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Tom Seaver (True) Rookie Cards

Tom Seaver has one true rookie card and no parallels, we’ll be looking at his second and third-year cards too! But first, allow me to begin with a most bizarre Draft story.

The Craziest Draft Story Ever!

In his sophomore year at the University of Southern California, Tom Seaver put up some impressive numbers, so good he actually impressed the Los Angeles Dodgers, they drafted him in the 10th round of the 1965 MLB June Draft.

However, the young, ambitious Seaver knew he was destined for greatness and asked the Dodgers for $70,000.00! To his surprise, the Dodgers organization declined.

Allow me to tell you a bit more about the craziness of him coming into the league because the story definitely doesn’t end here.

In the 1966 MLB Draft, the Atlanta Braves selected Tom Seaver in the 1st Round. However, then Baseball Commissioner William Eckert voided the contract because the rules didn’t allow players to be signed while their college seasons were going on.

A lottery was held with three teams that opted to match the disqualified Atlanta Braves contract offer. The three names in the hat? Mets, Phillies, and Indians.

So once all the smoke cleared, the Fresno California born and raised Seaver was off to the city of New York!

The Much Anticipated MLB Debut of Tom Seaver

Tom Seaver debuted in the MLB on April 13, 1967, in a game against the Pirates. That year he went 16-13 with a 2.76 ERA and 170 strikeouts. The end of 1967 resulted in Rookie of the Year honors. He was also voted into the All-Star Game as a rookie and if that wasn’t enough he was the winning pitcher.

The New York Mets of the 1960s were really bad, that is until Seaver showed up. There was no sophomore jink here. His second year one could see something special was happening. Seaver was getting better and better with every outing.

He was a pitcher in his early 20s but he pitched like a veteran, and in 1969 Seaver won his last 10 starts and led the Mets to the postseason. They fought their way to beat the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles and became known as The 1969 Miracle Mets. World Series Champions!

The Mets shocked the baseball world, and it was Seaver that legitimized the Mets going on to win his first Cy Young Award that year. His dominance on the mound continued year after year, and for a nine-year stretch recorded 9 consecutive seasons with over 200 strikeouts!

The Personality of Tom Seaver

Tom was the alpha male from day one. He had a persona and a charisma that naturally poured out of him and you knew he was the clubhouse leader as he often spurred his teammates to not let up.

By 1975 he was the face of the MLB, a media sensation in the media capital of the world where he was affectionately given the nickname “The Franchise” by reporters.

On June 15, 1977, the New York Mets shocked the world. They decided to trade The Franchise to the Cincinnati Reds. At a press conference, Tom was heartbroken and emotionally moved by the trade.

Tom Seaver Hall of Fame Speech

Tom Seaver was inducted into the Hall in 1992 and received 98.8% of the vote which was the highest percentage ever until Ken Griffey Jr received 99.32% in his 2016 induction.

During his speech, he explains that his success is only one side of the story. He attributes his success to the catchers he had the privilege to work with. Men like Jerry Grote for the Mets, Johnny Bench for the Cincinnati Reds, and White Sox catcher Carlton Fisk.

He thanked many people for helping him develop his talents and getting him to the big leagues. But he paid special tribute to, Gil Hodges. Seaver says, Gil taught him how to be a professional, while others helped him to get there, Gil taught him how to stay there.

On March 8, 2019, Tom retired from public life. He’d become ill with Lyme Disease which triggered Dementia. He passed away on August 31, 2020, at the age of 75.

Career Stats & Accomplishments

According to Tom Seaver career stats are:

Tom Seaver played for 20 years: Mets 12yrs, Reds 6yrs, White Sox 3yrs, and Red Sox 1yr. In those years of service, he accumulated a win-loss record of 311-205 and a lifetime ERA of 2.86. He pitched 4,783 innings and recorded 3,640 strikeouts.

