Tuesday, April 30, 2013

#385 Sherm Lollar

Sherm Lollar caught 1571 games in the majors beginning in 1946 with the team that signed him out of Pittburg State in Kansas, the Cleveland Indians. Add in more than 400 minor league games, any number of collegiate, exhibition, World Series (he played in two) and All Star games (he made 7 AL teams) and you have a guy who did a whole lot of squatting in his career.
And it was a very good if under-appreciated career. After his 26 game trial with the Indians in '46 he was traded to the Yanks. After two seasons during which he rarely got off the bench he was dealt to the St. Louis Browns where he blossomed into a first time All Star in 1950.
But it wasn't until a 1952 trade to Chicago's South Side that Lollar became a more consistent player and by the end of the decade he had collected three Gold Gloves, landed in the Top Ten in MVP voting twice and made the All Star squad six times in a span of seven years. With the 'Go Go Sox' of 1959 Lollar hit 24 homers (he had 22 in '58) and drove in 84 runs for the second year in a row.
A homer and 5 RBI against the Dodgers in the Series that season wasn't enough to help the White Sox become champs but Lollar had already earned a ring with the '47 Yankees. In that Series he went three for four with a pair of doubles as the Bombers defeated the Dodgers.
Lollar's playing time decreased as the '50s turned into the '60s and after the 1963 season he retired to coach in the majors and manage in the minors.
That makes it two red White Sox cards in a row. This one was also shot at Yankee Stadium (I know that scoreboard silhouette). Seems to me that Sherm is looking up at my Dad and me perched in our usual spot above and just to the left of home plate. He's smiling because he knows that I will be, as always, rooting against the Yanks. My Dad would laugh about that but I think is secretly pissed him off.
I believe, but can't substantiate,  that my first game at Yankee Stadium was in 1958. I KNOW it was a against that White Sox so maybe he really is looking up at us. Oh, Lollar may not get much love by later generations, but at least one writer thought a lot of him.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

#426 Jerry Staley

In a 15 year career that ended in 1961 righthander Jerry Staley went from being a reliever to an All Star starter in the NL then to All Star reliever in the AL. Staley began his baseball career with a couple of very impressive seasons in independent ball in the early 1940s before heading off to serve his country in WWII. After returning, and having been signed earlier by the Cardinals, Staley debuted in the teams bullpen in 1947. By '49 he had become a starter, at least part time, and by 1951 he was winning 19 games and he sustained that pace through two consecutive All Star seasons.

By 1954 his fortunes had reversed and the Cards sent him to the Reds and then he moved to the Yankees before finding his 'second wind' with the White Sox in 1956. In '57 became the Sox' main bullpen weapon and remained so through 1960 when his 13-8, 10 save season earned him another All Star appearance.

He made four appearances with the Sox in the 1959 World series gaining a save and taking a loss in Game Four when he allowed a homer to Gil Hodges in the eighth inning. He retired the other six batters he faced that day and overall had a very nice Series.

Staley's SABR page is chock full of info on his career including his time in the service and unique way he ended up with the Cardinals.

Looks like another Yankee Stadium shot although I don't see those 'windows' in many of these shots. Seems like every White Sox pitcher in the set has the same pose in the same place.

I always like to search out featured players' other cards. While looking at Staley's I saw his 1958 Topps card (love that cap s-o-x and the Flying Sox logo!):

Then I looked at the 1961 Topps:
He aged about a decade between those two shots, yes?  Maybe it's the lighting.

Friday, April 26, 2013

#53 Stan Williams

Whoa. Stan Williams, you were a real badass. At least according to everything I've been reading today.

Williams came in as a strong 6'4" 225 lb-ish hard thrower who would just as soon hit you as look at you. Pretty intimidating staff when you consider the Dodgers had Don Drysdale to go along with him. To say nothing of Sandy Koufax.

