Thursday, June 30, 2011

#6 Alex Grammas

Buzz cut Alex Grammas looks a lot like the Apollo astronauts, doesn't he? After signing with the White Sox in 1949 Grammas kicked around through several teams' systems before emerging for the first of two stints with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1954. 

After a couple of years as a regular shortstop there he was moved to the Reds early in 1956 where he played part time for three years. It was back to St Louis for Alex in 1959. The back of this card states that he's been a Redleg for a season and a half but from May of '56 through the end of the '58 season equals almost three seasons. 

Back to being an everyday shortstop in St. Louis proved to be a tonic as Grammas had his best year in '59 hitting a career best (as a regular) .269 with three homers. But his numbers and playing time slid again in 1960 and by mid season 1962 he was traded to the Cubs where he finished his playing career that season.

He coached for a couple of organizations for over a decade and then got a shot at managing the Brewers in the AL in 1976/77 where his clubs finished last both years. Following that he spent another decade coaching 3rd base for the Tigers through 1991.

Miscut, decent (though certainly not sharp) corners, nice color and gloss.... this card is not bad.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

#18 Jack Urban

"Hi, Jack Urban? ... George Weiss here. Look Jack, I've got some bad news and some good news. First the bad news. We've traded you to the Athletics. Jack? Jack? Whats that? Oh... the good news? Well, as you know we trade damn near EVERYBODY to the A's so your roommate will be somebody you've already met. And look, you know how it goes. If you actually turn out to be worth a damn we'll just call and get you back? Nice, huh? Yeah, it's like being with our farm team but you get a major league salary. See ya around, pal."

The really bad news for Jack Urban was that after a couple of years with the A's and a few games with the Cardinals the Yanks DID get him back but never brought him up. He ended up with a 15-15 record splitting his time between the starting rotation and the bullpen. 

Two cool things:

1) Jack Urban and I (and Cliff Floyd among others) share a December 5th birthday.
2) This is one of the best 59's I own. The scan doesn't do it justice. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

#140 Charlie Secrest The Sporting News Rookie Stars

Sometimes this blogging stuff just bowls me over. I sat down on a Friday evening earlier this month to do this entry on Charlie Secrest's '59 Rookie Stars card. I googled his name and didn't get much. When I searched for info on him I came up just about as clean as his the blank jersey shown on his Rookie Stars card.

I found his entries on Baseball Reference and SABR, both of which had his minor league numbers, vitals and not much else (nothing else in fact). His SABR bio consists of  "Charles Secrest was a professional player." That's it. Thanks.

But I found two additional items, both of them were references to Secrest in Baseball Digest issues from early in 1959. One was in the April issue and consisted on a single line in a team by team  prospects article that mentions Secrest might "edge into the outfield" for the Kansas City A's.

The other one was better. It's from the March '59 issue and is a small bio and prospectus of Charles Secrest:

Secrest never made it to the majors, at least not long enough to get into a game. So it looks like the scout that wrote Part 2 was correct. But something struck me. The little paragraph listed his nickname, "Buckwheat".  So it got me to thinking, and I googled 'Buckwheat Secrest'. Bingo!! I found a great feature story written about Secrest that appeared in his hometown newspaper in 1987. And another entry in the same paper from 1958 (about halfway down the left column) that mentions his participation in an upcoming major league All Star exhibition in the area.

Secrest began as an Orioles prospect playing in Ada, Oklahoma in 1954. Seems that he sure had the tools to make it to the majors but, according to Secrest in that article, a series of missed communications, bad breaks and sheer stubbornness kept him from receiving his due. It's a pretty fun article if you care to read it. He moved to the A's chain in '55 and worked his way up the ladder to the AAA level before hanging up his glove following the 1963 season.

As his cardback says Secrest was a prospect with some power. He was coming off a 21 homer season in 1958 at AA Little Rock.

With a bit more research I found that Charlie Secrest is alive and living in Lewistown, Pa., which happens to be where my Mom was born and raised and where I spent a lot of summer nights hanging with my cousins and their friends back in the early 60's. Turns out Secrest lives less than two miles from my Mom's youngest sister. Imagine that.

I sent Secrest this card and a note asking him a couple of questions, principally how he got his nickname. I received my autographed card back a week later. I like how he added "A's" under his name. I bet he still holds a grudge against the Orioles! But while Charlie hadn't answered my questions I was glad to get an autograph from a guy whom I'd learned much about anyway and with whom I felt a connection. Here's hoping Charlie is in good health.

