Thursday, January 31, 2013

#398 Wally Post

Wally Post signed on as a pitcher with the Reds organization in 1946 and won 17 games the next season in 'D' ball but by 1949 he'd moved to the outfield. The Reds likely wanted that big booming bat  put to better use than appearing every fourth day. Post split the next four seasons between the Reds and the minors until he got a full time shot in 1954. He took the right field job and held it nearly full time through the 1957 season.  During that time he belted 114 homers. His best season came in '55 when he batted with 40 homers and 109  RBI.

But lack of contact on a consistent basis (he topped the NL in whiffs three times) led to a trade to the Phils for 1958. He spent two and a half seasons with Philadelphia, was traded back to the Reds and then with his numbers and playing time declining, finished his career with a couple of stints in the AL, with the Twins and Indians.

Post was elected to the NL All Star game in 1957 but was replaced by Hank Aaron when Commissioner Ford Frick ruled that Reds' fan had 'stuffed' the ballot box. Post was injured and would have been unable to play anyway. That was Post's only All Star 'selection'. He hit .333 with the Reds in the '61 Series loss to the Yanks. He homered off Bud Daley in the final game, Game Five. Post hit the first ever home run in Dodger Stadium in April of 1962. He is a member of the Reds' Hall of Fame. He died at the age of 52 in 1982.

If you have never seen any of the original Home Run Derby shows you should take a look at this one featuring Wally Post versus Hank Aaron which aired on April 3, 1960. Apparently the videos are watchable at numerous sites but I first found it at Hulu and, except for the online commercials, it looks great and plays flawlessly. Be warned that the video starts as soon as the page loads so make sure you have your speakers at an acceptable level.

Home Run Derby Post v. Aaron

Wally Post, Gus Bell and Ted Kluszewski on the cover of SI in 1956. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

#101 Alex Kellner

Signed out of Tenssesse by the Cincinnati Reds in 1941 lefty Alex Kellner only had time to pitch one year of (pretty good) minor league ball before the U.S. Navy became his four year home during WWII. After his service in the Pacific (details are here) he briefly returned to semi-pro baseball and then was back in the pros with the A's organization in 1947.

He got a taste of the bigs in 1948 but had an outstanding true rookie season in 1949 in Philadelphia. That year he won 20 games (of the teams' 81 under Connie Mack) and made the All Star club. He was the first to win 20 for the A's since Lefty grove in 1933. Even for a war-seasoned, not-so-young rookie that had to be heady stuff. He was second to Roy Sievers in Rookie of the Year balloting in the A.L.

He remained a member of the A's starting staff (in Kansas City) through 1957. Although he managed to pull down double digit win seasons along the way (and one 20 loss season) he never re-captured the magic of that rookie season. For parts of two seasons he had his brother Walt Kellner as a teammate.

In 1958 he was waived and picked up by the Reds and then traded, despite doing some of his best pitching in half a decade, to the Cards for 1959. He pitched his last innings in June of '59. This card represent the last season and final stop in a respectable career. He was a good hitting pitcher, hitting .215 with four homers.

This picture, with Kellner in a Red's road top, has the L.A. Coliseum in the background so it was shot on one of the Reds trips to the Coast after he was traded from the A's in 1958. The Reds were in L.A. in July and August.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

#16 Joe Pignatano

Catcher Joe Pignatano was signed off the streets of Brooklyn in 1948. Debuting for the Dodgers that very year was a guy named Roy Campanella. If Joe had only known. And he nearly didn't make a career of it according to his SABR bio. Read the part about his mother calling the Dodgers front office. Nice.

But he patiently worked his way up the Dodger system, served two military years, and made the big club in 1957. When Campy suffered his spinal injury that winter Pignatano was plugged in behind the plate along with Johnny Roseboro. He played with the Dodgers through 1960 and earned a World Series ring in '59. He was sold to the A's for the '61 season and had his best season while getting a career high of nearly 300 at bats. After a season (1962) split between the Giants and Mets Pigatano was back in the minors for a few years before he became a coach with the Senators, Mets and Braves. In those first two coaching jobs he was working under his friend and former teammate Gil Hodges.

