Sunday, April 29, 2012

#535 Ruben Gomez

When you are known in your native land as "El divino loco (the divine fool)" as Ruben Gomez was in his native Puerto Rico, it says something about you. And it's probably not good. But according to his Baseball Reference Bullpen page Gomez was loved there. 

He likely had a reputation there much like the one he cultivated here in the States, an erratic beanballer. Googling Gomez turned up stories of him nailing Carl Furillo and Joe Adcock with both encounters turning ugly. Also mentions is a beanball war with Sam Jones of the Cardinals in 1957 and his KO of Frank Robinson that ended with Robby in a hospital bed. 

Then there was this much ballyhoo'd squabble he had with stateside teammate Willie Mays when the two were also together  members of the Santurce Crabbers in winter ball. 

(Sidebar of Irony: Frank Robinson managed the Santurce club to a couple of championships during the early 80's.)

Anyhow, when Gomez wasn't denting heads or dusting chins he was winning 71 games for the Giants between 1953 and 1958. He led the league in walks once and finished as high as second in hit-batsmen twice. He was traded to the Phillies for 1959 but by then his career was winding down, at least in the USA. He pitched several seasons in Mexico after some 1962 looks with the Indians and Twins. He reappeared in 1967 to pitch 7 times for the Phils and was, at that point, the oldest player in the NL. 

Topps was kind enough to airbrush Gomez into Phillie duds for this card. They even added pinstripes. It's a high number and in about average condition for my cards of that series. They cost more to upgrade than I'm willing to spend for the most part. This one will do just fine.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

#481 Charlie Maxwell

Charlie Maxwell, a.k.a. "Paw Paw" (he was from Paw Paw, Michigan which honored him in 2010) was known as a clutch hitter who was especially dangerous on Sundays.

Maxwell was originally signed by the Red Sox in 1947 and bounced around their minor league chain, making three limited appearances with the big club, though 1953. He spent the '54 season in Boston, was purchased by the Orioles for the '55 season, made four pinch hitting attempts for the Birds and was sold to the Tigers in May of that year.

He came into his own with the Tigers and played was a solid left fielder there for the better part of eight years. He made a couple of All Star squads and even garnered a few MVP votes here and there. He hit .326 in 1956 to go along with 28 dingers and 87 RBI. He topped that power output with career high homer (31) and RBI (95) totals in 1959. He holds the major league record for extra inning homers in a season. He had five of those in 1960.

In Maxwell's best day at the plate he hit four homers in consecutive at bats in a doubleheader against the Yankees at Briggs Stadium. It was a Sunday doubleheader. Not long after Maxwell was traded to the White Sox in 1962 I was at Yankee Stadium to see him hit three homers in a doubleheader against the Yankees. I remember my Dad, lifelong Yankee fan that he was, being none too thrilled. And yes, it was a Sunday!

My '59 Maxwell card is obviously miscut. Seriously obviously miscut. But it's got Smokey The Bear on the back. 'Smokey' was Maxwell's other nickname. So it's cool.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

#147 Cubs' Clubbers

Here we have Dale Long and Walt Moryn, a couple of Cubs who were coming off nice seasons but, while not quite at the end of their careers, could see it from where they were standing. Both had very respectable numbers, hitting over 100 big league dingers and batting around .266.

Dale Long's '59 card is cued up for posting. Walt Moran has one as well. Both are much better cards than this spot filling 'special'. I wish Topps had carried their design for the regular cards through to these specials. Have the circle show the background instead of cropping the players (poorly) onto a color background.

Oh, the other guy on this card? The one in the middle? I've seen him somewhere recently I think.

Monday, April 23, 2012

#139 Ed Sadowski The Sporting News Rookie Star

The back of Ed Sadowski's Rookie Stars card claims he'd be fighting for the regular catcher's job with the Red Sox. Fact is that Ed didn't get that chance and was in the minors in 1959. He made the Sox roster in 1960, got about 100 plate appearances, had more minor league time and was lost to the fledgling Los Angeles Angels in the expansion draft for the '61 season. 

The Pittsburgh native spent three years as a part timer with the Angels, revisited the buses in the minors, was traded to the Braves and finally finished up with a 1966 'cup of coffee' in Atlanta in 1966. 

