Saturday, January 21, 2017

Top Five: Hoyt Wilhelm

Here's a new theme I'm debuting on the blog today in an effort to get me posting a little more on Saturdays, which has historically been a day of darkness on the blog.

The concept is painfully simple: I choose a player and feature my five favorite cards of said player. The player will sometimes be selected at random, other times -- in an effort to keep up with the current affairs of the game during the upcoming season -- it might be someone in the news for whatever reason.

I like this concept because I'm really a player collector at heart. It's just that I'm a player collector of (literally) hundreds and hundreds of different subjects. I'm hoping this theme helps reign things in a bit by getting me to focus on one guy at a time. I'm starting with the obvious choice of Hoyt Wilhelm because Hoyt holds the most prominence in my collection. 

I don't yet own his '52 Topps rookie (and probably won't for a while), but in the meantime, I've still managed to accumulate a number of fine Hoyt cards during my quest for that white whale.

#5 -- 2005 Throwback Threads "Throwback Collection" #TC-52 Hoyt Wilhelm JSY /250

My Hoyt collection, as of today, stands at 133 different cards.

Though this one features a fine pinstriped piece of old flannel jersey, it's not anything you'd normally expect to be in a Top Five list of mine. But here's a fact: I might not be collecting Hoyt today -- or baseball cards at all -- if it wasn't for this card.

I bought this card on a trading forum during my year-long foray of collecting nothing but hockey cards about ten years ago. I'm not exactly sure why I purchased it. I was big into jersey cards at the time, and Hoyt was a name I knew at a good price.

My dad, a lifelong baseball fan who is (at best) apathetic towards hockey, was ecstatic when I told him I wanted this card, so ecstatic that he gave me the five dollars needed to buy it. Slowly but surely, I began to drift farther and father away from hockey cards and closer and closer back into baseball cards over the months that followed.

I mostly have Hoyt -- and my dad -- to thank for that.

#4 -- 1953 Topps #151 Hoyt Wilhelm

This was the card that catapulted Hoyt to the top of my collection.

It was donated to me, free of charge, by a gracious trading forum member (yes, the forums did have their good moments). My Hoyt collection had a few notable notches at the time, but was this was the first huge mountain I conquered: it was the first OH MY GOD piece of the puzzle.

From there, I knew I'd be devoting the rest of my collecting life to Hoyt.

#3 -- 1972 Topps #777 Hoyt Wilhelm

But Hoyt -- a largely stoic individual judging by the photos on his baseball cards -- has his fun moments, too.

The knuckleballer was nearly 50 when this card was released, so it's jarring seeing an old-guard guy like him on the hip, disco-y '72 Topps design. I could be wrong, but I'd guess he's the only WWII veteran to be featured in this set.

Add the nearly empty red seats behind Hoyt and the fact that this dreaded high-number -- his only card as a Dodger --  is indeed his sunset issue, and you have what is almost certainly the quirkiest Hoyt Wilhelm card on the market.

#2 -- 1961 Topps #545 Hoyt Wilhelm

High-numbers are annoying, but there's something infinitely satisfying about tracking them down.

I spent a bit over $30 to finally add this card to my collection. That's way more than I usually feel comfortable forking over for any individual card, but I had to make an exception for Hoyt. It certainly helps that this candid shot of the future HOFer showing off his classic knuckleball grip makes for one of Hoyt's finer cardboard moments.

If only it wasn't a damn high-number.

#1 -- 1955 Bowman #1 Hoyt Wilhelm

In the top spot is a card with the lowest number of them all: #1.

This is a beautiful card on its own, and a member of my best binder page. The '55 Bowman design remains one of my all-time favorites, and this card comes smack in the middle of Hoyt's heyday with the New York Giants.

What puts it over the top for me is the fact that it is indeed card #1 from the '55 Bowman checklist. Perhaps it was sheer random chance, but the fact is that Bowman could've chosen any of the hundreds of then-current big leaguers to kick off (what I think is) their best set, but they bestowed that honor on Hoyt himself.

Fitting for the man who will forever be Number One in my collection.


John Miller said...


Fuji said...

Sweet collection of Hoyts. said...

Great idea and great first series post

Robert said...

Great to see you posting about Hoyt again. Love the #5 card, the swatch looks "old-timey" (if that is such a word)...

Hackenbush said...

Collecting Wilhelm---couldn't Hoyt! You're right of course about all the stoic looks but there is one big exception, 1969. Too bad it's an otherwise dull card with the blacked out cap.

P-town Tom said...

Yes, I agree. This is a great theme idea. Good luck on your chase for the Hoyt rookie card!

Jon said...

This seems like a pretty good idea for a series! It's always neat to see, and read about, the origins of a collection.

JediJeff said...

So you AREN'T collecting hockey anymore?

Tony Burbs said...

Very nice selections. My favorite Hoyt will always be his '71 Topps - seeing him in Cubs uniform is still delightfully jarring.

Mike said...

Almost all his cards are'll find that '52 someday!!!