Saturday, February 19, 2011

#448 Vada Pinson

This card pretty much personifies the f/g aspect of my collection. The auction listed it as 'Poor', and I guess it is but eBAY descriptions can be a funny thing. I've bought plenty of late 50's cards that were listed as better grades than this that were in worse shape. This experience has been an education in card 'grading'. I don't want any purists to stroke out so I'll save my stories about cracking open slabbed cards to put in my binder.

The back of Vada Pinson's card mentions his fine spring performance leading to winning a starting job in 1959. I don't follow contemporary card sets but do any current issues get released late enough to include stuff like that? I doubt it.

1959 was Vada Pinson's breakout season. He hit .316 with 20 homers and 47 doubles. He went on to have a pretty distinguished career with the Reds and four other clubs ending with the Royals in 1975.

Pinson was a key player in what was probably the most fun day I've ever experienced in a major league park. Yankee Stadium, a Wednesday doubleheader, Indians in town and my best friend and I have finagled our way into choice seats behind the plate just to the third base side.

Game One featured some fool tossing a cherry bomb out of the upper deck which landed (and exploded) right next to Indians' catcher Ray Fosse. He set some sort of vertical leap record. Scared the crap out of everyone around as well. In the 9th Bobby Murcer slugged the first of what was to be his four consecutive homers on the day. But the absolute topper can be seen in this video:

In the 5th inning of the second game, Pinson hits a one out single and then moves to second on a ground out. The Yankee pitcher, Stan Bahnsen, uncorks a wild pitch and Pinson tries to score from second. Thurman Munson tracks down the ball, tosses it to Bahnsen who tags Pinson out...... right between the eyes. Pinson gets up swinging, benches clear and we have the typical baseball fight/dance. Pinson was the only one really looking to land any blows and he got ejected. Murcer smacked the last three homers on his big 4 homer day.

Since I moved to Houston in early August of that year I believe this was my last visit to the old Yankee Stadium before it was refurbished. Quite a day.

edited to add.... I found this excerpt from Thurman Munson's biography that chronicles some of that day. I swear Pinson was trying to score from second though, not third as the book claims.

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