Ed comes from a baseball family. His two brothers, Bob and Ted, were major leaguers in the '60s and his nephew, Jim played for the Pirates in 1974.

Topps did Ed Sadowski no favors with the way they cropped his photo for the '59 card. Looks like they airbrushed his hat, and chopped the side of his head. Makes him look like Frankenstein. They reused the picture for his 1960 card. This time they used the background (is that a minor league park?). 

He's half the catching duo on the 1964 'Angel Backstop' card. There is a certain charm to a pair of squatting catchers, and Bob 'Buck' Rodgers had a nice career as an Angel player, manager and broadcaster. But Ed Sadowski was back in the minors when this card was issued and never appeared in an Angel uni again.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

#167 Duke Maas

Ring...ring...ring..."Good Morning, Kansas City Athletics, Mr. Selkirk's office. How can I help you?"

"Hello, Marge? George Weiss of the Yankees here. Is Selkirk in?"

"No, Mr. Weiss, but he told me to give you anything you wanted, just like he always does."

"Sounds great, Marge, we need a pitcher or two. Send me Duke Maas."

"Sure thing Mr. Weiss. Would you like Virgil Trucks, too? I just saw him walk past."

"Sounds good, Marge. I'll send something your way. Won't be much but they'll be breathing, probably. My best to Ol' Selkirk. Always nice ripping...err...doing business with the A's!"

"Bye, Mr. Weiss, call again when the Yanks need something. We're here to serve"

And so it went through the 50's.The Yanks needed to fill a hole, the A's obliged. In 1958 it was Duke Maas.  He was coming off a couple of double digit win seasons for the Tigers, had settled in with some nice numbers for the punch-less A's and then, bingo, off he went to the Yanks to help them in their drive to the American League pennant in 1958. 

Actually I thought Duke Maas had a really reat name. And any card that shows off the various decks of Yankee Stadium (including my frequent upper deck perch) qualifies as cool. That's Jerry Lumpe (#11) in the background waiting for his BP cuts. (Lumpe rode the KC/NY Express the other way when the Yanks brought over Hector Lopez and Ralph Terry in 1959.)

After minor league and military duty (in Korea) Maas broke in with the Tigers in 1954. He was dealt to KC in '58 and ended up on the Yanks. He pitched in two World Series with New York.

His best year, at least record-wise, came in 1959 with the Yanks when he went 14-8. He was drafted by the Angels in the December 1960 expansion draft but traded back to the Yanks for the '61 season which he spent nearly all of in the minors before he hung it up.

Duane Fredrick "Duke" Maas died in 1976 at the young age of 47. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

#306 Jim Gilliam

Jim 'Junior' Gilliam peers out of a pink framed '59 Topps in a picture taken during the Dodgers' first year on the West Coast. Gilliam was a Tennessee native who, after some semi-pro and Negro 'minor' league experience,  began his major pro career with the Baltimore Elite Giants in 1948. He played three seasons in Charm City, learning to switch hit, and making the All Star squad each time. Prior to the 1950 season Gilliam had been given a 'look' by the Cubs but he returned to the Elite Giants.

The young infielder was purchased by the Dodgers and played in Montreal for a couple of years putting up numbers that are very much like those he'd post with the Dodgers. He debuted with the Dodgers in Brooklyn in 1953 and promptly made his presence felt. 

Phil Gurnee of True Blue L.A. list some of Gilliam's highlights:
  •     Won NL Rookie of the Year and Sporting News Rookie of the Year 1953
  •     Led the league in triples and scored 125 runs that same year
  •     scored over 100 runs in each of his first 4 years
  •     batted .300 and made the All-Star team in 1956
  •     led the NL in putouts and fielding percentage in 1957
  •     led the NL in walks and again was an All-Star in that year

Gilliam was part of the Boys of Summer era and also the pitching strong Dodger clubs following their move to L.A. Gilliam went on to play on 7 National League champion teams and won four World Series rings. He played with the Dodgers until his retirement after the 1966 season. He had made two All Star teams and twice was among the top six in MVP voting. He coached for the Dodgers following his playing career using the experience he gained while serving as a player/coach in the final active years of his career. In all Junior Gilliam spent half his life in a Dodger uniform. 

