Card of the Day: 1966 Topps Pirates Team Card

While I like the 1966 Topps set as a whole, I’m not a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates cards in the set, so that drops the overall grade of the set. Topps went through a strange phase in the 1960s where they had odd color choices for the Pirates. Possibly a New York Yankees fan still bitter over the 1960 World Series, had an evil master plan to become head of card designs at Topps, and he kept giving them the color pink on their cards. The 1965 set started it all with pink borders, then the 1966 set joined in with their design that you will see below. That was followed in 1968-1969 with the names/team name/position circles that were pink both years. The run was only broken up by the boring 1967 set, where they decided to give the Pirates purple colors. Very mature, Topps.

Today’s Card of the Day is the Pirates team card from the 1966 Topps set. I’ve avoided these for the most part because they fit an entire team photo on a small card, with poor photo quality in most cases. I was led to today’s choice by being unable to decide which card to use for pitcher Don Schwall, one of eight former Pirates born on this date. There was a signed Pirates team card by Schwall, so I decided to run with that card, minus the signature. Here’s a look at card #404 from the 1966 Topps set.

Here’s the front of the card:

You might look at this scan and think that I could have chosen a better one to represent this card, but that thinking is exactly why I chose it. This scan here was pulled from a card that was recently graded a PSA 8. If you’re not 100% familiar with grading, a PSA 8 looks an awful lot like a perfect card until you look closer and might find some small flaws. This card has numerous print defects. You can see little dots in the photo that aren’t supposed to be there, another one above “3RD”, as well as some discoloration in the pink band at the bottom. This is not what you should expect from a PSA 8. The printing on the card is also a bit off (not straight).

PSA doesn’t allow it anymore, but sellers could pick a higher grade with a qualifier (in this case it would be PD for print defect), or go for the lower grade with the defects factored in. Unless I’m missing something here, this card better be a gem mint 10 except for the defects, which lowered it to an 8 grade.

Anyway, that team photo has some firepower on it. Roberto Clemente is bottom row to the far right. Willie Stargell and Bill Mazeroski book-end the second row. Many other great names are there, like Bill Virdon, Elroy Face, Steve Blass, Bob Friend, Dick Schofield, Bob Veale, Gene Alley, Vern Law, Danny Murtaugh and Smoky Burgess. Here’s a fun fact, Burgess was lost on waivers in September of 1964. Here’s a second fun fact, this team photo was also used on the 1965 Topps Pirates card. A third fun fact? Yup, this picture was taken in the spring of 1964. Not only was Topps immature with those pink colors, they were also lazy.

What really stood out to me here is that they put the team’s finish on the front of the card. I’m sure I’ve seen this card hundreds of times over the years, but I usually pass right over these team cards because of the photo quality/size, so I’m not sure I ever noticed that.

Here’s the back of the card:

Some of these old team cards have checklists on the back. Others had information and player identification. Then a few years had pitching records. This makes it look like the Pirates used 12 pitchers all year in 1965. It’s actually not far off. The only player left off was Luke Walker, and that’s because he didn’t factor into any decisions. For comparison sake, a 2023 card with the 2022 Pirates pitchers, would need to list 25 pitchers. It would also be leaving off 11 pitchers who failed to pick up a decision. They would also have to include many more teams. In fact, the new 2023 schedule includes everybody playing everybody for the first time, so those 2024 cards would need microscopic printing to get everything on one card

They give you four categories of hitting leaders up top, as well as two for pitching leaders. Otherwise this card is surprisingly leaning heavy towards the pitchers. See where it says Law went 4-0 versus the San Francisco Giants. That’s more impressive than you think. Not only were the Giants the second place team that season (they would have tied for first if they went 2-2 vs Law), he beat a Hall of Famer each time. Two of those games were against Warren Spahn, two were against Gaylord Perry.

If you’re interested in this card, the price runs from $100 for the one in the scan above, down to $45 for a PSA 7, dropping down to $15-$20 for a high grade/ungraded copy. Just want one and you’re not picky about the condition? You can pay $5-$10 delivered for one. An interesting thing about these checklists/team cards is that people would get them signed by random players included on the card. I won’t go through all of the options here, but an interesting one has Tommie Sisk, Elroy Face and Steve Blass for $19, with a best offer option.

Card of the Day