Tuesday, July 31, 2012

#102 Felipe Alou

Felipe Alou is, of course, the oldest of the three Alou brothers to make their mark in the major leagues and is credited with being the first Dominican player in the majors. The brothers played together for the Giants late in the season in 1963. After a two and a half year successful minor league tune-up Alou made the Giants' roster in 1958. 

He steadily gained playing time and by 1961 was the Giants regular rightfielder. He had a solid if not spectacular run in San Francisco and was a prt of the Giants 1962 NL title club. He made the All Star team that season and with 25 homers, 98 RBIs and a .316 average it was his best out on the west coast.  

Alou was traded to the Braves after the 1963 season and played in Milwaukee and Atlanta through 1969. He put up some outstanding numbers there while transitioning to the 1B position. He made his second and third All Star teams with the Braves and helped guide them to the first NLCS in 1969.

He played centerfield primarily for Atlanta in his final season or two there and was sent on to Oakland for the 1970 season. He had several productive season as an outfielder and firstbaseman for the A's and Yankees before landing in Montreal and then back in Milwaukee for a very brief trial with the Brewers. 

He coached for the Expos until given the manager's slot in 1992. His club took the NL East in strike interrupted 1994 and he was named NL Manager of the Year. He was dismissed in 2001, served as bench coach for the Tigers in 2002 and re-joined the Giants as their manager in 2003. His team won the West Division that season. Alou remained at the Giants helm through 2006.

His baseball family ties are well known. Brothers Matty and Jesus had notable careers in the majors and his son, Moises did as well. Moises palyed under his father for both the Expos and Giants. It doesn't stop there, Felipe Alou's cousin Jose Sosa (briefly) as well as nephew Mel Rojas were major leaguers. 

Outside of a bit of dis-colorization this is a nice '59. I like the green frame around Alou's smiling portrait. Not sure what to make of the cartoon, though. Is that a Dominican groupie?

Jesus, Matty and Felipe Alou - 1963

Monday, July 30, 2012

#286 Dean Stone

Dean Stone was a Cubs signee who put in quite a few minor league innings before earning a job with the Senators in 1954, He went on to have a three year run as a spot starter/reliever in D.C. That 1954 season was his best, by far. He earned 12 of his career 29 wins that year. He earned an All Star berth and became the first pitcher to win an All Star Game without retiring a single batter (He threw out Duke Snider trying to steal home). The story is contained in this Washington Post article which ran when the same thing happened with Nats' reliever Tyler Clippard in 2011. 

Stone kicked around the majors pitching briefly for the Orioles, Colt .45s, Red Sox, Cardinals and White Sox through 1963. He finished his active career with a year in Japan in 1964.  

This card appears to be a 'painted' retouching of a photo taken somewhere other than Yankee Stadium. It has stone in home Red Sox duds but whether or not that's what the original picture showed is debatable. This copy is clean and well centered. Nice card.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

#492 Gene Conley

Wikipedia states that Gene Conley is the only man to play for championship teams in two of the major sports. Until proven otherwise that's good enough for me. 

On Oklahoma native, he grew up in Washington state and played for Washington State University, Conley was a basketball, track and field (high jump) and baseball star who signed with the Boston Braves in 1949. He had been scouted by and had offers from many MLB clubs as well as pro basketball teams. Interestingly Conley was not drafted to serve in Korea as were many of his contemporaries. The Army considered him 'too tall' at 6'8"

After putting up some excellent minor league numbers he had a taste of the bigs with the Braves in 1952 and made the team in 1954, breaking in with a splash. He went 14-9 that year with a 2.96 ERA, making the first of three All Star squads and finishing third in R-O-Y balloting. 

Meanwhile he signed a pro basketball contract to play in the off season. Conley went on to play for six seasons in the NBA winning titles with the Celtics in '59, '60 and '61. He finished his basketball career with a couple of seasons with the Knicks.