I just can't do justice to Junior Gilliam in a hurried blog post. There are some 'must reads' for anyone with an interest in his career both here on the SABR site and here in an ESPN feature..

From that ESPN site I loved this excerpt from a column by the great Jim Murray:
 ... You might say Jim is with the Dodgers but not of them. The distinction is important. He starts every season in the dugout. He sleeps every night with his bag packed at his feet and rumors of a trade swirling around in his dreams. He lives his life in a kind of limbo midway between the Dodgers and the rest of the National League. 
Then the season starts and some "phenom" begins to leak at the seams, the stuffing oozing out of him at every trip to the plate. The manager sets a hysterical search amid the bat bags, locker room towels and press clippings of his wunderkind — and there sits Jim Gilliam, waiting. ... 
When the Dodgers came to L.A., they brought Jim along with all the enthusiasm of a man asking his mother-in-law on the honeymoon. They had a hot-shot third baseman named Dick Gray, and began to offer Gilliam around like a claiming horse until Gray began to leak like a sieve in the field and strike out on balls the catcher couldn't get his glove on. 
Gilliam became a third baseman and the Dodgers became World Champions ...
The full column is found here in the LA Times historical city blog.  Other notable facts on Junior Gilliam.... He's the only Dodger to have his number retired who is not a Hall of Famer. He hit two homers in the '53 World Series even though he wasn't known for power. His favorite baseball card color was pink. (OK, that's bullshit)

His son Darryl played briefly in the Dodger minor league system in the mid 80s. Here is an LA Times interview with Darryl.

Monday, April 16, 2012

#88 Herb Score and #345 Gil McDougald

This is the first time I have 'double dipped' and done one entry on two cards. But it's hard to separate Herb Score and Gil McDougald. The two are forever joined by what happened on May 7, 1957 in a game between Score's Indians and McDougald's Yankees in Cleveland.

At the point in time Herb Score was a hard throwing (seriously hard throwing) lefthander coming off a very impressive two season debut. Signed out of Florida in 1952 by the same scout who signed Bob Feller, Score made his mark in 1954 with the Indians' Indianapolis AAA club by striking out 330 in 251 innings. In 1955 Score broke in to the Indians rotation with a 16 win season in which he led the league in strikeouts and k's per 9 and topped it off with the Rookie of the Year trophy. He came back in '56 and was even better. He was named to the AL All Star squad again and went on to win 20 games and again led the league in whiffs. 

The Red Sox reportedly had offered the Indians a million dollars for Score prior to the '57 season and were turned down by Cleveland’s general manager, Hank Greenberg, saying Score “may become the greatest pitcher in the game’s history.” Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra, among others, praised Score through the years as being one of the toughest pitchers they ever faced. Herb Score was, in May of 1957, a phenomenon.

Gil McDougald was signed by the Yankees out of the University of San Francisco in 1948 and, after three successful minor league seasons (he hit over .330 each year) broke in with the big league club in 1951 and went on to play as a steady if not spectacular infielder for the entire decade through the 1960 season. 

Like Score, McDougald had a Rookie of the Year trophy and All Star credentials. He finished as high as fifth in the MVP voting in 1957. He was an excellent fielder wherever the Yanks used him around the infield. He spent seasons as their regular third baseman, shortstop and second baseman.

In that May 7 game in 1957 facing Score, McDougald was the game's second batter and he stroked a liner that hit the pitcher in the face breaking numerous bones. While Score was treated and carried off the field McDougald reportedly had to be talked into remaining in the game by Yankee manager Casey Stengel. The shaken McDougald vowed to quit if Score was blinded.

Score overcame his injuries, regained 20/20 vision and returned to baseball during the 1958 season but hurt his arm while changing his pitching motion and never regained the form that had led Bob Feller to compare him favorably with another 1955 rookie, Sandy Koufax. He was traded to the White Sox in April of 1960 and spent three seasons splitting time between them and their farm team. He continued in the game as a long time broadcaster for the Indians.

