Thursday, March 31, 2011

#62 Tony Taylor

Though shown here early in his career when he toiled for the Cubs, Tony Taylor spent his salad days as the 2nd baseman for the Phillies. He had a solid career both at the plate and in the field. His .261 career average is a point higher than his contemporary Bill Mazeroski's .260 (and Maz made the Hall of Fame). Taylor, one of many Cuban players who were around the majors in the late '50s, signed originally with the Giants but debuted with the Cubs before his long stretch through the 1960's as a Phils regular and a stint in the early '70's with the Tigers. Taylor finished up his career with the Phillies as a bench player for 3 seasons.

While not in any way a H-O-F caliber player Taylor was a solid major leaguer and was twice honored for his accomplishments. He's a member of the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame as well as the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame.

I'm not sure what it is about the pink frames that I like so much. Somehow, against all odds, they work well on the 59s. Once again my terrible scanning skills rear up and make the card appear different than it truly is. I cut off the bottom of the card front scan. Those corners are no way nearly that sharp.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

#125 Ron Fairly

That baby-faced Dodger smiling on the card above had a lot of baseball in his future. Ron Fairly broke in with LA in 1958 and spent 21 years as a solid major leaguer and 27 years as a broadcaster. That totals over 7000 games. Now that is a full life in the game!

He won 3 World Series rings in four chances with the Dodgers and really performed in the '65 Series against the Twins batting .379 with eleven hits including a pair of homers.

Most interestingly Fairly appeared to be winding down and easing into retirement in 1977 when, after five seasons as a platoon/bench player with four clubs, he grabbed a full time spot in the Blue Jays' outfield and made the A.L. All Star team.

My copy of this Sporting News Rookie Stars card has really nice corners but displays the off centered look that seems to become common in my collection.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

#509 Norm Cash

This is one of the more enigmatic cards in my collection of '59s. Norm Cash is depicted with one of those heavily retouched photos that make it appear to be 'painted'. It's in fabulous shape. Even with my mediocre scanner you can see that the corners are extra sharp, the colors perfect and the back is clean. It's obviously miscut but when you are dealing with 1959 Topps you can expect that in a lot of cases. There's a more unusual problem. You can't tell from the scan but this card may have been trimmed. When placed atop a stack of Topps cards it's noticeably narrower than those below it.

So here we have a miscut high number rookie card that may or may not have been trimmed on the side opposite the extra wide white border. And the kicker is that I bought it as a 'graded' card. It was 6.5 Excellent as graded by Beckett. I 'jailbreaked' it from the crummy cheap ass BGS 'shell' and never noticed that it was not the same size as it's brothers until I stacked it for scanning.

Having said all that I'm not too upset with it. I'm not collecting graded cards and this one looks pretty nice if you can get by the off-centeredness, so I'm O.K. with it as a part of my set. It was cheap despite being 'graded' so it serves as a "You get what you pay for" lesson.

Norm Cash was in his second year in the bigs in 1959. The White Sox had signed him after he declined an offer from the Chicago Bears to play in the NFL. On their way to a pennant that year the Sox acquired Ted Kluszewski in mid-season and Cash was a spare part after that.

The Sox dealt him to the Indians that winter but Cleveland turned right around and sent him to the Tigers before the 1960 season began. He made his mark in Detroit in a hurry hitting a pinch homer against the Indians(!) in his second Tiger at bat.

The high water mark of Cash's career came (unfortunately for him) in 1961 when he batted .361 to lead the league, slug 41 homers and drive in 132. Nice numbers indeed but the eyes of the baseball world in 1961 were mostly focused on the Bronx. Cash had some above average home run seasons before he hung 'em up following 16 seasons, but he never approached those 1961 season results again. He did play in three World Series and nab a ring in 1968.

He's well known for this quote: "I owe my success to expansion pitching, a short right field fence, and my hollow bats."