Here is a strange but apparently true story culled from Pignatano's Bullpen page at Baseball Reference:
Playing for the Fort Worth Cats in 1955, Pignatano was listed as the number 8 batter in the lineup on May 29. In the second inning he went to the plate in the number 7 spot and hit a home run. On appeal by the opposing Shreveport Sports, the hit was nullified and the proper batter, Maury Wills, was called out. Pignatano then batted in the number 8 spot, and hit another homer.
And finally here is Vin Scully broadcasting the Dodgers game on the night of Joe Pignatano's MLB debut as a catcher. He asks anyone who knows the Pignatano family to call Joe's wife at home in Brooklyn to alert her of Joe's impending shot. This is why I love Vin Scully!

Turns out Joe did get into the game, taking over behind the plate for Roy Campanella who had been run for in the fifth as was asked to handle Sandy Koufax' fastballs. He singled in his first at bat and whiffed in his second.

The easily recognizable LA Coliseum looms behind Pignatano smiling face on this card. He sure looks different than I remember him a decade later with the Mets.

Friday, January 25, 2013

#556 Nellie Fox The Sporting News All Star

Nellie Fox has got that chaw thing going, doesn't he? This is his third card in the '59 set following his regular issue and the combo card he shared with his DP partner, Luis Aparicio. And I find it the least appealing, probably because he should be wearing the interlocking S-O-X cap. He was born to wear that so very nice cap.

He was an eleven year All Star playing in 13 games. He went 14 for 38 for a .368 average. His hits were all singles. And this card is seriously mis-cut. There is the edge of a red NL All Star card showing up on the left side.

And so it goes. And yes, I'm tired tonight and I'm mailing this one in.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

#32 Don Buddin

From what I've been able to read shortstop Don Buddin took the brunt of the Boston fans' wrath during the 'down years' that were the late 50s/early 60s for the Red Sox. Those clubs were pretty terrible and, Boston being Boston, someone was going to get the blame. From a Dan Shaughnessy column published in the Boston Globe in 2011 following Buddin's passing:

If John Lackey thinks he’s got it bad now, he should have talked with Don Buddin. Buddin was the early-day Julio Lugo. And the nasty stuff from the stands sounds louder when there are only 8,000 people in the ballpark. You hear everything.
 “It was bad,’’ recalls Frank Malzone, who played third base next to Buddin for four long seasons. “He got off to a bad start and the fans gave him a hard time when he came to the ballpark. I played right next to him. Hearing all these guys hooting and hollering at him, I was thinking, ‘Better him than me.’ I would hate to walk out there and hear that every day.’’
Bill Buckner is unfairly remembered for one error. Buddin is remembered for constantly making errors. Buddin led the league in errors twice. He committed 35 errors in 1959 and 31 in 1958. In 1960, when he started only 121 games, he committed 30 errors. His nickname was “Bootsie.’’ The Globe’s inimitable Clif Keane quipped, “Buddin’s license plate is E-6.’’

Buddin was a star on the gridiron in high school and passed up some nice college offers to sign with the Sox in 1952. He showed some hitting promise (a .300 and a .293 season) as he moved up to the majors. He debuted in 1956 and held down the starters job at short while hitting .239. He spent the next season in the military and returned to Boston as the starter for four more years.

His hitting numbers were not 'Mendoza- like' as he twice had double digit homers and hit between .237 and .263. The Sox traded him to the Colt .45s for 1962 and they in turn sold him on to Detroit that summer. The '62 season was his last in the bigs. He bounced around the minors after that for three years. 

He returned to his native South Carolina after his playing days and was involved in Special Olympics and he made appearances in Major League Old Timers games.  Apparently he never did return to Fenway Park. that's OK though, he looked better at Yankee Stadium anyway. 

Pretty sharp if unremarkable card up there. Green frames have not been seem much here lately. The photographer got the Yankee Stadium facade into the shot nicely I think.

Lastly I was struck by the first line of Buddin's back of the card text... "Don is a speedy fielder who gives every ball the old college try". Are they trying to tell us that they think he sucked, too? But in a nice way? 

Monday, January 21, 2013

#90 Bill Skowron

A Chicago native Bill "Moose" Skowron went to Purdue on a football scholarship. But he also played baseball and when he hit .500 in his second season for the Boilermakers (a Big Ten record that held up for a decade) he was headed for a career on the diamond. He signed with the New York Yankees in 1950 and after three very impressive minor league seasons he debuted with the Bombers in 1954. 

