Thursday, February 28, 2013

#106 Hal Woodeshick

Lefty Hal Woodeshick signed on with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1950 but kicked around with several organizations before he established himself with the Indians in 1958. He continued a nomadic baseball life as a spot starter and reliever until 1962 when he found himself in Houston and, after a poor year in the rotation, won the job as the Colt 45s' closer.

Between 1963 and 1965 he had 51 saves including a league leading 23 in 1964. Over that three year period he pitched 180+ innings to earn those 51 saves. In contrast Jim Johnson had 51 saves for last season's Oriole club and needed only 69 innings to achieve that. Different time indeed.

Woodeshick (and note that his name is misspelled on the card back!) was dealt to the Cardinals during the 1965 campaign and pitched through the 1967 World Series. He retired after that. During his career he had a reputation as a terrible fielder. That was based almost completely on a mental block that interfered with his ability to throw to first base, particularly on bunts. Colt/Astros G.M. Paul Richards and coach Cot Deal worked long and hard to help him overcome that.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

#23 Murry Dickson

I have absolutely no memories of Murry Dickson, as a Yankee pitcher (he only pitched six games for them) or otherwise. But he pitched for a long time, and generally very well. He won 172 games against 181 losses but he had a career 3.62 ERA. And he did that while spending several seasons with some bad Pirate and Athletics clubs. He picked up two World Series rings, btw.

Rather than re-invent the wheel I'm just going to urge you to check out the Murry Dickson bio at the terrific Baseball In Wartime site published by Gary Bedingfield. He tells a great story and there is no way I could do it justice with a summary.

His page at SABR is pretty good reading as well.

Enjoy the card and check Ol' Murry's story. Hey, you have to have something going for you to lead the league in losses and yet make the All Star squad as Dickson did in 1953.

Murry has his cap tilted up, well I've got mine off to him.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

#276 Pete Daley

Pete Daley signed with the Red Sox in 1948 and worked his way to the big leagues one step at a time, finally arriving in Boston in 1955. Along the way he had spent two years in military service. He brought with him a reputation as a fine defensive player with issues at the plate and that's about how his career played out.

He served as a back-up to Sammy White for most of his five season with the Bosox although he got 200+ plate appearances in both 1956 and '57. He actually hit .321 in his very limited duty in 1958. After the 1959 season he was traded to Kansas City where he saw his at bats reach a career high (228) and that year he hit a respectable .263. He played alongside, but was no relation to, pitcher Bud Daley that season.

Drafted by the expansion Senators for the 1960 season Daley again was in a time-share role and after he spent the 1961 season in the minors he called it a career.

Following his baseball days he managed a bowling alley (btw... have you ever passed a bowling center that DIDN'T have a "Leagues Now Forming" sign out front?). He went on to work for the Schick Razor Company and what his Baseball Reference Bullpen page called the "English Leather Company". By that I'm guessing they were referring to the Mem Company which was responsible for the original English Leather cologne.

Not to go off on too deep a tangent but... English Leather!!! That was my favorite fragrance when I used to use that stuff as a teenager. I'm thrown back 45 years whenever I see a reference to it. And if I see a bottle these days (they still sell a reasonable facsimile at Sears and CVS) I can't help but douse myself with the tester supply. What high school girl in 1967 could resist that incredible aroma? Apparently most could judging by my social life in those days.

Friday, February 22, 2013

#463 Baseball Thrills... Kaline Becomes Youngest Bat Champ

Meh, it's a Baseball Thrills subset card. I like the idea but I'm not crazy about the execution of these. If I'm keeping track correctly this is the last one. Yippee!

Hey, it's not Al Kaline's fault. I love Al Kaline. He's a superstar (and a very undervalued one at that if a 'superstar' can be 'undervalued'), an extremely nice guy from all accounts and best of all for me, a Baltimore native!