Monday, June 27, 2011

#554 Bill Skowron '59 All Star Selection

I kept looking at Moose Skowron's cards and and photos and thinking "he looks like some actor" but I just couldn't place it (I'm not much of a current movie guy). Then I was googling links for Moose and came across this. My friend Kevin had already nailed it! It's the guy from the Talladega Nights movie!

Anyway, Skowron was coming off one of the highlights of his career, a top of the eighth three run homer that broke open Game 7 of the 1958 World Series. It was sweet revenge for Moose and the Yanks as they reversed the outcome of the '57 Series in which they lost to the Braves in seven.

Moose was one of my Dad's favorites when we were going to so many Yankee games back then. He got a big kick out of the "Mooooose!" calls when he came to bat.

Lots more on Moose Skowron when his regular card comes up for a post.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

#9 Paul Giel

Live and learn. When I pulled this card for scanning I figured Paul Giel would be a short quick entry. I mean other than the fact that this is among the nicest cards in my '59 set what would there be to say?

Well, I'll tell you. Paul Giel was a college football star at Minnesota. He was twice named the Big Ten MVP as Gophers' quarterback and was also a two time All American. He was second in the Heisman voting his senior year (1953, in the closest vote ever) and he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. He also played baseball at Minnesota and had his uniform retired in 2003. He served as their Athletic Director for many years. The UM website has a nice summary of his accomplishments there.

When he came out of college the New York (baseball) Giants offered him a big bonus, more than he would have made in the NFL or the CFL which also pursued him. As a 'bonus baby' he was required to remain on the Giants roster for a couple of seasons seeing little action in '54 but pitching in 34 games in 1955. After an Army stint Giel returned to the Giants for the '58 season but was traded to Pittsburgh for '59 and on to the Twins in 1960. A 1961 trade to the A's brought a brief stay in KC and he was sent back to the Twins as a 'player to be named later', IOW he was traded for himself. He quickly retired and became a color commentator on Minnesota Vikings radio broadcasts from 1962 to 1969 before taking the AD job for the Gophers.

In 6 major league seasons (he never pitched in the minors) he won eleven and lost nine. But there was sure a lot more to Paul Giel than that!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

#346 Batter Bafflers

So Brewer says to Sisler: "OK, I'll pose with you for this guy but there's no way you belong on a card that's going to be called 'Batter Bafflers'. I've got 68 wins in the majors and I'm going to get 23 more before I quit. And I've been over .500 nearly every year with these lackluster Boston clubs. And I even won 19 in '56 made the All Star team! Frankly I'm 'baffled' as to why the hell you're here at all."

"Well' Sisler replies,'I've got an engineering degree from Princeton and...and...and my father is in the Hall of Fame!! So there!"

"Point taken' Brewer says, 'but wait till you see the job Topps does cropping your head for this card."

Friday, June 24, 2011

#338 George Anderson

Yes, that's Sparky's rookie card. And no I can't explain why he already looked like he was in his mid 40s in 1958 when they probably took this shot. Or why all it needs is a number board around Sparky's neck to pass as a mug shot. Just be happy it's got that cool black frame and that Topps actually did a nice job airbrushing that cap.

1959 was George "Sparky" Anderson's only season in the majors. He played six seasons in the minors, escaped the Dodgers talent logjam by being traded to Philadelphia, made the Phils roster and was an every day starter at second base for one year. He then disappeared back to the minors for 4 more years. He hit .218 without a homer and drove in 34 in that one big league year.

But as his playing days ended in Toronto he traded in his glove for a lineup card. At the age of 30 he began what would become one of the most celebrated managerial careers in the history of the game. Sparky managed several seasons in the minors, coached in the bigs and in 1970 took over the helm of the Reds.

26 years in Cincinnati and then Detroit, 2194 wins, five pennants and three World Series titles later he retired to await his election to the Hall of Fame. Sparky was the first manager to win a World Series for both a National League and American League team.

I was lucky enough to have a conversation or two with Sparky Anderson at the baseball Winter Meetings in Houston back in 1981. I remember two things: first, that Sparky was kind enough to ignore the fact that my buddy and I were not really journalists but a couple of college dipshits that had wrangled credentials with our sheer charm, and second, that he sat and chatted with us in the press room about Dave Concepcion's rehab, the 1970 World Series and anything else I could think of to keep the conversation going. 

