Friday, August 30, 2013
The 6'7" Ron Jackson was a basketball star in high school and continued his hoops prowess at Western Michigan University in his hometown of Kalamazoo MI.
Jackson was also a big enough baseball prospect to be signed as a 'bonus baby' by the Chicago White Sox in 1954. As such he was required to remain on the roster for two seasons and in his first year with the Sox he hit .280 in 40 games. In '55 he again played 40 games but his numbers were disappointing and beginning in 1956 he was bouncing back and forth between the Sox and the minors through 1959.
Traded to the Red Sox he got into only ten games in '60 and spent most of that year and the next again in the minors. He retired at age 28 to go into the insurance business. He died of pancreatic cancer in 2008.
The Kalamazoo Gazette, Jackson's hometown newspaper, ran a tribute to Jackson after his death. It touches on his character, his two sport career and has memories from his family. It's a nice read.
This is another in a string of nicely preserved cards that I've been posting. Not exactly 'pack fresh', but pretty darn close. And there are those Yankee Stadium pennants again.
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
William "Big Bill" Renna was a 3-sport collegiate standout at Menlo College and Santa Clara in California when he was signed by the Yankees in 1949. He displayed plenty of power and a hit near or better than .300 in his four year stretch in the Yankee chain. In one game in 1952 playing for the Yanks' AAA club in Kansas city he was part of a 10 home run (six in one inning!), 53 total bases assault. Renna hit two of those homers in a game that set American Association records that stand today.
Renna played in New York in 1953 but, while he hit .314, he failed to show much of his expected power. He was dealt to the Athletics who held on to him until June of 1956 when the bosses in New York decided he might be useful and had the Athletics send him back. During his 2+ seasons with the A's he hit 26 homers but batted just .214. He spent the remainder of the 1956 season with the Yankee farm club and he again showed the bat he had earlier in the minors.
The Red Sox acquired him for the 1957 season and after another season in the minors he played sparingly in Boston through May of 1959. Renna worked in the concrete business after he retired. He tells much of his own story in an interview on the This Great Game site.
I found a couple of variations of this picture of Bill Renna in a couple of places. I like it a lot.
Monday, August 26, 2013
Johnny Temple signed with the Reds in 1948. There is a bit of mystery concerning his short time at Catawba College in North Carolina, his Navy stint, his real hometown and his actual age when he signed. The whole convoluted story is chronicled here.
Be that as it may, once he started in pro ball Temple charged through the Reds system hitting very well and displaying an outstanding glove. His minor league credentials earned him a shot with the Reds in 1952 but he struggled. Returned to the minors in June, Temple again showed a good bat and he was called back to the Reds later in the season. He had a bit more success in that stint and by 1953 he was the Reds' starting second-baseman, a spot he held for seven seasons.
Temple teamed up with Roy McMillan and the pair made a formidable DP combo for the club. Temple also found his bat and in seven years with the Reds he hit .291, made three All Star teams and annually ended up first or second in stolen base percentage. His time in Cincy was marked by some well publicized brawls. His spark was coveted by the Indians and after the '59 season they dealt for him.
He spent a bit more than 2 seasons in Cleveland, making the All Star squad in 1961. He bounced from Cleveland to Baltimore and finally back to the Reds as a player/coach in 1964. The end of his second term as a Red came when he got into a huge fight with a fellow coach.
His problems continued after his retirement as he faced the results of bad investments and several legal issues before he passed away in 1994. He's a member of the Reds' Hall of Fame.
Saturday, August 24, 2013
Righty Glen Hobbie signed with the Cubs in 1955 out of tiny Witt, Illinois. After three so-so years in the minors he got a quick look at the bigs late in 1957 and took a pounding in two appearances. Nonetheless he made the club in '58 and did well going 10-6 in 55 games. Those 10 wins actually led the Cub staff. Among the starters only Moe Drabowsky had as many as 9 wins. He made 16 starts that year and was moved into the rotation for 1959.
He won 16 games in '59 including a pretty spectacular one hitter on April 21 in which he was perfect until, with two outs in the seventh, Stan Musial doubled. Hobbie won the game 1-0. He came back with another 16 win season in 1960 but suffered the indignity of losing 20. The fact that the Cubs were pretty terrible had a lot to do with that. Hobbie's ERA in his 16 win seasons was 3.69 and 3.97.
