Saturday, April 30, 2011

#157 Felix Mantilla

Felix Mantilla was the 12th Puerto Rican-born player to appear in the major leagues when he debuted with the Braves in 1956 and was lucky enough to wear the fabulous Milwaukee tomahawk jersey. He was also lucky enough to be on the Braves clubs that appeared in back-to-back World Series in 1957 and 1958. He earned a ring for the '57 title.

Mantilla was never an everyday player for the Braves but earned that role once he was taken by the Mets in the 1962 expansion draft. After a year with the bumbling first year team he was dealt to the Red Sox and in 1964 hit 30 homers. His 30 hr/64 rbi ratio is the second lowest in history for players with 30+ dingers.

Mantilla made his only All Star game in 1965 and, after a trade to the Astros where he played one year and a stint as Cubs property, he was out of the game by 1967.

I sure like the way the light blue frame allows the Braves' uni to take center stage here. Not the best card in the set, but in decent shape with three out of four fairly sharp corners. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

#466 Pierce All Star Starter

Billy Pierce made seven All Star teams as a White Sox hurler and, as this card notes, he had a lot of success in those games. He's near the top of the career strikeout list for lefties and all-in-all is one of the most underappreciated players of his era.  Most significantly to me... I'm fairly certain Pierce was the starter in the first big league game my Dad ever took me to. I'm still researching that.

A closer look at his work will come up when his regular issue card is featured. For now we'll make due with this rough around the edges, soft cornered, off center  "Baseball Thrills" cardboard.

Gotta love those striped stirrups!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

#471 Tom Sturdivant

Tom Sturdivant's star shone very bright in two seasons with the New York Yankees. After joining the club in 1955 and appearing in 33 games with mixed results "Snake" Sturdivant exploded onto the Yankee scene in 1956 with a 16-8 record and 5 saves in the duel role of starter and reliever. In Game 5 of that season's World Series against the Dodgers he hurled a six hit complete game win and evened the Series at two games apiece. The notoriety on the win was rather short-lived however as Don Larsen took the mound in Game 5 and proceeded to toss his famous Perfect Game!

Sturdivant backed up his '56 season with an even better 16-6 season in 1957. Exclusively a starter he had 7 complete games in 28 starts and a career best ERA of 2.54. He didn't repeat he World Series exploits in '57 getting a no decision in a Game 4 start against the eventual Series winning Braves. As a bonus Google provided a small but fun piece of his '57 season, a newspaper story and picture of a scrap Sturdivant had with Ray Boone in Detroit.

An arm injury in 1958 ended Sturdivant's days as a front line pitcher. The Yanks traded him to Kansas City in 1959 and from there a series of deals and the expansion draft of 1960 had him on the go to Washington, Detroit, Boston, Pittsburgh, Kansas City (again) and finally back to the city where he gained fame, ending his career with the New York Mets with a short 1954 stint. During those post-Yankee years he never won more than a handful of games in a season.

Tom Studivant died in his native Oklahoma in 2009 and I found an informative obit in his local paper. I also came across an interesting tribute page on a site called Todd's Dugout. Fair warning, don't click on the link to Todd's homepage at the bottom unless you enjoy annoying web renditions of Take Me Out To The Ballgame.

This card is a nice portrait of the guy with the attractive orange frame but my favorite Sturdivant card is his 1957 Topps.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

#455 Larry Doby

I was planning to post Larry Doby's card last week on MLB's Jackie Robinson day but it got away from me. Doby is credited with being the second black player to appear in the modern major leagues and the first in the American League.

Doby was born in South Carolina but grew up in my neck of the woods, Paterson, New Jersey.

Doby was signed by Indians owner Bill Veeck in 1947 less than three months after Jackie Robinson debuted with the Dodgers. He had been playing since 1942 in the Negro Leagues for the Newark Eagles with a break to serve in World War Two. He teamed with Monte Irvin to win the Negro League Championship as an Eagle.

In 1948 he won a World Series ring with the Indians and in the process became the first black player to hit a homer in a Series game. Doby was traded to the White Sox prior to the '56 season having appeared with the Indians again in a World Series, the losing effort of 1954 against the Giants. That Cleveland team however, won an impressive 111 games. As an Indian he had won two A.L. home run crowns as well.

