Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My Yankees Collection - 1998 Topps Gold Label Roger Maris

I cam across this card of Roger Maris and had to have it for my collection. 

Roger has become one of my favorite players since I returned to collecting and baseball itself a few years ago. His "unsung hero" story strikes a chord with me and as I continue to read books about his career and life, he always comes across as just an all-around good guy.

This Gold Label issue from Topps is not one that I am familiar with, but I like the design. Colorful shots of Roger in his prime as a Yankee are always welcome, and the subdued colors of this card's foil construction enhance the view for me.   Here's the front of the card:

Connecting the dots between the "98 Home Run Race" and Maris' ownership of the single-season record until that summer (or despite it), the card mentions Roger's 61st long ball in 1961. As most of us know, he made history on the final day of the season - a campaign that became almost unbearable for Maris to endure as many baseball fans refused to believe that the legendary Babe Ruth could be dethroned. Even a certain portion of Yankee fans gave Roger a hard time, both for threatening the Babe and for never (in their minds) living up to their favorites like Mantle, Gehrig and DiMaggio. It was a heartbreaking situation in so many ways, and one that I truly believe can be seen in the eyes of Maris.

Here's the back of the card: 

I'm not sure what Topps meant with the "HR1 Black Label" stamp on the right-hand side? Perhaps there were 61 different versions of this card that could be collected? I love the fact that the card back gives us the name of Tracy Stallard, off of whom Maris knocked #61. This gives us a little bit extra in the way of detailing the epic achievement, a feat not often achieved.

Trace Stallard was hurling for the Red Sox in 1961, and has stated that he was having the best game he ever pitched that fateful day, until Maris took him deep in the 4th inning. When all was said and done, Tracy took the 1-0 loss with Maris' solo shot providing the only run of the day. Stallard recorded 5 K's, 5 hits and allowed the single run over seven innings of work.   It would be the only hit that Maris would record against Stallard in seven AB's. As luck would have it, his involvement in record has endured as his best-known association with the sport he played for a couple of decades, but Tracy has kept a positive outlook on things:

        "I'm glad he did it off me. Otherwise, I would never have been thought of again. 
That was about all I did, and I've had a good time with it." 

You have to admire that perspective! Interestingly, Tracy was traded to the upstart Mets in 1963 along with Pumpsie Green and Al Moran. He did enjoy some success but was involved in another amazing baseball feat in 1964, Jim Bunning's perfect game, an event that I wrote about in May of last year. Once again, Tracy was on the losing end of somebody else's 'best day'. Despite another downer for his personal story, perhaps Tracy can always come back with a wink and reminder that, through the tough days, he managed to date Julie Newmar while playing ball and living it up in New York for a few years.

Nicely done, Tracy.

And nicely done, Topps - I'm thrilled to add this Maris card to my Yankees Collection!

Thanks for reading!


  1. Great card! Gold Label is underrated. The cards always felt very high end and classy.

    1. I agree! This was my first experience - the Maris was a random throw-in on a larger order. Glad my gut-instinct paid off. A rare occasion for my gut...