Hobbie's career went off the cliff beginning in '61 and he never again had a winning record. He went 21-47 through 1964, a season that saw him dealt to the Cardinals for Lew Burdette. Interestingly Hobbie's last big league win was a big one. In June of '64 the Cardinals were in San Francisco and Hobbie started the second game of a doubleheader. It was his second start for St. Louis after the trade. He allowed a run on a couple of hits to open the game before settling down to retire 25 of 26 batters to gain the win. As is pointed out in this blog post, the Cards won the '64 pennant by a single game so that one win by Hobbie has some real significance.
The Cards traded him to the Tigers but a bad shoulder limited him to some minor league action in 1965 and he then retired at the age of 28. Hobbie's short career could be traced to his being used as both a starter and reliever for the bulk of his time in Chicago. I did some checking and found that in 1958 Hobbie pitched in 55 games which was second highest in the NL behind Johnny Klippstein, a pure reliever. In '59 he made 33 starts and pitched in a total of 46 games, second only to Sam Jones among regular starting pitchers. And in 1960 he made 36 starts and once again pitched in 46 games, the most of any pitcher with 25 starts.
Glen Hobbie died earlier this month at the age of 77 in his home state of Illinois.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Shortstop Alfonso 'Chico' Carrasquel, one of the first Venezuelan players to play in the majors, was the first Hispanic player to start in an All Star game. That came in his second season, 1951 when he beat out Phil Rizzuto for the slot.
His rookie season of 1950 saw Carrasquel hit .282 and he was third in the Rookie of the Year voting. That average turned out to be a career high but he hit well enough to keep the White Sox shortstop job where he teamed with Nellie Fox to form a slick DP pairing for six seasons before his 1957 trade to the Indians. A trade prompted, at least in part, to open the job at starting shortstop for fellow Venezuelan Luis Aparicio.
Carrasquel had been signed by the Dodgers out his hometown of Caracas but was unlikely to supplant Pee Wee Reese with the Dodgers so he was sold to the Sox after a year in the Dodger train. In total he made four All Star squads with the Sox and consistently ranked at or near the top of the AL in fielding categories.
After his trade to the Indians Carrasquel played another three seasons as a regular (or close to it). As his numbers declined he played for the A's and finally the Orioles in his final year, 1959. He was signed in the following off season by the White Sox but was released prior to the opener. He signed with the Dodgers and spent the year with their AAA club in Montreal. The White Sox--->Dodgers ending to his career gives it a nice 'Bell Curve' sort of feel.
When his playing days ended he coached and managed in his native country and scouted for the White Sox. He later was their Spanish language broadcaster.
In this short Chicago Tribune interview Carrasquel discusses his career and his carjacking in Valenzuela in 2003. His 2005 New York Times obituary contains tributes from teammates and others that speak to Carrasquel's influence and talent.
I never like Oriole players depicted in anything other than the proud orange and black so here are a handful of Carrasquel photos from 1959, his only season in Charm City.
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Sam Jones was signed by the Indians in 1950 and put up some very impressive minor league numbers for the next four seasons. But in his one extended trial in the bigs he was hit pretty hard. The Indians dealt him to the Cubs as the '54 season ended in a somewhat complicated trade that Baseball Reference tracks like this:
September 30, 1954: Traded by the Cleveland Indians with players to be named later to the Chicago Cubs for a player to be named later. The Chicago Cubs sent Ralph Kiner (November 16, 1954) to the Cleveland Indians to complete the trade. The Cleveland Indians sent $60,000 (November 16, 1954) and Gale Wade (November 30, 1954) to the Chicago Cubs to complete the trade.Someone diagram that one for me, please.
The tall right-hander, known as 'Toothpick Sam' (see the card's cartoon) and 'Sad Sam' Jones, took a spot in the Cubs rotation in '55 and went on to lose 20 games for a sub-.500 club. Against the Pirates on May 12 of that year he became the first African-American pitcher to throw a major league no-hitter. He walked seven in that game and survived a crazy ninth inning in which he walked the bases loaded with a wild pitch sandwiched in and then proceeded to strike out Dick Groat, Roberto Clemente and Frank Thomas to end it. The next year the Cubs were horrendous and Jones went 9-14.