On the diamond Conley's career with the Braves was highlighted by winning the 1958 World Series. But his numbers hadn't matched that rookie season. He pitched in the 1957 Series against the Yankees, getting roughed up in one short appearance.

He moved on to both the Phils and Red Sox before retiring in 1964 and had some success in both cities. Along the way he had some interesting times which are chronicled here in a Boston Globe story, well worth the read. His wife has written a book about his career(s) and their life that can be seen by scrolling down on this page.  

One of a Kind (book cover)

Pretty cool when you think about the fact that he got to win titles playing with both Hank Aaron and Bill Russell! And his WSU Huskies team was ranked #2 in college hoops in 1950.

Conley founded and ran a paper company after his playing days. Pretty sweet pictures below of Conley on the mound. His size makes him quite an intimidating sight for batters.

The 1959 Topps Conley is a red Phillies card, one of only two issued. He is shown in his Braves uni as he had come over from them prior to the season. And as an aside, Gene Conley looks like a much taller version of my father when he was young.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

#393 Frank Lary

The back of Frank Lary's card tell you all you need to know about him for the most part. He was best known  as a 'Yankee Killer' and he gained a lot of that reputation in 1958 when he beat the Bombers seven times. Not very likely to happen nowadays. For his career he was 28-13 against the Yanks.

After some impressive minor league work sandwiched around a stint in the service Lary was called up for a peek at the majors in September of 1954. He made the Tigers' rotation for good in '55 and put together some impressive numbers even if he did finish a game under .500. For seven seasons, from '55 through '61 Lary was part of a starting staff that included Jim Bunning, Don Mossi, Paul Foytack and others who generally outperformed the club's hitters resulting in mostly middle of the pack finishes. But in 1961 the Tigers gave the Yanks a run for their money and Lary led the way with 23 wins.

Elbow problems and other nagging injuries ended Lay's run as a front line pitcher in '62 and he finished his career seeing short stints with the Mets, Braves  and White Sox. He ended with 128 wins, a 3.39 ERA, two All Star selections and a Gold Glove. 

SABR has a detailed bio of Lary right here, including info about his father and brothers, one of whom had a taste of the bigs and most of whom starred in one sport or another at the University of Alabama. A story behind the leg injury that led to the end of Frank Lary's career is here.

Pretty standard Topps posed shot on this card. It's from a spot in front of the Yankee Stadium stands. I wonder if any Yankee fans were wishing him any bad luck right there.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

#496 Wayne Terwilliger

Busy times around this household so I probably can't give Wayne Terwilliger his due. Known as 'Twig', he was brought up in Michigan and joined the Marines in 1943. His service exploits as a radioman on a tank in the Pacific theater are pretty thrilling. Here's an except from Baseball in Wartime

He entered military service with the Marines in 1943 and seved as a radioman on an amphibian tank in the Pacific.Corporal Terwilliger participated in the invasions of Tinian and Iwo Jima, and had his tank knocked out at Saipan. "We were hit and the tank bogged down,” he told The Sporting News on April 26, 1950. “We had to abandon the tank. Everybody scattered into the nearest fox holes. But at just about that time a Jap tank rolled up and began blasting away."I knew I had to get out of there, so I ran for the beach, zigzagging in and out with the tank chasing me. I'm sure I'd be lying out there somewhere  now, if it hadn't been for one of our own tanks, which luckily showed up while I was doing all that broken field running.They knocked out the Jap tank."

In a big league career that stretched from 1949 to 1961 Twig played for the Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Senators and A's. Along the way he had a couple of seasons as a full time second baseman but he primarily was a platoon and utility player. His minor league career reads like a travel log.

Following his playing days Twig began a long career as a coach and manager in several organizations and in independent leagues. He finally retired from baseball at the age of 85 in 2010. He spent 62 years in the game.

He's had a book published about his life and career and has a pretty snappy website as well.

