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The Strange Card Career of Pancho Herrera

Sometimes there is a figure in the way back machine who makes you wonder what Topps and other card people were thinking when they made his cards. One of those people is Pancho Herrera whose brief major league career and card career had more turns and twists than just about anyone else from his era.

Our hero comes up to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1958 and shuttles between their Triple-A team and the major league team. He does well enough for Topps to issue a card for him in their final series in 1958 but there turns out to be one small issue. Yep, a select few of his cards have the "A" missing from Herrera. If you own a version of the error card congratulations as many collectors have searched years and never seen a copy. 

And yes most of his rookie cards do have the "A" at the end of Herrera

This concludes his 1958 card and he's off to a great card collecting start So what does 1959 hold in store. 

In 1958, although Herrera had some stints with the Phillies he still qualified for rookie status so Topps makes a Rookie Prospect card of him.  They also go and call him Frank instead of Pancho. There is something wild about Topps calling a player a rookie after he had a solo card. This is not an unique experience as for example Frank Bork has a 1965 high number card by himself but in 1966, yep he's part of a two-player Pirates Rookie Stars card. There are other examples as well so Herrera is now two for two in interesting card lore.

So far Herrera has two interesting Topps facts in two years. That's a rare start and despite not playing in the majors in 1959 due to a broken ankle's after-effects he is still a leading prospect going into 1960 for the Phillies. Thus, for the 2nd straight year, he has a Rookie Stars card. If you are keeping count, that means he has 2 "Rookie" cards issued after his debut card. So yep neither of his "Rookie" Cards are really rookie cards but the one which does not say Rookie is a rookie. Confused yet?

Pancho, aka Frank also gets his first mainstream non-Topps card in 1960 as he is a first series Leaf card, No Rookie stuff on the card, a great clear photo. I can argue this is the most attractive card of our featured star issues during his career


We now go to 1961 and Pancho is honored by Topps in their very difficult last series as the National League All-Star.  In my opinion, a case can be made for Bill White, Gordy Coleman, Orlando Cepeda or Joe Adcock to be Topps nominee but looking at the stats with an eye about the time, one can understand the logic why Topps chose Pancho although there were other worthwhile players.

While we've established Topps had some reasonable logic in this choice there was one small detail. Yep, there is no regular 1961 Topps Pancho Herrera card. Topps would repeat this bizarre situation in 1962 when Roy McMillian would get both an All-Star card and a multi-player card but not get a "base" card. So, if you are keeping track, Herrera still has not had a normal Topps card. This would be the finale of Herrera's major league career and looking at the stats he played in the wrong era. The biggest thing was he struck out to lead the National League with 136 strikeouts in 1960 as a batter and today no one would even bat an eye at such a number.

And it's not like Topps had no idea he existed. In 1961 he also had a Bazooka card (related to Topps as a producer) and Topps Magic Rub-Off and Stamps. Yep he was top of mind for Topps in 1961 just without that little pesky detail of a regular issue base card.

He had a decent batting average, fielded well and was the type of player whom today would be a solid cog for just about any major league team. But no, not in 1961.  And this ends his major league and Topps career but in typical Herrera fashion there is a coda as he had a few 1962 items of which the most notable are from the Post Cereal family of cards. He has all three of Post, Canadian Post and Jell-O in 1962 although he would never see the major leagues again. I wonder just how thrilled the kids in 1962 were to see Herrera on a box although he was not in any of the box scores one would see in a daily paper. 

And if anyone knows what Topps was thinking in those days I wish we could back and ask them about Pancho's card career which was probably stranger than his short but interesting major league career.


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