The 1959 World Series was one of the most historic matchups in the history of baseball.
And not only for the competitive matchup but for the significance from a cultural perspective.
The 1959 series featured the first Jewish World Series MVP, the first Jewish battery, and a key turning point for one of the greatest pitchers of all time.
In this piece, I dive into the cards issued throughout the years that commemorate the 1959 World Series.
A Precursor To The First World Series Subset
Although the first true World Series subset didn’t appear until 1960, Topps began experimenting with cards that documented historic moments from the game in the 1959 “Baseball Thrills” subset.
Consisting of ten cards, this subset documents a series of historic baseball moments from the previous few years. Two of these cards memorialize historic moments from the World Series: #464 “Mays’ Catch Makes Series History” and #467 “Aaron Clubs World Series Homer”.
The Willie Mays card documents one of the most iconic World Series moments - Mays’ deep centerfield catch with his back to the plate during the 1954 World Series. The card shows Mays making the catch and turning to make the throw toward home in three frames.
In my opinion, all the cards in this set are attractive, showing artistic renderings of these historic events that are using a photographic record as a reference. Decent ungraded copies of the Mays card can be found for $30 or less on eBay, but graded PSA 9 copies are currently selling for well over $2,000, and the only PSA 10 sold for over $37,000 back in July of 2021.
The Hank Aaron card is equally attractive, featuring Aaron at the plate immediately after hitting one of his three home runs during the 1957 World Series.
A decent ungraded copy of this card sells for just a bit less than the Mays card on eBay, but high-end graded copies are much less expensive (a PSA 9 sold for $480 recently).
The 1960 Topps World Series Subset
It was the 1960 Topps set that featured a dedicated World Series subset for the very first time. There were seven World Series cards in the 1960 Topps set, one for each of the six games in the 1959 World Series, plus a series summary card.
1960 Topps World Series Checklist
#385 - Game #1 - Neal Steals Second
#386 - Game #2 - Neal Belts 2nd Homer
#387 - Game #3 - Furillo Breaks Up Game
#388 - Game #4 - Hodges' Winning Homer
#389 - Game #5 - Luis Swipes Base
#390 - Game #6 - Scrambling After Ball
#391 - The Champs Celebrate
The cards for games 4 and 5, one which features Gil Hodges and the other Luis Aparicio and Maury Wills, respectively, are valued higher than the rest, which features less well-known players, but all of these cards can be found at a reasonable price.
PSA values for each card in the set range from between $3 to $8 for a PSA 5 (Excellent), and $20 to $85 when graded a PSA 8 (NM-MT). Of course, eBay prices are significantly higher, but a quick search targeting recent sales shows that these cards can still be purchased at very reasonable prices.
PSA-graded cards are still selling well above the listed values; however - a PSA 7 copy of the game two card recently sold for $35 (the listed SMR value is $8).
Although investment value is not at the top of my list of reasons for collecting baseball cards, cards like these that reference historical events seem poised to continue increasing in value.
This series of cards that tell the story of the 1959 world series is unique in that it was the first of its kind and a key component to a classic Topps set.
Although Luis Aparicio is the only Hall of Fame player featured in this subset, both Gil Hodges and Maury Wills are on a shortlist for election to the Hall of Fame in 2022 by the Golden Days Era committee, which could help boost the values of these cards.
Card #389 - Game 5 featuring Luis Aparicio and Maury Wills - is particularly interesting as it is Wills’ first appearance on a Topps baseball card and could be considered his rookie card.
Wills was one of very few players who signed an exclusive agreement with Fleer after being overlooked by Topps as a rookie, and Fleer didn’t feature him on a card until three years later, in 1963. By ‘67, Wills had signed with Topps and made his first appearance in a Topps base set - but his World Series card from 1960 is a much more attractive card.
The 1959 World Series And Why It Was Special
The 1959 World Series itself was quite interesting from a historical perspective.
The LA Dodgers faced off against the Chicago White Sox, with the Dodgers winning the series 4-2. The series MVP was Larry Sherry, who finished out all four of the Dodgers victories, earning saves in two games, and wins in the other two.
Larry’s brother Norm was a catcher on that same Dodgers team, and the battery they formed was unique not just because they were brothers but because they were Jewish.
There was another Jewish player on that 1959 Dodgers team, although he didn’t play nearly as significant of a role as the Sherry brothers in the World Series; one Sandy Koufax.
Koufax was still struggling with control issues at that stage of his career, but Norm Sherry shared the advice that supposedly turned his career around.
During spring training in 1961, Sherry advised Koufax to:
“take something off the ball and just put it in there. Don’t try to throw it so hard. Just put it in there and let them hit it.”
At the end of that spring training game, Sherry told Koufax, “Sandy, I don’t know if you realize it, but you just now threw harder than when you were trying to.”
So that 1959 World Series team represents something special for collectors interested in the history of Jews in baseball.
It featured the first Jewish World Series MVP, the first Jewish battery, and a key turning point for one of the greatest pitchers of all time.
Learning about that history was enough to send me looking for copies of those cards!
Interesting Base Cards From The 1960 Topps Set
Sadly, neither the Sherry brothers nor Koufax are featured in any of the cards from this Topps World Series subset.
Both Norm and Larry Sherry have their first base cards in the 1960 set, however, so adding these attractive rookie cards representing the first ever Jewish battery to my collection was a no-brainer and a great addition to the 1959 World Series subset.
Both cards can be found at very reasonable prices ungraded, and PSA 9 copies will set you back from between $100 to $200.
Adding Sandy Koufax’s 1960 Topps card to the Sherry brothers’ cards completes the Jewish trio on that Dodgers team.
This card is going to cost you significantly more - finding a nice quality ungraded copy under $100 on eBay might pose a bit of a challenge, and a PSA 7 sold recently for $450. One could also consider grabbing Koufax’s card from the 1959 Topps set - another attractive card of similar value.
Other Cards Memorializing the 1959 World Series
Other cards memorializing the 1959 World Series include the two Fleer Laughlin World Series sets - each with a different design representing the ‘59 series.
A quick look reveals that the 1970 set features Chuck Essegian, who had two pinch-hit home runs for the Dodgers in the series, setting a new record (tied in 1975 by Bernie Carbo of the Boston Red Sox). The 1971 Fleer Laughlin card representing the ‘59 series features Gil Hodges.
Still searching for a card celebrating the Sherry brothers’ contribution to the ‘59 series, I came across the 1961 Nu-Card Baseball Scoops set. This 80 card set featured an interesting selection of historic baseball moments.
The most valuable cards in the set show newspaper-style headlines announcing Mantle’s longest home run, DiMaggio’s hit streak, and Ruth’s single season home run record, but the set also features some World Series cards. Card #431 celebrates the 1959 World Series and features a photo of Larry Sherry front and center.
The Baseball Scoops set from ‘61 has never been very popular among collectors, and the card designs don’t match what Topps was doing at the time. That said - for collectors looking to celebrate a historic moment for Jews in baseball, the options are quite limited.
For me, the fact that a card celebrating the Jewish star of the ‘59 World Series was featured in a vintage early 60’s baseball set was reason enough to go searching for a copy.
A very nice ungraded copy can be found for under $10. Graded copies won’t be easy to find but won’t break the bank if/when they pop up on eBay (just over 100 copies of the card have been submitted to PSA).
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