Hall of Famer indeed.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

#354 Pete Burnside

Pete Burnside, with the Dartmouth education and the unfortunately stained card, began his major league career with the New York Giants in 1955. He's signed with them in 1949 but had kicked around the minors and had served in the Korean War. According to Dartmouth's baseball page he never actually played ball there. 
Burnside didn't establish himself in the bigs until he was acquired by the Tigers after the 1958 season and spent a year as a regular contributor out of their bullpen. He spent 1960 splitting his time between starting and relieving and continued that duel role for two years in DC after being taken in the expansion draft by the Senators. 
He was traded to the Orioles in December of 1962 but early in May of '63 was released by the O's. Resigned that month by the Nats he finished his career that season working out of the pen.

He pitched for the Hanshin Tigers of the Japanese Central League for a couple of seasons before hanging up his glove for good. 

His major league numbers reflect his modest success with an overall 19-36 mark and an ERA of 4.81. He gave up three of Roger Maris' 61 homers in 1961, so that's something, right? 

Burnside's card has that damn stain. It was part of the crappy lot I've mentioned that had several stained cards. I don't want a collection of expensive pristine specimens but I don't want ugly stains on my cards either. I have a better copy coming   Better copy arrived, and shown at the top.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

#229 Vic Power

Yup, 'Vic Power' is one cool name. But his real name is Victor Pellot Pove and there are several stories as to how he came to use 'Power'. All of the stories involve French-Canadian fans from Power's days in minor league ball and all revolve around some cross language misuse of one of his real names. Whatever.

Power was originally signed by the Yankees in 1949 but was dealt to the Philadelphia Athletics prior to the '54 season and it was with the A's that he made his debut that year. He had a couple of pretty solid years in '55 and '56, batting over .300 and a combined 30+ homers but his average slipped 50 points in 1957 and early in '58 he was moved along to the Indians. 

Three more solid years in Cleveland followed and then he was traded to the Twins. In 1964 power had the distinction of being involved in two three way trades. In June he went from the Twins to the Angels and in September he landed with the Phils to finish out the last month of the season. the Angels bought him back from the Phils that winter (sheesh) and he played out his career's final season there with the Halos.

Along the way Power compiled a career .284 average to go with his 126 homers. He made four All Star squads and got MVP votes (not a lot, but some) nearly every year. 

But what Power did best, what I remember him for, is his magical skills at first base. He played it 'one handed' which, at least according to my Dad, was wrong. But that never stopped me, as a young first baseman, from trying to copy him. Hey, he won 7 Gold gloves. His 'floating head shot' was in that Sporting News Gold Glove composite picture every winter. He was just damn cool.

Kinda weird stuff I just noticed: Power led the American League in the following categories.... in triples in 1958, in being caught stealing in 1959, in sacrifice flies in 1961, and in sacrifice hits in 1963. 

Power is an interesting guy and there's a very nice bio on the Philadelphia Athletics history page

My copy of this card is about average for what I've collected. Interesting that Topps listed Power as 1b/3b. I guess that's because he played about the same number of games at both spots in '58. But he never really played third much after that.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

#468 Snider's Play Brings L.A. Victory

Nowhere on the back of this card does it mention a specific play by Duke Snider that corresponds to the one pictured on the front. The wall Duke is leaping in front of looks like the part of Ebbets Field's center field wall that was 'sign-less'. Or it could be someplace else. Or given my experiences with Topps' use of pics on these Baseball Thrill subset cards, it could be someone else painted to look like Duke. I spent five minutes looking for the original and that's all I'm going to do.
I'm going to call it a generic, miscut, round cornered, poorly painted salute to The Duke of Flatbush's defensive skills and let it go at that.

Then again........

Monday, June 20, 2011

#550 Symbol Of Courage Roy Campanella

I'd think that anyone interested enough in late 50's baseball to be checking out this blog would be aware of the Roy Campanella story. Campy, star catcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers during their 'Boys of Summer' days of 1948 through 1957, was seriously injured in an auto accident on Long Island in January, 1958. 

