Topps 1966 Baseball Card Set - The World Turns from Black and White to Color
January 31, 2012
by William Szczepanek
It's interesting to note when watching old clips of TV shows or baseball highlights that black and white was accepted as a standard for a long time after color capabilities were available. 1966 marked a transition year where the world moved to color rapidly. Color TV sets became more affordable as more programs were broadcast in "living color" (NBC). Fashion became more colorful also; and, in a sense, the world become more colorful.
Topps released its 1966 Baseball Card Set of 598 cards in seven series and for the first time used color to differentiate various teams. The Cardinals had yellow backgrounds with red letters, Giants were green with yellow letters, the Yankees were red with yellow letters, the Cubs were an icky beige with white letters as were the White Sox, the Angels were lilac with white letters, the Mets were purple. Here's where it gets too hard for me to classify various shades of purple, lilac or whatever. The fact is that the teams looked consistent, which was a cool thing for someone like me who played with cards and sorted them by teams. The design was simple and used color well... most of the time. Why Topps would choose a shade of purple for the background behind the green and gold Athletics' uniforms makes me wonder about the person who was in charge of their art.
Subsets, which were an important part of cards during the early sixties, were largely missing. There were cards for League Leaders (215-226) and rookie cards by team, but gone were the special sets for managers, World Series Highlights and All Star selections. #215 Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays and Henry Aaron on the same card is amazing. Think of what it would have been like if a single team had been able to sign these three hitting and fielding masters.
Rookie cards included: # 254 Fergie Jenkins and Bill Sorrell and #288 Don Sutton with Bill Singer of the Dodgers as examples of team rookie cards. Other rookies of note: Don Kessinger (#24) and Horace Clarke (#547) with their own card, Mickey Stanley (#198), Roy White (#234), Bobby Murcer (#469). While Tommie Agee won rookie of the Year Award, his first rookie card appeared in 1965.
In 1966 my mind was not on baseball cards. I was graduating from high school and preparing for college. I eagerly applied myself to my studies. However, I was unaware that 20% of all students in all my classes would fail because the new school (University of Illinois Chicago Circle) did not have the faculty and accommodations yet to handle a larger number of students in subsequent years. Late in my first year I failed an integral calculus class and risked losing my scholarship if things didn't turn around. Lesson learned --- you may think you are giving it your all, but sometimes even more effort is required. The increased effort cut substantially into my already paltry social time... but in the long run it paid off. It was a different time, with different priorities and different circumstances, but it was those times that helped to get the best out of everyone through increased competition. There were no trophies for just trying. You won or lost in sports, in war and life.
In July Mickey Mantle passed Lou Gehrig on the all time home run list and Willie Mays moved into the number 2 spot behind Babe Ruth. That summer Boog Powell of the Baltimore Orioles hit 3 opposite field home runs over the green monster in Boston to lead the Orioles over the Red Sox. He totaled 13 bases on the day. Tony Cloninger of the now Atlanta Braves became the first player in the National League to ever hit two grand slam home runs in the same game and the only pitcher to ever do so.
1966 World Series
Sandy Koufax pitched his final game of his amazing career to lead the Dodgers to the pennant.
Then the Baltimore Orioles took out the Dodgers in 4 games in the World Series. The Orioles faced the premier pitching staff of the 60s in the Dodgers, but subdued the Dodgers hitters on two runs, seventeen hits, a .142 batting average and held the Dodgers scoreless for 33 consecutive innings.
Frank Robinson dominated American League pitching to win the Triple Crown. Sandy Koufax finished his Hall of Fame career and dominated Nation League hitters with 27 wins and a 1.73 ERA.
Frank Robinson BAL .316; (NL)
Topps tried to Americanize Roberto Clemente's card by calling him Bob. Clemente never liked it. In somewhat the same way Hank Aaron always preferred to be called Henry, but was never very vocal about it.