After two seasons as a Chicago regular Doby wound down his career with return visits to Cleveland and Chicago sandwiched around a stint with Detroit which lasted 18 games. Long enough to be pictured here as a Tiger on his '59 card.

Looking at the seafoam green framed card I own I'm beginning to think "one off-center card at a time" would make a better tagline.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

#94 Chicago White Sox Team

If Topps had known that the 1959 White Sox were going to be American League champs and play in their first World Series since the 1919 Black Sox they might have given them a better looking card than this red and pink monstrosity. Then again, being Topps, they might not have.

The '59 Sox were known as the "Go Go Sox". They relied on manufactured runs and solid pitching to claim the title. They finished first in stolen bases in the A.L., last in homers, third in ERA. They had a Hall of Fame combo up the middle with Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio and relied on 39 year old Early Wynn for fill the role of staff ace. He did the job quite well with 22 wins.

I hope Sox fans savored their big season because it wouldn't be until 1983 that the franchise would make the postseason.

This card appears to have been owned by the same person who owned the Tigers card featured not so long ago. Same neat ink filled boxes on the backside checklist. It's in nice shape except for some gum stains and the hideous color combo. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

#320 Bob Skinner

Bob Skinner was a two time National League All Star and twice received votes in the MVP balloting. Not a lot of votes, but votes nonetheless. 

A career National Leaguer, Skinner began playing with Pittsburgh in 1954. He started full time that year but went back to the minors for '55. Back up for good in 1956 Skinner was a platoon player that season but was a regular in the Buccos' outfield from 1957 until being traded to the Reds in '63. Along the way he contributed  a handful of .300 seasons and helped the Pirates win the 1960 Series.

 He went on to the Cardinals in a 1964 deal, just in time to snag his second World Series ring. After retiring in 1966 he went on to a managing career in the minors and in the big leagues with the Phils and, as a one game interim, the Padres. He's the father of Joel Skinner, former big league catcher and, like the old man, a manager. They are one of just two father/son combos to manage.  

Skinner (the elder) remained in the game as a coach and currently works in the scouting department of the Astros.

We see him here wearing one of the odd flocked batting helmets that Branch Rickey foisted on his club in the 50's. We've seen a Pirate pitcher or two wearing them and more are coming.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

#452 Chico Fernandez

Guys don't go by 'Chico' very often these days. This 'Chico', Cuban born Humberto 'Chico' Fernandez,  was a hot shortstop prospect when he signed with the Dodgers in 1951. Only one thing kept Fernandez from grabbing a roster spot in Flatbush... Pee Wee Reese. Brooklyn brought Fernandez up in July of 1956 and gave him a audition, moving Reese over to third to hold down Jackie Robinson's slot for a few weeks. Fernandez batted .227 in his time on the big club and was dealt to the Phillies for the 1957 season.

He held down the starting job there for a couple of seasons before losing it (possibly to a mid-year injury) in 1959. Traded to Detroit before the 1960 season he took over the shortstop job there for three seasons. In 1962 he hit 20 homers. This from a guy who hit a total of 40 in his entire career. I wonder if they checked his bat?

In May of '63 he was traded to the Braves and on to the Mets in one day. He finished out that year in New York and then bounced around through the systems of several organizations and the Mexican League. He quit for good in 1968.

Off-center, pink frame, foul ground fielding pose. Nothing really special here, except the ballpark! It's Connie Mack Stadium for sure. Nice to see something besides Yankee Stadium on a card.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

#113 Taylor Phillips

There is something about the '59 set's black framed cards that 1) I really like and 2) makes them scan like crap. The card of Cub pitcher Taylor Phillips looks much better in person. Those surface scuffs just get magnified through my scanner.

But anyway.... Phillips pitched for the Braves, Cubs and Phils from 1957 through 1960 and, after banging around in the minors for a spell, resurfaced in Chicago with the White Sox in 1963. That was a brief stay and he spent another year in the minors before hanging up his spikes in 1964.

"T-Bone" (yup, that was his nickname) was a regular in the Cubs rotation in 1958. He made 27 starts (2nd most on the club) and went 7-10. He never had or would approach those totals in another season. The Cubs gave him two starts the following year (1959) before shipping him to Philly in May.

