As far as Don Newcombe baseball cards go, it’s hard to beat the big right-hander’s 1960 Topps issue:

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Right, I know … Newcombe made his mark in the game as a member of those great Brooklyn Dodgers teams of the 1950s, and he made concomitant appearances on some pretty amazing cards of the era.

That 1957 Topps card of Newcombe is a killer, for example:

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That 1960, though, has a lot going for it:

  • Fetching horizontal format, the first time Topps went sideways after standardizing their size in 1957
  • Bright colors and photography
  • Beaming smile from Newk
  • Gorgeous Cincinnati Reds trimmings

It’s that last one that cinches it for me, of course, being the Reds’ diehard that I am.

The truth is, though, Newk’s run with the Reds wasn’t all that inspiring: in parts of two seasons, he went 24-21 with a respectable 3.64 ERA.

Good but not great.

And then, while his neato Cincy card was still coming fresh out of packs, the Reds sold his rights to the Cleveland Indians on July 29, 1960.

It was with the Tribe that Newcombe would see his last big league action, posting a 2-3 record with a 4.33 ERA down the stretch.

The next season saw him back in the Dodgers organization, but they were now based in Los Angeles, and Newk couldn’t find enough of that old Brooklyn magic to make it back to the majors.

With no spot on a big league roster, Newcombe also found no spot in the 1961 Topps set for what would have been a career capper. Except …

That’s not quite true.

Because, while there is no ‘61 card showing his lifetime record in the bigs (149-90 for a .623 winning percentage, 3.56 ERA), Newcombe didn’t get blanked completely.

Because there on card #483, Newcombe shows up in a headshot from his Dodgers glory days:

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This card commemorates Newcombe’s 1956 National League Most Valuable Player Award, which he won by virtue of a 27-7, 3.06 ERA performance that also netted him the first-ever Cy Young Award (just one trophy for all of MLB in those days).

Part of a run in the 1961 set that celebrates MVPs in both leagues from 1950 through 1960, the Newcombe card is one of just two in the subset to feature a pitcher (Jim Konstanty being the other).

Today, you can expect to pay around $20 for a copy of the Newk finale in PSA 7 condition, bumping up to $50 for PSA 8 and $200+ for PSA 9.

And PSA 10? Good luck finding one at all — PSA hasn’t hung a perfect score on even a single copy as of June 2021.

So, while the 1961 Topps Don Newcombe may not be a true career-capper, it sure is a decent proxy, especially if you prefer to remember his superstar days with Dem Bums instead of his shiny Crosley Field smile.

Of course, you could always indulge yourself with a shot of both!

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