Tuesday, August 30, 2011

#456 Jerry Casale

Jerry Casale is one of those guys from this set that I knew nothing about but who turned out to be an interesting character. Casale could be described as a 'one year wonder' in that he went 13-9 for the 1959 Red Sox but never won more than two games in any other season. In fact he won only only five other games over parts of five seasons. He pitched for both the Tigers and Angels in addition to the Sox. He retired after the 1963 season which he spent in the minors.

After retirement Casale, a Brooklyn native, opened Pino's, an Italian restaurant, in midtown Manhattan. One whole wall of the place displayed a mural of Fenway Park. Pino's became a haven for New York-based Red Sox fans. Casale held court there regaling customers with storied of his playing days and his friendship with Ted Williams.

Casale closed Pino's in 2003 due to a loss of business as a result of 9/11. He suffered a stroke in 2006.

Monday, August 29, 2011

#114 Earl Battey

Earl Battey spent the first third of his career with the White Sox backing up Sherm Lollar and doing a lot of catching in the Sox system. A trade to Washington for the 1960 season kick started his late blooming career and  Battey became a standout receiver for the Senators and then the Twins.

Between '60 and his retirement following the '67 season Battey made four AL All Star squads, won three Gold Gloves (primarily for his terrific throwing arm) led all catchers in putouts and assists four times and finished in the top ten among MVP vote getters three times.

Not bad for a guy who seemed to have no future as a White Sox benchwarmer for half a decade. The really nice 1965 Twins tribute page Cool of the Evening, which I've referenced here before, has some interesting nuggets about Earl Battey... he spoke Spanish which he learned playing on semi pro clubs, was interested in a journalism career as a teen, had a radio show in D.C. while with the Senators and had thyroid issues which led to his 'roundish' stature.

Second straight orange-framed card with a Yankee Stadium background. But Earl Battey's signature is a whole lot nicer that Andy Carey's.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

#45 Andy Carey

After signing with the Yankees in 1950 and a couple of trial runs, Andy Carey took the regular third base job in the Bronx in 1954. He held the job, more or less on a full-time basis until he was nudged aside by Hector Lopez in 1959.

Along the way he won a couple of World Series rings with the Yanks. In 1960 when the Yanks decided to move Carey along they sent him to the place where all old Yankees went to begin the downhill ride to retirement, Kansas City. Stops in Chicago with the White Sox and in L.A. with the Dodgers rounded out the Carey resume.

He had led the league in triples in 1955 but never really recaptured the magic of his first season as a Yankee when he hit .302 and had a career high 65 RBIs.

The card is in really nice condition and I always favor the white cardboard. Take a look at Carey's signature. Looks like he used a late 50's version of a Sharpie doesn't it?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

#116 Bob Allison The Sporting News Rookie Stars

I'm not really sure what made Bob Allison a favorite of mine in the early 60's. I wasn't a Twins fan and Allison wasn't a Baltimore native. Yet for some reason I rooted for him pretty hard at Twins-Yankees games I saw in New York. And I continued to follow his career until he retired.

He played football at Kansas before being signed by the Senators. Allison spent his whole career with the Senators/Twins franchise. He captured the AL Rookie of the Year award in 1959 when he led the league in triples and slugged thirty homers.

He continued to hit for power as the years passed with double digit homers in all but one season through 1968, finishing in the top ten 8 times. Never much of a hitter for average Allison did well enough to make three All Star squads and led the AL in runs in 1963. He was also a feared base runner who possessed fairly good speed for a player with his size (6'4" 230+lbs) and power.

He teamed with Jimmie Hall and Tony Oliva to form a strong outfield for the '65 Twins club that went to the World Series. He made a memorable sliding catch in Game Two of that Series.

Bobby Allison died in 1995 from complications of a rare form of ataxia. The University of Minnesota ataxia research is supported by the Allison family's foundation.

Nice recap of his life and career is here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

#349 Hoyt Wilhelm

Seems to have been quite a few card photos on here lately that just don't flatter the subject. Hoyt Wilhelm is the latest 'victim'.

But he's a Hall of Famer, winner of 125 games s a reliever (a record), the first guy with 200 saves, has a no-hitter to his credit (and since it was as an Oriole against the Yankees he has the eternal gratitude of Oriole fans), one of the oldest guys to pitch in the bigs, retiring just short of his 50th birthday, possessor of a wicked knuckleball, one that inspired O's manager/GM to devise and oversized catchers glove, and a Purple heart recipient for injuries he sustained in the Battle of the Bulge in WWII!