McDougald, by some accounts, never was the same aggressive player he had been prior to the Score incident and he retired after the 1960 season. 

There is much more to read about these two stars of the 50's whose lives became intertwined that May day in Cleveland. A good Hall of Fame website article on Score can be found here.

The obits for Score who died in 2008, and McDougald, who died in 2010, add details about both players. This article on a Yankee fan site has quite a bit about McDougald and his reasons for retiring. 

The Herb Score card shows off his youthful appearance as well as my favorite Indians style uni. The Yankee Stadium facade gets one of it's better treatments in the background as well. My copy is miscut but has sharp corners. Pretty nice. 

My McDougald, though, is a candidate for upgrading. Soft corners and scuffing will do that. I noticed as I was checking the card back that it lists his home as Nutley, New Jersey. I pretty much grew up there, having lived in that great little Essex County town from second through ninth grade (Martha Stewart's mom was my 6th grade teacher). McDougald was living in Wall Township when he passed away. That's very close to where I spent my last two years of high school. Not that that all means anything.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

#564 Mickey Mantle '59 All Star Selection

Mickey Mantle played in both of the All Star Games held in 1959. In the first he pinch ran for Gus Triandos in the 8th inning and played rightfield. In the second game he started in center and went one for three. His hit was a bunt single off Don Drysdale.

In his career Mantle was a sixteen time All Star. He certainly didn't have 'Mantle type' numbers in the Mid Summer Classics. He hit .233 with 2 homers and 17 whiffs in 43 at bats.

Any Mantle card is a nice Mantle card, don't you think? I was able to find this one reasonably and it's in better shape than some of the more expensive ones I came across.

My favorite Mantle All Star card, by far, is the '58. I've bid on more than a dozen of those. One day I'll get lucky on one.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

#312 Don Newcombe

First things first.... I love this card. I'm partial to the black border cards in this set and this is one of the better ones. Newk's red and white uni just looks good here. More on the uni in a bit.

Don Newcombe began his career with the Newark Eagles in the Negro Leagues as a youngster in 1944. After signing with the Dodgers he pitched pretty impressively in their chain with Nashua and Montreal before debuting with the big club in 1949. And an impressive debut it was. Newk went 17-8 with 5 shutouts, made the All Star team and collected Rookie of the Year honors. 

And he only got better winning 98 games in the next five seasons. He did that wrapping those five seasons around a two year stint in the military. His best year was 1956 when he won 27 games, lost only 7, had a WHiP below 1.0 and took home the Cy Young and MVP trophies. That makes him the only pitcher until Justin Verlander to have won the three most prestigious trophies in his career. 

Although he never did win a World Series game himself, his Dodgers were in the Series three times and took the 1955 Series from the Yankees. 

Newcombe was traded to the Reds in June of 1958. He stayed in their rotation (and bullpen at times) until he was purchased by the Indians in June of 1960. He spent '61 with the Indians' top farm club and then pitched in Japan in 1962. In 1970 he joined the Dodgers front office and has served in several capacities ever since. The Los Angeles Times spoke to Newcombe following the recent news that the club had a new ownership group with Magic Johnson as part of it. Newk was very happy with the deal.

The photo on this card was taken in the LA Coliseum based on the tall sloping stands in the background. Newcombe was traded to the Reds in 1958 so it's possible that the photo was taken during one of the Reds' two trips to the West Coast following the trade. But it's also possible that the shot is airbrushed, something Topps did a lot of back then. If it is airbrushed it's one of their better jobs. I blew the card up and can't tell one way or another. Doesn't matter I guess. The card looks terrific anyway. It's a little worse for wear with being off center and having some soft corners but no matter. It's one of my favorites in the '59 set.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

#38 Morrie Martin

Night Owl posted the other day about how he'd like to write a book. It's based on a card that shows a moment in time that turned the fortunes of two baseball franchises (in opposite directions). It's a good read. But even before he writes his first book, I have a suggestion for his second one......

