Monday, December 31, 2012

#68 Dick Schofield

The first of a three generation baseball family, Dick 'Ducky' Schofield began his baseball life as a 'bonus baby' with the St. Louis Cardinals and as such spent the 1953 and 1954 seasons languishing on the Cards' bench. After playing most of the next two seasons in the minors Schofield became the Cards utility infielder before being dealt to the Pirates in 1958.

He played a key role in the Bucs' 1960 pennant run when he filled in admirably for  Dick Groat at shortstop in September after the soon-to-be MVP was sidelined with a broken wrist. Schofield hit .400 in his sub role but with Groat back for the World Series Schofield was back to being a bench rider. He did get a championship ring for his troubles, though. His .333 average for the year, even as a part timer, was easily his best ever.

He was handed the full time shortstop job for a couple of seasons in Pittsburgh and hit .246 in both '63 and '64. He was dealt to the Giants in 1965 and started most of that season as well. After that he was shuffled around the majors never again playing full time. After runs with the Dodgers, Yanks, Red Sox and twice more with the Cardinals he ended his career with the Brewers in 1971.

His son, also named Dick Schofield, had a long career in the 80s and 90s, mostly with the Angels. Grandson Jason Werth is a current Washington National.

Interesting interview with Ducky Schofield appeared in a St. Louis paper a few years back. Schofield has some strong opinions on the game today and the article explains the intricate Schofield/Werth family tree which is chock full of athletes and athletic accomplishments. His granddaughter played volleyball for the Nebraska Cornhuskers and was a team standout.

This is a Seals Stadium shot. And it has a pink frame. I like action cards, even the 'posed' action cards. Seems like I've had a ton of portrait cards lately.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

#241 Billy Muffett

Billy Muffett's mark on the game wasn't made during his long minor league career or even his six seasons (or parts thereof) in the majors. Muffett was far more accomplished as a major league pitching coach than he was as a hard throwing but control challenged righty.
Signed by the Cubs in 1955 after a few seasons of independent minor league baseball and a couple of years in the service, Muffett was traded and debuted with the Cardinals in August of 1957. He had perhaps his best string of major league pitching that season but he also suffered his most inglorious moment when he allowed a homer to Hank Aaron in the bottom of the 11th in Milwaukee on September 23rd. That blast was the shot that clinched the pennant for the Braves.
Muffett pitched for the Cards again in 1958 and then the Giants in '59. He was traded to the Red Sox for 1960 and they turned him into a starter. He split two of the next three seasons between the Sox and the minors. 1962 was his only full season of MLB service. He finished with time in the Yankee and Cardinal chains.
After retiring as a player Muffett interned as a minor league pitching coach for a season in Tulsa. Then he became the Cardinals' pitching coach before moving on to the Angels and finally the Tigers under Sparky Anderson. He worked with Anderson for 10 mostly successful seasons and they both retired after the 1994 season. Muffett died in 2008.
The black frame surrounds Muffett's pensive skyward gaze. Topps liked this look.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

#244 Dick Gray

Infielder Dick Gray signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950 and began a long climb to the big leagues with a military service detour during the Korean Conflict. He debuted in 1958 as a 27 year old rookie with the newly transferred Los Angeles Dodgers as their opening day third baseman. In the second game of the season he became the first Los Angeles Dodger to hit a homer (or collect an RBI for that matter... they'd been shutout on Opening Day). Two days later be became the first Dodger to hit a home run in the city of Los Angeles. The Giants' Hank Sauer had become the first major leaguer to homer there earlier in the game.

Gray ended up splitting that season between the Dodgers and the minors. He returned to the bigs for 1959 but was traded to the St. Louis in June so he missed out on the Dodgers' title run that year. He stayed with the Cardinals until may of 1960 when he was dealt to Pittsburgh but he never made it out of their chain and retired in 1962. Looking back a few posts it appears Gray followed the same Dodgers-->Cardinals-->Pirates trail blazed by Gino Cimoli in the 1958 thru 1960 seasons. But all the moves look to be separate transactions.