Traded to the Cardinals Jones found better support and won 26 games in two seasons. He had a fine '58 season winning 14 games with a 2.88 ERA and leading the league in strikeouts. Perhaps thinking they had wrung all they could out of the vet the Cards traded Jones to the Giants.
In San Francisco in '59 Jones won a career high 21 games and had a league leading ERA. He won 18 games in 1960 but slipped badly in 1961 and the Giants were transitioning him to the bullpen. He spent the next five seasons working for several organizations and bouncing between the majors and the minors. He was working as a pitching coach and player when he pitched his last game in 1967 in the Pirates chain. Jones died just four years after he retired,
During his career Jones developed a reputation as a headhunter but he denied it. He did lead the lead in hit batters in 1955. His hard breaking curve helped him with three strikeout crowns but his wildness meant he also led the league in walks four times. He was a veteran of both the Negro Leagues and several Caribbean Leagues as well.
A fascinating character, Sam Jones' story is told well on his SABR bio page. It chronicles his early life and how he came to get the name 'Samuel Jones' after being born as Daniel Pore Franklin.
BTW..he is the second 'Sad Sam' Jones to play in the majors. He was preceded by Samuel Pond 'Sad Sam' Jones who pitched for 22 seasons from 1914 thru 1935.
Sunday, August 18, 2013
Here is a cocktail party trivia winner (all of you go to cocktail parties don't you?). Who hit the first major league home run in the state of Texas?
The answer is Roman Mejias. In the bottom of the third inning in the first game played by the expansion Houston Colt 45s Mejias knocked a Don Caldwell pitch through the humid Houston air and made city history. He hit another homer in the eighth as part of a 3 for 5, 6 RBI game. His 45s won 11-2.
Mejias was signed by the Pirates out of Cuba where he had played high school ball and worked the sugar cane fields and became a winter ball star. He hit well during his minor league days. He spent several seasons trying to crack the Pirates outfield lineup but with Bill Virdon, Bob Skinner and some guy named Roberto Clemente ahead of him he was doomed to 4th outfielder and pinch hitting duties when he wasn't being shuttled to minors.
Being taken with the 11th pick of the expansion draft by Houston led to his one year as a major league regular. He was hitting .311 and had 19 homers at the All Star break in '62 but wasn't selected for the NL team. Supposedly he was pretty disappointed by that.
Despite (or because of) his '62 hitting exploits the Colts were able to trade him to the Red Sox for Pete Runnels. He played for the Sox as a semi-regular in '63, played sparingly in '64 and then found himself back in the minors and then he played a year in Japan before he left the game.
This is another pretty sweet card. Just one corner ding mars it. Mejias is posed in Seals Stadium with a glove that looks pretty big, especially for that time. There are a couple of informative and entertaining pages devoted to Mejias on the 'net. That second one has a ton of pictures. Always nice to see the great Colt 45s jersey.
Friday, August 16, 2013
Late Update re: Baseball Reference, see the bottom.
Early last year I posted the '59 Topps card #316 which is supposed to show Ralph Lumenti. As noted in that post the picture is not Lumenti but rather it's a shot of Senators teammate Camilo Pascual.
A few days ago reader Sheriff Tom pointed out that not only is Lumenti not shown on his Topps card but his Baseball Reference page features the same incorrect picture. Some guys just can't catch a break.
As I noted in my reply to Tom my copy of the Lumenti/Pascual card is is terrible shape. It's probably the worst conditioned card in my set binder (outside of the Gibson rookie).
So I figured the least I could do was upgrade the card. If Lumenti was going to have an error card at least it would be a nice error card.
I found this one on eBay just a couple of bucks shipped and it arrived in a day or so. It was listed as vg/ex and it's easily at least that good. I am also going to send BR a note about the incorrect picture. Hopefully they will fix it. We'll see. Below is a screenshot of the 'before' page. I hope to be able to come back and add the 'after'.
August 20 Update: I received an email from RB Feedback stating that they were going to notify their picture provider of the error.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
What do Paul Konerko, Gabby Hartnett, Davey Lopes, Hugh Duffy, Nap Lajoie and baseball lifer Johnny Goryl have in common? They were all born in Rhode Island. Now you know.
