baseball Leagues
- Bill MacPhail, director of sports, CBS
- Joe McKenney, public relations director, American League
- Jackie Robinson, vice-president, Chock Full O’Nuts
- Marshall Smith, sports editor, Life magazine
-l J.G. Taylor Spink, publisher, The Sporting News.
The announcement of the rookie team had been made at a postseason banquet in New York City on Oct. 29, 1959, when the honored players each received a trophy and a check for $125.
Topps evidently believed the exercise was worthwhile, as it was repeated with paper ballots in packs of 1960 cards, and a new Rookie All-Star team that appeared on 1961 cards. Rather than a special design for those players, their cards – with the curious exception of Frank Howard – have the Topps “top hat” trophy on them.
So, what became of those 30 million ballots distributed in 1959? They are extremely rare today. Even most of the die-hard collectors of 1959 Topps cards don’t have an example in their collections.
To be honest, I don’t remember ever seeing the paper ballots in the many, many packs of 1959 Topps cards I opened. I probably threw them in the gutter along with those worthless wrappers and most of the bubble gum.
I have a feeling the $30 price quoted for a Near Mint example in the 2011 Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards represents less than 10 percent of what one of these inserts would command if offered today.
UPDATE: Coincidentally, an example of the Topps Rookie All-Star Team paper ballot appeared in an eBay auction closing Sept. 1.