Monday, March 28, 2011

#333 Harry Simpson

As long as we are busting myths (see the Stu Miller 'blown off the mound' entry) lets settle the case of Harry "Suitcase" Simpson. Logic would tell you that a guy that was dealt as many times as Simpson was during his career could easily acquire the nickname "Suitcase". It's even inferred by the cartoon on the back of this 1959 card. But according to Wikipedia (and who could doubt Wikipedia?) he was referred to as "Suitcase" Simpson in the 1951 Cleveland Indians Sketch Book. That publication, a yearbook-type annual, notes that Simpson was named 'Suitcase" by sportswriters as a reference to a Toonerville Trolly comic character.

That's not to say that Simpson didn't do some traveling during his eight seasons in the big leagues. He went from the Indians to the Athletics to the Yankees, back to the Athletics, on to the White Sox, to the Pirates and back to the White Sox. Too bad "Frequent Flyer" miles hadn't yet been invented.

Harry was no scrub, though. He had a couple of nice seasons in the middle of the decade, batting .300 and .293 in 1955/1956. He had 21 homers and 105 RBIs in 1956 as well. He made the '56 All Star team and led the AL in triples in '56 and '57.

Harry poses in Yankee Stadium in the classic kneeling with a bat pose. My copy is pretty sweet. Nice corners and no scars.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

1959 Topps Baseball One Cent Wrapper

I'm not sure how I had two entries posted on Saturday. No matter. Today is a good chance to take a look at the Topps 1959 one cent wax pack wrapper. This is one of two different penny pack wrappers sold back then. There were also five cent packs for the rich kids.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

#391 Milt Pappas

Milt Pappas appears to not have a care in the world as he poses for the Topps photographer in Yankee Stadium. Little did he know the twists and turns that his career and life would take.

If your name was Miltiades Stergios Papastergios you'd be better off being called Milt Pappas as well. And you'd be one of the more interesting guys to appear on a '59 Topps card. I'm not sure where to start with this guy. I recall him vividly from his days as an Oriole but he's best known (at least to Oriole fans) as the key bait in the trade that brought Frank Robinson from the Reds in December of 1965.

Stuff you might not know about Milt Pappas...........

  • Beginning in 1958 Pappas had a long consistent career, totaling 209 wins, the same as Hall of Famer Don Dysdale.
  • He had a reputation as a hypochondriac which estranged him from some teammates, especially on the Reds.
  • Pappas had a string of 11 consecutive double digit seasons.
  • He gave up Roger Maris 59th homer in 1961, tipping Maris that he'd offer up nothing but fastballs. Pappas was upset with the belief that an asterisk would be placed on Maris' record if he broke Babe Ruth's record in more than 154 games.
  • He lost a perfect game bid in 1972 as a Chicago Cub on the 27th batter by walking the Padres' Larry Stahl after getting two strikes. Pappas still believes umpire Bruce Froehming deliberately squeezed the strike zone.
  • Pappas' first wife died in a tragic car accident when she ran off the road near her home into a pond. For years, until her car and body were discovered, it was believed she had been abducted.
  • Pappas discusses all this in his autobiography "Out At Home." I have it on my shelves but have never gotten around to reading it.
  • And finally Milt's son Steve Pappas has an interesting website chronicling his father's career and his own baseball computer replay game hobby. And by interesting I mean well, fun in a weird way.
 See, I told you Milt Pappas was interesting.

#183 Stu Miller (Topps Buyback Issue)

This card of Stu Miller was a gift sent by Joseph who is a fellow Houston area golf enthusiast as well as a poster on a golf message board we both frequent. It's unique and very welcome in my collection. I don't have much knowledge of recent Topps cards or programs so I was not aware of the 'buyback' nature of the card. I did some digging and it appears that the program is just what you'd expect... Topps 'bought back' cards of interest from their 50 years of history, applied a gold embossed 'stamp' and included them as premiums in packs of current cards. Joseph mentioned pulling this one from a 2008 Topps Heritage pack so I know that these were put out at least in that year. More than that I'm unsure of. Thanks again to Joseph for the gift. Now on to a bit about Stu Miller himself. 