In The World
Fashion was also more colorful as dresses turned "Mod" which meant they must be avant garde, often made of metal or plastic, with no waistline and, of course... very short. The mini skirt was the cultural fashion of choice by the youth of the time. Swinging London provided the fashion statements and Carnaby Street was the place to be. Young men's clothing strived to match the ladies' in new styles. Those styles were in stark contrast to the establishment of the time. Andy Warhol's art epitomized the style of the times.
The Space Race was in full swing. The unmanned Soviet Luna 9 spacecraft made the first controlled rocket-assisted landing on the Moon. The Soviet space probe Venera 3 crashed on Venus, becoming the first spacecraft to land on another planet's surface. The U.S. followed when Surveyor 1 landed in Oceanus Procellarum on the Moon, becoming the first U.S. spacecraft to make a soft landing on a surface other than the Earth. On Gemini 9, Gene Cernan completed the second U.S. spacewalk of a little more than 2 hours. Gemini 10 with astonauts John Young and Michael Collins) was launched and after docking with an Agena target vehicle, the astronauts then set a world altitude record of 474 miles (763 km).
In 1966 China's political hierarchy was run by elitist elements and capitalists. Mao Zedung attempted to remove these elements through a Proletarian Cultural Revolution enlisting the young to attack authority figures, whom he believed had grown complacent, bureaucratic, and anti-revolutionary. The movement released the young from the shackles of a suppressive class structure. While chaos reigned for awhile, it ultimately moved China to communicate more with the West.
U.S. President Lyndon Johnson thought that the United States should stay in South Vietnam until Communist aggression there could be ended. As U.S. troop levels reached 190,000, anti-Viet Nam war protests became more frequent. On May 15th tens of thousands of anti-war demonstrators picketed the White House and rallied at the Washington Monument. Heavyweight boxing champion, Muhammad Ali, refused to go to war, declared himself a conscientious objector and was stripped of his title.
With the ongoing stress on both constitutional and inherent rights of American citizens and the added assertion of government subservience to the individual, some[thought it was necessary for government information to be available to the public. As a response, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act.
Racial conflict continued as the Civil Rights Act matured as riots in Chicago, Cleveland, Atlanta, Brooklyn, Minneapolis, Omaha and Dayton demonstrated the feelings of unrest.
The government ruled that all cigarette packages in the U.S must carry the health warning "Caution! Cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health." The campaigns worked pretty well as young people, particularly college kids, got the message. The poster shown here was very prevalent and did achieve the expected result. It's amazing how far behind we have fallen in the passing years.
Pampers created the first disposable diaper. Hard to imagine what life was like before this invention.
The first episode of the science fiction television series Star Trek aired. Spies and secret agents were popular with movies like Our Man Flint and The Silencers and TV shows like Man From U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart and I Spy, the first series to feature a black actor, Bill Cosby.
Westerns were alive and well, claiming the top spots. They were slowly getting more sophisticated. On Gunsmoke, did Marshall Dillon have a relationship with Miss Kitty, whose bordello was center stage on TV? And, if he were a good sheriff of the time wouldn't he have put her in jail or driven her out of town? It seemed the bordello was allowed at the discretion of the Marshall. The show was handled in such a way that the kids didn't really know what was going on.
In an interview with London Evening Standard reporter Maureen Cleave, John Lennon of The Beatles states that they are "more popular than Jesus now".The album Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys was released as well as Simon and Garfunkel's Sounds of Silence and Frank Sinatra's Strangers in the Night.
But the list of memorable songs did not end there. If you look at Billboard's end of the top 100 you get:
90. Nowhere Man -
Music was never bigger than in the mid 1960s and the quality of the recordings resulting from competition between groups like The Beatles and The Beach Boys had everyone moving to "The Beat"
The Top grossing films from 1966 were:
Yes, it seemed like black and white had disappeared in 1966. But, with color came complexity. It was more complicated and diverse than shades of gray. All aspects of the simple life of the fifties were being eroded, sometimes violently. The times were changing and color meant something different to each and every individual.