Goryl played seven seasons in the minors for three different organisations before he got a late season look from the Cubs in September of 1957. In his first game in the majors he batted lead off for the Cubs facing Warren Spahn. He whiffed, grounded out and drew a walk against the future Hall of Famer. Later he singled and scored a run.
He saw action in about half the Cubs' games in 1958 as either a second- or third- baseman. He played some in '59 as well but spent most of the season in the minors. A trade to the Dodgers led to a couple more seasons in the minors before he was drafted by the Twins in 1962.
He played sparingly in Minnesota and transitioned into his role as a coach, manager and eventually into numerous jobs in the front offices of the Twins and Indians. He managed the Twins for parts of the '80 and '81 seasons. He was honored last winter for his lifetime of work in the game, receiving the Mike Coolbaugh Award. He continues working for the Indians.
This card is one of several among a group cued for posting that are nearly 'pack fresh', or at least as fresh as a 54-year-old card can be. Corners are sharp, front is glossy and only a little yellowing of the back gives away the vintage-ness.
Monday, August 12, 2013
Virginia righty Bob Porterfield had one truly exceptional year in his twelve year career and it came in 1953. After kicking around the Yankee organisation for 5 years or so, making yearly visits to the majors and being sent back down, he was acquired by the Senators in June of 1951.
Unlike Casey Stengel, Nat skipper Bucky Harris (who had been Porterfield's first manager) had some faith in him. He put Porterfield in the rotation and the steady work paid off. He went 9-8 with a nice ERA the remainder of that year and came back in '52 to win 13 games.
His 1953 season saw Porterfield lead the AL with 22 wins. This on a 76-76 club that finished fifth. He led the league with 24 complete games and nine shutouts. Hell, he even hit well compiling a .255 average and hitting three of his six career dingers. He was named the Sporting News' AL Pitcher of the Year. He managed to do all this while striking out just 77 batters in 255 innings. that's the lowest amount of whiffs by any twenty games winner since the Second World War.
While he never again approached his '53 numbers Porterfield came back to win 24 games over the next two seasons with the Senators before being traded to the Red Sox. By 1958 he was in the Pirates' bullpen and picked up six saves. 1959 was his last season in the majors and he bounced back and forth between the Pirates and Cubs. He pitched two more seasons in the minors before retiring.
Porterfield worked as a welder after his baseball days and died of lymphoma at the age of only 56 in 1980.
He was lucky enough to avoid being photographed for his card wearing the Pirates batting helmet. Looks to be the Coliseum in LA in the background. Maybe Branch Rickey skipped that road trip.
Saturday, August 10, 2013
This is the fourth card featuring White Sox lefty Billy Pierce that I've posted out of this set. And it's the last. First up was a look at the special card ( #156 Ace Hurlers) he shared with Robin Roberts and a little detective work into the background of the picture Topps used. Then came his card in the Baseball Thrills subset (#466 Pierce All Star Starter) and soon after was his '59 Sporting News All Star card (#572 Billy Pierce '59 All Star Selection). This one is obviously his regular card.
While I like any card with the Yankee Stadium background this is far from the best Billy Pierce card issued during his career. He's one of those guys who, like fellow lefty Whitey Ford, was always referred to as 'the crafty...' or 'the stylish..(insert name)'. I don't know what it was about those guys that made them 'stylish', or even what it means exactly. I do know that there are a bunch of really cool pictures of Pierce floating around. I have a Pierce card collection and I'll post some of them on my 5 Tool blog and at the bottom of this post will be a couple of the pics I found.
Pierce, a Detroit native, was a Tigers signee in 1945. He opened the season on the Tiger staff for six weeks but didn't get into a game. Sent to the minors he returned to the big club before the season ended and pitched in Fenway Park in his first game. He was with the team when they won the World Series that season. He was eligible for and received a Series champs ring despite pitching only 10 innings in the majors all year. He was 18 years old.
He was hurt for a good part of '46 and pitched in the minors in 1947 before making the club again in '48 but he was hardly used and his numbers were atrocious. Being traded to the White Sox that winter proved a turning point and he went on to have an exceptional 13 year career for the Sox. He won 186 games for a team that was climbing steadily out of the doldrums during the 50's. They broke trhough to play in the 1959 World Series but lost to the Dodgers. Pierce, a 14 game winner who was injured late in the season, was put in the bullpen for the Series. He allowed just two hits in four innings of work.
