Some of the collections I have been working on over the years are starting to get filled out and my goals are being reached. As a result, I'm starting to slow down a little when it comes to acquiring many cards for some of my mini-collections. Now that the collection is filling more and more complete, I wanted to start showcasing the cards I have, player by player.
One such collection is my Rookie of the Year collection. I love collecting players who have won the award as the top newcomer in each league. This wasn't born of hot rookie hype and the desire to prospect. Rather, I became fascinated thinking about the careers of guys like Eric Karros, Jerome Walton, and Tim Salmon, who experienced varying degrees of success but may not have become superstars. I thought it would be fun to have a collection that chronicles the individual career journeys of rookie stars--whether they burned bright and flamed out quickly, regressed to the mean, or wended their way to Cooperstown.
My goal has been to fill a binder page for each player who won the award in my lifetime and to fill a row for older players. I may expand that later as I expand my vintage collection. The ultimate goal of my binder is to show a card from every different uniform the player wore, from fresh-faced rookie to grizzled vet. This series is to commemorate each Rookie of the Year's career and show my collection of their cards. I placed all of the past winners into random.org and got my order. The first player up is:
Harvey Kuenn made his Major League debut in 1953, playing in 19 games for the Tigers. The next year, he became the club's regular shortstop. He made an immediate impact, leading the league in plate appearances and hits while batting .308. He made the first of eight consecutive All-Star games in his rookie season.
Kuenn ran away with the Rookie of the Year award. He received 23 of 24 votes; the lone vote for another player went to Boston outfielder Tom Umphlett.
For his career, Kuenn played 15 seasons for 5 teams. He spent his first 8 seasons with Detroit, making the All-Star team in every one of them except his 19-game cup of coffee in 1953. Before the 1960 season began, he was traded to the Indians for Rocky Colavito. He spent only one year in Cleveland, making another All-Star team while batting .308 again. The next year he was on the move again, this time being traded to San Francisco for Johnny Antonelli and Willie Kirkland. He appeared in 515 games over five seasons for the Giants before being shipped to the Cubs in a mid-season trade. By this time, his bat was in decline. At the time of his trade to Chicago, the career .304 (to that point) hitter was batting a measly .237. That season, he played fewer than 100 games for the first time in his career, and he would never reach that milestone again. The Phillies bought his contract in 1966, and he finished his career that season in Philadelphia. Kuenn led the league in hits four times, doubles three times, and batting average once (a .353 mark in 1959). Baseball Reference gives him a career WAR of 26.0.
After his playing career, Kuenn went on to manage the Brewers in 1982 and 1983, not counting one game as manager in 1975. He posted a career record of 160-118 and won the AL pennant in 1982.
The three cards above are not the only ones I have of Harvey Kuenn. His 1966 Topps card is in my Cubs binder. To fully chronicle his career in my ROY binder, I still need another Cubs card, along with the Indians, Giants, and Phillies.
I hope you enjoyed this post. I plan to highlight each Rookie of the Year winner through the course of this series.