The card's cartoon makes note of Phillips' no-hitter in his first pro season in Waycross, Georgia. Any reference to Waycross brings to mind Pat Jordan's great book, A False Spring. It's his autobiographical account of a promising baseball career gone sour. A Braves' prospect during their glory seasons in Milwaukee, Jordan, who went on to write for SI among many other journals, recalls (among much, much more) his time in spring training in the Georgia town. If you are reading this you must have some interest in the game of baseball in the late 50s/early 60s. You owe it to yourself to check out Jordan's work.

Friday, April 22, 2011

#206 Carl Furillo

It's not quite Ted Kluszewski as a Pirate or Roger Maris on the A's but Carl Furillo is one of the 'Boys of Summer' and just doesn't look right on an "L.A." Dodger card. He needs the distinctive Brooklyn Dodger "B" on that cap. And the view of the vast L.A. Coliseum bleachers just doesn't say "Carl Furillo" to me. Where's the 'GEM Razor' sign? So to me the severe 'off-centeredness' of this card isn't the only thing 'wrong' with it.

Furillo (aka "Skoonj") was known for his powerful arm, ability to play the quirky rightfield corner in Ebbetts Field and his consistent work with the bat. He won the 1953 batting title in the NL with an average of .344 and hit at least .290 in nearly every season he was a regular. Furillo finished with a career .299 average and nearly 200 homers as well. Like a lot of players of his generation Furillo lost several potential major league seasons serving in World War II.

He saved a lot of his best work for the seven World Series' in which he participated. His spectacular catch of a blast off the bat of Johnny Mize (who already had hit three homers in the Series) saved the Game 5 6-5 Dodger victory in the 1952 Series against the Yankees. He hit a pinch single drove in two runs in the Los Angeles Dodgers' 3-1 win over the White Sox in Game 3 of the '59 Series.

Furillo's career ended the following season when he was released by L.A. while injured and Furillo later sued over his release, winning a reported $21,000. Though the allegation was denied by baseball Furillo always maintained he was blackballed by the sport due to that lawsuit.

Carl Furillo went on to own a Queens, N.Y. deli and worked for Otis Elevator. He worked as a foreman on the installation of the elevators in the World Trade Center.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

#144 Jerry Walker The Sporting News Rookie Star

Jerry Walker had a brief but meteoric major league career that began almost immediately after signing with the Orioles as a 18 year old 'bonus baby' out of Ada, Oklahoma.

After pitching in 13 games for the O's in '57 Walker spent most of 1958 in the minors but in 1959 he opened the season in a rush and found himself on the mound starting (and winning) the first 1959 All Star Game for the American League. He finished the season at 11-10 which proved to be his best season. 

Walker was the youngest Opening Day starter in franchise history at the age of 21 years, 67 days. He gained notoriety as a member of the so-called Kiddie Corps, the Orioles' young front liners along with Steve Barber, 22, Chuck Estrada, 22, Jack Fisher, 21, and Milt Pappas, 21.

But Walker was only 3-4 for the '60 Orioles and in 1961 he found himself in Kansas City. He went 6-14 and by 1963 was pitching in Cleveland. He ended his major league career in 1964 but hung around in the minors until 1967.

Post playing career found Walker serving as a minor league manager in the Yankees' chain, scout major league pitching coach and front office executive including a stint as the Tigers' GM. He currently is a VP and special assistant to Red's GM Walt Jocketty. 

The colors on my copy of this card are just a touch faded but the corners are strong and it's truly one of my favorites. Jerry Walker's youthful, happy face smiling from the colorful background and the Orioles uni make it special. I'm not the biggest fan of these Rookie Star cards but if I could keep only one, this would be it. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

#383 Words of Wisdom

Ok, everyone knew that Casey Stengel won a basket full of World Series with the Yankees. And everyone knew that Don Larsen pitched a World Series perfect game in 1956 against the Dodgers.