Stu broke in with the 1952 Cardinals and pitched for five clubs. He ended his solid career with a two game cup of coffee on the 1968 Braves. Along the way he was a reliable reliever and contributed mainly to the Giants (in New York and San Francisco) and the Orioles. He pitched for a couple of World Series clubs, the 'Giants in '62 (loss) and the O's in 1966 (WIN!!!).  

He was a junkballer whose pitches sometimes crossed the plate in the vicinity of 55 mph. As the back of this card attests his 'speed' was quite an issue among opposing batters and some of their quotes are quite amusing. Miller's biggest moment in the spotlight came in the first 1961 All Star game in San Francisco's Candlestick Park. Miller tells the story on this website better than I could......

“Before the game, it was the warmest day we had had in a while,” Miller remembered, “and the flag was straight down - no wind before the game. That was unusual. By the seventh inning, it started to flutter a little bit. By the eighth, the darn thing was just about torn from the flagpole - which was normal for Candlestick. But, I‘d never seen the wind as strong as it was that day. I put my foot on the rubber, anchored myself into the wind, and I leaned in toward Colavito.”Just as he was about to deliver his first pitch, a sudden gust of wind caused Miller to move his shoulder inadvertently about three or four inches, he said. “I wavered back and forth just a little. But, the American League bench was looking right at me and they went to hollering ’Balk!’ I moved but the wind forced me to move. The umpires didn’t call a thing at first.” Plate umpire Stan Landes took off his mask and walked toward the mound - then motioned for the runners to move up one base. The AL later tied the game on an error by third baseman Ken Boyer.
“He called a balk on me. I tried to explain to him that the wind forced me to move. He said, ’I know it, but rules are rules and I’ve got to call it.’ The umpires knew it was some serious conditions out there. But, I made a balk - a simple balk.”Boyer committed another error (throwing the ball into right field) to allow Nellie Fox to score the go-ahead run from first base in the top of the 10th. But, the National League won the game in the bottom of the inning on singles by Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Roberto Clemente. Miller, therefore, was the winning pitcher.“But, the next day, that’s not what you read in the newspaper,” Miller said. “The biggest headlines they could get read ’Miller Blown Off Mound.’ Never mind that we won the game; that’s what they decided to run with. They made it sound like I was pinned against the centerfield fence, for crying out loud!’Miller struck out Tony Kubek, Dick Howser, Jim Gentile, and Maris in his 1 2/3 innings of work.

Friday, March 25, 2011

#460 Bob Friend

Bob Friend spent 15 of his 16 seasons with the Pirates, went to three All Star games, and retired in 1966 with a 197-230 record. When this card was issued in 1959 he was coming off his one twenty win season. He was the first pitcher to lead his league in ERA for a last place club.

After his playing days Friend went into politics in the Pittsburgh area serving two terms as the Allegheny County comptroller. He also was a delegate to the Republican party conventions in those years and became friends with Richard Nixon. An avid golfer he passed along the love of the game to his son Bob Friend Jr. who was a competitor on the PGA's Nationwide tour.

After his playing days Bob sold insurance until he retired in 2002.

This card shows Bob wearing a Pirates batting helmet as will many other cards of Pirates in the 50's sets. Branch Rickey was a firm believer in helmets and made them mandatory for his Pirates teams beginning in 1952. He encouraged their use in the field as well so even pitchers were wearing them on the mound.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

#103 Billy Goodman

Billy Goodman may be the best player in history that I knew absolutely nothing about. I mean he had a .300 career batting average. He finished second to Phil Rizzuto in the 1950 MVP voting. He led the league with a .354(!) average that season. .354? WTH? Who is this guy? He hit .300 or better five times and .290 or better nine years in a row including eight seasons beginning with 1948 with the Red Sox through his first season with the White Sox, 1958. Goodman spent some time with the Orioles in 1957 and finished his career with the expansion Houston Colt 45s in 1962.

