A little over a year ago I was elated.
I’d picked up the last 1965 Topps Mets card on my wantlist. I started writing a post about how I’d completed my oldest team set, but then I was taken over by fear of being embarrassed if I were wrong. I checked what I had against a couple of different sources; checklists, grading service team registries and the like. In the process I realized that I’d missed a card; a high-numbered National League Rookie Stars card which had the Mets’ Kevin Collins.
And then to make matters worse, I realized that the featured player on that card was a Hall-Of-Famer: Tony Perez.
“Aw, heck!”, I exclaimed (or something to that effect).
Over the next fourteen months I kept an eye on COMC and other potential sources for this card… and then, at a card show last weekend, I found this card within my budget:
At long last, my 1965 Topps Mets team is complete! It replaces 1972 Topps as my oldest Mets team set (unless you want to count the three Mets from 1963 Fleer as a team set) and the 1969 Topps Seattle Pilots as my oldest team set overall (again, unless you want to count 1963 Fleer)
…But yeah, I paid a premium for 1 square inch of Kevin Collins.
Collins made it quickly to the Majors, having played only 44 games in the minors before 1965. He was just a little past his 19th birthday when he made his debut as a September callup in 1965. He spent most of his career split between AAA and the Mets, Expos and Tigers. In 1969 he was part of a trade which brought Donn Clendenon to Queens.
Since I’m trumpeting the team set, I’m going to give you a walk-through tour of the team set, showing you the highlights.
There’s the team card…
Manager Casey Stengel; this would be his last Topps card, as he broke his hip during the 1965 season and retired.
Yogi Berra had been fired as the Yankees manager after the 1964 season, and he accepted an invitation to go across town and become a player/coach for the Mets in 1965. The player part didn’t really pan out, as he started 2 games behind the plate and pinch-hit in two others.
44-year-old Warren Spahn wanted to continue as a starting pitcher, but the Milwaukee Braves had other ideas. Meanwhile, the Mets were looking for a starting pitcher and a pitching coach, so they purchased Spahn’s contract from the Braves.
The starting pitcher part didn’t work out and he went 4-12, 4.36 before getting his release in July. He ended up going to the Giants to finish his Major League career.
The rookie card for Tug McGraw, Ron Swoboda and others (this is the card I *thought* was the last one I’d needed). Both were key players in 1969, and Tug became beloved by Mets fans and Phillies fans.
Mets fan favorite Ed Kranepool, who played 18 years for the Mets and held a lot of team career records, many of which were broken by David Wright and others.
The Mets first-ever starting All-Star, Ron Hunt.
Al Jackson was a mainstay in the Mets rotation during those early years, and pitched well enough that he was kept in the rotation through two 20-loss seasons (1962 and 1965, both times going 8-20)
The rookie card for Cleon Jones (and Tom Parsons).
Cleon Jones had a career season in 1969; aside from the obvious “Miracle Mets” connection. He hit a career-high 75 RBI, and his .340 batting average stood as a Mets single-season team record for nearly 30 years (John Olerud holds the current record by batting .354 in 1998)
Roy McMillan had been an All-star and Gold Glove with the Reds in the mid-to-late 1950’s. In 1965, he was the Mets’ 35-year-old starting shortstop.
Oh, but there’s one last thing…
When I went to put the last card into my Mets binder, I realized that 1965 Topps had one more trick to play on me.
…One more cruel trick…
I came to realize that with the addition of this last card, the total number of cards in this Mets team set…
Cue the Vincent Price laughter.