#103 Curt Flood
Curt Flood’s not only an fascinating guy who’s famous for making a bold stand against Major League Baseball in the late ’60s, but he’s also the subject of one of the more perplexing cards in the 1964 set.
While this card is “officially” listed as a common card in all price guides, it’s anything but common in terms of the price it commands on the open market. At some point, this card was deemed “tough” in the sense that it was supposedly hard to find, as if it were a short print card even though it’s from the early second series.
The Sports Market Report (PSA’s price guide and magazine) still lists the card as common, but has added a note to the bottom of the ’64 Topps price list, mentioning that #103 is among a handful of cards that are “considered tough in NM-MT 8 and sell for a premium.” SMR also notes that PSA 8 versions of the card had been fetching $250-280 in 2008.
The notion that it is a rare card is supported by the fact that none are available to purchase as a “buy it now” on eBay, and the few that make it to auction are bought for a much higher price than a regular common, regardless of the condition. But one wonders if the driving force behind the high price of the card is the fact that it has a reputation for being rare. So is it really rare, or are those who have them hoarding them because they think it is? I’ve also heard rumors that a small number of collectors have been buying them up and hoarding them to keep the market small.
The card is fairly rare in PSA 8, judging by PSA’s population report, but it’s nowhere near the rarest in the set. There are 52 PSA 8 examples of the Flood card, but there are a decent number of common cards with a PSA 8 population between 30 and 40. There are just 4 PSA 9s out there, but again there are a couple dozen cards of which there are 4 or fewer PSA 9 examples.
I was lucky, I suppose, to acquire mine as part of a lot of common cards for a small price. It’s in quite good shape. The corners are only slightly softened and the centering is particularly outstanding. The surface still has a lot of gloss, but there are what appears to be some print defects in the green bar containing Flood’s name and position. I can’t imagine it’s any worse than an EX, and I wouldn’t put it out of the realm of EX-MT. Which means that it could probably command $15 up to maybe $25 in auction.
The trivia question (which is not rubbed off) asks which pitcher has won 511 games. If you don’t know the answer to that, you aren’t a baseball fan.
Curt Flood is best known for refusing to report to the Phillies after he was traded there by the Cardinals following the 1969 season (it was a muti-player deal, with Dick Allen being the major player coming to St. Louis). He argued that since his contract with the Cardinals had expired, that he had no obligation to sign a deal with Philadelphia even though he had been traded there. He launched a one-man challenge to the reserve clause, which since the beginnings of professional baseball dictated that a player was to remain the property of a team as long as they chose to offer contracts. The free agency we now take for granted didn’t exist.
Mostly, Flood wanted to play in 1970 (he was only 32) but didn’t want to play for the Phillies, partly because they weren’t very good and Flood had won two World Series titles in the ’60s with the Cards, and partly because he was appalled at the way Allen (and other black players) was treated by the fans in Philadelphia and did not want to face such over racism from his home fans.
Flood’s challenge of the reserve clause made it all the way to the Supreme Court, but eventually was turned down. Likening the system to slavery didn’t sit well with many people, especially since Flood was making a lot of money ($90,000) compared to the average worker.
While the advent of free agency wasn’t directly connected to Flood’s actions, he is still considered an important catalyst in the eventual elimination of the reserve clause in the mid-’70s.
On the field, Flood was a big part of three NL pennant winners with the Cardinals. But in terms of OPS+, he was exactly average for his career. Such was the case in 1964 as well, when he posted an OPS+ of 100 despite a batting average of .311. Flood’s OPS was always hurt by the fact that he didn’t walk much and he also didn’t hit very many home runs (just 85 in 6,958 career PA).
He was known as a great defensive center fielder, and won seven consecutive Gold Gloves between 1963 and 1969. In 1966, he played the entire season (159 games) without making an error.
Flood’s best seasons at the plated were 1965 and 1967. In ’65, he hit 11 homers and drove in a career-high 83 while batting .310. He also walked a career-high 51 times. According to FanGraphs, his wRAA (runs above average) was 24.7 in 1965, which means he was worth about 2 1/2 wins to the Cards that season offensively. According to Baseball Reference’s fielding runs calculations, he was slightly below average in ’65, but was often worth a win or more per year in the field.
In 1967, he had a career-best 128 OPS+, which included a .335 batting average (aided by an unusually high .361 BABIP).
Flood didn’t perform well in the postseason. In his three World Series, he hit .221/.287/.267 in 94 PA.
His career ended relatively early, as he chose to sit out the 1970 season rather than report to the Phillies. The Phils then traded him after the season to Washington, and he decided to join the Senators. But after struggling through 13 games, he retired at the age of 33. He quit with a total of 1,861 hits and a .293 batting average.
After his retirement, some lobbied for Flood to gain entry into the Hall of Fame, but he never got more than 15.1% of the vote. He died in 1997, just after his 59th birthday. His death was commemorated in Congress by two bills that lifted baseball’s antitrust exemption in respect to player labor.