And he's posing by the 3rd base dugout in Yankee Stadium. Red frame card, cool Sox logo, classic Sox uni. Whats not to like about this card? Except maybe the crappy crooked scan that I'm too lazy to redo. Had I known Billy Goodman was such a stud I've have taken more care to get it straight.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

#518 Mike Cuellar

We came to Houston in the late '60s because my father was transferred here by Shell Oil. One of the perks was scoring company seats at the Astrodome from time to time. And I'm here to tell you that Shell had goooood seats. Second row behind home plate. So nice in fact that they shared that row with the Astro management and sometimes we were sitting next to team executives and other front office types.

But we attended one game in 1968 that had us seated next to then-Astro Mike Cuellar and  reliever Fred Gladding. Fred Flintstone was on the DL so I understood his being in street clothes in the stands but why was Mike Cuellar sitting next to me with some sort of binder charting pitches? Didn't guys do that from the dugout? But there he sat, wearing expensive-looking shoes, shiny silver/gray pants and a mock turtleneck. That 'look' was pretty much the off-the-field 'uniform' of major leaguers back then. I got my program signed by both players and I remember having a few brief exchanges with Cuellar.

Cuellar became a favorite of mine and I was thrilled when he was dealt to my Orioles that winter even though the thought then was that the O's got snookered, picking up a washed up junkballer. But tossing that remarkable screwball he went on to become one of the best pitchers in O's history, winning the Cy Young in 1969. I skipped school to stay home and watch him beat the Mets in Game 1 of the 1969 World Series and he cemented his place in my heart with his great win over the Reds in Game 5 of the 1970 Series which wrapped up the championship for the O's. That was the same year he hit a grand slam in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Twins. Didn't pitch well that day but his slam was a huge kick for me.

While Cuellar is best remembered for his Orioles' career he began as a Reds prospect in 1959. He never made a splash with Cincy and soon was banging around in the minors with several organizations before returning to the bigs with the 1964 Cardinals.This card is his rookie card. It's a high number and a classic in my book. Love the orange frame and the pinstripe sleeveless Reds uni. 

Mike Cuellar remained a member of the Orioles 'family' right up to his death a year ago next month. Rest in Peace, Crazy Horse.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

#240 Hank Bauer

"World Series time is Hank Bauer time." Great back of a baseball card blurb, no? But World Series star was just one aspect of Hank Bauer.

He was a highly decorated Marine serving in the Pacific during World War Two, a pipefitter (looks like one doesn't he?), three time American League All Star, World Champion manager, and allegedly one of Mickey Mantle's occasional late night wingmen (and I don't mean that in the aviator sense).

Hank is also the first guy (outside of Brooks Robinson) I ever wrote to asking for an autograph. Sent him a picture just after he retired to private life and got it back signed after a few months.

Bauer played nearly all his career for the Yankees before being traded to the A's (EVERY 50's era Yankee was eventually traded to and from the A's!) for Roger Maris after the 1959 season. Typical Yankee-A's transaction. Must have been nice to be the Yanks in that era and have your top farm club actually a part of the American League.

Bauer played during the Yankees glorious 1950's decade and after retiring did a stint as manager in Kansas City. He ended up managing the Orioles beginning in 1964 and led them to their 1966 title with a sweep of the Dodgers. For this, and his service to this country, Hank Bauer is a real hero to me.

The New York Times had a nice obituary following Bauer's death in 2007. Worth a glance.

My copy of this Bauer card is really nice, glossy with fairly sharp corners and well centered to boot. You have to trust me on the latter point, my scanning abilities let me down and I chopped off a piece of the back of the card as you can see.

Monday, March 21, 2011

#225 Johnny Logan

Johnny Logan was a seriously good shortstop for the Braves for nine seasons beginning in 1952. He had a well deserved reputation as a great fielder but could also hit some as evidenced by his several seasons as a .280/.290 hitter and string of double digit homer seasons.