Campanella (like me, one half Italian-American!!!) is one of those unique figures who accomplished much on the ball field but maybe more off it. His game accomplishments are pretty staggering in themselves.... 8 All Star game appearances, three (3!!) NL MVP awards, anchoring five NL championship clubs and a World Series winner. His 1953 numbers (41 homers, 142 RBIs and a .312 average) represent one of the best seasons ever by a catcher. That's to say nothing of his Mexican League and Negro League stats.

But off the field, both before and after his accident, his actions show the depth of his greatness. Campy was the first black American to manage white professional players when he took over for the ejected Walt Alston while a member of the Nashua club in the Dodgers chain. He steeled himself for the long and difficult rehab that was required after his accident and recovered enough use of his arms and shoulders that he was able to serve as a coach and consultant for the Dodgers for many years.

He is a member of the Baseball hall of Fame, the second black player (after Jackie Robinson) to be inducted. His New York Times obituary (Campy died in 1993) delves deeper into his life than I can here. Also available is his book, It's Good to be Alive which was made into a TV movie in 1974.  The official Roy Campanella website has lots of info and pictures as well.

The 1959 Topps card featured here is one of a handful of 'tribute' cards they have issued through the years.  In 1964 they included an 'In Memoriam' card of Ken Hubbs, the young Cubs second-baseman who had died in a plane crash the previous winter. They included a tribute to Cory Lidle in the 2006 update set and the back of Astro pitcher Jim Umbricht's 1964 card has a line of text on the back which mentions his death that spring.

My Campy #550 is one of the lesser condition cards in my set. I acquired it early in my quest to fill the set and I was unwilling to pay much for any individual card at that point. It has evidence of having been glued onto something and the card is creased and generally roughed up. But the 'coolness factor' is still evident. Campy sits in his wheelchair wearing a snappy cap and his well known smile. I smaller shot of him in his playing stance reminds us of what he was known for. Warren Giles penned the write-up which takes up the back of the card. I probably should upgrade this card but there is something fetching about the card knowing it was a treasured part of some kids collection who thought enough of it to paste it into a book of some sort.

++++++++++++Card Update+++++++++++

I scored an upgraded copy after I wrote this post and it arrived last Friday. It's in better condition. There is a flaw on the back (more paste?) but the front looks great and it's overall a nicer card. I'm happy with it.

+++++++++Another Update+++++++++

The Topps Vault had this in their archives. The original pic used for this card. I found it this morning and thought it would be cool to include here.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

#402 Hector Lopez

The very first time my Dad took me to a baseball game was at Yankee Stadium in either 1959 or (more likely since I seem to remember Minnie Minoso playing) 1960. I do know it was a doubleheader against the White Sox. And I know my Dad bought me about four hot dogs and an equal number of Cokes. I know because he always claimed it was six but I know that was bullsh*t (or not). Back then vendors carried big old metal warming boxes through the stands and slapped the dogs into buns encased in a napkin and added Gulden's mustard and/or sauerkraut. They passed from hand to hand if you weren't lucky enough to be near the aisle. The Cokes came in waxed paper cups that had a heat-sealed cello cover on top. And little or no remaining ice. I can still taste and smell all that stuff. My Dad matched me Coke for Coke (though not hot dog for hot dog).

I'm reminded of this because on his way back to the seats in the upper deck behind home plate my old man emerged from the ramp to the seating area as a foul ball clanged off the railing just over his head. He just barely avoided the flying Coca Cola launched by another fan in pursuit of that ball. Why is this relevant today? Because it was Hector Lopez who hit that foul ball. I remember because Hector Lopez became one of my Dad's favorite players for no explainable reason that I recall. 

Hector Lopez, a black Panamanian and my Dad, a second generation German/Portuguese Brooklyn-ite had not a whole lot in common. But as a fan there are attractions that just can't be explained, you know? This was one of them. If Lopez were to look up and to his right from this card pose he would see the Yankee Stadium seats my Dad and I occupied for so many games in the '60s.

He called Lopez "Hector's Pup". "Here comes Hector's Pup" he'd say when Lopez entered the batters box. I know that 'Since Hector was a pup' (or variations of that) refers to something very old or that happened a long time ago, but Hector Lopez was no older than most mid-career ballplayers when he played for the Yanks. I think my Dad just liked saying it, and that's good enough for me.