Career Accomplishments:

  • 1967 Rookie of the Year
  • 1969 World Series Champion
  • 3x Cy Young Award 69, 73, 75
  • 3x ERA Title
  • 12x All-Star

Another worthy accomplishment is his lone no-hitter, he’d come close many times, but finally on June 16, 1978, in a game against the Cardinals, Tom Terrific got his first no-hit ball game.

1967 Topps, #581 (RC)

Tom Seaver 1967 Topps #581 (side a)
Tom Seaver 1967 Topps #581 (side b)

The 1967 Topps Baseball set is considered by many vintage collectors as one of the best sets released in the 1960s. It’s the largest set to date as Topps offered collectors 609 cards released in three series.

It’s a simple design with large photography and small white borders. Switching our attention to card #581 the official rookie card of Tom Seaver we see that The Franchise is partnered with another rookie Mets pitcher Bill Denehy.

Who’s Bill Denehy? He’s from Middletown, CT, and signed with the Mets right out of high school. Bill went 1-7 with a 4.57 ERA and was traded the following year.

Another first featured in the 1967 set, vertical card backs. Although they didn’t veer off too far, the card backs still featured Topps unique style.

The challenge for collectors can be cost and scarcity. Cards #534-609 are considered the high series and are believed to be more scarce than the other two series. For that reason, Tom Seaver RCs come at a cost.

1968 Topps, #45 (PRT)

A burlap sack is a plain-woven, coarse fabric used for many things throughout history. Primarily, potatoes, beans, etc. and once they became worn they were used for the popular, three-legged races.

But what if I told you that burlap sack was used for baseball cards?! The 1968 design is unique because it looks like someone placed a photo on top of a burlap sack and took a picture of it.

I’m on the fence about it. It’s not the most eye-appealing design to me but it is unique in design. A stunning portrait photo of Tom Seaver and is a great 2nd-year option to his rookie card.

Another feature that is a collector favorite is the rookie trophy typically featured on the players who won Rookie of the Year honors the prior year. It’s perfectly placed on the card front making this one a stunner. Card board stock in the back is a gold/orange color, this is important as we look at the following cards.

1968 O-Pee-Chee, #45 (PRT)

The 1968 O-Pee-Chee set mimics the Topps set in every aspect except for the “Printed in Canada” notation found on the back of the card.

The card back has no French translations like more modern-day sets and it has a brownish/gray colored card stock, the yellow background has much more eye-appeal in my opinion.

1968 Topps Milton Bradley, #45 (PRT)

The Topps Milton Bradley’s were created for a long time toy manufacturer. According to an article I read titled, “A Tale of the Yellow Back: 1968 Milton Bradley Set” it states the set was top priority for Milton Bradley because they needed it completed by the start of the 76th International Toy Fair in 1968.

They were to be inserted into two board games. Ironically, for a game called “Shenanigans” and “Win a Card” was the other.

The only way to really tell them apart from the basic Topps set was the color of the card back. The Milton Bradley’s have a yellow card board stock.

1968 Topps Venezuela, #45 (PRT)

Interest for baseball cards was increasing in South America. Topps created this parallel set per se for that market starting in 1959 and ending in 1968. However, it was a smaller checklist, they had less gloss, and the colors were not as bright.

Because of this lower production quality, makes these extremely condition sensitive, and due to limited production also makes them rare.

A definitive way to know if it’s a Venezuelan card is a brownish colored background. And some have a copyright written in Spanish.

1969 Topps, #480 (PRT)

An affordable option for collectors is this third-year card. Early year cards of Legends like Tom Seaver are trending because many times collectors get priced out of the rookie cards, so these make perfect substitutes.

This 1969 Topps offering is legendary within hobby circles. The reason? Because Tommy Terrific was Cy Young in 1969 and was the key component to the Miracle Mets.

Another reason this 1969 Topps is so beloved with collectors is the card design. A fantastic card that features a still very young Seaver early in his career. However, a practice that was very common in the 50s and 60s was recycled photos used by Topps.

Happy Collecting Collector,

Learn. Collect. Enjoy.