Logan played in four All Star games and both of Milwaukee's World Series' against the Yankees. Logan homered off Bobby Shantz in Game 2 of the '57 Series.

I like the way this card shows off the classic Milwaukee Braves' cap. I'm not sure why I like this one but along with the White Sox cap of this era it's among my favorites.I'd love to get me one of those but I've got too many baseball caps already (or so I've been informed).

Sunday, March 20, 2011

#559 Ernie Banks The Sporting News All Star

These All Star cards make up the last 22 cards in the '59 set. Each league is represented by the League's manager, eight position players and two pitchers, a lefty and righty. The American Leaguers have blue frames, the Nationals are red, as seen here.

This Ernie Banks is the first one to be posted here and it's a real beauty (if you can ignore one tiny corner crinkle and my lousy scan).

I looked into the selections for this subset thinking that since it was in the last series these might have been the actual All Star selections for 1959. Looks like most of them played in at least one of the two 1959 All Star games. Curiously Wes Covington (#565) is part of the subset but never once was an All Star according to Baseball Reference. He's not listed on the roster even as an injured and replaced All Star. Beats me.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

#291 Pitching Partners

Wait, I just noticed something... Topps misspelled Camilo Pascual's name AGAIN! The back of this card refers to him as 'Camilio'. On his regular card (which was already featured here) he got the 'Camillio' treatment. This is just silly. 

Pedro Ramos proves that my memories are far from accurate sometimes. I always think of him as a reliever and yet he had only two effective seasons out of the pen and those came after eight season in which he was primarily a starter for the Senators/Twins and Indians. He pitched in a heck of a lot of games over that span and had the dubious 'honor' of having the most losses (or being tied for most losses) for four consecutive seasons, from 1958 through 1961. Dragging yourself out there every four days for a crappy club, and getting some bullpen work as well will do that to ya.

One memory I am sure of is my Dad referring to him as 'Pistol Pete' during his Yankee tenure in the mid-60's. 

This is another of my lesser condition cards in this set. There are some, like my Bob Gibson, that I intend to upgrade some day. I can't see myself worrying about this one.

Friday, March 18, 2011

#297 Jackie Brandt

No, it's not a bad scan.... my Jackie Brandt card is pretty beat up. Surface scuffs, soft corners, blemishes, a small tear and a crease or two. To say nothing of Topps' horrible attempt to project the Giants 'SF' logo onto Brandt's cap.

I sure that this photo was taken during his time as a New York Giant. in 1956. Brandt spent time in the service, missing the '57 and most of the '58 seasons. In the meantime the Giants moved out to the West Coast. Topps airbrushed many of the New York Giants' caps in 1958, adding this rather strange 'SF' logo that only vaguely resembles the actual one. They ended up using this on Brandt's '59 card as shown. Fugley.

Brandt's career ran from his debut with the Cardinals in 1956 through a stint on the '67 Astros. He made stops along the way with the Giants as mentioned in New York and San Francisco in Baltimore and Philadelphia. His best seasons came as an Oriole from 1960 through '65. 

He held down a regular outfield job with the pre-Frank Robinson O's and in fact was indirectly involved in Robby acquisition. He was dealt to the Phils in December of 1965 for Jack Baldschun who himself was part of the package the O's sent to the Reds 4 days later.

Notes on Jackie Brandt:
  • He played 3rd base in the first game I ever saw in the Astrodome
  • He was the 'cover boy' for Sports Illustrated's 1961 Baseball Issue.
  • There is a long and far ranging interview with Jackie here. But if you can get through it or make heads or tails of much of it your reading comprehension is a lot better than mine.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

#329 Detroit Tigers Team


The 1959 Tigers got off to a lousy 2-15 start under Bill Norman. Norman was replaced by Jimmy Dykes who led the club the rest of the way with some success, but not enough to overcome that start. They finished fourth in the A.L., a couple of games under .500.