Lopez came up with the A's in 1955 and was an everyday infielder for them until May of 1959 when he hopped on the Kansas City to New York shuttle. The Yanks decided they needed a fourth outfielder and they looked to their top farm club, the Athletics. 'Lucky' Hector got to play in five straight World Series' between '60 and '64. He got a ring for winning two of them and had a big Series in '61 with a Game Five homer and seven RBIs. He was released after the 1966 season and stayed in the game through coaching and managing. Through his career he was known as a tough out and the worst outfielder in the game. 

He went on to manage at the Triple A level for the Senators' in Buffalo becoming the first black man to do so.  He is still widely revered in his native Panama and he managed the WBC Panama club in 2009.

My Dad passed away on New Years Day 2010. I really appreciate everything he gave me and sacrificed so that our family could achieve what we have. If your father is around, let him know how much you've gotten from him. Do it today and everyday in your thoughts and actions. He won't be around forever. If you are a dad, kick back and enjoy your day. I plan to.

Happy Father's Day!!!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

#195 Rip Repulski

Eldon John "Rip" Repulski spent seven years in the St. Louis Cardinals' talent rich chain before he made the big club in 1953. He had a rewarding rookie season belting 15 homers and hitting .275. It earned him forth place in that years Rookie of the Year balloting. His overall numbers improved in his next two seasons before he regressed in 1956 despite an All Star Game selection.

He was dealt to the Phils and had somewhat of a bounceback season in '57 but regressed again the following season and a trade to the Dodgers (as he's shown on his card here) marked the beginning of the end of his career. After a trade he spent most of the 1960 season with the Red Sox and Boston released him in mid year of 1961.

As he did in his good rookie year in St. Louis, Rip introduced himself to a new set of fans when he pinch hit a grand slam in his first American League at bat in Fenway. That May 10 shot led to a Bosox win in a wild game.

My Rip Repulski (thats such a cool name) is at the lower end on my set condition wise. I'm 99% sure that's the Polo Grounds in the background as Rip poses hatless in his Phils uni. His facsimile signature is 'Eldon Ripulski'. Topps must have cut it off his Topps contract or a check he wrote. I'd bet he never signed an autograph like that. 

Below is the Sports Illustrated Spring Training issue cover from March of 1956. It shows the Cards' five outfielders in a typical spring training shot. That's Rip in the middle flanked on the left by 
Bill Virdon and Harry Elliott with Wally Moon and Stan Musial to the right.

Friday, June 17, 2011

#423 Bob Grim

Bob Grim made quite a splash in 1954 as he became the first rookie Yankee hurler to win 20 games since 1910. He won seven of those as a receiver. His season earned him Rookie of the Year status. And while he had some decent seasons after that and his career numbers (61-41 3.61) look fine, Grim was never able to recapture the magic of his debut year. 

He was shuttled back and forth between a starting job and the bullpen for the Yanks. Along the way he had a league leading 19 saves in New York in 1957 to go with 12 wins and an All Star selection. Arm problems (and likely his poor World Series work in '55 and '57) led to his being traded to Kansas City in 1958. Again he moved back and forth between roles while in KC and ended up moving between three different clubs in 1969 without much success. 

He spent 1961 in the minors and had an aborted comeback attempt with the A's in early 1962 before leaving the majors for good.

As luck would have it the nice corners on this card are mitigated by the fact that it's seriously mis-cut. I tend to waver in my opinion of the pink frames on these cards. I think it has to do with my mood the day I scan them. This one sucks. ;-)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

#304 Chicago Cubs Team

Riddle me this, Batman... why does the Cubs team card say 'Chicago Cubs Team' when nearly all the other team card/checklist merely give the team name without the 'Team'. There are a couple like this and I plan to get to the bottom of it. That kind of detective work is a lot more interesting than researching the '59 Cubs themselves.

The '59 Cubs finished fifth in the NL with a 74-80 record by the way, better than I thought. Glen Hobbie led the staff with 16 wins. Ernie Banks won his second consecutive NL MVP. He drove in 143 runs, hit 45 homers and batted .304. Nobody else had numbers that were remotely close. Ernie must have gotten tired of carrying that club by himself.

Pale green and yellow with rounded corners. Yuck. I like that scheme on the Braves' card. Just looks wrong here. ::shrug:: At least it's unchecked on the back.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

#359 Bill White

Hard to say when Bill White accomplished more, as a player or after he retired. He did pretty darn well for himself both ways.