He came up with the Dodgers in 1958 and pitched mostly as a starter and really came into his own in 1960 with 14 wins. He just about duplicated his numbers the following two seasons before being traded to the Yankees. He had nagging arm problems which dogged him for several seasons. Then suddenly the arm issues disappeared (read his explanation at Tom Owens' Baseball by the Letter blog). Williams morphed into a pretty good reliever with the Indians and Twins.

His best moment in the bigs came in the second 1959 playoff game between the Dodgers and Braves for the NL pennant. Williams pitched three innings of shutout/hitless ball to win the game and the playoff series in the 12th. He earned a Series ring with that Dodger club. He finished up his career with the Red Sox and Cards then did some coaching with the Yankees, Red Sox, Reds and several other clubs.

Final numbers for Stan 'Big Daddy' Williams..... 109 wins and a 3.48 ERA to go along with 43 saves.

His '59 card, revealing a youthful but poised major leaguer, looks to me like it was done in a 1959 version of Photoshop. That picture looks like it was laid down over the background. Maybe it was just a smoggy day in L.A.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

#193 Sammy Taylor

I like digging into some of these player bios when I can. You never know what you'll find when you go down some rabbit hole that presents itself through a cardback. Take Sammy Taylor for example. He played a year at the age of 17 (1950) with an independent club in North Carolina and then the next line of type reads "Did Not Report". What? What kid gets a chance to play baseball for pay and then 'does not report'?

Well actually there are a few scenarios I could see. Maybe he was working elsewhere and needed to make steady money. Maybe his folks disapproved of baseball, or one of them was ill. Maybe he was planning to go into the service very soon, after-all he served the next four years in the employ of Uncle Sam. Maybe, and the romantic in me wants this to be true, he had a girl he just couldn't bear to leave. Sadly I dug about 10 Google pages deep and couldn't find anything to explain Sammy Taylor's reluctance to begin a career on the diamond.

But begin (or actually resume) his career he did in 1956 in the Milwaukee Braves system. After two years he was dealt to the Cubs and debuted in Chicago in 1958. In his four years with the Cubs he was a platoon catcher for the most part but he did get more than 300 at bats his first two seasons. His best year was 1959 when he hit .269 with 13 homers.

He was traded early in the 1962 season to the Mets and then in 1963 he split the year with three clubs, Mets, Indians and Reds. He retired after that season.

Taylor was involved in one of the strangest plays in baseball history, one that ended up with two balls 'in play'. Rather than recount it here check out this link to a Cub fan page for the details. Cool story, bro.

One thing I came across when searching Taylor's story is the fact that in that when he was playing in that independent league in 1950 one of his teammates was a guy named Cliff Bolton. Now Bolton at that point was 43 years old having began his days as a player in 1927 at the age of 20. He played all or part of 7 major league seasons, mostly with the Senators. After his last big league game in 1941 he returned to the minors and played through 1952 at the age of  45! And he hit .344 in 27 games that year.

Getting back to Sammy Taylor... nothing says '1959 baseball card' like a catcher posed squatting along the track without any equipment other than his glove. The red railings mean Seals Stadium in San Francisco.

Monday, April 22, 2013

#28 Red Worthington

I never remember 'Red' Worthington as 'Red'. He was 'Al' Worthington. But then again I don't remember his pitching for the Giants, only the Twins, so don't go by me.

Anyway, Worthington signed with the Chicago Cubs out of the University of Alabama in 1951. He had led the Crimson Tide to an SEC title and a College World Series berth. After an unremarkable year in the Cubs system he was dealt off to the Giants prior to the 1952 season.

He made his major league debut in July of 1953. Boy, did he ever! Worthington became the first major leaguer to open his career with back-to-back shutouts. He beat the Phils (at home) and the Dodgers (in Flatbush) on July 6 & 11 by identical 6-0 scores. He went on to lose his next eight decisions that year before finishing up with a couple of strong starts to land at 4-8 for the season.