Outside of Al Kaline and Harvey Kuenn the Tigers were a pretty tame bunch. Eddie Yost was nearing the end of his career and Charlie Maxwell had never recaptured his earlier All Star form.

On the mound the Tigers rolled out a decent starter each day with a rotation of Jim Bunning, Don Mossi, Paul Foytack and Frank Lary. But as a staff they allowed the most homers and had the highest team ERA in the American League.

Mediocre club pictured here on a mediocre (or worse) card. The seafoam green frame and red circle just doesn't work for me.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

#465 Sievers Hits Homer Mark

The good news.... based on condition this is about as nice a card as I have in this set.

The bad news...... these Baseball Thrills (i.e. Stuff That Happened in the Middle of this Decade That We Have Pictures Of) cards leave me cold for the most part. 

Roy Sievers led the A.L. in homers in 1957 with 42. Good for him.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

#202 Roger Maris

Roger Maris, posing for this shot in Yankee Stadium in 1958, his eyes focused on the right field stands. Little did he know how much he would accomplish right near that very spot just a few years later. This is a favorite of mine given the pose, color and view of my usual perch in the Stadium's upper deck, right behind home plate.

As with most stars in the set there is little need to touch on Maris' baseball numbers. Everyone with interest in these cards is familiar with him. But I like discovering and reporting small facts that may not be well known, such as.......
  • Roger Maris was born Roger "Maras" but later changed it. Haven't read a reason for this.
  • He was recruited to play football for the Oklahoma Sooners but went back to North Dakota after less than a semester on the OU campus.
  • Maris' first career homer was a grand slam in Tiger Stadium as a member of the Indians in 1957.
  • His back-to-back MVP awards in 1960 and 1961 represented the last time an American Leaguer had won consecutively until Frank Thomas in '93/'94.
  • Maris held the home run mark longer than Babe Ruth.
I saw two Maris homers in 1961 that I can remember and verify. They were #'s 52 & 53 for Maris that year and they came in the same game on September 2 against the Tigers. The second homer, in the bottom of the 8th, had come after my Dad and I had made our usual move to sit in the right field lower deck as the game got late. It was easy to make a quick run to the subway that way. During Maris' tenure in New York that was an interesting place to be. You had a great view of the abuse that Yankee "fans" heaped on him. In one game I recall seeing a metal grate or grill top similar to something from a small hibachi come flying from the upper deck above us and Maris. Firecrackers and other crap coming from the stands was routine. 

I think that stuff cemented my anti-Yankee feelings. Not that I disliked the players, on the contrary there were quite a few of them I greatly admired and rooted for. No, I was baffled by the fans and didn't want them to have the satisfaction of watching a successful team. Little good it did.

I'll always remember watching Maris' record breaking homer #61 on the last day of the 1961 season. Here is the video including Phil Rizzuto's memorable call................

Monday, March 14, 2011

#234 Chuck Tanner

Chuck Tanner looks fresh faced and happy as he gazes into the future and sees himself having a much better career as a big league manager than he was having as a player. That's not entirely fair though. Chuck had a decent career as an outfielder, batting .261 over 8 seasons for four different teams, mostly the Braves and Cubs.Chuck, as noted on his cartoon, homered in his first at bat in the bigs pinch hitting for Warren Spahn on April 12, 1955. Supposedly that homer was on the first pitch he saw!

This truly f/g card is a favorite of mine. The green frame seems to work well with the Cubs colors and the field/stadium background. Ironically Tanner didn't appear as a Cub in 1959 as he was dealt to the Red Sox during Spring Training. He spent most of the year with the Minneapolis Millers alongside Carl Yastrzemski and soaking up the lessons of Miller skipper Gene Mauch. He was sold to the Indians in September before the Millers had moved on to lose to Havana in the 'Little World Series'.