You can read the details of his winning the title on the card back which I'm showing in a larger size. Kaline is making his fourth appearance on a featured card here. Or his fifth is you include the Tiger Team card (you shouldn't, it's one of the uglier cards in the '59 set). We've seen his All Star card, the Pitchers Beware card he shared with Charlie Maxwell and best of all, his terrific regular card

The best thing about these Thrills cards has been trying to track down the source of the colorized photo they used. It was particularly fun to venture down the 'rabbit hole' presented by the Colavito Thrills card. That took a lot of twists and turns before I found my answer

The more recently featured Ernie Banks card was fairly easy. So was the Mickey Mantle. The Kaline card's original shot has eluded me. But I'm fairly certain it came from a sequence that included this photo:

The uniforms, catcher's posture and the way his cap sits, the ump's silhouette, the cut of the grass. All of that points to a likely match. BTW... Corbis ID's the Yankee catcher as Charlie Silvera. And that can be a '9' visible on his back (Silvera wore "29"). It could also be an '8', i.e. Yogi Berra, although it doesn't appear to be him, at least to me.

Let's call it a probable match.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

#378 Gail Harris

First baseman Gail Harris played all or part of six big league seasons, half with the New York Giants and half with the Detroit Tigers. After a five year climb through their minor league chain he had modest success with the Giants but is the answer to the question, "Who hit the last homer for the New York Giants?"

Harris' best season came the year this picture was taken, 1958. He had nearly 500 at bats and punched out 20 homers and 83 RBI to go with a .273 average. His numbers fell off the earth the next year (9-39-.221) with 100 less at bats and in 1960 he played in only a handful of games for Detroit before being traded to the Dodgers in May. He spent the rest of 1960 and all of 1961 in the minors and then called it a career.

He then turned to the business world and had a long career with Nationwide Insurance in his native Virginia.

Oh, BTW.... googling 'Gail Harris' led to this (ahem) 'actress'. Just sayin' <-NSFW!!!

The stuff one finds!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

#252 Ray Boone

Jeez, I knew the Boone family was a big baseball family but I don't think I realized just how true that was. Ray Boone is the father of big leaguer Bob Boone and Rod Boone who played minor league ball and the grandfather of Brett, Aaron and Matt Boone. Matt played only in the low minors.

Grandpa Ray, seen here rocking that natty S-O-X cap I love so much, signed with the Indians as a catcher in 1942, played a season in the minors and then served three years in the service before coming back to baseball. The Indians converted him to an infielder and by late 1948 he was in the bigs. In fact the Indians had him on their World Series roster that year and he got one at bat (and a ring I'm assuming). He hit .301 in 1950 but by 1953 he had been traded to the Tigers. His career took off in Detroit and with much improved hitting numbers (and a move to third base) he made a couple of All Star squads.

Traded to Chicago in 1958 his career wound down quickly and he played first base for a number of clubs in 1959 and 1960 before retiring. He went on to a long run as a scout for the Red Sox.

The Boone clan can boast about being the only three generation baseball family with each generation having played in an All Star Game, a World Series and having 100+ career dingers. Take that one to your next party and stump everyone.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

#513 Tom Carroll

Tom (or Tommy) Carroll was caught up in the '50s Bonus Baby rule that required the team, in this case the Yankees, to keep him on the active roster for two seasons. I guess someone thought that was a good idea at the time.

Anyway, shortstop Tom Carroll came out of Notre Dame and straight to the Yanks in 1955 and proceeded to sit on the bench with two AL champion Yankee clubs. He did more pinch running than anything else. He managed to bat .348 for the Bombers in 23 at bats total. In the '55 World Series he entered two games as a pinch runner. In the 1956 Series he never left the bench but he did get a ring.

As with many of these 'bonus babies' the two years he spent spitting sunflower seeds in major league dugouts didn't do much to further his development. Back in the minors in 1957 and 1958 he had mediocre numbers and his fielding was pretty poor as well. Traded to the A's in 1959 he played in 14 games but spent much of that year and all of 1960 in the minors. He retired after that.

After his playing days Carroll went to work in the U.S. State Department and saw duty in several countries in Latin America. He is apparently no relation to the Tom Carroll who pitched for the Reds in the mid 70s.

This high number late series card shows Carroll in an airbrushed A's cap wearing what appears to be a Yankee uniform. One can barely make out the pinstripes when the view of the card is large enough. So many Yankees and Athletics players shuffled back and forth in that era that it's a wonder the Topps photographers didn't just carry the other team's cap when photographing either club's players. "Here ya go, Carroll, put this on and we'll take a few more pics, just in case."