What nobody knew up to the time this card was issued was that Casey tried to teach Larsen how to through the knuckleball. And that  apparently Larsen wore hats 4 sizes too big.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

#528 Pittsburgh Pirates Team

The 1959 Pirates were a slight dip in the franchise's road to top of the baseball world. Coming off a second place, 84-70 season in '58 (the teams' first winning season in a decade) this year's club slipped to fourth just a couple of games over .500.

In 1960 the Pirates hit the big time, winning the NL pennant and defeating the Yankees in seven games in a Series rich in baseball lore.

In '59 the Buccos were led by an up and coming star in 24 year old Roberto Clemente, strength on the corners with Dick Stuart and Don Hoak, and glove wizard Bill Mazeroski at 2nd. They featured pitcher Vern Law who won 18 games in a preview of his 1960 Cy Young Award winning performance and Elroy Face whose 18 relief wins remains the baseball record.

Looks like whoever owned this card originally was able to complete the 7th series. And they marked it a lot more neatly than most filled in checklists I've come across. An added bonus is the fact that the card frame represents (more or less) the Pirates colors. No way to know it that was planned or just coincidental.

Monday, April 18, 2011

#99 Ted Kazanski

Here is Ted Kazanski. This is the last card I needed to finish this set and it was generously provided to me by fellow Oriole fan and collector Ed Schott. Thanks again, Ed.

Kazanski was a Phils signee in 1951 and received a reported $100,000 bonus. He made his way to the majors in 1953 and made a splash in his debut becoming the first shortstop since 1920 (when RBIs became an official stat) to drive in four runs in his first game.

He spent six years with the Phils frequently traveling between AAA and the big club. He had a career .217 batting average. In March of '59 he was dealt to the Braves but never again played in the majors. After bouncing between six clubs' organizations he retired in 1964.

Kazanski's career highlight came on September 25, 1955, the final game of that season. That day in the Polo Grounds against the Giants he performed an extremely rare feat. Kazanski hit an inside-the-park homer and started a triple play to finish off a 3-2 Phillies win! How rare is that combo of unusual baseball plays? It wasn't until last season, 55 years after Kazanski's moment in the sun, that it was duplicated. The Mets' Angel Pagan pulled it off on May 19 against the Nationals.

Kazanski talked about his accomplishment in the wake of Pagan's big day. You can read a couple of accounts of it all here and especially here . Really good stuff with some interesting side plots including a Phils narcoleptic reliever sleeping through it all in the bullpen.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

#186 Mudcat Grant

Jim "Mudcat" Grant.... two time A.L. All Star selection, the American League's first black 20 game winner, author, nightclub performer ("Mudcat and the Kittens" appeared on the Tonight Show), broadcaster, poet, baseball historian, activist, public speaker, Twitter user, and holder of one of the coolest nicknames in modern baseball history. Quite a guy, yes? 

There are several stories as to how Jim Grant became 'Mudcat" Grant, there's even one on the back of his '59 Topps. But I prefer the the one that attributes it to teammate Larry Doby who described Grant as "ugly as a Mississippi mudcat".

Grant signed with Cleveland, making his pro debut in 1954. He hit the big time in 1958 which is likely when this '59 card picture was taken. He went 67-63 pitching for some lousy Indians teams before being dealt to the Twins in June of 1964 for Lee Stange, George Banks and $$$. According to his Baseball Reference bio page the Indians seemed embarrassed by the deal (they needed the money) and nobody there had the guts to tell him about it. He had to ask why his gear was no longer in his locker.

The trade to the Twins was a turning point, Grant went on to a nice finish in '64 but his 1965 season turned out to be a career maker. He was 21-7 and won two more in the World Series against the Dodgers (along with hitting a homer). He was the first black [American League*] pitcher to win a World Series game. His numbers were impressive but he chose to put them up in a year Sandy Koufax dominated and Grant didn't get a sniff of the Cy Young (Those were the days of one award).

Grant went on to pitch for the Twins through 1967 and then for 5 other clubs with modest success until retiring in 1971. 

Since the Mudcat Grant has experienced a whole lifetime of baseball roles. He served as an executive and broadcaster for the Indians, broadcaster for the A's, and has written a book entitled The Black Aces chronicling the careers of some of baseballs' best hurlers. Mudcat also has another website (which is likely unofficial) and Twitter account (although the later doesn't appear very active to say the least).