After ending his career with the Angels in 1962 be managed in their farm system until taking over the White Sox helm in 1960. Chuck managed four different franchises through 1988. While he missed out on the 'Little WS' in '59 he more than made up for it by leading the Pirates to their 1979 World series championship over my Orioles. He managed his last game in the Braves dugout in 1988 and held front office jobs after that.

Tanner trivia... he was traded as a manager by the A's to Pittsburgh for Manny Sanguillen before the 1977 season!

Chuck Tanner's Restaurant in New Castle gets a 79% positive rating on Urban Spoon. Pretty good win percentage, no?

Chuck Tanner died in February of this year.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

#288 Dutch Dotterer

Henry John "Dutch" Dotterer Jr. packed a lot of career into just pieces of 5 seasons and less than 300 at-bats in the majors. He's the son of Henry John "Dutch" Dotterer Sr. who was a minor league player and long-time major league scout. 

Dutch the Younger was a Syracuse native and attended SU. He's an inductee of the Syracuse Hall of Fame and his bio on that site mentions that he held a Masters in International Relations from that school. I guess that came in handy during his foreign travels to play winter ball.

Dutch pulled off a couple of unique accomplishments in his abbreviated stay in the bigs... he is the only player to hit a grand slam off Sandy Koufax and the only player to twice beat Warren Spahn with extra-inning pinch hits. His blast off Koufax was hit on June 10, 1960, in the mammoth L.A. Coliseum and provided all the Reds' (errr, I mean Redlegs') runs in a 4-3 win!

My copy of Dotterer's card is not very strong but that doesn't distract much from the 'cool' factor of the black frame and the superb "Redlegs" logo. This looks a lot like a companion to the Whammy Douglas card already profiled. 

On a personal note...this was probably my favorite card in the set when I began collecting them back in '59. I loved this one, loved everything about it.  Seeing it today brings back a lot of memories of those emerging collecting days.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

#408 Keystone Combo

"Nellie... hey Nellie..... Nellie Fox!! Jump in there and toss your arm around Looie's shoulders, will ya? This'll make a great shot!"

Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio were two important cogs in the "Go Go Sox" machine that took the A.L. pennant and faced the Dodgers in the '59 Series.

Man, I like a lot about this card. Those late 50's White Sox unis are really sweet in their simplicity. And the caps! Yes, I'm an Oriole fan but those interlocking S-O-X caps with the red outlined letter are among the best ever. I looked for one of those for years, literally, before I got one last year. I have a size 8 noggin so that was one problem but even so they were tough to find in any size.

And what can you say about these two players? Both extremely popular middle infielders that now have well deserved plaques on the wall in Cooperstown. I'm especially partial to 'Little Looie' thanks to his years as an Oriole mainstay and contributions to the 1966 World Champion Birds.

My only quibble is related to all the special multi-player cards Topps issued in 1959. Why not use the exact "template" that they used with the regular cards and not crop the background. A photo with the background intact is one of the charms of the '59s. Why go a different direction here? The Keystone combo should have stands or the playing field in back of them, not a yellow inner circle. If you look under the arms of Fox and Aparicio you can see the grass that was part of the original shot.
Both Aparicio and Fox have their own cards in this set but in the meantime we can enjoy this 'special' Topps beauty.

Friday, March 11, 2011

#200 Warren Giles

Ok, imagine you're a kid in the spring of 1959 and you talk your mom into giving you another nickel to get yourself a pack of Topps baseball cards at the store on the corner. Run down to the store hand over the coin and run outside to open the red and yellow pack with your buddies. Hoping for a Mickey Mantle or Ernie Banks you rip open the pack and see....... Warren Giles? Really..... National League President Warren Giles?  Instead of Hank Aaron you got a guy in a bow tie?

Well, Warren Giles is a Hall of Famer and he had a long (50 years) and distinguished career in baseball. But I'm guessing that this card wasn't well received back in the day. At least card #1 featured a Commissioner.

And hey, why no card for American League President Joe Cronin?