After initially platooning with Joe Collins he won won the first base job and in the nine seasons he was there the Yankees won seven league pennants and four World Series championships. He made five All Star squads during his Yankee tenure. He almost always seemed to come up big in the postseason. In eight Series (including the 1963 Series when he was a Dodger) Skowron batted .293 with eight homers and 29 BRIs. 

He hit a grand slam in the 1957 Series and in the 1958 World Series he homered in Game One, drove in the winning run in Game Six, and hit a three-run home run in Game Seven.

In 1963, Skowron was traded to the Dodgers and he won a fifth World Series championship as the Dodgers pulled off the sweep over the Yanks. An interesting insight into Moose comes from his NY Times obit:
Notwithstanding his menacing presence, Skowron was a gentle person, and he harbored no feelings of revenge after hammering his former Yankee teammates in the 1963 World Series.“I was miserable,” he recalled in [Richard Lally's book] “Bombers.”“Twelve years I was with New York, three in the minors, nine in the majors. I loved those guys and it killed me to beat them. My uniform might have said Los Angeles, but in my heart I was always a Yankee.”
 That was his only season in Los Angeles but he went on to play for the Senators and White Sox before retiring after the 1967 season. In 14 seasons Skowron had a .282 batting average, hit 211 home runs and batted in 888 runs in 1,658 games.

After his playing days he worked in community relations for the White Sox. He died in April of last year. His All Star card form this set was featured in the summer of 2011.

Two final things... his 'Moose' moniker came from his childhood post-haircut resemblance to Benito Mussolini. It stuck. And I found a cool picture of Skowron and Roy Campanella taken at Ebbetts Field at a 1957 exhibition game.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

#282 R.C. Stevens

Hmmm, I need to upgrade this card. I thought I had grabbed upgrades for all the less than presentable '59s in my binder. Not sure how R.C. Stevens got past me. This one isn't damaged but it is stained and combining that with it being so far off center and some soft corners (scan makes them look better than they are) and it's now jumped up to #1 on my upgrade target list. There is a big TriStar show at the end of the month. Now I have a reason to go.

Anyway, the Georgia-born first baseman R.C. Stevens' given name is, well, R. C. Stevens. At least as far as I can tell. I see no other references to anything that those initials might stand for. Some places, Baseball Reference for example, list him as RC, no periods. Kind of like Harry S (with no period) Truman. Whatever.

Stevens signed with the Pirates in 1952 and began a long journey through six and a half years of minor league ball before hitting the big time in 1958 in Pittsburgh. Then again three of those seasons were with the Hollywood Stars so it couldn't have been too burdensome to hack it out on the West Coast.

He wasn't  with the Pirates the whole season in 1958 but the time he was there was well spent. He went two-for-two on Opening Day while driving in the winning run. He followed that with a pair of homers in the first week of the season. He lasted 90 at bats before being sent back down.

The next two seasons saw him get just into a few major league games with the Bucs while spending most of those years in the minors. A trade sent him to the expansion Washington Senators for 1961 and he hit that franchise's first pinch hit dinger. He again played sparingly, went back to the minors and retired after the '63 season.

He lived in Iowa and worked an assortment of jobs after retiring and he died in 2010. He is listed by Baseball Reference as the only major leaguer from Moultrie School for Negro Youth. But a little digging found one more player, John Glenn, a contemporary of Stevens, played with the Cards in 1960 and was at one time a Dodger prospect. His story is found here on a Moultrie school  reunion site. Stevens has a bio there as well and interestingly it lists his nickname as 'Seaboat'. That's kind of cool I'd say.

Hey, look what I found! It's the 1955 Hollywood Stars. R. C is there on the second row seated over on the right. A little to his left is Bill Hall a catcher also from Moultrie. The story of the the two of them meeting with the Stars is included in R.C.'s school bio linked above. Several other former and future big leagues are in the picture as well.


