Jim Kaat is considered one of the greatest fielding pitchers in the history of the game, earning a total of 16 Gold Glove Awards and winning nearly 300 games over his career. Many modern baseball fans may know him best as a broadcaster who has won multiple Emmy Awards for "Excellence In Sports Broadcasting" while working as an in-game analyst for CBS, YES Network and MLB Network. A long-time candidate for Cooperstown, Jim Kaat was finally selected for induction in 2022 by the Baseball Hall of Fame's Golden Era Committee. Kaat has also been a fixture in the hobby world, maintaining a presence in card products throughout his long MLB career and beyond. This list looks at some of the most popular Jim Kaat cards, including rookies, certified autographs, and several hard-to-find issues.
Jim Kaat's career was noted for its longevity, stretching across four decades and including five teams. His 25-year career started in 1959 with the original Washington Senators and ended in 1983 with the Cardinals. Along the way, Kaat set the record for most Gold Glove Awards by a pitcher, was named to three All-Star Games, and was a member of the 1982 St. Louis Cardinals World Series-winning team. Kaat is also one of the most decorated pitchers in the history of the Minnesota Twins franchise and is a member of the team's Hall of Fame.
The first Jim Kaat cards appeared in 1960 Topps for the Senators. Throughout his career, Kaat was not only present in the various flagship sets, but also in numerous oddball issues that can make collecting his cards from the 1950s, '60s and '70s very challenging. Generally, Kaat's cards from his playing career are considered widely available and affordable. However, there are many that can be described as exactly the opposite, taking considerable patience and resources. Jim Kaat has also maintained a presence in numerous modern baseball card products, frequently lending his autograph to sets. Modern collectors can find Jim Kaat on memorabilia and insert cards from numerous years starting after 2000. No matter your type of collecting or budget, this list highlights many key cards for Kaat.
Top 10 Jim Kaat Baseball Cards
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10. 1973 Topps Jim Kaat #530 SP
In the first game of the 1973 season (Red Sox vs. Yankees), fans witnessed a historic moment as Ron Bloomberg came up to bat in the first inning as the original designated hitter (DH). The event marked the end of pitchers batting in the American League, but Topps managed to produce a card of Jim Kaat batting in its 1973 set. While many baseball fans enjoyed the extra offense that the DH added to the game, there were numerous pitchers from this era who could handle the bat just fine and likely missed taking some hacks. Jim Kaat was one of them.
The 1973 Topps Jim Kaat card was the end of an era for fans of American League teams and has remained popular. Although many of the Topps Jim Kaat issues from this time period can be found for a few dollars, this card is short-printed, making it more costly. There is also an autograph version of this card in 2022 Topps Heritage.
9. 2001 Upper Deck Decade 1970s Game Jersey Autograph Jim Kaat #SJ-JKa
2001 Upper Deck Decade 1970s is a unique, era-specific product that is littered with Hall of Famers and greats from the era. The card designs and insert titles highlight aspects of popular culture and news events. Jim Kaat is featured on a base card, a relic card, and a sought-after autographed relic. Kaat's autograph/relic is more expensive than the average certified signature of the slick-fielding pitcher, but collectors don't seem to mind.
Over the years, Upper Deck has put together some deep autograph checklists that focused on retired players and the 1970s set is no different, featuring signatures of Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan and Johnny Bench. The on-card signature and powder blue jersey swatch make for a great combination, along with the fact that Kaat appears as a member of the White Sox. While Kaat's stay on the south side was short, these were amongst his most successful days on the field.
8. 2000 Fleer Greats of the Game Jim Kaat Autograph
Kaat has signed a fair number of autographs for card companies over the years. His first appearance on a certified autograph card was in 2000 Fleer Greats of the Game. This card remains one of his best and most popular signed options. The 2000 Greats of the Game autograph has great aesthetic appeal with a color picture of the Twins Hall of Famer delivering a pitch over a cream-colored background framed with a gold border. Greats of the Game ran for several years in the late 1990s and early 2000s as a per-pack-autograph product that had wide appeal across the hobby.
