Thursday, May 30, 2013

#362 Dolan Nichols

If you are Dolan Nichols and you were out of the majors by the time this card was issued, and you have to suffer the indignity of having your demotion to the minors plastered on the back for the world to see, then you may as well be immortalized on a cool, black-bordered '59. Right? Look at Dolan, he's all bidness. I just love this card, btw. 

As noted this is both his rookie and final card. The right-hander had pitched for the Cubs in 1958 and went 0-4 in 24 relief appearances. The card-back notes that he allowed only one homer in 41 innings. Any port in a storm I suppose. 

Nichols had been in the Indians' organisation since his signing in 1952. He pitched pretty well overall as he worked his way up the Indians' chain as a starter but was dealt to the Cubs late in the 1957 season. He made the Cubs' roster out of camp in '58 but from the looks of his '58 game logs he was demoted in July and brought back for one last game in September. 

Nichols was out of Tishomingo, Mississippi. His nickname was 'Nick'. Hell, EVERYONE who's last name is Nichols goes by 'Nick' (or Nic). He sold furniture after his days as a ballplayer

That's all there is to say about Dolan Nichols, except his middle name is 'Levon'. So in his honor here is Elton John's Levon. One of the most iconic pop songs of all time and one I never tire of, even after 40+ years.. It's from the classic, timeless Madman Across The Water album.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

#296 Ernie Broglio

Poor Ernie Broglio. Won 77 big league games, had some really good years with the Cardinals, finished third in the 1960 Cy Young voting... and all he's remembered for is being "the bum who the Cubs got in the Lou Brock trade."

Broglio began pitching with the Oakland Oaks in the old PCL in 1953 and was acquired by the Reds for 1954. He was back in independent ball in '55 and then was purchased by the Giants and traded to the Cardinals before he finally made his debut in 1959. He won 7 games, lost 12 and only his three shutouts that season gave a clue as to what would occur in 1960.

That season Broglio went 21-9, posted an ERA of 2.74 and was a Top Ten MVP vote getter. Although he never could duplicate that magical season and having suffered through a sub-par '61, he did come back to go 30-17 over the course of 1962/'63.

In June of 1964 he was the main part of a trade that sent him to the Cubs and brought a young but struggling Lou Brock to the Cardinals. Brock, of course, went on to the Hall of Fame and glory in St. Louis while Broglio went 7-19 on the North Side before he was out of the big leagues after 1966. Many years later Broglio revealed that he had been experiencing arm problems and believes the Cardinals knew that before the trade. He discusses that and many other aspects on his career in a great ESPN web story.

Cub fans never have gotten over that trade and Broglio was still boo'd at Old Timers' events there. Ironically he and Brock became friends and have remained so over the years.

Odds and ends: This is Broglio's rookie card. It's got that 're-touched minor league picture' kind of vibe. Pretty sweet nevertheless. At least it's not a Yankee Stadium or Seals Stadium shot.... Broglio's name is pronounced BRO-lee-oh, silent 'G'. At least his is one name I pronounced correctly back in the day.... he was such a phenom in his early career that he made a Sports Illustrated cover in 1961. The cover was shot in Candlestick Park (I know those trees) likely at this game on the first of June. He had 27 wins in under a season and a half when the magazine was published.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

#498 Dick Hyde

Dick Hyde's career, short as it was, is a testament to perseverance and drive. Signed by the Senators in 1949 the small framed right-hander struggled through six minor league seasons and served two years in the U.S. Army before he made any impact in the major leagues. This after grade problems cost him a chance at college success. Along the way he suffered rejection, arm misery, being mocked because of his unusual 'submarine' pitching style and lack of control of his pitches.

In 1957 he righted himself and went 4-3 for the Nats in 52 appearances, all but two out of the bullpen. In 1958 he appeared in 53 games and had a 10-3 record, an ERA of 1.75 and 18 saves, 2nd in the AL. Dick Hyde had arrived! But it was a short lived bit of glory. In 1960 he struggled and was traded in June to the Red Sox. He was quickly returned to the Senators and the deal cancelled because he had a sore arm and was sold to the Orioles a month later.