After two more winning seasons on the South Side Pierce was traded to the Giants where he finished out his career. He had a sterling 1962 season, winning 16 games and helping the Giants reach the World Series. He started two games and pitched very well but split his two decisions. He finished third in Cy Young voting in the NL that season. Pierce retired after the 1964 season with 211 career wins and an ERA of 3.27 in 18 seasons.
The best Pierce ever did in Hall of Fame voting was less than 2% of the votes back in 1971. I'm not saying he should have made it but 2%? That's just silly. The JAWS ranking of all starting pitchers puts him 96th at the moment. That's ahead of ten Hall of Famers including Chief Bender, Dizzy Dean and far ahead of Catfish Hunter.
Pierce's highlights from Baseball Reference:
Major League Bests
- Wins: 20 (1956, 1957)
- ERA: 1.97 (1955)
- Innings: 276 1/3 (1956)
- Strikeouts: 192 (1956)
- WHIP: 1.02 (1964)
- Saves: 8 (1963)
- 7-time AL All-Star (1953, 1955-1959 & 1961)
- AL ERA Leader (1955)
- AL Wins Leader (1957)
- AL Strikeouts Leader (1953)
- 3-time AL Complete Games Leader (1956-1958)
- 15 Wins Seasons: 8 (1951-1953, 1955-1958 & 1962)
- 20 Wins Seasons: 2 (1956 & 1957)
- 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 9 (1950-1953 & 1955-1959)
- Won a World Series with the Detroit Tigers in 1945 (he did not play in the World Series)
The SABR site has some great nuggets of info in the Pierce bio page and this Chicago news website has a neat story linking Billy Pierce and former Sox perfect game pitcher Mark Buehrle.
And here at a few nice shots of the 'crafty & stylish' lefty found on the 'net:
Thursday, August 8, 2013
Lots and lots to love about Frank Bolling's card. Great panorama of the third base side of Yankee Stadium behind him, the facade, flagpoles, grandstands. Great stuff there. Then flip the card over and you get a cartoon that very different than most of the others in the set.
Isn't that cool? Probably hyperbole given the fact that Frank's bother Milt had 94 RBI in seven big league seasons, but hey, Frank was a pretty good RBI guy for a second baseman in that era.
The Tigers signed Frank Bolling out of Alabama in 1951 and watched as he showed himself to be a good all around infielder for three seasons in the minors. He made the big club as a starter in 1954 then was in the service for a little over a year. After returning in June of 1956 he spent five seasons as the teams 2nd baseman and displayed a decent average and good power. He averaged over ten homers and 50 ribbies a season.
Traded to the Braves in 1961 Bolling spent almost an equal amount of time as the starter in Milwaukee (and Atlanta in the team's first year there). He had his only two All Star appearances in his first two seasons with the Braves.
He retired after the 1966 season having played every inning of his career at 2nd base. After he retired, Bolling returned to his native Mobile, AL, where he got involved in charity work and started a baseball league for physically or mentally challenged youth, the Frank Bolling Adaptive Baseball League.
This book about the history of baseball in Mobile, Alabama has an entertaining chapter on the Bolling brothers. The link takes yo to a spot a page or so into the chapter.
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Whoever wrote Haywood Sullivan's Baseball Reference Bullpen page bio was not a fan of his:
Haywood Sullivan played in the majors from 1955-63, primarily as a catcher. While he spent four years with the Boston Red Sox and only three with the Kansas City Athletics, he had 718 of his lifetime 851 at-bats with the Athletics. He also managed the Athletics for most of the 1965 season.
Sullivan was General Manager and part owner (with Jean Yawkey) of the Boston Red Sox 1978-83. Sullivan had been assistant GM of the Red Sox from 1966 to 1977. He essentially inherited a contending team in the late 70's including the 99 win 1978 Red Sox.
In his time as GM he traded popular players Rick Burleson, Butch Hobson and Fred Lynn and lost Carlton Fisk to free agency when he failed to offer Fisk a contract before a deadline. He then brought in over the hill stars like Joe Rudi and Tony Perez who along with 43 year old Carl Yastrzemski were well equipped to compete with the 1983 Phillies for oldest team honors. He also drafted and brought to the majors, his son, catcher Marc Sullivan.