Gray had a career .239 average in 124 games with a dozen homers. He worked for the Buena Park, California school system after his baseball days.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

#469 Hustler Banks Wins M.V.P. Award

Ernie Banks makes his third appearance on this blog. We've seen his regular card and his All Star card already. This Baseball Thrill subset entry commemorates his 1958 MVP award. As the card notes he won as a member of a 5th place Cub team. He repeated the same feat with a very similar season in 1959. He was the first NL player to win in back-to-back years.

As I like to do I dug around and found the original photograph that Topps used to produce this card. And again I found it on good ol' Corbis. The shot was taken on September 8, 1957 in a game the Cubs won in 10 over the Braves in Milwaukee. Ernie's run was the go-ahead tally in the 5-3 game. Here it is with the original caption:

Ernie Banks Sliding Safely Into HomeChicago Cubs shortstop Ernie Banks (center) slides into home scoring in the tenth inning off a pinch-hit single by Bob Will in a Chicago-Milwaukee Braves game at County Stadium. Braves centerfielder Hank Aaron fielded the ball and threw to catcher Del Crandall (right). The ball went through Crandall's legs allowing Banks to score. The Cubs defeated the Braves in 10 innings. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, September 8, 1957.

And here is the Corbis original cropped to include only the action that Topps used:

Sunday, December 23, 2012

#503 Jim Owens

Jim Owens' major league career covered 12 years and three National League teams. After some outstanding minor league seasons, a couple of looks in a big league uni and nearly two full seasons in the military Owens latched on to a job in the Phils' rotation in 1959.

That season turned out to be his best as he went 12-12 in 31 starts and compiled a 3.21 ERA. His numbers quickly fell off in subsequent years and after three seasons of getting shelled the Phils gave up on Owens and shipped him to Cincinnati for 1963. He briefly held the record for most balks in and inning (three!) which he set in an April game in '63. The mark lasted only until Bob Shaw tied it with three in an inning on May 4 and a total of five balks in the game. Owens split that year between the Reds' bullpen and the minors and was then drafted via Rule Five by the Astros.

He saved 16 games out of the Astros' pen over four seasons before calling it a career in the middle of the 1967 campaign. He served as Houston's pitching coach from then until 1972.

Research note.... shockingly not everything you read on the internet is true. Owens' BR Bullpen page states that Shaw broke Owens' record with five balks in an inning. Yet the game page shows it was three and a total of five in the game.

I have stated my love for the black framed cards in this set before. Owens 'all business' look is a good one here in the paint retouched photo. And you have to love Topps' back of the card write-up spin on his one inning of work in 1958. He 'limited' the Braves to four hits in that inning. Correction thanks to a comment. It was four hits in 'winning' not 'inning'.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

#418 Gino Cimoli

Gino Cimoli was a ballplayer of Italian decent out of the San Francisco Bay area. So was Joe DiMaggio. And although Cimoli had a nice career the comparison stops there. After signing with the Dodgers in 1949 he spent about half a decade in their chain putting up good numbers for the most part but unable to crack the star laden major league roster. Of course getting to play four seasons in Montreal, one of the world's greatest cities (IMHO) isn't a bad way to enjoy your minor league time.

According to at least one blog Cimoli, who had garnered a reputation for being a hothead who didn't work very hard, apparently received a jolt when his wife and kids were involved in a car wreck in 1955. He made the Dodgers in 1956 but was used sparingly before he grabbed a regular outfield slot in 1957.  That year he made the NL All Star team while hitting .293 with 10 dingers.

In 1958 he found himself with the Dodgers in LA and he became the first major league hitter to bat with a West Coast team. The Dodgers opened that first season in California against the Giants at Seals Stadium in San Francisco. Cimoli struck out against the Giants' Ruben Gomez to lead off the game.

He was traded to the Cards for 1959 (he missed the Dodgers' World Series season) and then on to the Pirates for 1960 where he won himself a championship while being used as the 4th outfielder. During the '61 season Cimoli was dealt to the Braves and he went on to play for the A's, Orioles and Angels before retiring after 1965. In 1962 he had led the AL in triples. After his retirement from baseball he drove for more than two decades for UPS.