His time with the O's was brief and after some addition minor league work he was out of the game after 1961. Hyde worked as a stock broker, managed a gas station and worked for Illinois Power after retiring.

This 1958 feature in Sports Illustrated uncovers much of Hyde's back-story. It's a quick, interesting read.

Pictured on this card is Hyde and a baleful gaze towards the home team's dugout. I bet he's wondering how different his life would be if he had had that 1958 success here in the 'City That Never Sleeps'. He'd probably be rubbing elbows with Frank Sinatra at Toots Shor's club along with chums like Hank Bauer and Mickey Mantle.

On second thought, no way.

Friday, May 24, 2013

#405 Roy McMillan

Slick fielding shortstop Roy McMillan who, as the card-back notes, was known as 'Mr. Shortstop',  signed with the Reds out of Texas A&M in 1947. He had one good hitting season in the Reds' system but mostly used his glovework to move up to the Reds in 1951. He held down their shortstop spot for 10 seasons while winning three Gold Gloves and making a couple of NL All Star teams.

He was so respected for his defense that he finished sixth in MVP voting in 1956 despite a .263 batting average. He led the NL in assists at SS four times, putouts three times, DPs three times and fielding percentage three times. Veteran player and manager Jimmy Dykes called McMillan the best shortstop he'd ever seen. McMillan earned himself a Sports Illustrated cover appearance and called it the greatest honor of his career. He's a member of the Reds' Hall of Fame.

He was traded to the Braves for the 1961 season so he missed both the Red's title (gone too soon) and the Braves pair of titles (there too late). After three plus seasons in Milwaukee he was dealt to the Mets where he finished out his career. After retiring as a player he coached and managed and had brief stints as manger of the Mets and Brewers.

Roy McMillan died in 1997. His '59 card is a Seals Stadium shot with the seafoam green frame. Good stuff.

Here is his Sports Illustrated cover:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

#443 Daryl Spencer

After coming out of Wichita State hard hitting infielder Daryl Spencer spent a year in independent ball before being acquired by the New York Giants in 1950. After a 'cup of coffee' in 1952 he broke into the Giants everyday lineup in 1953 and slugged 20 homers with 56 RBI. His .208 average was a career low although his career average was only .244 in 10 seasons.

After that rookie year Spencer spent two seasons in the military and led his army team to an armed services baseball title. Back in the bigs in 1956 he spent the next four seasons as a Giants' starting middle infielder. He was a solid if unspectacular player and was dealt to the Cardinals for 1960 and he played there for a season and a quarter as their shortstop. Then it was on to the Dodgers and Reds in a platoon role.

After he retired from the majors he spent another seven seasons in Japan where he played on four pennant winner with the Hankyu Braves. He slugged 74 homers over his first two seasons there. His aggressive style, especially on the base paths was a revelation to the Japanese and he was a very popular player there. He retired at one point, returned to Wichita to open a restaurant but was drawn back to Japan and served as a player coach before retiring for good after the 1972 season.

After returning to the States for good he managed in amateur ball and worked for Wichita's AA club.

This is a nice clean card with an action pose. I like it a lot for that reason. I'd guess it was taken at Seals Stadium because there were many in the set that were shot there. Plus, Spencer has on the Giants' home uni.

Informative interview done while Spencer was still in Japan can be found here. And as usual his SABR page is the go-to spot for his backstory.

Found this card image on the web. Spencer on a Japanese card.

Monday, May 20, 2013

#336 Billy Loes

Billy Loes won 80 games in 11 seasons with the Dodgers, Orioles and Giants but he left behind a much bigger legacy as a character and 'eccentric'. The Long Island native was a Brooklyn Dodger signee in 1948 Loes had an impressive minor league season the next year and got a taste of the majors in 1950.