Wilhelm pitched for nine different clubs over a 21 year career. Any questions?

Monday, August 22, 2011

#191 Russ Kemmerer

Russ Kemmerer played nine seasons for four different clubs and I don't remember anything about him. He was a Red Sox signee and pitched for the beginning in 1954 after a two sport college career at Pitt (baseball/basketball).

Kemmerer swapped jobs between starting and relieving for the BoSox and Senators through about 1960 when he moved to the White Sox' and then Houston bullpens full time. He was finished in he majors after 1963 and had a 43-59 record. Spent some time after that in the Houston minor league system.

I like any card that shows a player in a stadium other than Yankee Stadium of a spring training facility. This is probably Griffith Stadium due to Kemmerer wearing the Senators' pinstripes.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

#441 John Roseboro

Time is of the essence these days with the school year cranking back up so I'm going to kind of 'shorthand' these posts sometimes. I may just hit up a few links for further info on the featured player and add a few comments of my own.

Today we see a smiling John Roseboro, successor to Roy Campanella behind the plate for the Dodgers and pretty fair player in his own right. Roseboro was a pretty athletic guy, not in the big burly mold of catchers of the era. He had some speed and the ability to play other positions.

Roseboro played in four World Series with the Dodgers and homered off Whitey Ford in Game One of the '63 Series. It was the only homer Ford allowed to a lefty that season. He won a pair of Gold Gloves and made four NL All Star squads.

He is best known for being hit with a bat by Giant's ace Juan Marichal in 1965 in a brawl that erupted after Marichal thought that Roseboro's tosses back to Sandy Koufax came too close. That's chronicled here.

Wikipedia page for Roseboro.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

#295 Billy Martin

The Topps photographer didn't do Billy Martin any favors with this dugout shot.
Martin needs no introduction, and I really wouldn't know where to begin to recount either of his baseball careers. Scrappy as a player (on and off the field) he carried that same persona to his days as a manager for several American League clubs, most famously the Yankees.
Some Billy Martin facts (and opinions):
  • Played minor league ball for Casey Stengel who was responsible for signing him for the Yanks.

  • During his tenure as a player for the Yanks they missed a title only in 1954 when he was serving in the military.

  • Won four World Series rings playing with the Yanks and batted .333 with 5 dingers in 28 total games.

  • Was involved in perhaps more scares than any player of his generation. Squared off against Jimmy Piersall, Jim Brewer, Clint Courtney and Tommy Lasorda. Also a well publicized 'brawl' at the Copacabana club in NYC. That episode pretty much led to his ticket out of the Big Apple in 1957. He had a couple of bar fights including one in an Arlington, Texas topless club after he'd been tossed out of a game as Rangers' manager. 

  • He had short stretches as a player for the A's, Reds, Indians, Tigers, Braves and Twins after his days as a Yankee infielder.

  • He's of Italian and Portuguese decent as am I. That's pretty much all he and I have in common.

  • He won his only ring as a manager while piloting the Yankees in 1977. That was during the first of five separate stints working for George Steinbrenner in NY. He also managed the Twins, Rangers, Tigers and Athletics.

I'm not a big fan of the guy. But to give him his due I direct you to some places where you can read more about Billy Martin than I want to:
An ESPN bio
An account of his Christmas Day 1989 death in a crash. Interesting quotes from Mickey Mantle in that post.
Baseball Reference Bullpen bio
This is one of my least favorite cards in the set (for multiple reasons) and I'm glad to be done with it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

#188 Juan Pizarro

Juan Pizarro looks pretty glum in a lot of his card photos. Not sure why because that Braves uni looks good on him.

Pizarro, a native of Puerto Rico pitched for 18 big league seasons for seven different franchises. I guess what they say about lefties always having a job is true. I recall him as a Brave but he pitched in Chicago a lot more, six years with the White Sox and four with the Cubs.

His best years came in the early sixties as a fixture in the White Sox rotation, winning nearly half of his 131 big league victories between 1961 and 1964. His 19 wins in '64 were third best in the AL.

Pizarro pitched in the '57 and '58 World Series' for Milwaukee and the 1974 NLCS for Pittsburgh. He had no post-season decisions but, as the card notes, he whiffed three Yanks in 1 2/3 innings in the '58 Series..

Pizarro continued his career in the Mexican League after he left the majors and served as pitching coach for a Cubs' affiliate in the late '90s. God knows how many pitches Juan Pizarro threw from a baseball mound in his long life in the game.