My copy is way off center but still pretty sharp. It posed a question that I've come up against before when upgrading this set. Do I want a sharp mis-cut or a raggedy well centered card. Twig shows the answer.

EDIT: I noticed that the card appears to list the team name as 'ATHFTICS'. Hard to tell if that is actually an 'F' and therefore an error or if it is an 'E' that was somehow mangled and is a printing plate mistake.

Here is a closer look:

I'd say it's 50/50 on the origin of the problem.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

#330 Gus Triandos

Gus Triandos was a Yankee signee who appeared briefly in pinstripes in 1953 & '54. He was dealt to the Orioles for the '55 season in a deal that included 17 players total and is far too complicated to explain. He spent eight seasons with the Orioles and showed quite a bit of power, especially playing in the then cavernous Memorial Stadium. His thirty homers in 1958 established the record for catchers at the time. 

Triandos caught two no hitters and made three All Star squads. He also bravely faced the challenge of catching (or attempting to) Hoyt Wilhelm's knuckler using the oversized glove pioneered by Paul Richards. Ina a game early in 1959, he allowed four passed balls catching Wilhelm. A year later he allowed three in one inning.

He attempted one stolen base in his entire 13 year career. And he made it! That stolen base came on the last day of the '58 season in Yankee Stadium in the second game of a doubleheader. He pinch singled for Joe Ginsberg in the top of the ninth and promptly stole second while (I can only assume) Yankee back-up catcher Darrell Johnson watched in amazement, too stunned or tired to make a throw.

Triandos spent time with the Tigers, Phils and Astros before he retired in 1965. He's one of three Orioles to have a street named for him in Baltimore. The other two are Cal Ripken, Jr. and Brooks Robinson.

This is another favorite card of mine. I think I've upgraded it at least twice. This third copy is pretty sharp. I love how the Bird head sleeve patch is shown front and center. That and I just like Gus. From all accounts he's still quite a character.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

#495 Johnny Podres

Lefty Johnny Podres will forever own a spot in Dodger fans' hearts. Particularly those fans with an interest in the history of the franchise. In 1955 Podres had gone 9-10 in his third year as a Dodger starter. Podres won both the 3rd and 7th game of that '55 Series and was named Series MVP for pushing the Boys of Summer to their only title. 

Podres also pitched for four other Dodger World Series clubs, in '53 for the Brooklyn version and in '59, '63 and '65 (he didn't pitch in the 1965 Series) and was a combined 4-1 in postseason starts.

From his debut in 1953 through being dealt to the Tigers early in 1966 he won 136 games and lost 104 for the Dodgers with a 3.66 ERA. He added a dozen win for the Tigers and fledgling San Diego Padres before retiring after the 1969 season. 

Sidebar: Podres was born in upstate New York. I was there (and all over that state) recently and it's one of my favorite places. History plus natural beauty. Some day if I'm lucky I'll retire to a spot in the Adirondacks. 

Podres is also featured on one of my favorite cards ever, one I keep an eye peeled for online all the time. 1963 Topps #412 Dodgers' Big Three.

Read his NY Times obit for some nice Podres info. And check his website for additional pics.

Monday, July 16, 2012

#284 Steve Korcheck

Steve Korcheck was a 1954 graduate of George Washington University (my father was a 1951 grad) where he played both baseball and football. He was the Colonials' captain and garnered several honors as a football player... He was drafted by the 49ers in the third round in '54 as a center but chose to pursue a baseball career by signing with the Senators.... he played in parts of four seasons with the Nats beginning in 1954... served two years during the middle of his pro career doing military service... he hit .159 with seven RBIs in 145 at bats over those four seasons.... his final shot at baseball was a stint in the Senators minor league chain in 1960.

Korcheck returned to GW as head baseball coach and earned his Masters and a EdD... he worked as an instructor for the KC Royals and went on to become president of Manatee Community College in Florida..