He pitched mostly in the minors for a couple of years before returning as a starter in 1956. He began transitioning into a reliever in 1957. He had a career high 11 wins in 1958 and pitched well in '59 but found himself bounced from the Giants to the Red Sox, White Sox and Reds before finding a plsce with the 1964 Twins and taking over the closer role there.

Between '64 and his retirement at the age of forty following the 1969 season Worthington saved 88 games for the Twins with 37 wins and a 2.62 ERA. Following his playing days he went on the coach the Twins in 1972 under his manager from his Giants days, Bill Rigney. He then spent 13 years as the head coach at Liberty University. His book was published in 2004. In 2011 the Birmingham native was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.

There is just enough red in the background of that picture to ID the scene as Seals Stadium. These seafoam green cards have grown on me since i began blogging this set. This one is in great shape other than the slight yellowing of the cardboard.

Btw... there was another Red Worthington, an outfielder for the Braves and Cards in the early 30s. That Red and Al were not related.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

#19 Ed Bressoud

Eddie Bressoud had a long baseball career. Signed by the Giants in 1950 he played three years in their farm system, gave two years to military service and returned to play a couple more seasons in the minors. He debuted with the Giants, still based in New York, in June of 1956. He opened the '57 season back on the farm but returned to the big club in July of that year.

As the team moved west Bressoud gained more playing time at shortstop, playing in over a hundred games in both 1959 and 1960. In 1961 his slick fielding was no longer enough to hold off other competitors for the starting slot and he was relegated back to the bench in place of Jose Pagan.

The Houston Colt '45s took Bressoud as their first expansion pick and them dealt him to the Red Sox. While he missed by a year the chance to play on the Giants' 1962 NL Champs club, he did enjoy his best big league seasons with the Red Sox. He had double digit homers and his best batting averages in three seasons in Fenway. He made the AL All Star squad in 1964 but didn't get into the game, a fact that he was always bitter about. By 1966 however he had been traded to the Mets and then to the Cards for 1967. He got a Series ring and a couple of at bats in the '67 Series against his old Red Sox club.

He managed a year in the minors before becoming a teacher and coach at DeAnza Community College in California. Bressoud has said that despite his success in Boston and that title in St. Louis, he always considered himself as a member of the Giants.

I'm guessing that Bressoud (btw...Baseball Reference gives the pronunciation as 'bruh-sue', with a silent 'D' which means I have had it wrong for 40 50 years) posed for this picture while a member of the New York Giants which would explain the hatless pose chosen. But that could be the Los Angeles Coliseum so, who knows.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

#255 Del Ennis

Now THAT'S an airbrush job! And not a very good one at that. Del Ennis played just five games for the Reds in 1959 after being acquired from the Cards after the 1958 season and he was dealt off to the White Sox in early May.

Ennis made his name in Philadelphia playing with the Phillies for eleven very productive seasons. He was a hometown boy, signed in 1943. After a season in the minors and a bit over two years in the military Ennis debuted late in April of 1946. His 17/73/.313 line earned him Top Ten MVP votes and he made the All Star squad. 1946 was a year before The Sporting News began their Rookie of the Year awards but he surely would have garnered some consideration. The Baseball Writers voted him the honor although what we think of as the R-O-Y was not yet recognized.

He went on to be an integral part of the "Whiz Kids" who won the NL pennant in 1950. Ennis led the National League with 126 RBI that season and he was fourth in the NL with a batting average of .311, and fifth with 31 home runs. He finished fourth in the MVP balloting. 

But Philadelphia, being Philadelphia, never really warmed up to the big hitting native son. A smart philly.com article discusses this phenomenon and another one makes the case for giving Ennis his due. A Google search turned up well written entries that name him as one of the most underrated Philly athletes of all time and one that puts him at #16 on the list of 100 Greatest Phillies.

In Phillies history Ennis ranks 3rd in Home Runs, 3rd in RBIs, 4th in hits, 3rd in total bases, 7th in doubles, 5th in games played, 9th in runs scored. Makes you wonder why he was never really appreciated in his hometown.

