It’s one of the most iconic baseball cards of the 1960s, capturing in one glance the drama that went down during the summer of 1961…even if the delivery is understated.

There on top are the tired eyes of a head-only Roger Maris, looming large over the men below him, and adorned with the simple note: “New York — 61.”

If you didn’t already know the context, the shield to Rajah’s left gives it away: “1961 American League Home Run Leaders.”

No mention of the dramatic race with Yankees teammate Mickey Mantle, nor the fact that “61” represented a new record, topping the 60 Babe Ruth put up in 1927.

No mention of a potential asterisk, either, like the one that commissioner Ford Frick opined might be appropriate if the home run record fell in more than the 154 games that were the norm back in the Bambino’s day.

As it turned out, it took Maris the full, newly-crafted 162-game schedule (and then some) to take the cake.

But card #53 in the 1962 Topps set has more to offer than Maris and his exploits, as great as they were in 1961 and as understated as the man himself tended to be — just like the way this card underplays his record-setting achievement.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

There to the lower left is Mantle himself, a legend long before the 1961 season, who finished with 54 dingers despite landing on the shelf toward the end of the season.

And there in the middle of the bottom row is Harmon Killebrew, who recorded the second of his seven 40-plus-homer seasons in 1961 en route to 573 in a career that spanned 22 years.

After recording 42 and 31 home runs for the Washington Nationals in 1959 and 1960, respectively, Killer was no secret, but his 46 bombs in 1961 were a nice housewarming gift for Minnesota fans welcoming the team to the upper Midwest for their first season.

That last fella, though, way over on the righthand side of the card, was a bit more surprising to find included among the likes of the M & M Boys and Killebrew.

Sure, Jim Gentile had hit 21 home runs for the Baltimore Orioles son his way to finishing second in A.L. Rookie of the Year voting in 1960, but that was his age-26 season. And it came after eight minor league seasons and two stilted attempts to break into the majors.

Could Gentile ever be expected to do any better than that?

Well, expectations or not, Diamond Jim cranked up his swing right along with the other sluggers in 1961, connecting on 46 long balls of his own and leading the American League with 141 RBI (tied with Maris).

Add in a .302 batting average, and it was good enough to land him in third place in the MVP race behind Maris and Mantle.

As with Maris, 1961 ended up being Gentile’s absolute peak, just ahead of a decline beginning in 1962 and then accelerating through the next four seasons.

Though he would stick in the Phillies’ minor league system through 1968, Gentile never made it back to the big leagues after a 33-game, 2-homer showing with the Cleveland Indians during the summer of 1966.

He finished his big league career with a .260 batting average to go along with 179 home runs and 549 RBI, good enough for 17+ WAR, six All-Star selections (two each season from 1960-62), and a status as one of the early Orioles stars after the team moved from St. Louis (Browns) in 1954.

Oh, and — of course — an understated spot on an understated hunk of baseball history masquerading as a classic woodgrain baseball card.

Want to see a video version of this article?

1962 Topps Baseball Choose Your Card: #150 to #339

$4.34
End Date: Wednesday 12/15/2021 15:47:22 EST
Buy it now | Add to watch list

1962 Topps ROGER MARIS New York YANKEES Baseball Card #1

$1.25 (3 Bids)
End Date: Wednesday 12/08/2021 19:50:01 EST
Bid now | Add to watch list

1962 Topps Set Break # 394 HANK AARON Baseball card

$0.99 ( 1 Bid)
End Date: Wednesday 12/08/2021 13:18:54 EST
Bid now | Add to watch list

1962 Topps # 5 Sandy Koufax EX

$9.99 ( 1 Bid)
End Date: Wednesday 12/08/2021 22:25:36 EST
Bid now | Add to watch list

1962 Topps Roger Maris #1 New York Yankees P/Vg

$5.50 (4 Bids)
End Date: Wednesday 12/08/2021 20:26:29 EST
Bid now | Add to watch list

1962 TOPPS ROGER MARIS #401 ORLANDO CEPEDA BASEBALL CARD

$1.00 ( 1 Bid)
End Date: Friday 12/10/2021 21:52:16 EST
Bid now | Add to watch list

1962 Topps Sandy Koufax #5 Baseball Card

$5.50 (2 Bids)
End Date: Wednesday 12/08/2021 20:28:01 EST
Bid now | Add to watch list