Monday, October 12, 2015

1961 Topps MVP Don Newcombe


Late in September Night Owl featured Don Newcombe in his 1956 Topps Card of the Month feature. It's a sweet card and it reminded me that Newk was included in the Topps MVP subset from 1961. It's a group of cards that I've been (very) casually collecting for what seems like decades.

I went out and found this copy on eBay and am very happy to add it to my collection. Don Newcombe is a often overlooked figure in the history of baseball in general and the Dodgers in particular. Night Owl outlined much of the story in his post.

I commented over there that Newk never got much consideration for the Hall of Fame and that's understandable I suppose. He got a late start in the majors due to a couple of factors. He came of age in a time when he wasn't going to be signed by a major league team. He spent a few seasons pitching in the Negro Leagues before Jackie Robinson broke through those barriers. And once signed by the Dodgers he had to climb up that incredibly deep farm system put together by Branch Rickey. In the end his numbers don't hold up to those pitchers enshrined in the Hall but his reach was much greater than just baseball stats. A recovered alcoholic Newk devoted much of his post-career time to assisting others to reach sobriety.

My father, a pinstripe-bleeding Yankee fan, had good things to say about Newcombe. And that was high praise considering that my old man lived just blocks from Ebbets Field and yet held the Bums in such low esteem that he never even walked the few blocks to see a game there until the Yanks played a World Series game in Brooklyn.

As for me I never saw Newk pitch but I do remember him being acknowledged one Sunday evening after his retirement as he sat in the audience at the Ed Sullivan show.

A few final random Newcombe thoughts:
  • I couldn't find a Newcombe bio in a quick Amazon search. With as many baseball books as are published each year I'd have thought he would be the subject of one.
  • He hit .271 as a major leaguer with 15 homers and over 100 RBI. The Astros have a first baseman who hits under .200. I'm just saying.
  • He finished his career with a season in Japan as a first baseman/outfielder and hit 12 dingers and batted .262. Those numbers, at the age of 36, placed him 11th and 12th on the league leader boards in those categories. 
  • Someone was kind enough to add the year of this card to the back. It doesn't bother me one bit. It shows that once upon a time someone cared.


Here is a checklist of the 1961 MVP subset. The ones I own are in red italics and I'm looking for the rest.
  • 471 Phil Rizzuto - New York Yankees MVP
  • 472 Yogi Berra - New York Yankees MVP
  • 473 Bobby Shantz -Philadelphia Athletics  MVP
  • 474 Al Rosen - Cleveland Indians MVP
  • 475 Mickey Mantle - New York Yankees MVP (added Oct 19)
  • 476 Jackie Jensen - Boston Red Sox MVP
  • 477 Nellie Fox - Chicago White Sox MVP
  • 478 Roger Maris - New York Yankees MVP
  • 479 Jim Konstanty - Philadelphia Phillies MVP
  • 480 Roy Campanella - Brooklyn Dodgers MVP
  • 481 Hank Sauer - Chicago Cubs MVP
  • 482 Willie Mays - New York Giants MVP
  • 483 Don Newcombe - Brooklyn Dodgers MVP
  • 484 Hank Aaron - Milwaukee Braves MVP
  • 485 Ernie Banks - Chicago Cubs MVP
  • 486 Dick Groat - Pittsburgh Pirates MVP