You may or may not know much about lefty pitcher Morris "Morrie" Martin. I know that before I began researching this card I probably hadn't crossed paths with him more than a fleeting time or two while looking at Oriole history. Martin was signed off a Missouri farm by the Chicago White Sox in 1941 and spent the year in their system. In '42 he pitched (under a working agreement it seems) with the independent St. Paul Saints. There in St. Paul one of his teammates was Dave Philley

Late in '42 Morris, like many other American kids, shipped out for the European theatre of WWII. While serving in North Africa, Sicily and on D-Day he was, among other things, torn up with shrapnel, buried under a shelled house and left for dead and shot in the leg, almost losing it to infection. The whole 'Morrie Martin in war' story is chronicled here

Following his service he returned to baseball and, after several seasons in the Dodger chain, debuted as a 29 year old rookie with the Bums in 1949. A 1-3 record earned him a trip to the minors. He re-emerged in 1951 with the Philadelphia A's and he won 11 games for them that year, 10 more in 1953. The rest of his major league career was an odyssey through the South Side of Chicago (where he was reunited with fellow 3 year service vet  Dave Philley....I wonder if they had any war stories to swap?!?), Baltimore, St Louis, Cleveland, and finally the North Side of Chicago briefly in 1959. He finished with a career 38-34 record. 

Morris Martin, having survived so much on the battlefield, wasn't going to let a demotion by the Cubs deter him. He spent the 1960 season with the Houston Buffs and was signed by the fledgling Colt 45s (as was Martin's old pal Dave Philley) and traded to the Braves before hanging up his glove for good prior to the 1961 season.

By my count Martin played in 18 cities across North America and was a member of 18 different teams in one form or another and saw action on three fronts during WWII. Then he topped it off by living to the age of 87 back in rural Missouri in 2010. Full life I'd say. And to think I looked at Morrie Martin's '59 Topps card and wondered what I'd write about. Live and learn.

And here's a great shot of Morrie at a gathering of baseball/WWII vets in New Orleans a couple of years before his passing.

Monday, April 9, 2012

#251 Cletis Boyer

I saw a lot of Clete Boyer when he was active. He was the Yankees' third baseman when I was living up there and attending games at the Stadium. He was traded to the Braves at the same time I was moving to Houston. The first friend I made was a Braves fan so we went to quite a few of their games in the Dome in '67 and '68. 

I never heard anyone call him 'Cletis' except for possibly Red Barber. Anyway, Boyer a 'good field/good hit' third baseman for the Yankees and Braves through the decade of the 60's. He arrived in New York via the well established 'Kansas City to New York Express' in 1958. Seems like when the Yanks called, the A's always answered the phone.

Boyer, a Missouri native, never hit for a high average but he had good power and after coming over to the Braves in 1967 he had a career high 26 dingers. For the Yanks he was usually good for double digit homer totals and he anchored a pretty solid infield along side Tony Kubek, Bobby Richardson and Moose Skowron or Joe Pepitone. 

As good as he was in the field he only won one Gold Glove, that coming in the NL in 1969. Playing in the same league as Brooks Robinson and then Ron Santo will do that.

There were three Boyers in the big leagues. Clete, his well known (and very accomplished) brother Ken, and Cloyd who was a teammate of Clete when he was ending his pitching career with the A's in 1955. Cloyd and Ken were both property of the Cardinals in the early 50s but Ken was serving in the military and missed the chance to share the field with Cloyd.

Clete played on five straight Yankee pennant winners from 1960 thru 1964, winning two tiles. He and Ken were the opposing third basemen in the 1964 Series won by the Cards.In the seventh game Clete and Ken became the only brothers to ever homer in the same World Series contest. Clete got another taste of the postseason as a Brave in the 1969 playoffs when his club lost to the Amazin' Mets. 

Clete Boyer died in 2007. Nice interview from 2004 with him right here.

Boyer's first Topps rookie card was in the '57 set (his 'rookie' card is a 1955 Bowman). He was a member of the Athletics and the shot was taken at Yankee Stadium. Since the '59 Boyer is an early series card the picture is likely from the same time. (Hard to fool me, yes?) Anyway the point is that Topps wanted to show Boyer as a Yankee and they airbrushed the NY onto his cap. Poorly. It's too small. No doubt they wanted to have it visible but it would have been better to just add the part that would have actually been seen from the angle of the shot.  

