In writing an article about 1975 Topps baseball, I had a lot of options; Robin Yount or George Brett’s rookie cards, the mini-cards, the colorful borders, commemorative cards, or stories about unopened products, among many other topics about this super popular 660-card set. But I’ve decided to talk about Herb Washington instead.
The 1975 Topps card, #407, lists Herb Washington as a “Pinch Runner” since that was the only role he had as a major leaguer; he never had an at-bat. His 1975 Topps card (and the mini and O-Pee-Chee versions) is the only baseball card that ever used “Pinch Runner” as the position label.
Washington was a talented high-school runner who then ran for Michigan State, where he was a four-time All-American in Track and Field.
In 1974, the Oakland A’s signed him as the team’s designated runner, with no expectations for developing other baseball skills. He played in 105 games without batting, pitching, or fielding. He finished his career with 31 stolen bases in 48 attempts, scoring 33 runs.
The 1975 Topps card is the only one made for him since he was released early in the 1975 season when the team signed Don Hopkins and Matt Alexander.
After his 13-month MLB career, he raced as a pro-runner until 1976.
After his running career, Washington owned as many as 27 McDonald’s franchises as a businessman. He sued McDonald’s for systemic racial discrimination and settled the lawsuit in 2021 when McDonald’s bought 13 of his restaurants for $33.5M.
As far as his 1975 Topps baseball card goes, it’s considered a rookie card and priced slightly higher than commons in the set. The card is a bit more expensive graded because of the popularity of the 1975 set amongst PSA Set Registry participants, but PSA 8s have been selling for around $130, and PSA 9s go for about $330. In the Prices by Grade chart below, you can see that there are 2 PSA 10s, which would undoubtedly command a premium price in today’s market; I can’t even guess what one would sell for.
Herb Washington’s story as a designated runner is usually overlooked when discussing the 1975 Topps Baseball set. And while his reception on the team was mixed amongst players, he still got a World Series championship ring (despite being picked off at a critical moment in game 2). Happy collecting!