I was able to pick up a very nice copy of this card for $1.50. Much nicer and better than the scan shows. I'm not sure why my scanner insists on cutting the top border off some of my cards. A little digging into the settings and options may be in order.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

#95 Carl Willey

Carl Willey (I always heard him referred to as 'Carlton') was a Maine resident when he was signed by the Braves in 1951. Some nice minor league seasons (25 wins in '51-'52) were interrupted by a two year hitch in the service. When he returned he had a pair of mediocre season before blossoming in 1957 when he won 21 games.

In early 1958 he made the Milwaukee roster, was sent back to the minors for a stretch and then returned to the Braves where he went 9-7 in 19 starts and had a league leading four shutouts. He pitched an inning in the World Series' Game Five that year and whiffed two of the three Yankees he faced. He pitched four more seasons with the Braves but never could match his first season.

Sold to the Mets for the '63 season Willey won nine games in a career high 30 starts. An injury plagued 1964 (broken jaw, arm miseries) kept him sidelined quite a bit. He opened the '65 season with the Mets, spent some time with their AAA club, returned to the bigs to end the year but retired that winter.

Willey spent nearly a decade as a scout for the Phillies after retirement and then worked an assortment of jobs in his home state of Maine. He died in 2009.

His SABR bio is here but it's not as colorful as Sal Maglie's. How could it be? He's got a nicer card than The Barber, though....the oddly attractive pink frame and of course the mighty fine Braves uni. The cap alone makes it a winner.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

#263 Buddy Daley

Bud Daley pitched ten big league seasons (or parts thereof) made the AL All Star squad twice, went to two World Series with the Yankees (pitching a total of eight shutout innings), won a World Series game and two championship rings. Not too shabby.

Born with a right arm partially disabled by a problem at birth Daley pitched well enough in the Pacific Coast League to draw the attention of several big league clubs and he signed with the Indians in 1951. He worked his way up the Indians' system and got a late look at the bigs in September of 1955. The following season he got another look and then he established himself in 1957 getting 10 starts in 24 appearances.

He was traded to the Orioles at the beginning of April of 1958 and then, without having appeared for the Birds, to the Athletics just two days after the season opened on April 15.

It was with the A's that Daley had his best seasons winning 32 games in 1959/60 and made those two All Star teams. He appeared in two of the four All Star Games held in those years (two each season, benefiting the players' pension fund) and allowed only a walk in an inning and a third while whiffing Ernie Banks, Vada Pinson and Orlando Cepeda.

Arm issues limited Daley's workload after 1962 and he was dealt to the Indians for the 1965 season but he was released as the season opened and retired.

Two things... I never heard him referred to as 'Buddy', always just 'Bud'... and that's a nice pic with the classic Yankee Stadium facade and grandstands behind him.

Monday, January 14, 2013

#124 Dan Dobbek The Sporting News Rookie Star

Dan Dobbek signed with the Senators in 1955 and, after a side trip to the military, rose through the minors with a reputation as a power hitting outfielder. He never did produce at the major league level and was gone from the bigs after 1961.

Dobbek was called up by the Senators in September of 1959, put in rightfield as the starter and spent the final month of the season in that role. He hit his first (of 15 total) big league homer off Billy O'Dell that month. He was a semi regular in 1960 and got into 110 games hitting .218 with ten homers. In an April game against the Red Sox he tied a major league record by receiving three intentional walks.

His final season came after the Nats moved to Minneapolis/St. Paul and became the Twins in 1961. That year on May 19th he hit the first grand slam in Metropolitan Stadium. That was the second two homer game of his career, both came against the Athletics.

He was dealt to the Reds after that but never made it back to the majors. He says his career was cut short by a collision with the outfield wall against the Athletics. He finished as a pro with a couple more minor league seasons and then retired. Baseball Reference reports that he lives in Oregon.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

#309 Sal Maglie

Sal Maglie is one of the most interesting guys I've come cross in blogging the '59 set. Out of Niagra Falls Maglie signed with the New York Giants in 1938. He spent five uneventful seasons in the Giants chain and at one point left the game and worked at a defense plant in New York. (He had been rejected for military service for a sinus condition). He then returned to baseball, pitched in the Giants chain and debuted in 1945. When the '45 season was over Maglie jumped to the Mexican League after having issues with Manager Mel Ott. That earned him a five year ban from the majors.