He co-owned a bowling center, Del Ennis Lanes, for 33 years before he closed it in 1991.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

#168 Carroll Hardy

For a guy who only had one real season as a full time player in the majors Carroll Hardy accomplished quite a bit on various athletic fields (and off the field as well).

1) He was All Big 7 Conference in football and baseball at the University of Colorado in the early 50s and also lettered in track. He was named to the CU all-time football team, is the schools all time batting average leader, earned a total of ten varsity letters and is a member of the Buffs' Hall of Fame.

2) He was a third round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 1955 and played one year catching 12 passes from Y.A. Title, four for touchdowns. He went back to his first love, baseball, after that one season.

3) While with the Boston Red Sox in September of 1960 he became the only player to ever pinch hit for Ted Williams. The story behind that at-bat is a good read on this Boston.com page. He also pinch hit for Carl Yastrzemski and Roger Maris during his career. Hardy hit his first major league homer in that at-bat.

4) He spent most of 1965 through 1968 toiling in the minors but after his baseball days he went to work for the Denver Broncos and, as player personnel executive, helped shape the famous Orange Crush defense.

All in all Hardy played for four clubs after being signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1955. He only hit .225 for his career that consisted of eight seasons, but he sure has a few stories to tell. 

Oh, he also looks like Chuck Connors. Well, sort of.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

#40 Warren Spahn

Noting perks up a blogger in a rut like posting a card of a superstar, particularly one of the blogger's favorites. So I'm really happy to present the regular issue card of Warren Spahn!

A native of Buffalo, N.Y., Spahn was signed in 1940 and came to the majors with Boston in 1942. The Bees' manager at that time, Casey Stengel, questioned the young Spahn's 'guts' when he refused to throw at the Dodgers' Pee Wee Reese. After spending three years in the military serving in Europe during World War II (and receiving a Purple Heart among other decorations), Spahn returned to the majors in 1942 after Stengel had been fired. He stayed for two decades and finished a remarkable run with the Braves with a final season split between the Giants and Mets in 1965.

He became the winningest left handed pitcher in the history of baseball (and fifth over-all) with 363 victories. He could likely have had 400 had he pitched during the three years he had served but Spahn said he 'matured' in the service and it helped him in his career.

Some highlights as listed on his Baseball Reference Bullpen page:
  • 14-time NL All-Star (1947, 1949-1954, 1956-1959 & 1961-1963)
  • ML Cy Young Award Winner (1957)
  • 3-time NL ERA Leader (1947, 1953 & 1961)
  • 8-time NL Wins Leader (1949, 1950, 1953 & 1957-1961)
  • NL Winning Percentage Leader (1958)
  • 4-time NL Innings Pitched Leader (1947, 1949, 1958 & 1959)
  • 4-time NL Strikeouts Leader (1949-1952)
  • 9-time NL Complete Games Leader (1949, 1951 & 1957-1963)
  • 4-time NL Shutouts Leader (1947, 1951, 1959 & 1961)
  • 15 Win Seasons: 16 (1947-1951 & 1953-1963)
  • 20 Win Seasons: 13 (1947, 1949-1951, 1953, 1954, 1956-1961 & 1963)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 17 (1947-1963)
  • 300 Innings Pitched Seasons: 2 (1949 & 1951)
  • Won a World Series with the Milwaukee Braves in 1957
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1973
There are many places to read about Spahn on the web including his Hall of Fame page, NY Times obit, and his SABR entry. If nothing else read this Sports Illustrated article that is an adaptation of a book which chronicles the epic 16 inning(!) pitching duel between Spahn and Juan Marichal on July 2, 1963. Great stuff!

Here is a newsreel video of Spahn's 300th win. Good Stuff!

And don't miss this commercial he did for Post Grape Nuts and his endorsed practice bat and ball offer.

And in parting I'll leave you with what has to be one of the best Sports Illustrated covers, ever!