What IS seen from that (or any) angle is that my Boyer isn't one of the better cards in my '59 set. It's one of the few creased examples I haven't tried to upgrade yet. One of these days I'll get to it.

1957 Topps Clete Boyer:

1955 Bowman Clete Cloyd Boyer:

Friday, April 6, 2012

#317 N.L. Hitting Kings

Pretty rough card. Scuffed, soft corners and worst of all, Richie Ashburn is wearing one of those zipper, collared jackets under his uniform. That always looked pretty stupid to me. At least Willie looks good, despite the Topps guy carving a chunk out of his temple.

Two great players, one lousy card. That's all I have to say.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

#128 Bob Hartman The Sporting News Rookie Stars

Bob Hartman had two Rookie Star cards, the featured one and another the following season in the 1960 set, pictured below. That's two more cards than he had wins in the majors. He played parts of two seasons in the bigs. In '59 he made three appearances for the Braves and, after being dealt to Cleveland, pitched in 8 games for the Indians in 1962. He lost his only decision but he should have had a win in his first start that year.

On June 26 in Detroit in the second game of a twin bill Hartman got the ball and went 10 very strong innings. He allowed only a run on three hits while fanning 7 Tigers. The only run he allowed was a homer in the bottom of the first by Bubba Morton. Meanwhile the Tribe was banging out hits but couldn't push across more than a single run. Hartman was lifted for a pinch hitter in the eleventh and the Indians finally took the game in 12, winning for Gary Bell in relief. Five days later Hartman got another start aginst the White Sox and was KO'd early, taking the loss. After six more relief appearances in July he was off to the minors where he played a few more seasons.

But Topps can't be faulted for giving him a Rookie Star card in 1959. He was a 20 game winner for the Braves' Atlanta farm club in 1958. Baseball Digest had a feature story on him that season. Hartman appeared to have a bright future. Just wasn't to be.

After more minor league work in the early 60's Hartman retired to Kenosha, Wisconsin and was a youth baseball official. He passed away in 2010.

My copy of this one is pretty weak with soft corners and a kid's initials printed on the front. I've got a few cards from this same kid's collection, all with his initials (I guess they are initials, could be a code). Since I'm not a big fan of these Rookie Cards this will end up being one of my last 'upgrades', if I bother at all. No disrespect to Bob Hartman intended.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

#434 Hal Griggs

I looked at this card of Senators' pitcher Hal Griggs and I immediately thought: "What am I going to do with it? Another long time minor leaguer with horrific big league numbers for a lousy club. So he looks like someone I know who I can't seem to recall. Gonna be a dull post about a dull guy wearing a dull cap on a dull card."

Wrong. I found this Sports Illustrated Vault article from 1993 and, well, sometimes this stuff just writes itself. And since I've had a really hard time getting the link to load for the past couple of days I'm going to break a rule of mine and probably half a dozen copy-write laws and paste it here for your enjoyment:

What Ever Happened To...: Hal Griggs
by Hank Hersch   
July 19, 1993

Has anyone seen Hal Griggs?
Harold Lloyd Griggs, righthanded pitcher...6 feet, 170 pounds...born Shannon, Ga., Aug. 24, 1928...was 6-26 with a 5.50 ERA from 1956 to '59 for the Washington Senators...lasted four seasons with the Senators because his arm was live and the Washington pitching staff was terrible...after '59 pitched in minors for four seasons...enjoyed the nightlife...once told Senator teammate Ken Aspromonte, "I'm only going to be here once on this earth, and I'm really going to live it up."...
Hal Griggs has vanished. O.K., he hasn't exactly vanished—he has escaped the clutches of baseball's history buffs and autograph hunters, which is about the same thing. Griggs is on the very short MAA (Missing After Action) list of Jack Smalling, an insurance salesman and signature sleuth from Ames, Iowa, who has been a co-author of The Sport Americana Baseball Address List for the last 13 years.
Smalling first began tracking Griggs in August 1974 and since then has sent a dozen letters to mayors and newspapers in towns where Griggs supposedly lived, to phantom addresses in those towns and to Griggs's family. In December 1982 Smalling received a reply from Griggs himself; the return address was in Tucson. But Smalling's subsequent missives got no response, and in 1992 one of Griggs's children told Smalling that even he didn't know where his father was.
...decided to give pro ball a shot in 1950 after serving in the Coast Guard... on June 20, 1952, was wed on the mound before a Western Carolina-league game in Hickory, N.C. ...when asked why he chose that site for his wedding, he said, "I couldn't hit, so there was no sense getting married at home plate."...
Smalling has found several hundred ex-ballplayers over the years. Of Griggs he says, "Some of these guys don't want to be found, and so they aren't." Until last year pitcher Joey Jay had made himself scarce for two decades. Jay, who was the first Little Leaguer ever to make the major leagues and a two-time 20-game winner for the Cincinnati Reds in the early 1960s, retired in 1966 and faded from view in the mid-'70s. Autograph seekers placed him at the top of their most-wanted list. It was rumored that he was in the federal witness protection program. Jay was finally found last year, by autograph hounds, in Tampa. After years of denying it, Jay confessed that he was indeed their man.
...during the '50s Griggs gave up hunting and took up golf because he said he felt sorry for birds and an intersection of the two most divergent career arcs in baseball history, he ended Red Sox slugger Ted Williams's record streak of 16 consecutive times on base by inducing Williams to ground out on Sept. 24, 1957...once lost 18 straight minor league games...once won sewn straight minor league games, after which he said, "Can yon imagine what would have happened if I had been able to do that in the big leagues? I would have been in tall cotton."...
Our request to interview Griggs, sent to him through Major League Baseball Players Alumni, has gone unanswered.

"I couldn't hit, so there was no sense getting married at home plate." Now THAT'S a great line. Seems to me that Hal Griggs wasn't so dull after all. Quite the life of the party it seems. How did he miss hooking on with the Copacabana Club boys on the Yankees of that era?

Just to add a bit to what the SI article said... Griggs spent four seasons in the high minors after his last big league game, hoping for another taste of the bright lights no doubt. Baseball Reference's Bullpen page reports that after his career Griggs was employed in sales positions, building maintenance and construction in Florida, Michigan and Arizona. He retired in Arizona and died in May of 2005 in Tucson.I have no idea if he ever came out of hiding and found a place in Smalling's book after the article was printed.

It's still a pretty routine card, though. Not in bad shape, pretty nice actually. I just find a portrait of a guy in that uninspired Nats cap kind of 'meh'. I don't find much to like in the club's logo either. Oh well.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

#549 Howie Nunn

Howie Nunn appeared in 46 ballgames between 1958 and 1962 for the Cardinals and Reds. He had a 4-3 career record. He was a signee of the expansion New York Mets and spent time in their first spring training camp in 1962 before being returned to the Reds. (edit: Actually Nunn had his contract sold to the Mets by the Reds. He talks about it in his interview linked below. I stand corrected.)

You can read an interesting two part interview/bio with Howie here and here. At the bottom of the second part of that series are some comments from Nunn's cousin and great niece/nephew. Nothing earth shattering there but it served to remind me that these baseball cards feature guys who are/were someone's father, brother, son, cousin, etc. He's the the first of two featured player to have pitched for the Houston Buffs. If I could interview him I'd ask how it was to pitch outdoors in Houston's summer heat.

I'd also ask about his 1960 season spent with the Havana Sugar Kings, until July that is, when the Castro regime nationalized all business and baseball up and moved the franchise to Jersey City. One day you're playing in colorful, storied (and tumultuous) Havana and the next day you're in Jersey City, New Jersey. There were a boatload (pun intended) of past and future big leagues on that 1960 Havana/Jersey City squad with Nunn including Mike Cuellar, Cookie Rojas, Luis Arroyo, Leo Cardenas and Brooks Lawrence.

This high numbered card is in decent shape. It's not off centered like so many of mine are. And the corners aren't bad either. The best part is the back that features a cartoon pointing out a fact very common back then. Nunn spent his off seasons as a basketball coach. Players such as this didn't make the kind of money that's made these days and many had to supplement with second incomes. I bet to a kid it was cool to have a coach who was also a big league player.

 Howie Nunn died just weeks ago, in February of this year.