Sometimes the players who seem the least interesting at first glance have the best backstory... I wonder if my father saw him play for GW, likely so... Tom Owen's has a nice little interview with Korcheck on his Baseball By The Letters blog... Korcheck has received GW's Distinguished Alumni Award and is a member of their sports Hall of Fame... 

The Senators sure had some dull unis back in the day... I wonder if Korcheck is honored to have a prominent spot on this blog's banner? Yeah, right..... not a bad card, it's a little soft and miscut but the colors are still bright.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

#266 Woody Held

Topps insists on calling him "Woody" but I always thought it was "Woodie" and Google seems to support me. Anyway Woody/Woodie Held was a Yankee signee in 1951... made his debut (a brief one) with the Yanks in 1954 and was back (again briefly) in 1957 but was dealt to the Athletics early in the season... he had 20 homers that year and actually garned enough MVP votes to land in the top 20... traded to the Indians in '58 he became that teams regular shortstop... remained a starter either at short or second in Cleveland thru 1964, displayed good power along the way...he was the first Indians' shortstop to hit at least 20 homers in a season.... dealt to Washington for 1965 that was his last year as a starter... moved on to the Orioles, Angels and White Sox to finish his career playing both infield and outfield... retired after the 1969 season.

After he retired Held raced snowmobiles around the country, played in charity golf tournaments, hunted, fished, four-wheeled, ran a pizzeria in Dubois, Wyoming and started the town's first Little League. He died of brain cancer in 2009. A pair of good articles about Woody held are here and here.

Yet another Yankee Stadium shot, a standard 'follow through' pose. Still, it's a nice card of a guy who seemed to be very well liked during his playing days. BTW he was a member of the 1966 Orioles championship team but didn't make a World Series appearance.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

#201 Tom Acker

A 1948 NY Giants signee Tom Acker spent a few years in their system and the military before emerging with the Reds. He made his big league debut in 1956 and spent four complete years there. He pitched in 153 games for the Reds through 1959 including 23 starts.

He won nearly half of those 23 when he went 10-5 in 1957. He was dealt to the A's after the '59 season and appeared in the Topps 1960 set as a member of that club but didn't appear in a major league game. He did pitch briefly in the Yankee system that year before leaving the game.

Not much about Tom Acker appeared as I drove down the Google highway. And I'm not sure what to make of the grey crown Reds' cap he's wearing. It's one they wore as a roadie for several seasons. In general I haven't liked the gray caps worn recently (Royals, Orioles, etc.) but this one I like.

A black frame Reds card is always cool. Nice shape as well. Does anyone have any Tom Acker stories?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

#397 Washington Senators

Been quite awhile since I had a team card up here.

The 1959 Washington Senators went 63-91 and finished their usual eighth in the AL under Cookie Lavagetto. It was Harmon Killebrew's first year as a full timer and he led the AL with 42 homers. There was more pop in the lineup with Jim Lemon (33 homers) and Bob Allison (30 homers). Roy Sievers chipped in with 21 more. Nobody hit much for average though. Lemon led the regulars with .279 while nobody else hit .270. 

Camilio Pascual won 17 as 'ace' of the staff. Pedro Ramos, years before he anchored the Yankee bullpen, was #2 on the staff and went 13-19. He and Pascual both made the All Star team as did Allison, Killebrew and Sievers.

Here's an odd yet strangely compelling web page about the Senators franchise. Can't get to the other pages but there are some interesting pictures.

Nice clean example of the card. Checklist back is unmarked. Marking doesn't bug me but unmarked is a nice bonus.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

#41 Bob Martyn

Vacation posting: Bob Martyn

In a nutshell... Idaho native who starred at Linfield College in Oregon where he double-majored in mathematics and sociology and he graduated cum laude. ... a 1952 Yankee signee (another damn Yankee signee!?!?)... spent about four and a half seasons in their chain with a year off for military service... traded to the A's (no shit) in 1957 and spent '57 and '58 as a part time/platoon outfielder....hit his first (of three) career homer off Bob Turley of the Yanks on September 15 of that year.... traded back to the Yankees early in 1959 but spent the year in the minors.... split the 1960 season, his last, between Yankees' and Reds' farm clubs... he ended up with a respectable .263 average in what amounted to a full season of at bats... looks like a nice guy... he's a member of the Linfield College Hall of Fame... so is his father.