As I've said previously I'm constantly amazed at the things I learn with the bits of research I do to make these postings. Mudcat Grant is right up there with Don Hoak as multi-faceted men worth reading more about. Frank Deford had an entertaining story originally published in Sports Illustrated in 1968 thats reprinted on Mudcat's official (Black Aces) site. Well worth the read. 

*=Thanks to a reader for alerting me to my omission on this.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

#242 Ron Samford

Ron Samford is one of the more obscure players in the set. He originally signed with the New York Giants getting into a dozen games with the in 1954, mostly as a defensive replacement and pinch runner. He eventually was picked up on waivers by the Tigers and had a hundred at bats with them.

He's pictured here in an airbrushed Tiger home uni, the right field stands of Tiger Stadium looming over his shoulders. Those light standards are easily recognizable, those are the ones Reggie Jackson reached with a homer in the 1971 All Star Game.

Samford played with Washington in 1959 having been obtained in a trade and had his last (and most productive) season there playing as a platoon infielder and knocking out 5 homers. Samford ended his career with a handful of minor league seasons including a couple in the Orioles' chain. I didn't know that.

Kind of a shame that this copy of his card is scarred with a big fat folded over corner crease. Otherwise it's pretty sharp.

Friday, April 15, 2011

#366 Humberto Robinson

Humberto Robinson was the first of many Panamanians to play in the major leagues. He debuted on April 20, 1955 with a one batter save in Wrigley Field against the Cubs. He entered the game in relief of Lew Burdette with the bases loaded and the Braves on top, 9-5. He K'd Cub cleanup hitter Hank Sauer to preserve Burdette's second win of the young season. Welcome to the majors, Humberto Robinson.

Robinson remained with the Braves through the 1958 season pitching mostly in relief. He spent the '57 campaign in the minors (winning 23 games with Toronto) and last pitched in '58 during mid-September so it's unclear if he was on the Braves World Series roster that season.

By the time this card was issued he had already passed from the Braves organization via an April trade to the Indians and a month later was moved along to the Phillies. By the end of 1960 he has back in the minors and never resurfaced on a major league club.

But before he died in Brooklyn in September of 2009 he was able to tell folks that he wore (arguably) the finest uniform in baseball if not all of sports, the Braves gorgeous togs seen in this card.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

#375 Bob Nieman

Bob Nieman was among the Orioles first 'stars'. He debuted with the Browns in 1951 and wound his way through several organizations in the A.L. Nieman's claim to fame is the fact that he hit homers in his first two major league at bats as a Brown on September 14, 1951 in Fenway Park. He arrived in Charm City in May of 1956 via a trade with the White Sox. 

Bob apparently got off the plane hitting and kept it up all season for the O's finishing with a .320 average. He finished 7th in the MVP voting that year. Not too shabby considering he was behind people like Mantle, Berra, Kaline and Williams in contention for that award.

Bob assembled a nice six year stint with the Birds hitting over .300 with 82 homers playing half his games in what was then a cavernous Memorial Stadium. He was dealt to the Cardinals for the 1960 season, spent that year as a part time starter and wound down his career with brief stays in Cleveland and San Francisco.

Following his playing career Nieman served as a scout for several clubs including the Indians for whom he discovered and signed John Lowenstein. Considering the love that O's fans have for 'Brother Lo' it's kind of a toss-up which aspect of Bob Nieman's baseball career made a bigger impact on the O's!

I wish the Orioles would bring back that Oriole head patch that appears on Bob's uniform. Not as a permanent thing, but it would be nice to see it from time to time. Especially for us oldtimers.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

#504 Ossie Alvarez

Second smiley, happy-go-lucky face in a row. Cuban born Ossie Alvarez began his pro career with the independent Big Spring Broncs of something called the 'Longhorn League' in 1952. It's sort of mind blowing to imagine being an 18 year old Cuban immigrant making your way on a gypsy baseball team in Big Spring, Texas in 1952. Baseball Reference has the roster of the '52 Broncs and it looks like at least Ossie wasn't alone in his plight.

