Thursday, June 21, 2012

#2 NL Batting Leaders: Roberto Clemente, Rico Carty, and Hank Aaron

#2 NL Batting Leaders: Clemente, Carty, and Aaron
Whoops! I just realized that I never posted the most recent addition to my set, which is this fine card from Greg Mader. Greg sent it as part of a custom-made Opening Day pack, and indeed it was waiting for me at home on April 7 when I got back from watching my Orioles beat Greg's Twins. Thanks again, Greg!

Here's some breaking news for you: Roberto Clemente was pretty darned good. In 1964, he was in the midst of his fifth of 12 All-Star seasons, and he hit .339 to capture his second batting crown. In 1961, he topped the National League with a .351 average, and he defended his 1964 title by swatting .329 the next season. After plunging all the way to fifth in the league with a .317 mark in 1966, Clemente rebounded to top the loop with a career-high .357 average in 1967. In all, he was a top-ten finisher in 13 of his 18 seasons, including each of the last dozen years of his career.

Finishing a not-very-close second in '64 was Rico Carty, who batted .330 in a great rookie season to lead the Braves. That's no small feat, as Hank Aaron hit .328 and Joe Torre clocked in at .321 to give Milwaukee the 2-3-4 finishers in the N. L. batting race. In 1970, Rico blew everyone else out of the water in capturing his lone batting title, with his .366 average well ahead of Torre and Manny Sanguillen's .325 marks. Meanwhile, Hammerin' Hank was a two-time batting champ in his younger days, with first-place finishes in 1956 (.328) and 1959 (.355). Though he totaled 12 top-ten finishes in his illustrious career, there were no more batting titles on the horizon for Aaron.

A few items of interest from the extended leaderboard on the card back:

-Lou Brock sits in sixth place with a .315 average. In 52 games with the Cubs, he was at .251. After being traded to St. Louis, he caught fire and rang up a .348 figure in 103 games. Lou wasted no time in giving the Cubs a case of buyers' remorse!

-I bet Joe Christopher cherished this card, which shows him and his even .300 average ranked just above Willie Mays' .296.

-Get a load of the run of great players in the second column: Willie Stargell, Pete Rose, Bill Mazeroski, Vada Pinson, Nellie Fox, and Ernie Banks, all in a row.

-Poor Al Spangler had his name misspelled as "Spankler". As if putting his .245 average on a batting leaders card wasn't cruel enough.
#2 NL Batting Leaders: Clemente, Carty, and Aaron (back)


  1. Leader cards are damn fantastic. Love 'em!

    You're really getting close now! Five left? Six?


  3. Love that 1965 set... not as much as 1956.... but it's up there.

  4. The only player I was surprised to see on the list was (Eddie) Kasko, who may be better known as the Red Sox manager from '69 to '73. Most surprising ommission was Eddie Matthews who only hit .233 and missed the cut. Topps must of had high hopes for Joe Christopher for he had a 1965 gold foil embossed card (problem with the set they used a side profile in which all the players look like the same person)

  5. Doug--Kaskos' on the list, but .243 is nothing to crow about

  6. Yo Kevin...The only year I collected Topps cards was 1965, amazingly enough. Still got most of them, too. I'm a writer, doing a story on baseball card collecting. I tried emailing you, but my message kept bouncing back...would like to interview you. my email address is or 914-694-5008. Thanks.
    Phil Reisman