Looks like Cimoli had a Cards' cap logo airbrushed on for this card. It's a pic taken at the LA Coliseum and the Dodger lettering on his jersey can be seen peeking out. Nice card anyway. Blue Cardinal cards are pretty sweet.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

#24 Red Wilson

Robert "Red" Wilson is another of the multi-sport standouts who chose a baseball career. As a star football player out of the University of Wisconsin Wilson was drafted by Paul Brown's Cleveland Browns in 1950 but opted to sign with the White Sox instead.

After three seasons in the Sox chain during which he displayed a fine batting stroke (he hit .290 or better each season) he made the club in 1953 as a platoon catcher. Wilson was traded to Detroit in 1954 and that's where he spent the bulk of his career. He never became an everyday starter but split time during six seasons in Detroit while becoming Frank Lary's 'personal catcher'.

Together they were a Yankee Killing duo. In 21 starts together against the Bombers Lary went 16-3 while Wilson hit .354. Quite impressive from a guy who had a .258 lifetime average.

During his Tiger days Wilson had some nice moments. He .299 in 1958 going hitless in the season's final game to slip under .300. And he was behind the plate for Jim Bunning's no hitter that same season.

Wilson hung on in his role as a platoon option until he was traded to the Indians in July of his final season, 1960. He worked for several decades as a bank loan officer and president. He has an extensive bio on the SABR site.

Like so many other cards of Tiger players in the '59 set Wilson poses inside a red frame. Even more common is the Yankee Stadium background.

Monday, December 17, 2012

#131 Deron Johnson The Sporting News Rookie Star

Deron Johnson showed some serious power in the minors which is probably why Topps had him on a rookie card a couple of seasons before he made a real impact in the majors. After four years of full time duty in the Yankee chain, three at AAA, Johnson saw a handful of games late in 1960 in New York.

But with the stacked Yankee line-up at the time he had no place to play. In June of 1961 he was traded to the Athletics (insert eye-roll here). His time in Kansas City was interrupted by a stint in the Reserves and he hit poorly when he was available. By 1963 the A's had sold him to Cincinnati who had him play at AAA San Diego for the season. Being in his hometown proved to be a tonic and Johnson tore up PCL pitching that year.

Back in the majors for good in 1964 with the Reds, Johnson reeled off a dozen years of solid big league work with the Reds, Braves, Phils, A's (again..and he won a Series ring here in '73), Brewers, White Sox and Red Sox. His high water mark came in 1965 when he hit career highs in homers (32) and RBIs (130). That latter mark led the league. Interestingly he didn't make the NL All Star team that year. He had been switched back to the outfield by the Reds that year after working at first, third and in left. That's what happens when you played in the time of Mays, Aaron, Clemente, Frank Robinson, etc. He did finish 4th in MVP voting that year. The implementation of the DH rule was a blessing for Johnson. Nearly all the time he played in the AL was in that role.

Johnson, who was a highly acclaimed multi-sport star at San Diego High School, had turned down numerous college and pro sports offers to sign with the Yankees. He played through 1976, coached after that and died at the young age of 53 in 1992.

As usual SABR has an extensive and interesting bio of Johnson. It's full of interesting notes  including the story of how Johnson and the Yanks avoided the dreaded 'Bonus Baby' tag which would have required him to cool his heels with the big club for two seasons listening to Casey Stengel in the dugout while taking up a locker.

Looking at Johnson's career I got to wondering how many players in this 1959 set were still active in his last year in the majors, 1976. I looked into it and found that less than ten were still active that year. Those players include (with final season noted)... Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson and Tony Taylor (along with Johnson all 1976)... Brooks Robinson and Mike Cuellar (1977)... Ron Fairly (1978)... and finally Minnie Minoso who had a couple of at bats in 1980 but that was more gimmick than big league baseball so I can't really consider him part of this group.

Several others with cards in this set, including some major stars, nearly made it to '76 having finished their career in 1975. Those incude Harmon Killebrew, Bob Gibson, Lindy McDaniel, Claude Osteen, Jim Perry, Orlando Pena, and Vada Pinson.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

#100 Bob Cerv

God willing on the morning this entry is posted my family will be in Lincoln, Nebraska watching my son graduate from the University of Nebraska. This will be the third time I've had the pleasure of watching one of my children walk and I feel like I've done what I vowed to do when we started a family, get my kids a good education and out into the world.

