Children of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s came to expect certain things from our pop culture outlets. Things like …

  • Cartoons on Saturday morning
  • A different sugary breakfast cereal for every one of those cartoons
  • Video games, first in the arcade, then at home
  • Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books in the school library
  • Multiplayer rookie cards in our Topps baseball card sets

That last one — multiplayer rookies — was a gosh darn birthright for Little Leaguers and card collectors of all sort.

And, even if we sometimes would have rather had single cards of the players in question (I’m looking at you, Bill Denehy), the mashed-up rookies gave us something interesting to break up the monotony of the simply wonderful cards around them.

With all that said, we couldn’t really do a proper Spring Training Baseball Card Challenge without including a multiplayer rookie card, now could we? Nah.

1962 Topps Rookie Parade Sam McDowell

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So that’s why I’m here on Day 13, getting ready to talk about the card that started it all — 1962 Topps Rookie Parade Pitchers (#591).

Not only is this a multiplayer rookie card, it’s the first multiplayer rookie card. Before 1962, Topps had given special treatment to their rookies in 1960 with Rookie Star (Carl Yastrzemski) and Rookie All-Star (Willie McCovey) designations, and in 1961 with the first appearance of the Topps All-Star Rookie trophy on “regular” cards (Ron Santo).

But those were all single cards.

In 1962, though, Topps decided to sardine as much talent as they could into their wood-bordered 598-card set, and one way to do that was to showcase more up-and-comers. Sort of like an early version of the modern Bowman concept.

And Topps unveiled their master plan for the first time there on care #591 with five pitchers making up a Rookie Parade of arms that held the hopes and dreams of four franchises in their pitching grips:

Of those, McDowell had by far the longest and most distinguished career. Over 15 Major League seasons, Sudden Sam crafted a 141-134 record on the strength of a 3.17 ERA and 2400+ strikeouts, nearly a K per inning.

Taylor and Radatz also had solid, extended stays in the Bigs, while Quirk and Nischwitz saw limited action over a handful of seasons.

1962 Topps Rookie Parade Sam McDowell (back)

But none of that is what’s important. Not really. Not for us. Not today.

More important is to realize that card #591 was just the lead-in to a whole subset in 1962 Topps …

  • 591 Rookie Parade Pitchers
  • 592 Rookie Parade Pitchers (different pitchers!)
  • 593 Rookie Parade Pitchers (different still!)
  • 594 Rookie Parade Catchers
  • 595 Rookie Parade Infielders
  • 596 Rookie Parade Infielders (different #1)
  • 597 Rookie Parade Infielders (different #2)
  • 598 Rookie Parade Outfielders

And the really important thing to realize is that this subset led to all the rookie subsets to come — the two-player cards, the three-player cards, four-player, Rookie Stars, Future Stars, Prospects, and on and on and on.

So, yeah, maybe Topps would have unleashed this concept on us sooner or later, no matter what happened in 1962. But as far as I can tell based on the evidence, 1962 Topps Rookie Parade Sam McDowell spawned the whole dang rookie card craze.

And even if he didn’t, this is still a pretty cool card to celebrate Spring Training with.

Check out the entire series of 2019 Spring Training Challenge posts here.