And just my luck, pretty much the best corners of any card in my '59 collection can be found on this card.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

#522 Gene Snyder

This '59 card was issued the same year Gene Snyder had his only major league stint. He got into 11 games with the Dodgers during the first half of that year. He had spent seven seasons in the Phillies organization before coming to the Dodgers in a deal that sent Sparky Anderson to the Phils.

Taking a good look at Gene's minor league numbers will give you some idea of his mound abilities. His strike out and walk totals are just out of sight! Topps calls him a 'fireball lefty'. I'll bet. He never made it back to the majors after being sent down in July of '59.

Apparently he was one of the best schoolboy players that the York, Pa. area has ever scene. The article I linked to had this to say:
Gene Snyder ('49, North York): He was a star left-handed pitcher who signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as an amateur free agent. Though he signed with the Phillies, he saw his only major-league action as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1959. He pitched in 11 games and went 1-1 with a 5.47 ERA that year for the Dodgers. Armed with a stunning curveball, he was famous for striking out 31 batters in a 14-inning American Legion state playoff victory. He also was a standout basketball player. When Snyder died in 1996, York County baseball long-timer Marlyn 'Curly' Holtzapple said: "Gene was a super guy. (I) remember him as a terrific competitor who probably had one of the best curveballs ever by a lefty. If his control wasn't a problem, he might have had a long, long career in the big leagues."
I like the last line... lol. But 31 K's in 14 innings is impressive at any level. And one last thing. Look at Gene's ERA with Miami in 1958....63.00. I don't think I've ever seen one that high on the back of a card. This is a high number in pretty nice shape. I don't know if Topps painted these cards or what. I'm guessing they 'retouched' the whole photo.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

#318 Rocky Bridges

Everett Lamar "Rocky" Bridges was a light hitting infielder for seven different clubs between 1951 and 1961. He opened his career in Brooklyn and finished with the expansion Los Angeles Angels. Rocky had a few seasons that could be classified as his being a regular starter but he never seemed to really establish himself in that role, likely due to his bat.

My knowledge of Rocky Bridges revolves around his managerial career in the minor leagues and his numerous quips. His Wikipedia page has this great reference:
The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book, Brendan C. Boyd & Fred C. Harris, Little Brown & Co, 1973, began a lengthy writeup next to a picture of a baseball card of the square-jawed, crew-cut, tobacco-chewing Bridges on p.103: "Rocky Bridges looked like a ballplayer. In fact, he may have looked more like a ballplayer than any other ballplayer who ever lived."
In 1964 Sports Illustrated published a terrific article about Bridges, the then newly minted manager of the San Jose Bees. Well worth the read. The story is titled for Rocky's most famous quote: "I managed good, but boy did they play bad." That quote in turn became the title of a Jim Bouton book of essays.

You have to love this card with Rocky displaying his best 'tough guy' pose that features a squint and a huge chaw. 1959 was his first year with the Tigers and the picture used here shows Rocky at Griffith Stadium in D.C. wearing his zipper front Senators uni. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

#180 Yogi Berra

I'd be willing to bet that Yogi Berra is the only player in the '59 set has his own museum. That fact and a quick peek at Yogi's website and Wikipedia page give some idea as to why I couldn't begin to cover the details of the life and career of this Hall of Famer.

Just a few highlights:

  • Yogi was 15 time All Star.
  • Yogi was A.L. MVP three times, in 1951m '54 and '55. He finished second in the voting twice and third once.
  • Yogi caught Don Larson's perfect 1956 World Series game.
  • He played on 14 Yankee World Series teams, winning 10 rings......
  • .....and on and on.

Yogi has lived in Montclair, New Jersey since his playing days. I attended high school with a couple of his nephews in Nutley, just across the Garden State Parkway from Montclair.

My copy of Yogi's '59 Topps is a far better one than is shown in the Yogi Card Gallery on his webpage. I guess that counts for something.

The '59 from Yogi's site:

"You can observe a lot by watching."