Howie Koplitz looks every bit the part of the Postal Clerk he would become after blowing out his shoulder in 1966. But in 1962 expectations were high. You may have noticed the pinstripes on his "Tigers" jersey and the unusually large Old English "D" on his cap. That is because it is actually a Birmingham Barons jersey.
This is a picture of him after throwing a No-Hitter for the Barons in 1961. He had an incredible season going 23-3 with a 2.11 ERA, 166 K's and 18 complete games. He was the MVP of the Southern Association and The Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year. When the Tigers called him up late in 1961 he won 2 games with an ERA of 2.25.
While researching Koplitz, I came accross this on MiLB.com:
"Heart is what Koplitz has got," Birminham Manager Frank Skaff told The Morgantown Post after the no-hitter. "He hit a popup to short at one point. He knew he had a no-hitter going with a seven-run lead. He was tired because it was very hot. How many guys would have run the ball out? But he did. He ran like a champion and he made it to second when the ball fell out of the shortstop's hand."
In 1962 he pitched in only 10 games for the Tigers but still went 3-0. In 1963 the Tigers sent him back down to the minors where he was picked up by the Senators in the Rule 5 draft. He spent 1964-66 in Washington until his career-ending injury. He then spent another 38 years with the Post Office.
In addition to his rookie card, Koplitz had Topps cards in 1963, 1964 and 1966. But was skipped over in 1965 which turned out to be the MLB season where he saw the most action, pitching 33 of his 54 big league games. So here is his missing 1965 Topps Card That Never Was:
And of course we still need to grade that rookie card. This is a tough one, I want to give a higher grade based on his 1961 season. But the fact is, he never achieved that potential. Add to that the airbrushed "D" on the cap plus a pinstriped "Tigers" uni and the grade drops from a 4, "set filler", to a 3, "hide it in a box".