Friday, February 15, 2013

#357 Dick Stuart

Dick Stuart was known for three things, his prodigious homers, his awful glove work, and his self confident quotes.

Homers: He had a 162-game average of 33 homers while playing all or parts of 10 seasons with the Pirates, Red Sox, Phils, Mets, Dodgers and Angels. In 1956 he had a 66 homer/171 RBI season (see note below) for Lincoln in the Western League.

Glove work: He holds the single season record for errors by a first baseman. He was given several nicknames based on his grace-less infield play including Dr. Strangeglove and the Man with the Iron Glove.

"If the pitching was better, I would have hit 90 home runs. I had to chase a lot of bad balls to get those 66 homers."
 "I know I'm the world's worst fielder, but who gets paid for fielding? There isn't a great fielder in baseball getting the kind of dough I get paid for hitting." 
"Isn't it odd? A guy bats .301 and has 35 homers. Then everybody starts to tell him what a good fielder he has become." 
"One night in Pittsburgh, thirty-thousand fans gave me a standing ovation when I caught a hot dog wrapper on the fly."
All that, and he looks like my cousin Joe. There is a fun blog entry about Stuart right here. Worth the read.

Look, it's Valentine's Day evening as I type this. If I don't stop and pay attention to my wife I might need to start a new blog called The Divorced Collector.

EDIT: As was pointed out in the comments the card lists Stuart's RBI total in the minors in 1956 as 158. I got the 171 figure from the blog I linked to in the last paragraph. I have done some digging and found a wonderful page put together on the Lincoln Chiefs' 1956 Western League season. It's part of the Nebraska Baseball History website which I had completely forgotten about. I had browsed that site in the past since I have an interest in Nebraska and it's sports history. It credits Stuart with 158 RBI. I bow to the folks at Topps and stand corrected.

There is even this picture of a Stuart promotional trading card.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

#331 Steve Boros

Fresh faced Steve Boros had only played parts of two seasons when this card was issued. After a collegiate career at Michigan he'd signed with the Tigers in 1957 and as a bonus baby' he saw immediate big league action. He got into a couple of dozen games and then got some extensive minor league experience from 1958 through 1960. His '59 and '60 seasons were very impressive.

In 1961 he took over the Tigers' third base job and held it for two seasons with mixed results. Traded to the Cubs for 1963 and the Reds for 1964 he failed to impress and was back in the minors in 1965. He finally hung up his spikes after the 1969 season.

After his playing days Boros began a long career in the ranks of coaches and managing. He worked for the Royals, A's and Padres in the minors and the big league dugouts. He developed a reputation and a master of stats and an advocate of the stolen base. Neither of his stints as a major league manager saw him finish in the first division and so neither job lasted very long.

He moved in scouting and front office jobs until he finally left the game in 2004. He died just over two years ago. has a nice obit and tribute to a baseball 'lifer' as well.

He was about 20 or 22 when this shot was taken. He looks like a high school kid.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

#192 Charley Beamon

This card is seemingly the only place you'll see pitcher Charlie Beamon's name spelled as "Charley". Why Topps used a "Y" is a mystery to me. Anyway, Beamon came out of Oakland's McClymonds High School as did several other major leaguers including two Hall of Famers, Ernie Lombardi and Frank Robinson. In addition to Robinson three players with 1959 cards already featured here came from McClymonds: Vada Pinson, fellow Oriole Willie Tasby, and Curt Flood.

Beamon began his pro career on the West Coast in 1953 and found his way to the Oriole system by the end of 1955. In '56 he pitched for the Os' Vancouver club and earned a September call up. He debuted in fairly spectacular fashion with a four hit shutout of the New York Yankees. Beamon and the Birds beat Whitey Ford 1-0 on September 26 and prevented him reaching 20 wins for the season. How cool is that?

He actually picked up another win in his only other 1956 game with a victory in a four inning relief stint over the Senators. Unfortunately that five day span was to be the highlight of Beamon's brief career. In 1957 he pitched in four games while spending most of the season in the minors and then in 1958 he spent most of the year in the majors, made a handful of starts mid-season and ended up with a 1-3 record in 21 games. He never returned to the majors after that and retired in 1961.