He spent '51 in the service and returned for begin a string of successful seasons in Brooklyn, going 50-25 in the course of four seasons. He pitched in three World Series for the Boys of Summer, winning a ring in 1955.

Sold to the Orioles in May of '56 he won 12 games in 1957 but never saw much success while hanging on through 1961 with the Giants. But as noted, Loes is remembered for his colorful and generally odd personality.

From a New York Daily News story published after Loes' death in 2010:

Dodgers Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella once said of Loes: "How can I say why he doesn't win 20 when I can't even tell what he's going to do from pitch to pitch."That was never more evident than in Game 2 of the 1955 World Series against the Yankees when Loes hurled three innings of shutout ball, striking out five and inducing three double play balls - only to suddenly get kayoed on five hits and four runs in the fourth. Said Campy: "He started thinking. He had 'em going on fastballs and curves for three innings when he suddenly decided to throw change-ups."Before the 1952 Series, Loes reportedly predicted the Yankees would beat the Dodgers in six games. Years later, however, he said he was misquoted. "I never said that," he insisted. "What I said was they'd beat us in seven games." Which they did.But perhaps the most infamous Loes episode occurred in Game 6 of the '52 Series at Ebbets Field when he claimed to have lost a ground ball in the sun. What happened was Yankee starting pitcher Vic Raschi hit a ball off Loes' leg that caromed into right field, scoring Gene Woodling from second and sending the Yanks to a 3-2 victory that tied the Series 3-3. They won it the next day. Everyone laughed when Loes insisted he'd lost Raschi's grounder in the sun, but as Dodger pitcher Carl Erskine later explained: "That's exactly what happened. At that time of the afternoon in Ebbets Field, the sun came through a space in the grandstand behind the plate and could blind you."

Billy Loes and his dog in 1954. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

#347 Bob Buhl

Bob Buhl was the perfect #3 starter for the tough Braves teams of the later 1950s. He pitched well while eating innings and matched the competitive nature of Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette. He spent a year in the White Sox chain after signing in 1947. The next year Buhl was granted free agency (free agency in 1948, who knew?) and signed with the Boston Braves. He pitched erratically for three minor league seasons then spent two years in the service.

He debuted as a rookie in 1953 and proceeded to win 13 games with 18 complete games and three shutouts. An suffered the 'sophomore jinx' in '54 but regained his form and won nearly a hundred games for the Braves during the rest of the decade  He made two starts for the Braves in the 1957 World Series and, although he was chanced early in both, he picked up a ring as a crown jewel on a nice career. An injury kept him out of the '58 Series.

Traded to the Cubs early in the 1962 season Buhl won double digit games and had respectable ERA's for Chicago teams that regularly finished at or near the bottom of the NL. He was later dealt to the Phillies in the trade that sent Fergie Jenkins to the Cubs. He pitched about a year in Philly before retiring in 1967 after he was released.

Buhl was known as one of the worst hitting pitchers of all time and went 0 fer 70 in 1962 which set a record for at bats without a hit. He tried hitting left-handed at one point but didn't have any better results.

Bob Buhl died in 2001 within two days of the death of his Braves roommate and friend, Ed Mathews. That's the sett Braves uni Buhl is wearing in front of the Seals Stadium grandstand. Add in the yellow frame and it adds up to a nice card.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

#351 Earl Torgeson

Here's your challenge, should you decide to accept it: find a picture of Earl Torgeson smiling. Or even wearing anything close to a smile. Not possible, I've tried.

He was known as the Earl Of Snohomish. Which sounds like something akin to the Prince of Darkness but is just a reference to his hometown of Snohomish, Washington.

Torgeson began his career out on the West Coast in 1941 playing for teams in the PCL and Western International League. He spent three years in the service during WWII and returned to baseball in 1946. He was traded by the Seattle Rainers to the Boston Braves and made his MLB debut with that club in 1947. He held down the first base job for Boston until 1952 putting together some pretty nice power numbers along the way. He led the league in runs scored in 1950 and hit .368 for the Braves in the 1948 World Series.