Nebraska native and UNL alum Bob Cerv was signed in 1950 by the Yankees after a standout career in baseball and basketball for the Cornhuskers. He debuted in 1951 and split that season as well as the next two shuttling back and forth between New York and the Yanks top farm club in Kansas City. From 1954 through 1956 Cerv put up solid numbers in a limited role as he was unable to crack the solid Bombers starting lineup. He did get to play in both the '55 and '56 World Series and homered as a pinch hitter in Game Five of the '55 Classic. He was traded to Kansas City (now a big league franchise, the A's) after the '56 season and for the first time in the bigs he held down a starting job.

Cerv’s most productive year in the majors was in 1958. He belted 38 homers, a mark that still stands as the record by a professional player in Kansas City. He was the first Husker to participate in an All-Star Game. He started the 1958 All-Star Game in left field for the American League. His accomplishments that year are made more memorable by the fact that he played for six weeks with his jaw wired shut and on a liquid diet following a collision at home plate in a May game against the Tigers. The Athletics traded Cerv back to the Yanks early in 1960 and he went 5 for 14 in the Series against the Pirates that year.

He was drafted by the Angels in the 1960 expansion draft but after a month in LA he was traded back to the Yankees (again!!) in May of 1961. Again a role player he generally spelled his two roommates, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. He didn't appear in the 1961 Series.

Cerv finished out his career with a one month whirl in Houston after the Yanks sold him to the Colt 45s in June of 1962. After his big league career he coached college baseball at Southeast Missouri State College and John F. Kennedy College in Wahoo, Nebraska where he also coached the men's basketball team.

Cerv occupies the well worn spot in front of the visitors dugout at Yankee Stadium to pose for this shot. He looks like a guy who is happily remembering his World Series days in this park and in knowing he's going to play here again one day..

Thursday, December 13, 2012

#274 Jerry Kindall

Here is another card of a Chicago Cub. Seems they have come up a lot lately. Jerry Kindall signed as a 'bonus baby' with the Cubs in 1956 fresh off a College World Series championship with the U of Minnesota. He spent the minimum mandated by rule two seasons on the big league roster playing sparingly, mostly as a pinch runner and defensive replacement although he did get nearly 200 at bats in 1957.

He spent the next two season mostly in the minors before returning to the Cubs as a platoon infielder in 1960. He was traded to Cleveland and in 1962 and he was the Indians regular second baseman. That must have soothed the pain of thinking he was about to get the Cubs regular shortstop job as Ernie Banks was being moved to first. That year in Cleveland was his only year as a full time player. He hit .232 but managed 13 homers for the Tribe. He also led the league in assists and 'total zone runs'. I have no idea what that latter stat means but it sounds like something Adrian Peterson might excel in.

A three way deal sent Kindall to the Twins for 1964 and he had again captured a starting slot in '65 until getting hurt late in June. Healthy by World Series time Kindall had to sit and watch as Frank Quillici, who had taken his spot and done well, played every inning of the Series against the Dodgers. He was released at the end of spring training the next spring and went to work coaching at his alma mater.

He went on to coach at the University of Arizona from 1973 through 1996 winning 860 games and three NCAA crowns. 209 of his players signed big league contracts, 34 received All American honors and 32 went on to play in the majors. Among those are Trevor Hoffman, Kenny Lofton and Terry Francona. Kindall is also a well respected author of baseball instructional books.

His long, successful and influential coaching career led to many awards, some of which are written about in this interview. Even better is the comprehensive article on him found on the SABR site. More on his coaching days here.

I found very little on Marcelino Solis on the net but the opposite is true on his major and minor league  teammate Jerry Kindall. And a lot of it was very interesting stuff. But even more interesting, to me at least, is the uniform that Kindall wears in this card. Somewhat hidden but definitely there is the C-U-B-S included on the front of the clubs road jersey. Using both city and nickname on a uniform is pretty unique, at least in the modern history of the game. Even better is the cap featuring red piping. This uni/cap combo marks this photo as being from 1957. The only other club that used cap piping that I recall seeing was the Senators of the mid-60's.

