Topps team card facts, Part III: Texas Ted, San Diego Sparky & more coaches

You are looking at the ONLY baseball card to show legendary Hall of Famer Ted Williams in a Texas Rangers uniform.

Also, you are looking at the ONLY baseball card to show hard-to-strike-out Hall of Famer Nellie Fox in a Texas Rangers uniform, to Teddy Ballgame’s right (looks like his usual wad of chew in his mouth).

This is one of the interesting fascinations I have with vintage team cards, with this blog entry being the third part of a little series I’ve written. I have concluded another round of research, and I’ve added more team cards to my Interest List based on the Hall of Fame cameos I’ve spotted.

This Rangers team card, from the 1973 Topps set, is particularly unique as it is the first Rangers team card published after the former second version of the Washington Senators moved to Texas after the 1971 season. This picture was taken during Spring Training of 1972. Williams had managed the Senators, and Fox was a coach for them, in the few years before.

In 1973, Topps published manager cards featuring coaches’ heads in smaller boxes. This was a first for Topps, who last featured coaches on cards in the 1960 set, albeit separately. You won’t find Williams on a manager card in the 1972 set: He wasn’t going to manage in 1973, or was Fox going to coach, so Texas’ new manager, future HOF’er Whitey Herzog, had the card.

If you’ve read this far and wondered why I didn’t mention those 1972 Topps cards of the Rangers, here’s the explanation: The players were pictured as Washington Senators players in Washington Senators garb, some airbrushed to remove mention of the Senators. The 1972 Ted Williams card has a slight airbrush on his cap, but otherwise it’s the familiar Senators II colors. While the 1972 can be considered a “Rangers card” since the words “Rangers” is on the card, the 1973 team card best shows proof of Williams, and Fox, as Texas Rangers.

As mentioned in previous entries, such team card goldmines like this actually do not increase the card’s value. However, they are still interesting discussion items.

Williams and Fox were better known as players, and that’s why they’re in the Hall of Fame. However, another team card from the 1970s has a Hall of Fame coach-turned-manager in an unfamiliar uniform: Sparky Anderson.

Like almost all expansion teams in their first year, the 1969 Padres stunk. It would be a long time before Sparky was on a team that bad. He was a coach for the expansion Padres in 1969 and was named the Reds’ manager for 1970 – and led the Big Red Machine of the 1970s. Anderson’s first manager card appears in the 1970 Topps set, shown in Padres garb but with the cap logo airbrushed and the word “Reds” on the top right corner.

If you want a card of Sparky in full Padres dress, you’ll want the 1970 Topps team card of the Padres. It’s in the last high-numbered series.

Starting with the 1970s, most coaches were more established former major league players, making the likelihood of having a former All-Star as a coach more common. I’ve singled out team cards that have Hall of Famers on them, as well as players that have been mentioned as possible future or should-be Hall of Famers.

One more card to look at closely: The 1963 Topps team card of the Mets … LINKED HERE

The link above takes you to an old eBay auction for the card. Scroll on it and see the card front up close. Take a look at that back row: Do some of those players look like they witnessed a nuclear accident, or are aliens from outer space?

Actually, the POSSIBLE significance of the 1963 Topps card – other than it captures the Mets’ infamously horrible first season – is that it MAY have a pair of old-time Hall of Famers on the card near HOF manager Casey Stengel. Those two coaches are Rogers Hornsby (3B coach) and Granville, Illinois native Red Ruffing (pitching coach).

I am unable to confirm the existence of Hornsby and Ruffing on that card.

Some more Hall of Famers in different uniforms, as coaches, include Red Sox legend Bobby Doerr as a Blue Jays coach in the late 1970s and early 1980s; as well as Rod Carew as a Brewers coach in the early 2000s, and Robin Yount as a Diamondbacks coach in the mid-2000s. They are shown on Topps team cards from their coaching tenures, and also have separate cards in those unis in the own right.

One HOF’er that doesn’t have a card of his own in a different uniform is Paul Molitor, who was the Mariners’ hitting coach for the 2004 season – and shown on the 2005 Topps team card of the Mariners. Molitor is in the first row, third from left, on the team card below:


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