Pretty standard card with the 'hands over my head in my wind-up' pose. I think almost all the Braves are pictured in a yellow frame. Which reminds me I need to do my frame color roundup one of these days.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

#15 Dick Drott

Dick Drott looks pensively skyward, wondering where his once promising career has gone. After a rookie season that saw the hard throwing strikeout specialist win 15 games for a Cubs team that won 62 total, Drott ran into arm miseries that ate into his 1958 effectiveness and cost him a huge chunk of 1959.

Drott re-emerged as a reliever for the Cubs in 1960/'61. With just two wins in three years he was made available to the Houston club in the '62 expansion draft and spent two years as a Colt 45. before retiring. He made an aborted comeback attempt with the White Sox in 1965 but didn't make their staff.

Baseball Library has this Dick Drott tidbit:
On April 27 of his rookie season, Drake was ejected from a game for borrowing a wheelchair from a crippled fan and wheeling fellow flake Moe Drabowsky to first base after Drabowsky was hit on the foot by a pitch.

Black frame, cute little circa '59 Cubbie head logo, cool cartoon... adds up to a nice card.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

#237 Run Preventers

If I had the time I bet I could do the research and find a logical reason that Bob Turley, Gil McDougald and Bobby Richardson are holding up 1, 2 and 3 fingers, respectively. But I'm pressed for time.

I could make this a contest. Best story wins a small pile of 59s. What do you think?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

#190 Bill Virdon

Bill Virdon always had that 'man's man' aura about him and even this pink framed '59 can't crush it. After being signed originally by the Yankees he began his career with a year plus with the Cards in '55/'56 and was dealt to the Pirates where he played until the end of the 1965 season (he made a token appearance in '68 while serving as a player/coach).

Virdon won the Rookie of the Year award in 1955 which makes it difficult to understand how the Cards could give up on him so quick in '56, even given a slow start. He never made an All Star squad (I'd have lost a bet on that fact) but he did win a Gold Glove in 1962.

In 1960 he was the batter whose grounder bad-hopped into Tony Kubek's throat and opened the flood gates for a Game Four Series win for the Bucs. He tells that story here.

After his playing days he managed for four different clubs, twice winning a division title and twice being named Manager of the Year. He continues to work as a consultant to the Pirates during spring training each year. All in all, a pretty good life in the game.

My copy has nice corners, bad centering and a loud pink frame. Sweet, right?

Monday, August 15, 2011

#442 Ray Narleski

Ray Narleski looks none too pleased to having his picture taken. He's pictured on the card as a Tiger after having spent his previous five years in Cleveland and there he had a nice career in the Indian bullpen for the most part.

So, since this pic was taken in Yankee Stadium while Ray was on the Tribe I bet he's pissed because the camera guy asked him to pose hat-less. He was likely insulted by the insinuation that he's be somewhere else by the time his card went to press. Sorry, Ray. And welcome to Detroit.

Turns out he had a short stay in Motown, just for the '59 season. After a 14 loss season he was out of the game due to disc problems in his back.

While with the Indians he'd been part of a righty/lefty closer duo with Don Mossi and helped the Tribe win the '54 pennant.

He ended up making 39 starts out of 90 appearances in '57/'58. For his career Narleski was 43-33 with 58 saves. He made two All Star squads and led the AL in saves in 1955. He's the son of Red Sox infielder Bill Narsleski and after retirement worked as an auto body repairman.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

#8 Philadelphia Phillies

Don't know which side of this card is worse... the front with the light green/yellow combo or the back with the filled in boxes and stray marks. 

The 1959 Phils were awful. They finished 23 back in last place, eight games back of the 7th place Cardinals. Sparky Anderson played 2nd and batted .218. Robin Roberts won 15 games but had the highest ERA among the regular starters. Gene Freese led the club in homers, Wally Post in RBIs and Carl Sawatski was the top average guy. Hmmmm.

Lucky for Phils fans those days are waaay in the past.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

#470 Musial Raps Out 3000th Hit

I saw part of an ESPN show that featured the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry. I had always been aware of the rivalry but never given it much thought. They Cub fans had good things to say about Stan Musial. Kind of cool that he got this hit in Wrigley. (But I know Card fans would rather it had happened in old Busch Stadium.) The Post-Dispatch looked back on the event not long ago with a great article.

Unlike some of the Baseball Thrills subset cards this one features a 'thrill' from the previous season, as I would have expected. A three season old 'thrill' has lost it's 'thrill-ness' in a lot of cases. Whatever.