Here is the teams' 1957 uni set from Dressed to the Nines on the Baseball Hall of Fame site.

Lastly the card back bears a cartoon reflecting the fact that Kindall signed a 'handsome' bonus. But the team cited is the Cards. Nope, as we've seen, it was the Cubs. Uncorrected error.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

#39 Ed Bouchee

After an impressive 1952 debut in the minors Ed Bouchee spent a couple of years serving in the military during the Korea conflict. He returned in 1955 and as a Phillies farm hand he continued his fine hitting. He got his chance in the majors as the regular first baseman for the Phils in 1957 and didn't disappoint. In fact he was second in Rookie of the Year balloting and picked up some significant MVP votes. He had lots of promise.

But that all changed following that '57 season when he was arrested on a morals charge in his native Seattle. No need to re-tell the story here but it's easy enough to find it. The incident cost Bouchee the first half of the '58 season and Topps dropped his card from the 1958 set. Returning in July Bouchee just couldn't match the spark of his rookie year and in fact he never did.

He was dealt to the Cubs for the 1960 season and was taken by the Mets in the '61 expansion draft. The woeful '62 Mets proved to be Bouchee's final stop in the big leagues although he spent 1963 with their AA club. He finished with a .262 lifetime average and 61 homers.

This pink framed card marked Bouchee's return to the Topps card world. And note how Topps handles his 1958 season. They state he 'got a late start.' That's Connie Mack Stadium that he's posing in. I guess it wasn't too much of a hike for the Topps photographers to get down to Philly. I never did get there despite not living all that far away for many years as a kid.

BTW.... indispensable blogger Bob Lemke has produced a nice '58 Topps 'card that never was' for Bouchee.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

#214 Marcelino Solis

Marcelino Solis, a native of Mexico, spent 13 seasons playing professional baseball. nearly all of that time came in the Mexican League and in the Cubs farm system. A lefty starter, he was drafted and signed  by the Cubs in December of 1957 as a 26 year old with a very uneven record at several levels of Mexican baseball.

He spent the 1958 season with the Cubs' AA club in Fort Worth and went 15-2, a mark that had to surprise Cub officials given that he had never shown anything approaching that skill level. That led to a half season in Chicago in 1958 where he went 3-3 in 15 games including four starts. With a ERA over 6.00 it's not particularly surprising that he never again pitched in the big league.

He pitched in the Cubs' (and briefly the Giants') system and in Mexico until 1963. He died in 2001.

A couple of thing that struck me. 'Marcelino' isn't all that common a name. I've been at a heavily Hispanic school for 25 years and can't recall a single 'Marcelino'. But I do know of one other in baseball. Marcelino Lopez was one of my favorite players from the Orioles 'glory days' of three straight World Series trips. He was a Cuban-born middle reliever and spot starter who had a small but boisterous fan club that invaded Yankee Stadium when the O's were in town. The little group carried a banner all around the stadium, seemingly never sitting down in their seats.

And check out the write-up on the back of this card. Topps calls him "the amazing Mr. Solis". Yes he had a nice '58 season but I think the copywriter was just filling space.

And finally... there is even less info on Solis on the web than I thought. Just page after page of the usual junk links to stat sites that mooch off Baseball Reference and link to eBay listing of this card. But I did find a pretty neat picture of him in his Ft. Worth Cats gear and bearing a serious resemblance to the uber creepy Henry Silva from the original Manchurian Candidate.  Enjoy.


Friday, December 7, 2012

#502 Al Dark

Alvin Dark played for 14 seasons in the majors beginning in 1946 and ending with his retirement as a player in 1960. His whole playing career was a a National Leaguer. Along the way he played every spot on the diamond except behind the plate. He even pitched a inning in 1953.

Coming up with the Boston Braves he was the NL's Rookie of the year in 1948 and finished third in the MVP balloting. That season he batted .322 and was 4th in the league in that category. He played for the Braves in the Series that year. Heady stuff for a rookie. After his average slipped to the .270s in 1949 the Braves dealt him to the Giants where he continued his outstanding play in the field and at the plate. He made three All Star games with the Giants.