Kaat signed a full allotment of cards, making this one of the easier-to-find and cost-friendly Hall of Fame signatures in this highly-acclaimed product. Beyond the availability and affordability of this card, Kaat has only a limited selection of Twins autographs from the early 2000s. During this time he was featured as both a Cardinal and Yankee in several products despite the fact that he spent a limited amount of time playing with each of those franchises.
7. 1962 Topps Jim Kaat #21
The 1962 Topps set has one of the most distinguishable designs with its wood-framed borders. Kaat appears in the easy-to-find low series. As such, collectors will have no problem tracking down copies of this card on the secondary market. Nevertheless, there are several factors that drive the popularity of this card.
First, while Kaat was identified as a member of the Minnesota Twins on his 1961 Topps card, he was not shown in the team's uniform. Similar to the majority of Twins players in the first few series of that set, Kaat was pictured hatless, wearing a white uniform. Nothing sets the card apart as being a Twins card outside of the team name on the front. The '62 release gave the collecting world its first Jim Kaat card donning the "TC" logo on his cap.
Second, the 1962 Topps cards are difficult to find in good condition. Similar to 1971 Topps, the darker wood-framed borders show wear and chipping along the edges, along with corner damage. While there are plenty of tint variations and errors that appeal to many collectors of this set, those cannot be found with Jim Kaat's card.
6T. 1961 Topps Jim Kaat #63
Second-year cards from this era are more valued and are given a higher profile compared to modern products. For many players with rookie cards in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, a player's second-year issue was frequently their first solo card. In the case of Jim Kaat, he appeared as the lone player on this rookie card, but that did not diminish the popularity of his second year in 1961 Topps.
One of the simplest Topps flagship designs, the 1961 card features a white border with the player and position in a color box, and the team name in an adjoining box at the bottom of the card. With the Twins in their first season, along with the Angels and Senators entering the league as expansion teams, Topps dropped the logos from their cards. Kaat appeared in the low numbers, so availability is not a problem, but there are challenges for collectors. The largest hurdle is the ever-present condition issues with centering and ink splotches that frequently occur. Collectors willing to accept some minor flaws can find a bargain on this early Kaat, while those looking for a clean copy will need a larger budget.
6T. 1961 Topps Stamps Jim Kaat
Beyond his appearance in the 1961 Topps flagship set, Kaat also showed up in the Topps Stamps insert. The stamps were placed in packs with two per panel. Half of the stamps were green and the other half were brown. Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline is the only player to appear on both versions. Kaat's 1961 Topps Stamp was part of the brown stamps and can be found in three different forms on the secondary market. The most desirable copies are still attached to the panel, but these are a rarity and can be quite expensive. Most copies of the Topps Stamps have either been hand cut into a single stamp or have been placed inside a copy of the Topps Stamp Album, which was a precursor to the modern Topps Sticker Albums. Either way, these can be difficult to locate.
5. 1967 Topps Punch-Outs Jim Kaat
Another obscure offering, the 1967 Topps Punch-Outs cards were a test issue inserted into cello packs of 1967 Topps in select markets. The "game cards" measure 2 1/2" by 4 2/3" and feature a black-and-white photo of a team captain along with an All-Star lineup for their respective league. While several players, such as Mickey Mantle and Roberto Clemente, have photo variations in this set, Jim Kaat's card has a standard black-and-white photo.
The 1967 Topps Punch-Outs are indeed rare, but their cost varies widely based on the condition of the card. Copies that were used for the intended gameplay purposes can often be found at a significant discount, but with considerable damage to the background of the card. Clean copies of this Kaat card are amongst his most expensive cards and require patience to find.