Beamon's son, Charlie Beamon, Jr. spent parts of three seasons with the Jays and Mariners between 1978 and 1981. He was listed as a DH, pinch hitter and pinch runner by Baseball Reference.

Behind Beamon in the Yankee Stadium shot we see what I believe is a member of New York's Finest. He could very well be and usher but I seem to recall the Yankee Stadium ushers wearing hats with and orange or red stripe around the crown. I could very well be wrong on that. I'll try to find other Yankee Stadium backgrounds within the set and dig something up. I love '59 card-based mysteries!

BTW... Charlie Beamon has set an unofficial record for the number of 'open tabs' in my browser during a post write-up. Between Beamon's stat page and bio page, his game logs and two boxscores, tabs for fellow McClymonds grads, two for Charlie Jr, and some odds and ends like Wikipedia and such, there are 24 tabs open. All that for a guy who won three major league games. Nearly one for every appearance. Crazy!

EDIT: I've come up with one picture of what could be late 50s era YS ushers:

And although I think of NYC cops decked out in navy blue I find pics of them in white on a google search. Still inconclusive. And nobody cares except me. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

#432 Smoky Burgess

Good Ol' Smoky Burgess. As kids we thought it was cool because he looked like everyone's quiet Uncle Phil yet was playing baseball. He always reminded me of the school crossing guard who was planted at the corner of Centre St. and St. Mary's Place in Nutley, New Jersey where I was a kid.

Burgess had a reputation as a great pinch hitter, it was a well deserved reputation but it came later in his career. After signing with the Cubs in 1944 he put together a playing career which lasted through the 1967 season.

In his prime Burgess was a solid semi-regular catcher with the Phils, Reds and Pirates. His best season was probably 1955 when he hit 21 homers to go along with 78 RBIs and a .301 average. He had been traded from the Phils to the Reds three weeks into the season and then made his second of six All Star clubs.

He won a World Series title with the 1960 Pirates going 6 or 20 against the Yanks. He was dealt to the White Sox in 1964 and led the American League in pinch hits in 1965 and 1966. In 1966, he set a dubious record: most at-bats in a season (67) without scoring a run and also had the most hits in a season (21) and most RBI (15) without scoring

He retired following the 1967 campaign with a .295 career average and the record for lifetime pinch hits (195). That record has since been surpassed. After his playing days he had a car dealership in his native North Carolina and spent many years managing and coaching at various levels of the Braves organization

Smoky got the 'airbrush' treatment on his '59 card. He was likely wearing Reds' gear when the picture was snapped in Los Angeles. Over his shoulder we see a figure that appears to be either: an usher, another air-brushed Reds player, or the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

#399 Larry Jackson

Take a peek at Larry Jackson's numbers and I'll bet you will say something along the lines of  "He was pretty good, why don't I know anything about him?"

And he was pretty good. He won 194 major league games, made the All Star team four times and finished second in Cy Young voting in 1964. And those were the days of just one Cy Young Award. Had there been one for each league Jackson would have grabbed the NL version. According to Wikipedia "his 194 career NL victories are the most in the league since 1900 by any right-hander who never played for a first-place team".

That 1964 season was the durable righty's best year. He went 24-11 with a 3.14 ERA for a Cubs team that won only 76 games! For his career he averaged 225 inning per 162 game average season. In contrast last season only two pitched had at least 225 innings in the NL.

Jackson was signed by the Cardinals in 1951 out of Boise State. He spent four seasons in their talent-rich system, including a 1952 campaign in Class C Fresno where he won 28 games! He made the Cardinals starting rotation in 1955, spent the '56 season in the bullpen and then returned to the rotation for good. He put up double digit wins every year from '56 through the end of his career in 1968 with the Phils.

In April of 1966 he was involved in the trade that sent Fergie Jenkins from the Phils to the Cubs. In 1968 he was drafted from the Phils by the expansion Expos but decided to retire rather than toil for the fledgling club.

It's one of those pink framed jobs! And in pretty nice shape, too.