After six seasons with the Giants, and having helped them win a World Series title in 1954, Dark was traded to the Cardinals early in the 1956 season and he stayed there for a year and a half before being moved on to the Cubs during the '58 season. He split the 1960 season between the Phils and Braves and it was the first year in 13 seasons that he wasn't a full time player.

After retirement as a player he began a long and largely successful career as a manager starting with the Giants with whom he went to the Series in 1962. After stints with the Kansas City A's and Indians he managed the Oakland A's to the 1974 World Championship.

Dark had been a highly successful three sport college athlete at LSU and had served in the Marines in WWII. His SABR entry contains some interesting stories of his days prior to MLB fame.

Dark appears in Cubs' road gear on this pink framed '59 card. He joined the Cubs during the previous season. It appears to have been taken in Seals Stadium in San Francisco as were several other Cub cards I've shown. A little research shows that the photo was taken on one of the three trips the Cubs took out west after the trade was made.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

#321 Bob Giallombardo

Quick quiz: Name a player who was a hard throwing lefthanded pitcher out of Brooklyn's Lafayette High School who was signed by the Dodgers in the mid 1950s. If you said "Sandy Koufax" you'd be right. If you said "Bob Giallombardo" you'd also be right (and you'd be looked at strangely).

Giallombardo was indeed a schoolmate of Koufax at Lafayette. But the two were never on the same staff due to what the coaches considered Giallombardo 'not being ready'. The story, and a whole lot more about this interesting player, can be found in this article.

In that article Giallombardo discusses the shoulder injury he incurred in winter ball following the '58 season that cost him a lot of his arm strength and essentially finished his chances as a major leaguer. His big league career consisted of five starts and a relief appearance in a months time in the middle of the '58 season. The highlight was his only big league win in the second game of a doubleheader in the L.A. Coliseum on July 13th against the Reds. Giallombardo pitched into the ninth and yielded to Clem Labine for the final two outs in a 3-2 win.

Giallombardo had an interesting life after baseball managing the Gil Hodges Bowling Lanes in Brooklyn, selling insurance, and as a supervisor of roofers for the New York Housing Authority for twenty years. He then retired to Waxhaw, a small village some 20 miles south of Charlotte, NC to be near his daughter and her family.

The yellow framed cards of Dodgers taken in the Coliseum combining the sharp home duds and Dodger logo to produce some sweet visuals. This one is no different. The 'optioned' notation on the reverse is a variation. It's more common than the #321s without it. I have both but the other one, the one without the 'optioned' line is in poor condition.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

#272 Jerry Lumpe

Jerry Lumpe (one of the better names in the set, no doubt) signed as a Yankee prospect in 1951 and put together some good numbers as he progressed up the ladder before his 1956 debut. He saw part-time duty at third and short for their pennant winning clubs in 1957 & 1958. Not so surprisingly he was traded to the A's early in 1959 in a deal that brought Hector Lopez and Ralph Terry to New York. Just another in the seemingly endless string of NY/KC deals.

The A's installed Lumpe as their starting second-baseman and in 1962 he hit .301 with ten homers and 83 RBI. He got a few MVP votes that season. Unsung though he was, Lumpe nonetheless established himself as a fine fielder and a decent hitter for a half dozen seasons. He held down 2nd base (and hit pretty well) until a trade to the Tigers in 1964. In '64 he made his only All Star squad in a year that saw him put up his lowest batting average in six seasons.

After a couple more years in Detroit he career wound down and in 1967 the Tigers moved Dick McAullife over to second and Lumpe saw little time. He retired after being released in October of that year.

Lumpe coached for the A's for a bit after his playing days. His native Warsaw, Missouri has a Lumpe Field named in his honor. He is the subject of one of Casey Stengel's more memorable quotes:  "There's LumpeHe's a great hitter until I play him." 

Lumpe poses next to the batting cage in Yankee Stadium for this shot which ended up on my seriously mis-cut copy of his card.