Martyn links:

Martyn on Wikipedia
Martyn on Baseball Reference's Bullpen page

Nothing special about this card. Standard 'stand in front of the visitor's dugout at Yankee Stadium' shot. Mine is in good shape. It's an upgrade.

Friday, July 6, 2012

#477 Barry Latman

Vacation posting: Barry Latman

In a nutshell... California kid, attended USC.....White Sox signee in 1955... pitched parts of three seasons on the South Side of Chicago... started 21 games in 1959 but didn't get into the World Series....his high school teammate, Larry Sherry did get into the Series and was a star reliever for the Dodgers in it..... traded to Indians for 1960.. best season was 1961, he went 13-5 and made his only All Star squad.... finished his career with Angels and Astros, retiring in 1967...... over the years he spent about half his time starting and half relieving...he's 78 and lives in Mexico now... he never freakin' smiled for a card shoot... according to legend, when the Indians traded Latman to the Angels in 1963 for Leon Wagner Latman's father-in-law heard about the trade and said, “It’s impossible; is that all they got for Wagner?” .....career mark of 59-68, 10 shutouts, 16 saves, 3.91 ERA 

Latman Links:

Latman on Wikipedia
Latman on SABR

Topps did one of their 'paint-over-pic' jobs on this card. Pretty crappy job, too. That hat is the wrong color blue. But the 'flying sock' saves most White Sox cards so I'll give it a pass.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

#67 Brooks Lawrence

Brooks "Bull" Lawrence was a righthanded product of Ohio when he was drafted by Cleveland in 1949. Prior to that he had pitched a year for Miami of Ohio and a couple of seasons in the Negro Leagues. He did a five year tour in the Army during WWII.

The Indians dealt Lawrence to the Cardinals and he debuted in the majors (finally) in 1954 winning 15 games. He couldn't duplicate that the next year and was traded to the Reds. He went 19-10 for the '56 Reds and made his only All Star squad. He won 15 the next year but never hit double digit wins again. 

The Reds released him in 1960 and he finished his career with some minor league time that year in Havana and Indianapolis. After retiring Lawrence worked in private business, in the Reds' front office and as a head baseball coach at Wilmington College.

There is a youth baseball league co-named for Brooks Lawrence and Harvey Haddix in their hometown of Springfield, Ohio. In 2010 the Springfield Sports Hall of Fame presented a Brooks Lawrence exhibit. There's a Facebook link on that page but I don't do Facebook so I likely and shut out.

Here's another upgraded card. My original one was pretty beaten up. I like the write up on the back that states that in 1954 Lawrence was the 'talk of the league' but then 'something happened'. And the cartoon is kind of creepy I think.

Monday, July 2, 2012

#108 Zack Monroe

I'm on vacation in the New York area, visiting friends and relatives and doing a few touristy things. The over/under on visits to Ralph's Pizza in Nutley N.J. is three. Take the 'over'. The plan is to go blog-free for the duration so these next few entries are auto-posted quickies. 

Zack Monroe had an impressive minor league record before he debuted with the Yanks in 1958, He went 4-2 with them in 24 games and got into a World Series game, getting shelling in a one inning stint. He had a cup of coffee with the Yanks in 1959 and then was sold/traded/signed by/drafted by (?) the Reds where he spent a couple of minor league seasons.

Monroe pitched for Bradley University and as the cartoon says, he continued his education between seasons.

Classic '50s Topps card. Pitching follow through pose, Yankee Stadium stands and facade in the background.