If you think rookie card overkill is a strictly modern phenomenon, allow me to reintroduce you to Willie McCovey.
McCovey, you might remember, crashed the San Francisco Giants lineup for the first time on July 30, 1959 … and he never looked back.
Now, even as rookie seasons go, McCovey got a late, late start. Or an early one.
Usually, impact rookies are either in the Majors most of the summer, or they get a quick cup of coffee late in the season after a big campaign in the minors.
The former are the guys who run up Rookie-of-the-Year types of numbers, and the latter give us a taste of what might lie ahead, while maintaining their rookie status for the following season.
Big Mac, though, threaded the needle between those two groups.
Or, rather, he smashed the needed to heck.
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In that first game, against the Philadelphia Phillies, McCovey went 4-for-4 with two triples and two RBI, and he scored three runs of his own.
And then, over 51 moire games the rest of the season, the big first baseman puffed his first-year resume to a line that read: .354, 13 home runs, 38 RBI, 32 runs scored … all in just 52 games.
Despite his short season in the Major Leagues, it was good enough to snag National League Rookie of the Year honors — unanimously.
And all of that was good enough to get Stretch a slot in the 1960 Topps set as a Topps All-Star Rookie, along with likes of Jim Perry and Ron Fairly.
But it also got him an All-Star card, one of those nifty deals with the big “60” behind the image of the player himself. In that regard, McCovey immediately slid in among the likes of Giants teammate Willie Mays and Yankees legend Mickey Mantle.
And, thus, Willie McCovey had not one, but two rookie cards way, way back when, nearly a quarter century before Donruss whipped out its first “Rated Rookie” cards.
Except, McCovey didn’t have two rookie cards.
He had three rookie cards!
That’s because Nu-Card was so duly impressed with the young slugger’s exploits in the 1959 that they devoted an entire oversize (3-1/4″ x 5-3/8″) Hi-Lites pasteboard to that debut game of his against the Phillies.
So there McCovey is, immortalized on card #67 in newspaper-style black and white, following through on that sweet left-handed swing that would eventually crush 521 baseballs over Major League fences during his 22-year career.
And if, McCovey could muster three RCs in 1960, you have to wonder how many he’d garner today.
Why, there wouldn’t be a monster box that could hold him!
If you’re looking for a more unusual “card” of Stretch, take a look at this eBay lot:
That’s a PSA 8 copy of the 1972 Topps Candy Lid Willie McCovey — a test issue that doesn’t pop up all that often.
It’s a piece of hobby history, and you can check out the full listing on eBay right here (affiliate link).