After a few years in the Longhorn League he joined the Senators organization. He spent the 1958 season in the majors with Washington getting almost 200 at bats. He was traded twice in the off season and began the '59 campaign with the Tigers and played in eight games early in April, mostly as a pinch runner.

Following that cup'o'coffee Ossie went back to the minors and kicked around through the systems of several teams before playing in Mexico City with the MC Reds and retiring there in 1966.

Peering out of that orange frame on my nice but off center '59 Topps, Ossie Alvarez looks like a friendly, fun loving sort of guy. I hope he enjoyed his time in Big Spring.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

#126 Eddie Haas The Sporting News Rookie Star

Surely Eddie Haas isn't ruling his eyes and looking bemused because my scanning skills (and laziness) have given him a card front and card back that slant in different directions. Ya think? Maybe he's just expressing  his disbelief that he was chosen by The Sporting News as a 'Rookie Star of 1959'.

Haas actually showed some promise in the minors as he climbed through the Cubs system after signing in '53. He made it to the majors in 1957 and played in a handful of games. Traded to the Braves before the 1958 season he made a few appearances that season as well. Because of a broken leg it wasn't until 1960 that he returned to the Braves and got his last experience with the big club. He hit his one major league homer in July of 1960, against the Cubs naturally.

Haas went on to coach in the Braves organization, working his way up to manager of the Atlanta Braves in 1985. He was fired in August of that year with his club in 5th place.

He then scouted for both the Expos and Red Sox. Eddie has a brother, two sons and a couple of cousins that worked/played in pro baseball.

Monday, April 11, 2011

#25 Don Hoak

You uncover a lot when researching players in this set. I found out that Don Hoak was married to Jill Corey, a pop/nightclub singer of some renown in the late 1950s. Ms. Corey has devoted a large part of her website to her late husband

Don Hoak played for eleven seasons in the NL, retiring in 1964. He was known as a tough, hard-nosed player who brought a boxers mentality (he was a youth boxer) to the ball field. He also gained some notoriety for once facing a pitcher named Fidel Castro on a sandlot field in Havana.

Hoak grabbed a couple of World Series rings along the way, first with the 1955 Dodgers and then with the 1960 Pirates. He finished as runner-up in the MVP balloting for 1960.

I've mentioned several times how much I like these black framed Reds (aka Redlegs) cards. They are 1950s baseball on a square of cardboard. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

#464 Mays' Catch Makes Series History

This may not be the best catch in baseball history, even Willie Mays said he made better ones himself, but it's surely the most famous. As the back of the card states Willie made this nab on a ball hit by Vic Wertz in Game One of the 1954 World Series between the Giants and Indians. He snared it with his back to the plate, wheeled and threw to the infield forcing Al Rosen to return to first. The Giants won the game in 10 innings and swept the Series.

What has added to the fame of the catch is the fact that it was televised in a era when TV was still a bit away from being the universal presence that it is nowadays. Watching the Series on the tube was an opportunity that was hard to pass up. Thus Willie's effort was seen by many. 

The best catch I've ever seen live was made by Roberto Clemente at Shea Stadium on September 20, 1969. With two out in the sixth inning Bob Moose seemed about to lose a no hit bid on a drive to the deep right field corner by Wayne Garrett. But Clemente ran/flew/dove and somehow speared the ball before if hit the warning track. It was the most athletic play I've ever seen. And yes, Bob Moose went on to finish his no hitter, the only one I've ever witnessed in person.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

#491 Don Blasingame

Just a damn classic baseball card. Don Blasingame on a spring training field probably taken in 1958. You can tell because that's Stan Hack in the background. Hack was the Cards' hitting coach (and short term manager) that year.

"The Blazer" broke in with the Cardinals in the mid-fifties and went on to have a solid if unspectacular career in the bigs until he retired in 1966 after a stint in the American League.

Known more for his defensive skills and bunting ability he also managed to put together a handful of good seasons at the plate, hitting in the .280s a couple of times. His best season was arguably 1957 when he hit .271 but totaled career highs in homers (8), RBIs (58) and stolen bases (21). He made the NL All Star team the following season.

Blasingame played on the Reds NL Championship team in the 1961 World Series collecting a hit and a run scored in 7 at bats.