White (every time I call him 'White' I think of Phil Rizzuto) debuted with the New York Giants in 1956, and did so with style as he homered in his first major league at bat. He stepped right into the Giants first base job but answered Uncle Sam's call and missed 1957 and most of '58. He was traded to the Cardinals prior to the 1959 season (see the little note on the back of his '59 card).

In St. Louis for the next seven years White was steady and productive with seven straight double digit homer seasons, several years of 100+ RBIs and a .300+ average. 

He continued that production after being dealt to the Phils for the 1966 season. Along the way he'd won 7 straight Gold Gloves for his fielding and made five All Star teams. His production slid in his final two years in Philly and he ended his playing days with a season of pinch hitting back in St. Louis.

White wasn't idle long. He'd been dabbling in broadcasting while in St. Louis and Philadelphia and in 1971 used that experience to land the job in the Yankees' broadcast booth alongside Rizzuto and others. He worked for the Yanks through 1988 and made the famous 'Bucky Dent' call in October of 1978.

Bill moved to the executive side of the game. From 1989 to 1994, White served as president of the National League. Just in the past few months White released his autobiography entitled Uppity: My Untold Story About the Games People Play. That dovetails nicely with the recent book review posts.

NPR recently had an informative bio of Bill White which includes an excerpt of his book.

The Bill White '59 Topps kind of grabs me. It has him in a simple batting stance pose but there are not all that many like it in the set. The yellow and red of the card works with the Giants logo and also with the Polo Grounds seating behind him. Seeing that White had spent nearly two years in the military it's easy to figure that this was a shot from 1956. If you look really (reallyreally) close you can make out the sadly fake SF logo that Topps applied to his cap. It's based on the old San Francisco Seals logo and we saw it previously on Jackie Brandt's card.. Topps was guessing what the Giants would wear when they moved west. I guess they could have fixed it seeing that the Giants had at this point been the 'San Francisco' Giants for a season. "But, hey, the kids will never notice, right boss?"

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

#361 Willard Nixon

Willard Nixon falls into the "Who's he?" group of players in the '59 set. Or at least he does for me. Even some of the more obscure guys have cards I remember from when I was a kid. Dutch Dotterer for example. But I had no idea about Willard Nixon.

But then again one of the reasons I'm doing this is to educate myself about players from an era of the game that's special to me.

Willard Nixon pitched for Boston from 1950 through 1958. So he was out of the majors by the time this card showed up.  He spent the first four years of his tenure with the Red Sox more often as not as a starter but mixing in quite a few relief appearances. In 1954 he moved into the regular rotation. He spent four years there, hovering around the .500 mark for some Sox clubs that finished in the first division but never threatened for a title.

He struggled with shoulder problems beginning in 1957 and by the end of 1959, after a year in the minors, he'd retired. He had won a reputation as a 'Yankee Killer' for his mastery over the dominant team of the era winning six straight over the Yanks in '54/55. He was also an accomplished hitter who finished with a .242 career average and hit .293 in 1957.

He led an interesting post playing career life working as, among other things, a scout and as chief of police in his Georgia hometown. He's a member of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.

Not sure why but from time to time Topps liked to throw in one of these 'gazing skyward' profile shots. This is the second one I've featured in three days. I guess the photographer thought he was being artistic or they were sick of the "posed in front of the Yankee Stadium third base side grandstand" shots. Just looks dopey to me. But the card itself isn't in bad shape at all. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

#74 Directing The Power

How did Jim Lemon hit homers with those sadly underdeveloped guns? How did Roy Sievers even play with chunks of his head missing. How did Cookie Lavagetto keep that Senators' beret on his head?

And most pressing in my mind... how did Topps' photo editor keep his job with shoddy work like this? It's a puzzle.

Two tone blue frame=win. Natty Nats uni top with the 'shadowed' "W"=win. Crappy cropping on a beaten up mis cut card=tragic.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

#417 Virgil Trucks

Wow, look at the stats on the back of Virgil Trucks' card. They so back to 1941 and leave just enough room for the info block and a line reflecting the release of the 40 year old vet by the Yankees that spring. 

Ol' Fire's career began in 1938 in the minors and he debuts with the '41 Tigers. Through the next 14 seasons (with a military service stint along the way) he won the majority of his 177 career wins as a starter for Detroit, the Browns and White Sox. Moving to the A's in '57 he finished his career in the bullpen for a couple of seasons. His stint with the Yanks in 1958 was his final whirl around the bigs for this American League 'lifer'.