4. 1967 Bazooka Jim Kaat #18
Bazooka engaged with the collecting world throughout the 1960s, attaching baseball cards to the bottom panels of gum packages. In 1967, Bazooka issued a 48-card set over 16 panels, with three players per panel. However, 1967 Bazooka duplicated the design and the majority of the checklist from the 1966 issue. The result has made the cards from the two sets virtually indistinguishable. Many collectors speak of the two sets as the 1966-67 Bazooka cards, listing the card years in the same fashion as hockey or basketball cards.
In the case of Jim Kaat, he was one of the few players to only appear in 1967, making his card one of the few that can be given a specific year. Similar to other Bazooka sets, these are condition-sensitive due to the fact that they are often hand-cut cards. Collectors can find this 1967 Bazooka as a single-cut card, a cut-out panel (as shown below), or as a complete box. Even the single copies of Kaat's Bazooka card with flaws are pricey, but are a fraction of the full-box and whole-panel copies, which include all-time great Willie Mays.
3. 1971 Topps Greatest Moments Jim Kaat #7
The 1971 Topps Greatest Moments cards are a hard-to-find test issue and one of the most popular oddball sets from this era of collecting. The Greatest Moments cards had a black border similar to the 1971 Topps set, with oversized dimensions measuring 2 1/2" by 4 3/4" inches. Both the Topps flagship and Greatest Moments sets are subject to very similar condition issues with the black borders easily showing wear.
This is one of the few cards that highlights Jim Kaat's fielding prowess during his playing career, which makes it popular. This also happens to be one of Kaat's toughest cards to find and also one of his most expensive. While his long-time collectors may find this card an attractive option, newer collectors, or those on a budget, may want to check out the 2020 Topps Heritage Greatest Moments box topper card of Kaat. This modern version is a much more affordable option.
2. 1961 Peters Meats Jim Kaat #7
The Washington Senators loaded a moving truck and headed for the Twin Cities for the start of the 1961 season. Peters Meats was a local Minneapolis-St. Paul company that produced a set of baseball cards to introduce fans to players on their new professional sports team. One of the players earning a spot in the set was a young, left-handed starting pitcher named Jim Kaat. The Peters Meats set also includes a card of fellow Twins Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew.
These locally-issued oddball cards are both condition-sensitive and very rare. The Peters Meats Twins cards were actually part of the food packaging on the outside of hot dog and sausage wrappers and required collectors to cut them out by hand. The usual shortcomings of hand-cut cards often present themselves when trying to find a copy of this card. Due to the very limited distribution area, strictly around the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, these are a rarity on the secondary market. While there are many in the hobby who would love to add this Jim Kaat to their collection, it is his rarest card.
1T. 1960 Topps Jim Kaat #136 RC
The 1960 Topps set has a distinct look with its horizontal design and distinct color scheme. This was notably the final year that the Topps flagship set used a horizontal design. The rookie cards appeared throughout the set, with the top releases belonging to Willie McCovey and Carl Yastrzemski. However, the Jim Kaat rookie is another favorite. The 1960 Topps Kaat is also more affordable than the aforementioned rookies, but the cost of this card has steadily increased over the years both due to the increased traction for Kaat's entrance into Cooperstown and the popularity of Topps issues from this era. This is a must-own for any collector building a serious collection of Jim Kaat cards, but also a great find for those who enjoy the Topps sets from this time period.
1T. 1960 Topps Venezuelan Jim Kaat #136 RC
There is also a Venezuelan version of Jim Kaat's 1960 Topps rookie. These cards were printed for distribution in Venezuela and are very difficult to find on the secondary market. The card stock on the Venezuelan cards is noticeably thinner and can be identified by the cream or gray card stock, and possibly a copyright line written in Spanish. Kaat's Topps Venezuelan rookie card is short-printed, which makes it an even tougher find. Due to the fact that these cards are printed on a lower quality card stock, the color on the front of the card is often faded, and there are frequently condition issues with the surface, corners and edges. Collectors looking for this card should be patient and prepared to pay a hefty price.