Monday, February 4, 2013

#344 Russ Nixon

Russ Nixon, a Cincinnati product, attended the University of Cincinnati. Nixon and his twin brother, Roy, an infielder, each signed with the Indians in '53. Roy never made it to the majors but Russ played a total of 12 years with the Indians (1957–1960), Red Sox (1960–1965 and again in 1968) and Twins (1966–1967).

His best season was 1958 when he appeared in 113 games for Cleveland and batted .301 with nine homers and 46 RBI. After a less productive 1959 and a slow first half in 1960 he was shipped to the Red Sox. That was the second time he'd been traded to the Sox that year. A spring training deal fell through when Sammy White balked at reporting to Cleveland. Nixon was returned to Cleveland after a few Red Sox appearances in spring games. Finally a Red Sox he was the catcher on Sunday October 1, 1961 when Roger Maris hit and broke Babe Ruth's single season home run record with his 61st homer, the well known shot off Tracy Stallard into the right-field stands.

Nixon appeared in 906 games over all or parts of 12 seasons, and with a career .268 average. One odd note....he holds the record for most games played without ever stealing a base. After retiring as a player he began a long career as a coach and manager at both the minor and major league levels. He had two whirls at the managerial reins in the bigs, with the Reds and Braves between 1982 and 1990. His clubs were not able to do better than 6th place.

He managed in the Astros' farm system into 2005 and then joined Nolan Ryan in the Rangers front office. He's no longer listed on their webpage.

The light blue frame isn't among the more commonly seen in this set. The tall Yankee Stadium grandstands loom over his shoulder in this one.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

#380 Hank Aaron

If you are reading this blog then you don't need me to try to summarize the brilliant career of Hank Aaron. So I'd do what I usually do with mega stars here, a list of accomplishments from Hank's BR Bullpen page, and a few notes and links.

  • 1953 MVP South Atlantic League Jacksonville Tars
  • 24-time All-Star (1955-1975)
  • NL MVP (1957)
  • 3-time NL Gold Glove Winner (1958-1960/RF)
  • 2-time NL Batting Average Leader (1956 & 1959)
  • 4-time NL Slugging Percentage Leader (1959, 1963, 1967 & 1971)
  • 3-time NL OPS Leader (1959, 1963 & 1971)
  • 3-time NL Runs Scored Leader (1957, 1963 & 1967)
  • 2-time NL Hits Leader (1956 & 1959)
  • 8-time NL Total Bases Leader (1956, 1957, 1959-1961, 1963, 1967 & 1969)
  • 4-time NL Doubles Leader (1955, 1956, 1961 & 1965)
  • 4-time NL Home Runs Leader (1957, 1963, 1966 & 1967)
  • 4-time NL RBI Leader (1957, 1960, 1963 & 1966)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 20 (1955-1974)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 15 (1957-1963, 1965-1967 & 1969-1973)
  • 40-Home Run Seasons: 8 (1957, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1966, 1969, 1971 & 1973)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 11 (1955, 1957, 1959-1963, 1966, 1967, 1970 & 1971)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 15 (1955-1967, 1969 & 1970)
  • 200 Hits Seasons: 3 (1956, 1959 & 1963)
  • Won a World Series with the Milwaukee Braves in 1957
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1982
Just some Hank stuff... I was at Shea on a May night in 1969 when Aaron hit #513. Two night later he hit a pair in one game.... I saw him hit two in 1973, the first off Jerry Reuss in May, it was #684 and I saw him hit #712 in the Astrodome in September 22, 1973. It was the winning blow in a 4-2 Braves win.... from his Hall of Fame bio:

Biography: Exhibiting an understated style that became his trademark, Hank Aaron became the all-time home-run champion via one of the most consistent offensive careers in baseball history, with 3,771 hits. In addition to his 755 home runs, he also set Major League records for total bases, extra-base hits and RBIs. Aaron was the 1957 National League MVP, won three Gold Gloves for his play in right field and was named to a record 25 All-Star squads.

He has three other cards  in this set: his All Star card, a Baseball Thrills card and a combo card shared with Eddie Mathews.  This is the best of them in my eyes. You can't see much of that great Braves uni but, hey, it's Hank Aaron. You know it looks great on him.