ebay slug : 1971-topps-bert-blyleven
For most of its existence, the 1971 Topps Bert Blyleven rookie card was nothing to write home about.
Sure, it was the rookie card of an All-Star pitcher, and it heralded from the condition-sensitive, black-bordered 1971 Topps set, a love-it-or-hate-it affair if ever one existed in the hobby.
But even for those who considered the’71s a classic, the Blyleven rookie was sort of ho-hum.
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Here we had a card checking in at #26, way at the bottom of the first series, usually the most plentiful of the year. That’s pretty much how it’s played out for the 1971 Topps cards, too, as you can see in commons prices across the different series.
And in Blyleven, we had an All-Star pitcher, sure, but a one-time All-Star through 1983, with just one 20-win season and one top-ten Cy Young finish under his belt … all came in 1973 with the Minnesota Twins.
Mostly, though, as the hobby heated up in the mid-1980s, Blyleven was an accumulator, a guy who pitched a ton of innings, struck out fair number of batters, and won a decent number of games for some rough teams.
Nothing exciting there from a cardboard perspective.
That trend pretty much continued in 1984, when he won 19 for the Cleveland Indians, and in 1985 when he won 17 for the Indians and Twins combined. He did finish third in CY voting both years and even made the All-Star team in 1985
The deal that shipped Blyleven “home” to Minnesota in August of ‘85, though, gave him a shot at something he hadn’t seen since 1979 with the Pittsburgh Pirates — postseason limelight.
Because, in 1987, Blyleven helped lead the Twins to an American League West title, then won three games in October as Minnesota took the ALCS and World Series.
Suddenly, that 1971 Topps RC of his started to look a little better, and a little more expensive, moving up for a couple of bucks to $5 or $10 as rookie card mania continued to grip the hobby.
By the time Blyleven retired from the California Angels in 1992, he had put up 287 wins with a 3.31 ERA, 3701 strikeouts, and 60 shutouts.
In some corners, there were serious whispers that Blyleven might someday crack the Hall of Fame lineup.
Things didn’t look too rosy on that front, though, when The Flying Dutchman failed to appear on even 20% of ballots in each of his first three tries, from 1998 through 2000.
An uptick in 2001, though, led to a steady climb through most of the 2000s before a four-year rush left Blyleven as a Cooperstown enshrinee in 2011, his penultimate year of eligibility.
His rookie card, naturally, picked up steam along the way to immortality along the way, and today, that “boring” 1971 Topps Bert Blyleven RC checks in at around $200 in PSA 7 condition, moving up to $800 and more than four grand as you bump to 8s and 9s, respectively.
And, if you ever run into an elusive perfect 10, well, you might not even believe all the zeroes tacked to the backend of the price. There is only one (so far), after all, and it changed hands at north of $15,000 way back in 2012.
Now that might be something to write home about, doncha think?
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