Behold the magnificence of Warren Edward Spahn, circa 1956.

Friday, April 12, 2013

#42 Murray Wall

Dallas native Murray Wall was a standout at the University of Texas, twice being named and All American pitcher and helping the Longhorns to a pair of national titles. Signed by the Boston Braves in 1950 he actually made an appearance for the Bees that summer.But then it was off to the minors for the righthander. He spent six seasons as a starter working his way back to the majors having been traded to the Giants and then sold to the Red Sox with whom he re-emerged in 1957 as a reliever.

In 1958 he pitched in 52 games (2nd most in the A.L.) with 8 wins and 10 saves out of the pen. The Red Sox traded Wall to the Senators in June of 1959 in a deal that sent Dick Hyde to the Sox. He pitched once for the Nats before being returned to the Red Sox when the trade as voided due to a sore arm that Hyde had been enduring.

After '59 Wall never returned to the majors, spending some time in the Reds and Angels organizations and then retiring. He then went into the banking business in Dallas. Sadly he died of a self inflicted gunshot wound in 1971 at the age of 45.

One of my favorite cartoons graces the back of this card, Wall snaps away at a demonstrative ump. The photo, of course, was taken at Yankee Stadium.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

#553 Orlando Cepeda The Sporting News All Star

Can't blame The Sporting News and Topps for putting the up and coming Orlando Cepeda on the NL All Star card. He's a logical choice coming off his impressive rookie season of 1958. And unlike a couple of players in this subset (Wes Covington comes to mind) Cepeda actually made the '59 All Star team. He started the first of the two ASGs held that summer going 0-4 but he can say that he started while Stan Musial and Frank Robinson, both selected as first basemen, sat and watched. Cepeda did not play in the second of those games a month later.

He played on eight All Star teams in all. won the ROY as mentioned, an MVP trophy (1967), a World Series ring (also 1967, with St. Louis) and a Hall of Fame plaque. Not a bad career I'd say.

His regular card in this set is a nice one and while I'm not crazy about the design of these All Star cards this one gets points for a nice posed shot taken at Seals Stadium. I don't know why Topps didn't use this same 'show the background inside the frame' design on the team and special multi-player cards in '59. Or have you heard me gripe about that before?

Monday, April 8, 2013

#37 Gene Green

Gene Green signed as an outfielder with the Cardinals in 1952 and spent six productive seasons in their system before his brief 1957 debut. Along the way he had learned to use the 'tools of ignorance' and in his big league career he split time between catching and rightfield.

In 1958 Green had the most at bats of his career when he got into 137 games hitting .281 to go with 13 homers and 55 RBI. Back in the minors for the bulk of the next two seasons he did appear in one game for the Orioles in 1960 after coming over in a trade. He was selected by the Senators in the expansion draft after that year and played quite a bit for the first year club in 1961. His stat line read 18/62/.280 in 110 games. He also led the league in double plays....grounded into. He had done that in 1958 for the Cards as well. That makes him one of the few to complete that dubious, well... double play. A very quick peek at Baseball Reference shows that Miguel Tejada also accomplished this feat.

Green carried his gloves to Cleveland and Cincinnati for a couple final seasons, doing a lot of pinch hitting, and retired after 1963. He died in 1981 at the age of 47.

Pink card with a shot taken in the Polo Grounds. Decent shape, too.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

#340 Roy Sievers

First I need to apologize for giving Roy Sievers the brush-off when I posted his Baseball Thrills card from this set two years ago. That done I'll now try to give his his due with his regular card up in the queue. Fair enough?

In 1947 Sievers signed with his hometown St. Louis Browns and spent two very productive seasons in the minors before an auspicious debut with the Browns in 1949. His 16/91/.306 stat line earned him Rookie of the Year honors and he seemed on his way to stardom in the Gateway City. But it wasn't to be all roses for him. He struggled at the plate and with injuries before he re-established himself, at least to a point, in 1953.

