It would have been tough to find a more exciting player in the late 1970s and early 1980s than Kansas City Royals outfielder Willie Wilson.
After the Royals took Wilson with the 18th overall pick in the 1974 draft, he made his presence felt right away, rumbling to 24 stolen bases in Rookie ball that summer and adding on an amazing 76 in Single-A in 1975.
He’d make his K.C. debut late in 1976, sip another cup of coffee in the 1977, and then stick for good in 1978.
If you remember your Royals’ history, you know they’d finally break through to win their first American League pennant in 1980 with Wilson in left field.
Five years after that, they nabbed the *big* crown in a breathtaking 1985 World Series that saw them take down the cross-state rival St. Louis Cardinals … Wilson was in center that storied season.
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Along the way, Wilson established himself as a man who could hit — he won the 1982 American League batting title at .332 — and fly … he swiped the 1979 stolen base title with 83 and topped out with an amazing 21 triples in 1985.
Over his career, Wilson legged out 147 triples among his 2200+ hits while stealing 668 bases and scoring more than 1100 runs.
As you might imagine, a player with that pedigree scored some pretty sweet cardboard over the years, beginning with a now-popular 1979 Topps rookie card that’s tough to find well-centered.
OK, well, that 1979 pasteboard is not really Wilson’s first card.
That honor was bestowed way back in his second season as a pro, when he was swiping all those bases for the Waterloo Royals in 1975.
While Wilson was wowing fans, a young card company named TCMA was cranking up the printing presses on their minor league enterprise, and Waterloo made the cut — so did Wilson.
The black-and-white card with a young Wilson kneeling on a his bat in front of a sign warning players against playing pepper ball may not look like much today. Not with our modern barrage whiz-bang issues that make your eyes and mind ache with all their wizardry
But that 1975 TCMA Wilson stands as the first card of a guy who might yet garner some Hall of Fame chatter from the Modern Game Era Veterans Committee over the next few years.
It’s also one of Wilson’s tougher cards, pushing $100 or more when you can find it on eBay (affiliate link).
So when you’re out there trying to nail down a Wilson rookie card with even borders, don’t forget … it wasn’t even really the first.