My scanner cut off the bottom of the rear of the card. The colorizer did a pretty good job with the picture I think. I can't find the exact b/w image but here is a sequence of that swing in question:

and an article from a magazine of the day:

Friday, August 12, 2011

#360 Al Kaline

If it's possible for a Hall of Fame player to be unappreciated then I propose that Al Kaline is. I did a search and was very surprised by how few 'Al Kaline' related hits came back. Heck, MY posting of the Kaline All Star card in this set showed up at the bottom of the first page of a Google search. That's kind of sad.

Kaline is a Baltimore native (yea!!) who broke in with the '53 Tigers as mainly a defensive replacement for the second half of the year. 1954 saw him grab a fulltime job in the outfield of Briggs Stadium. But despite his finishing third in the R-O-Y balloting there isn't much in his numbers to indicate what was to come.

Before we look at any specifics, here's a quote from Kaline's Hall of Fame site page:
Al Kaline was a model of consistency who excelled with minimum fanfare

Boy, I'll say. 3007 hits, 399 homers (the last coming in Baltimore!), a .297 lifetime average. How about 15 All Star years with 13 straight beginning in '55? How about 10 Gold Gloves? Or nine times as a Top 10 MVP vote getter? He was 1973 recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award. And add a World Series ring won with the 1968 Tigers.

Al Kaline is part of a rare breed that we won't see many more of. Consistent, dignified, not sullied by controversy and revered for his career-long play for a single franchise. He spent many years after his playing days as a Tigers' broadcaster.

This looks like a Yankee Stadium shot from 1958. It appears Kaline is wearing the uni which Detroit broke out in '58 that featured a script front without the orange border. Either way, a great card of a favorite player.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

#159 Bob Shaw

I'm consistently amazed at what I learn doing research for these posts. I recall Bob Shaw from his days with the Giants and never gave him much thought. But he had an interesting career and a few glorious moments in the sun for sure.

Shaw broke in with the Tigers in 1957 with a brief look and was dealt to the White Sox in 1958. It was there he came under the influence of Early Wynn who served as his tutor and role model. The lessons paid off as Shaw had a terrific '59 season winning 18 games and helped the Sox reach the World Series against the Dodgers. He finished third in the Cy Young voting.

Shaw pitched and lost Game Two of the Series 4-3 by allowing two homers to Charlie Neal. One of those was the shot that led to the well known picture of Al Smith's beer shower which was covered in Smith's card posting. Shaw returned to the mound in Game Five of the Series with the task of staving off his clubs elimination and facing Sandy Koufax. He was up to the task as he combined with Billy Pierce and Dick Donovan to down L.A. 1-0.

After a so-so season in 1960 (he was not happy with his salary offer from the Sox) and a slow start in 1961 Shaw was traded to the A's and again after the season to the Braves.

In 1962 Shaw won 15 games while reportedly learning the spitter from Lew Burdette. In '66 he was off to the Giants where he served both as a reliever and starter and had an excellent 1965 campaign. Rumor is that he taught the spitter to Gaylord Perry during their time on the Giants.

He was traded to the Mets in 1966 and finished with the Cubs in '67. He went on to become a pitching coach for the Brewers and coached and taught baseball in Florida after his playing days. He was also a successful businessman.

Shaw's career is chronicled in several places including this Chicago baseball site, a couple of articles in the Palm Beach newspaper and on SABR's site. The first of the two Palm Beach Post stories tells a nice story about Shaw meeting Sandy Koufax 40 years after their '59 Series game and how Koufax signed a picture of the two of them taken that day.

Bob Shaw was born in the Bronx so this card chronicles a homecoming for him. He can be seen chatting it up in the background of Jim Rivera's '59 card.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

#355 Jim Piersall

While it's not one of the more interesting cards in the set, the '59 Jimmy Piersall features one of the most interesting players, ever. Like Don Larsen of a few days back, Piersall was known mainly for a single facet of his career. In this case (no pun intended) it's his widely discussed reputation for bizarre and humorous behavior, both on the field and off.

Hard to know where to begin with this guy. First of all he was a pretty good baseball player through the decade of the '50s and into the '60s with both Boston and Cleveland. Never a real power threat (although he did break into double digit home numbers a number of times) Piersall was a two time AL All Star and won a pair of Gold Gloves for his work in centerfield. He hit a career best .322 with the Indians in 1961.

Piersall suffered from bipolar disorder which made pretty much every day an adventure for teammates, opponents, umps, fans, his managers and team front office types. It wasn't much of a party for the league president either. Early career demotions came from clubhouse fights, on-field antics and even (allegedly) a clubhouse spanking of a teammate's kid.