He came oh-so close to being a Baltimore Oriole but he was dealt to the Washington Senators just a few months before the Browns transformed themselves into the Birds in 1954. That trade, btw, although almost understandable at the time (Sievers didn't appear to be capable of recapturing his rookie form), turned out to be a boon for Sievers and a bust for the Orioles.

He became the face of the Senators' franchise while the player sent to the Orioles, Gil Coan, never contributed much in his years' worth of games for Baltimore. Sievers meanwhile flashed the power he had showed in the minors and had six straight seasons for the Nats with 20+ dingers including a league leading 42 in 1957. He also led the league in RBI that year with 114. In his run with the Nats from '54 through '59 he had 176 homers and 565 RBI.

But he wasn't through. Traded to the White Sox in 1960 he put together two more 25+ homer/90+ RBI seasons. He moved over to the Phillies for three seasons and, until his numbers slid in 1964, had a nice run with them as well.

In July of 1964 Sievers was brought back to Washington and played for the expansion Senators until he was released in early 1965. In all he played on four All Star squads and finished in the Top Ten in MVP votes three times. After his playing days he coached for the Reds and managed in the minors before leaving the game to work for Yellow freight. A nice fan page has more on Roy Sievers including stories and quotes.

As you can see from this page Sievers is still active and making appearances.  Looks to be Washington's Griffith Stadium in the background. And the home Nats uni doesn't look airbrushed. Always nice to see a photo taken someplace besides Yankee Stadium.

Roy Sievers appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in May of 1958.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

#224 Claude Osteen

Yup, it's 'Gomer'. Claude Osteen got that nickname because folks thought he resembled TV character Gomer Pyle, played by Jim Nabors. I don't know about that but I do know that for me Osteen was, and always will be, associated with the Dodgers.

Osteen signed with the Reds in 1957 and after a few appearances with their minor league team in Nashville (he was a Tennessee native, btw) found himself pitching with the Reds that very year. He pitched four innings  at the tender age of 17.

He spent 1958 and most of '59 back in the minors.  He got into 20 games in 1960 with the big club and then spent most of 1961 down on the farm before being dealt to the Senators. Beginning in 1962, at the still young age of 22, he grabbed himself a spot in the Nats' rotation and held it for three seasons. He won 33 games (15 in 1964) and posted a 3.46 ERA for some lousy Nats clubs.

Traded to the Dodgers for 1965 in a deal that sent Frank Howard to Washington Osteen established himself  as a workhorse in their rotation as he started 335 games in nine seasons and both won and lost in double digits each season. He twice won 20 games and made three All Star squads. He pitched in both the 1965 and 1966 World Series going 1-2 and winning a championship ring.

He spent '74 with the Astros and Cards and 1975 with the White Sox before calling it a career. After his playing days Osteen served in several coaching capacities and currently lives in Arlington, Texas.

As always some good stuff can be found at SABR and this article from a local Tennessee paper tells some of his story in his own words. Although he pitched in the shadows of more famed teammates like Koufax, Drysdale and Sutton, Claude Osteen had a career he can be proud of.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

#196 Billy Moran

Second-baseman Billy Moran played seven seasons in the bigs and had his best seasons with the fledgling Los Angeles Angels in 1962 and '63. In those two campaigns, his only two as a full time starter, Moran hit .282 and .275 and made the AL All Star squad in '62. He led the league in multiple fielding categories those years as well.
He began his career (and ended it as well) with the Indians. He didn't get many opportunities with Cleveland during either stint with the club, a fact he discussed with Tom Owens in an entry on the fun Baseball by the Letters blog. Check it out.
Kind of a neat card. I like seeing the three decks of Yankee Stadium behind Moran. Reminds me of my many trips there. And Moran is showing off the Indians stirrups which were classic. Behind Moran we can see the Indians' #32 which would be either Chuck Churn or Morrie Martin depending on when this shot was taken in 1958.