During his five years away.... well there is no way I can capture the color of Maglie's career in a blog post. And there is no point in re-inventing the wheel. I refer you to the exceptional SABR bio which is found here and is highly recommended.

The short version is that Maglie became a highly successful pitcher for the Giants and Dodgers and garnered more major league time with the Indians, Yankees and Cards. He's one of about a dozen players to have been with all three original New York franchises. He had been released in April of 1959 and therefore was out of the game by the time this card was issued by Topps.

He finished with 119 wins, a 3.15 ERA, an ERA title, a wins title and World Series title and one of the coolest nicknames in baseball history, 'The Barber'.

There is a You Tube video of a 1956 appearance Maglie made on the old "What's My Line?" TV show. It was broadcast live on the evening of October 7, 1956. That was the same day as the fourth game of the World Series.  The NEXT DAY Maglie pitched and lost in one of the most celebrated World Series games ever played, Don Larsen's perfect game. On the panel is Yankee Phil Rizzuto who was wrapping up his career. The video is here. It runs immediately upon opening the page so I didn't embed it. Here's a still shot.

Other Maglie notes:

Sal Maglie Stadium is home to minor league and collegiate baseball in Niagara Falls, New York. The original Sal Maglie Stadium is profiled here.

He had pitched his own no-hitter just two weeks prior to the Larsen perfecto.

He served two stretches as Red Sox pitching coach and saw his last uniform duty as the pitching coach for the Seattle Pilots.

His post playing career life was a roller coaster of triumph and tragedy and again I refer you to the SABR bio or this book available on Amazon.

edit: Amazon link cleaned and replaced. Dunno what was up with that

Thursday, January 10, 2013

#315 Joe Adcock

Joe Adcock spent 17 years in the majors with four clubs but had his best years with the powerhouse Milwaukee Braves teams of the mid-50s through early 1960s. Batting behind Eddie Matthews and Hank Aaron, Adcock hit 239 homers for the club in 10 seasons. Some of his homers were legendary.

Originally signed in 1947 out of LSU by the Reds, Adcock debuted as an outfielder with Cincinnati in 1950. He never took to the outfield (Ted Klusewski held down first base there) and requested a trade which was granted for 1953. That mind boggling four club deal landed him in Milwaukee. Adcock hit .285 for his career with the Braves and played on the Braves' Series clubs in 1957 and 1958.

On July 31, 1954 Adcock had one of the one game performances in history. Against the Dodgers at Ebbets Field that day, he hit four home runs and a double. In 1956 he finished second in the league in home runs (38), RBI (103), and slugging percentage (.597). He appeared in the World Series with the Braves in 1957 and 1958.

Adcock is known for breaking up baseball's longest no-hitter on May 26, 1959. After Harvey Haddix of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitched twelve perfect innings, he homered in the 13th inning to drive in Felix Mantilla and give the Braves the win. But as he rounded the bases he inadvertently passed Hank Aaron and was called out.

After a below par 1962 season he was dealt to the Indians for a one year stretch and then was traded to the Angels where he played another three seasons. After he retired as an active player he managed the Indians to an 8th place finish in 1967 and managed in the minors for a season or so.

Later in life he was in the horse breeding business in his native Louisiana. He died after suffering the affects of Alzheimer's Disease in 1999. He's a member of that state's Sports Hall of Fame. His inductee page is good reading.

Nice portrait card of the guy nicknamed 'Billy Joe'. I like his signature on the card. Looks like something you'd see on the Declaration of Independence. Kind of reminds me of John Hancocks' sig.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

#14 Pete Whisenant

Pete Whisenant had one season of semi-regular outfield duty getting almost 350 at bats with the Cubs in 1956 and spent the rest of his eight big league seasons as a fourth outfielder. He was signed by the Braves in 1947 and debuted with them in 1952 following a year of military service. He's apprenticed for a major league spot by showing good power and a spotty batting average in the Braves system.

Whisenant spent those eight seasons with six different clubs. In addition to the Cubs and Braves he played for the Reds (obviously), the Cardinals, Indians and Senators/Twins. He had two separate runs with the Reds, the second coming in his final big league season, 1961.

He coached for the Reds for a season or so immediately after he retired as an active player and then returned nearly two decades later to manage in the A's chain. I found a sort of neat story posted by a blogger on his non-sports blog that tells a story of Whisenant giving a baseball to the then young blogger's mom. It's a quick fun read.