Despite 17 seasons in the majors he only made one trip to the World Series, that with the winning 1945 Tigers. He got a special pass to pitch in the postseason despite not having been on the roster on the usual September 1 cut off date. Trucks had been serving his country in the Marines most of that year. He won Game Two with a nifty seven hitter.

Trucks is one of only five men to pitch two no-hitters in the same season. He pulled that off in 1952 with near identical 1-0 wins over the Senators on May 15 and the Yankees on August 25. He made 29 starts in 1952 and only won five games but TWO of them were the no-hitters. How amazing is that?

Trucks is pictured here in a Yankees' cap but it's a pretty bad airbrush job. My card is rounded off and miscut but I have a strange and unexplained affinity for red framed Yankee cards. So it's pretty fine to me.

Here's an interesting (sort of) side note. Trucks' 1958 stat line doesn't indicate that he split the season between  the A's and Yanks. the numbers are complete but they 'credit' them to the Athletics. Maybe Topps  figured that at that point they were bound to run out of space or ink or both.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Colavito Catch Mystery Solved!!!

Back in May I featured this card and I tried to figure out what game that Rocky Colavito's catch occurred in.  I set out wandering the 'Net looking for the original picture hoping to get the info from a caption or from a site itself. I found the original b/w shot but it wasn't accompanied by any info. Using the clues that Topps included I tried to track down the box score on Retrosheet or Baseball Reference.

Here is that card again:

I wasted a lot of time. And I came up empty. I'd googled the picture every way I thought possible. I double and triple checked every likely box score of Indian games at Yankee Stadium during Colavito's time with the Tribe. I had some games I thought to be possibilities but they never completely matched up with the scenario the cardback provided. I was able to narrow the range because of the uniform Colavito had on.

Then, today, I hit paydirt while I wasn't even really digging. I was searching for a picture (a sequence actually) of a Duke Snider catch that's shown on another of the Baseball Thrill subset cards. A link to Corbis turned up dozens of Snider shots from the mid to late 50s's. Then it hit me. Try searching 'Colavito' within Corbis. Bingo. I found the picture again, and this time it had a caption:

 Portrait of Rocky Colavito  Original caption: Despite the efforts of a youngster wearing a baseball glove and trying to make the catch himself (right), Cleveland outfielder Rocky Colavito dashes along the right field, stands to make a one-hand catch and rob Gil McDougald of a home run in the 6th inning of the Yankee-Cleveland game here May 10th. Behind the strong hurling of veteran pitcher Bob Lemon, the Indians topped the Yanks, 7-2, and moved into second place in the league standings.

© Bettmann/CORBIS

Photographer: Unknown
Creator: Unknown
Date Photographed: May 10, 1956
Location Information: New York, New York, USA

Whoopee! I had the game nailed now: May 10, 1956.

But how had I missed it before? Let's go back to the card itself, look at the back and see what 'clues' Topps gave me:

What the card claims:

a) It was late in the game.....
b) the Cleveland starter was tiring fast and....
c) he had already given up two hits..
d) the Indians led by one run.

What the facts actually were according to the original caption and the boxscore:

a) It was the 6th inning, I wouldn't consider the sixth to be 'late' but I'll concede that point to Topps....
b) Bob Lemon had allowed two singles and two walks. Thats four runners total at this point (one out in the sixth) and he went on to pitch a complete game. It was only his fifth start of the year and he was on four days rest. He was one of the most durable pitchers of his era and he led the league in complete games five time including 1956! How tired could he have been at this point?
c) he'd given up two hits alright, 2 hits total. Topps makes it sound as if they were in that inning when in fact McDougald was the second hitter of the inning after Bauer led it off with a ground out, and...
d) the Indians led 4-0, not by a single run. In fact, the only one run lead came in the middle of the Indians three run third inning. They were never even challenged after that.

It's no wonder I couldn't find it. Hell, Topps damn near made it up! Actually, as I noted in the original May post, the previous day's game, a 6-5 Indian win seemed more likely since Colavito had made the final out in rightfield in the last inning of a one run game.

I realize that nobody in the world cares about any of this except me, but I'm going to go celebrate!

Another Update

I don't normally do this but I wanted to point out a nice interview that was posted on Dinged Corners a few years back with two of Moe Drabowsky's daughters. I just found it the other day while hunting for other stuff and thought I'd link to it given the Drabowsky post of a few days back.