Following his big league career he went to Japan and played three more seasons and then spent 12 years  coaching and managing three different clubs.

He was the son-in-law of Walker Cooper who played from 1940 through 1957 for pretty much every National League team at one time or another.

Friday, April 8, 2011

#395 Elston Howard

I think it's time for a disclaimer. I've always been an Orioles fan, from the time I was old enough to understand baseball. But I grew up watching the Yankees. I had no choice as my father was a Yankee fan. Together we watched Yankee games on the tube and as I've noted before, went to many, many games at the stadium. So if it seems I have an unusual affinity for some Yankee players it's simply that I saw so much of them growing up

This is a very rough version of Yankee star Ellie Howard's '59 card. That's too bad because it's a nice one. Ellie's pensive look, Yankee Stadium background, cap and pinstripes and especially the light blue frame with the top hat logo. It all just seems to work. This is a card I'll upgrade some day. And check the cartoon... "Elston is a home movie fan." LOL

And who wrote that back-of-the-card blurb? "In the 1958 World Series, Elston had a great time." As in lots of parties? I know they meant that he had a fine Series on the field but it's pretty dumb as written. And "Elston is a big man on the Yankee squad." Well, if you say so.

Actually Elston Howard was a pretty damn good player. Nine straight All Star selections, a couple of Gold Gloves and he was the 1963 American League MVP. Best of all is the fact that he was a nice guy. He had opened Elston Howard Travel in my hometown of Nutley, New Jersey. When it opened my best friend and I would walk by daily hoping for a glimpse of a major leaguer. One day a woman waved us in to the offices and told us to come by that weekend. Sure enough Elston was there and he signed pictures for us. Probably my first in person autograph and definitely our first off the field encounter with an athlete. Cool memory.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

#558 Frank Malzone The Sporting News All Star

All this time I was under the impression that Frank Malzone had hit the first home run I'd seen live at Memorial Stadium. Not sure why I believed that but I always recalled it that way. I finally did some digging, knowing that it was the same night Boog Powell had hit his titanic 'hedge row' homer. The records show that in the first game of the doubleheader on June 22, 1962 Carl Yaztrzemski homered off Milt Pappas in the fourth inning. That was the homer I saw and my Uncle almost caught. The Orioles' Jackie Brandt had homered earlier but I'm pretty sure we hadn't made it to the ball park for that one.

Boog's blast was in the second game off Don Schwall. I have no memory lapses concerning that one. It made quite an impression an all of us.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

#48 Baltimore Orioles Team

I've only posted a few times with 'a purpose', that is selected a card for a specific reason. The first two posts (Brooks and Bob Gibson) and the Duke Snider post are about it. But here we have another one. The Orioles 1959 team card with first series checklist on the reverse. I need to get this one posted before they lose a game and spoil my mellow.

As a lifelong Orioles fan I've had my shares of ups and (lately) downs, but I keep plugging along. What else can you do... change to another team? Not going to happen.

But the 4-0 start to the season has really peaked my interest. I'll be the first to admit I don't follow the game as I used to, I can't name every teams rotation or every Oriole's number and hometown like I could in the 60's. Hell, I don't even remember the Os' closers name, but I do know that the Birds have good young pitching arms and that goes a long way towards building a firm foundation. I heard on the radio the other morning that if you started a season the day Buck Showalter arrived to manage the O's they'd be 4 and a half games up on the entire league, only the Phils have a better record in that time frame. Wow.

The 1959 Orioles finished 6th in the A.L. at 74-80 under Paul Richards. Speaking of young arms, the '59 O's had Milt Pappas and Jerry Walker in their rotation. They were joined in 1960 by Chuck Estrada and Steve Barber to form a starting staff known as the 'Baby Birds'.

Yes, that's Brooks Robinson's signature on my team card. I remember picking this one up at a show way back when I was putting together all the Orioles Topps and Bowman team sets. That was a fun project that I finished by obtaining the elusive 1967 Mark Belanger/Bill Dillman rookie card. I continued putting together Oriole team sets until some time in the early 90s when the rookie/variation/error card shenanigans turned me off to the hobby.

The checklist on the reverse of the Oriole team card appears to have been filled in by a kid with visual impairments.