Another nice black framed Reds card. And another shot with San Francisco's Seals Stadium's distinctive red railings in the background. This is Whisenant's second straight cool looking card as he appeared on a black 1958 Topps the year before. Here it is as a scan I found on the 'net. I like the '59 better.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

#177 Johnny Briggs

There have been two players with the name 'Johnny Briggs' in modern baseball. This one and the 1b/OF Johnny Briggs who played a few years later for the Phils and Brewers. 

Jonathan Tift Briggs pitched for three different clubs between 1956 and 1960. He was in independent minor league baseball after high school when he found himself dealt to the Phillies for whom he never pitched. The Phils traded him to the Cubs and he appeared in three games in both 1956 and 1957 and then landed a spot in the Cubs rotation for '58. He made 17 starts, went 5-5 with a 4.52 ERA and was traded to the Indians where he pitched into 1960 and was traded again, this time to the Athletics. He was 4-4 in 29 games that year in the AL.

Traded again, Briggs toiled in the Reds chain for a couple of seasons before hanging up his glove. He finished with a 9-11 major league w/l total. He had a much more extensive minor league resume. He won nearly 100 games there. 

The card's backside makes note of the trade that sent him to the Indians in January of 1959. That was probably not long before this 2nd Series card was produced. Below is his 1960 Topps cards (online scan). Both show the same expression. The batting cage in the background pretty much assures us that these two pics are from the same session. It's one case where the "OK, now take off that cap and smile again" instruction came in handy. He's a friendly, pleasant looking guy, no?

Friday, January 4, 2013

#65 Frank Torre

Frank Torre may not have had the baseball success enjoyed by his younger brother Joe, but he did alright for himself after signing with the Braves out of Brooklyn's St. Francis Prep in 1951. After a year in the minors, two in the service and two more back with the Braves farm clubs Torre debuted in 1956.

For four years with the Braves he either held down the first base job or split time with Joe Adcock. Torre hit two homers and batted .300 in ten at bats in the 1957 World Series win over the Yankees. 1958 was his best season as he hit over .300 and had career highs in homers and RBI. The back of the card write up makes note of his fielding prowess at first base.

His numbers dropped in 1959 and by the following season he was back in the minors for a long stretch. After another full minor league season he was sold to the Phils for 1962 and he hit .310 for them in a part time role. He retired after 1963 to work for the Rawlings Sporting Goods Company.

In later year Torre received both a heart and kidney transplant. He is the father of one time Pirate prospect Frank Torre Jr. who currently coaches high school ball.

I really am partial to this card. Looks like the Polo Grounds in the background, the light blue frame compliments the Braves uni and card logo, the 'M' cap is one of my favorites and, maybe most of all, Frank Torre looks like and extra from the original Oceans Eleven that starred Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin among others.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

#47 Jim Finigan

1959 in Baltimore was Jim Finigan's last major league stop in a five season career that saw him play for four teams (five if you count the Philadelphia A's and Kansas City A's separately). Finigan signed with the Yankees in the late 40s. He had four pretty good seasons in their minor league chain and a couple of years in the military during the Korean War before he was traded to the A's with whom he debuted in 1954.

He was the A's regular third-baseman that season and hit .302, made the AL All Star team, was second in ROY voting (behind Yankee hurler Bob Grim but ahead of someone named Al Kaline!) and got some MVP votes. He moved to second base and saw his average drop in 1955 by nearly 50 points but again made the All Star Game. That was his final season as a full time starter in the bigs. In 1956 he hit only .216 and played in 91 games. He was traded to the Tigers for 1957, on to the Giants and then to the Orioles for 1959.

For the Orioles he played quite a bit of third base while a slumping Brooks Robinson spent some time in AAA and recovered from a seriously injured arm. When Brooks returned Finigan was back on the bench. He ended his career with a few seasons in the Orioles chain and then some minor league managing. He later coached at Quincy College in Illinois before he died at the age of 52 in 1981.

With his Giants uni showing the picture of Finigan can be traced to 1958. So he was 30 when it was taken. Looks older than that don't ya think? And I'd say he resembles on of my childhood favorites, Howdy Doody.