The litany of Piersall 'stunts' include being ejected for running back and forth in centerfield to distract Ted Williams at the plate, Jogging the bases backwards to celebrate his 100th homer (that one got him a ticket off the Mets' roster), spending time behind the Yankee Stadium monuments 'talking' to Babe Ruth, wearing a Beatles wig to home plate, and fighting with fans on the Yankee Stadium turf, not to mention numerous ejections and helmet and baseball throwing incidents.

He played out his career with the Senators, Mets and Angels retiring in 1967 to work in the Angels' front office and eventually become a Ranger and White Sox broadcaster, a job from which he was fired for his honest appraisal of lousy Sox teams. He authored two books along the way, Fear Strikes Out in 1955 and The Truth Hurts in 1988. The first became a rather famous movie staring Anthony Perkins. Piersall panned the flick.

Piersall is the subject of numerous 'fan sites'. I'll link to a couple for your further amusement.

Piersall's Place
Nowbatting19's Piersall Page (warning... extremely annoying sound effect when clicked)
Centerfield Maz's Piersall page

And a few pics of Piersall at his 'best':

Is there any wonder the Piersall card I have is 'off center'?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

#219 George Zuverink

George Zuverink, a 21-year-old pitcher from Michigan, was signed by the Cardinals on the basis of a letter president Sam Breadon received from a scout who saw him hurl in the Philippines. Zuverink is a former semi-pro, standing six feet three inches. He will report to Houston of the Texas League.--The Sporting News February 28, 1946

As noted on the terrific Baseball In Wartime site, George Zuverink served at bases around the Pacific during WWII. His pitching on service clubs earned him a contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. But the Cards in those days had a very deep rich farm system and Zuverink ended up with the Indians, Reds and Tigers before he found himself in Baltimore in 1955.

In '56 and '57 Zuverink came into his own as an Oriole reliever and he led the AL in games pitched and games finished. In 1956 he led the league with 16 saves. His record those two seasons was a combined 17-12 with 25 saves.

In 1957, he and Oriole catcher Frank Zupo became the first battery in the history of baseball whose last names both began with "Z". Zuverink pitched for the O's through the 1959 season before shoulder ailments ended his career. He had an aborted stint in spring training in 1960 with San Francisco but didn't make the club and his career was over after pitching that year in the minors.

Zuverink sold insurance and umpired amateur games after retirement. He served as a fill-in ump during the umpire strike of 1979.

My copy is fairly nice with a dinged corner but nice bright colors. Ol' George poses in Yankee Stadium wearing the classic O's duds of the time. Oh, the memories.

Monday, August 8, 2011

#205 Don Larsen

Is there anyone who isn't aware that Don Larsen pitched a World Series Perfect Game?

So let's try and find a few things about Don Larsen that everybody might not know:

  • He began his career with the St. Louis Browns.
  • He went 3-21 with the first year Orioles in 1954 tying for the league lead in losses.
  • He only hit double digit wins twice in his career winning 11 in '56 and 10 in '57.
  • He had stints in Chicago with both the Cubs and White Sox.
  • He was 4-2 in five World Series with an ERA of 2.75.
  • He won Game 4 for the SF Giants in 1962 over the Yankees.
  • In the 1956 Series his Game Five perfecto followed a second inning TKO at the hands of the Dodgers in Game Two three days prior. He allowed four runs in that game but all were unearned and only one hit was involved.
  • He got his only Series base hit in that Game Two in 1956, the recently featured Tom Morgan took the loss.
  • He's still making appearances and has a website though it's fairly sparse when it comes to anything interesting.

The cartoon on the back of this card wins the 'No Kidding?' award.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

#185 Jim Busby

Another pink framed Red Sox guy. Hmm.

Anyway Jim Busby had a career that resembled a water slide, high at the beginning but straight downhill in a hurry. He debuted with the White Sox in 1950 following that up with a full and pretty successful year in 1951. He hit .283 that year and stole 26 bases, making the AL All Star team. An off year in 1952 saw him traded to Washington. The change seemed to do Busby good because he had his two best years there in D.C. in 1953 and '54. He batted .312 and .298 with at least 80 RBIs both years.

He left the Nats in mid '55 as he was dealt back to Chicago. That trade began a journey that led Busby around the AL as he played for the Indians, Red Sox and had a couple of stints with the Orioles. He never could recapture the magic of his early career and ended up with the Colt 45s in 1962 appearing in 15 games over a two month stay. After his playing days Busby coached with Houston, Atlanta and Seattle.

Humdrum portrait pic on a card in humdrum condition. Oh well. I'm going to post a really nice picture of Busby from the Hy Peskin collection