Who remembers the 2020 MLB All-Star Game? Oh, that’s right, there was no MLB All-Star Game last year. With the COVID-19-shortened MLB season, the annual Mid-Summer Classic was cancelled for the first time since 1945. And the L.A. Dodgers, who were supposed to host the 2020 MLB All-Star Game at Chavez Ravine, went on to win their first World Series title in 32 years.
This season, fortunately, has gotten back on track. All 30 MLB teams are playing out full, 162-game schedules (in front of live, in-person fans) and the coveted All-Star Game is back! On Tuesday, July 13, the Colorado Rockies will host baseball’s 91st All-Star Game at Coors Field in Denver.
The most talked-about player leading into the game is Shohei Ohtani of the L.A. Angels of Anaheim. This year, he became the first player in MLB history to hit 30 or more home runs and pitch in 10 or more games in the same season. On Tuesday night, he will become the first player ever to be named to the All-Star team as both a position player (DH) and pitcher. While Babe Ruth was on the tail end of his playing career when the All-Star Game debuted in 1933, he hadn’t pitched in a game since 1919. This makes Ohtani’s dual appearance memorable as well as historical.
Speaking of yesteryear, let’s take a look at some different cards from the Topps All-Star sets that made their own marks through the years. Between 1958 and 1969, the trading card manufacturer partnered with either Sport magazine or The Sporting News when making its All-Star selections. The recognition was well deserved and the cards themselves created quite a following in hobby circles. It’s interesting to peruse some of these early cardboard releases because, if nothing else, they provide a glimpse into what card designers from that era had in their creative arsenals.
Let’s start with 1958. In that year’s 21-card subset of All-Stars, Topps teamed with Sport magazine. The design for National League All-Stars featured the player’s headshot positioned on a blue background dotted with white stars. Alternately, the American League All-Stars were featured on a red background with white stars. The accompanying Hank Aaron card (#488) shows the serious-minded slugger seemingly contemplating his next moon-shot home run. “Hammerin’ Hank” played in a record 25 All-Star Games (two All-Star games were held each season from 1959 to ’62) but was never named the game’s MVP. The PSA Set Registry provides serious collectors with an opportunity to showcase their collecting efforts by compiling the Topps All-Star sets including the 1958 lineup.
A few years later, Topps partnered with The Sporting News for the All-Star selections and the card fronts resembled a newspaper’s front page with the featured player’s head shot bursting through. Two such cards from the 1961 release included the “M&M Boys” (Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris), who were vying for the home run record that season. It would be Maris who eventually took the crown and in doing so, passed the great Babe Ruth in the single-season record books by blasting 61 home runs. Mantle, who missed several games down the stretch due to injury, totaled 54 round-trippers that year. For the record, Maris was named to the All-Star team a total of seven times, while Mantle earned All-Star recognition on 20 occasions.
The following year, Topps teamed once again with The Sporting News and mirrored the same wood-grain design to its All-Star lineup that it featured on the regular base-level set. One of the key players in that year’s subset of All-Stars was “The Say Hey Kid,” Willie Mays. No stranger to Mid-Summer Classics – he was named to 24 All-Star Games – Mays is shown following through on a swing and ostensibly watching the flight of the ball he just swatted. Considered today’s greatest living player, Willie was named MVP of the MLB All-Star Game twice (1963 and ’68) and is one of only five players in history to hold that distinction.
Jumping to 1969, its last year partnering with any publication for All-Star honors, Topps used a two-photo card front (color head shot partnered with a black-and-white action image) inside a template that sported a green banner with white stars for NL players, and a red banner with white stars for AL standouts. Two such superstars in the ’69 collection included St. Louis Cardinals ace Bob Gibson and Boston Red Sox mainstay Carl Yastrzemski. Gibson, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, was named to nine All-Star Games, while “Yaz,” the 1967 AL Triple Crown winner, played in a total of 18 Mid-Summer Classics.
All in all, collecting All-Star cards of players from yesteryear is a fun pursuit that’s less taxing on your wallet. Compared to the players’ base level cards and rookie cards, their subset All-Star offerings provide a less expensive option when going after these legends of the game. The PSA Set Registry provides several All-Star-themed sets to get your collector motor running. Join the Set Registry today to try your hand at completing some of these Mid-Summer Classic collections.