On the plus side for Sullivan he did acquire batting champion Carney Lansford who he then traded to Oakland for home run champion Tony Armas. Following the 1983 season, in which the Red Sox were 78-84, Sullivan was replaced by Lou Gorman as GM of the club after a dispute with fellow owner Buddy Leroux.
Not much I can add to that other than the fact that he was a start football quarterback at the University of Florida in addition to playing baseball there. He was a draftee of the Washington Senators expansion franchise in December of 1960 off the Sox roster. The Nats traded him to the Athletics a few weeks later.
Despite his issues in the Sox' front office and as part-owner, he is a member of their Hall of Fame.
Sunday, August 4, 2013
Note: This and the next few posts will be rather short and sweet as I am currently on the road between Houston an Lincoln, Nebraska on family business and putting these together on the fly.
Born and raised in Detroit, Joe Ginsberg was actually named Myron but he was called 'Little Joe' much of his early life (his Dad's name was Joe) and 'Joe' stuck with him throughout his career. His sig on this card reflects his real given name.
Signed by his hometown club in 1944 Ginsberg played in the minors and served in the military before debuting for a short stretch in 1948 with the Tigers. He was back up in 1950 and in 1951/'52 he was as close to being a regular catcher as at any time in his career. He got over 350 at-bats both seasons and he hit .260 in 1951. In May of 1952 he caught the first of Virgil Trucks' no-hitters.
He played for the Indians and Athletics before finding himself in Baltimore from 1956 through early in 1960 where he was, at least at times, a platoon catcher. After his time with the Birds he played for the Red Sox, White Sox and, for a few games, with the original Mets club in 1962.
Friday, August 2, 2013
Note: This and the next few posts will be rather short and sweet as I am currently on the road between Houston an Lincoln, Nebraska on family business and putting these together on the fly.
Harvey Kuenn spent a mere 63 games in the minors before the Tigers decided he had what it took to play as a big league shortstop and called him up for an 18 game trial in 1952. Hitting .340, even at the 'B' league level, will do that.
Kuenn made the Tigers starting lineup in 1953 and never looked back. That year he led the league in hits as a rookie, won Rookie of the Year honors and made the first of his eight straight AL All Star squads.
In eight seasons in Detroit he hit .314 , led the league in hits four times, in doubles three times and won the 1959 AL batting crown with a .353 average. It's what happened next that is the pivotal point in his career.
On the eve of the 1960 season Kuenn was traded to Cleveland for the Indians' immensely popular Rocky Colavito. It was a trade that shook two cities to their baseball roots. Rather than reinvent the wheel I'll refer you to this interesting write up and recap of the circumstances surrounding the deal and it's aftermath. In a nutshell, Indian fans were not happy with GM "Trader' Frank Lane.
Kuenn played only one season for the Indians, was dealt to the Giants where he played in the 1962 World Series and then faded from the scene as a player after short stints with the Cubs and Phils.
Kuenn later managed the Milwaukee Brewers for a couple of seasons. His powerful hitting clubs were nicknamed Harvey's Wallbangers and they won the 1982 AL pennant.
Harvey Kuenn's Milestones as seen in Wikipedia:
Kuenn died at the age of 57 after suffering from several bouts of ill health, Here is his NY Times obit. And here is his SABR bio.
- 1953 AL Rookie of the Year Award
- 8-time AL All-Star (1953-1960)
- AL Batting Average Leader (1959)
- 2-time AL At Bats Leader (1953 & 1954)
- 4-time AL Hits Leader (1953, 1954, 1956 & 1959)
- AL Singles Leader (1953)
- 3-time AL Doubles Leader (1955, 1958 & 1959)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 1 (1955)
- 200 Hits Seasons: 2 (1953 & 1954)
- Division Titles: 1 (1982)
- AL Pennants: 1 (1982)
Kuenn's card here is rather off center and suffers from a ink 'inscription' I hadn't noticed in my occasional trips through my set album in search of upgradable '59s. Stray ink on the back, while less than ideal, isn't a 'card killer' for me, especially when the overall condition is as decent as this card is.