Traded to the Phillies after the '52 season he played in Philly for a couple of years, was traded to the Tigers, on to the White Sox and finally the Yanks in 1961. He got into another World Series when the White Sox played (and lost to) the Dodgers in 1959.

Torgeson's sidebar story is much more interesting than his career movement, though. Despite resembling your local pharmacist, or the bookworm you had in school who had no friends, he was a tough guy known for his numerous scrapes. Several of the fights he took part in are chronicled in this fun-to-read column. Some great pictures down that page, as well. And SABR is always a good spot to dig further into a character like Torgeson.

When I've flipped through my '59 binder looking for cards to upgrade somehow this one hasn't caught my eye. It's not terrible but it is probably in the bottom 10% of my set condition-wise. And, btw, I think I recognize the Yankee Stadium usher in the seats behind Angry Earl. I'm sure he's looking for a fan to pressure for a tip by dusting off the seat..

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

#324 Don Demeter

Oklahoma native Don Demeter was a Brooklyn Dodger signee in 1953 and played eleven years in the majors, for five different teams. Never a star, he did have a career he can be proud of. But sometimes a dry recitation of stats, trades, accomplishments and the like just doesn't do a guy justice.

I found a wonderful video about Don Demeter. It was done, with much love obviously, by his grandson. The ballplayer-turned-preacher talks of his life and career. It's six minutes long and worth it.

If you are interested in more about this gem of a guy you can read his SABR page or a nice article written about his induction into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

#298 Tex Clevenger

Don't know how, when or why Truman Clevenger got the nickname 'Tex' but he kind of looks like a cowboy, I guess. I can't find anything on the 'net to clear it up either (update below).

Tex was a Boston Red Sox signee out of Cal State-Fresno in 1953 and debuted with the Sox in 1954. He went 2-4 in eight starts (23 games total) and spent the next two seasons as a starter in their chain. Traded to the Senators for 1956 he established himself in their bullpen in 1957. He made 50+ appearances for the Nats in each of the next four seasons, leading the league in games in '58.

He was taken by the Angels in the expansion draft and pitched briefly for them in 1961 before being traded to the Yankees that May. He had the great fortune therefore, to go from a fledgling franchise to one of the powerhouse teams of all time. He pitched in exactly 21 games for the Yanks in both '61 and '62. Both of those teams won the World Series although Clevenger didn't appear in either. But he has two rings!.

After more time in the minors Clevenger retired to work in the insurance business and as a farmer and eventually to buy a Ford dealership in Pottersville, CA. He sold the business and retired for good in 2010.

Clevenger poses in front of the visitors' dugout in what looks to be Griffith Stadium with someone warming up just down the line behind him. Makes for a neat card.

Sunday Update... I just found a chapter in this book on Google in which Clevenger himself says he was nicknamed by Red Sox teammate Johnny Pesky who felt Clevenger resembled an old teammate, Tex Hughson. Clevenger goes on to say that players from Texas would ask him what part of the Lone Star State he was from and he drew weird looks when he told them he'd never even been to Texas.

Friday, May 10, 2013

#388 Bob Will

Outfielder Bob Will was signed by the Cubs out of Northwestern University in 1954. The local kid (he was from suburban Berwyn) charged through the Cubs' system with some seriously impressive batting averages. He debuted in 1957 and hit only .223 in 70 games. In 1958 and '59 he was back in the minors and had another two good years.

1960 was his one season as a regular at the major league level and he hit .255 with 54 RBI for the Cubs. He ranked high in several defensive categories as well including leading the league in fielding as a rightfielder and finishing second among all outfielders.

His career never again had the luster of 1960. He was a part time player and pinch hitter for a few seasons and by '63 he was again a minor leaguer and then he retired to work in the banking business. Again I refer you to Tom Owen's Baseball by the Letters blog for a nice story of Bob Will and a look at his 1960 Rookie Stars card. Yup, he was one of those guys who appeared on a regular card before being a 'rookie star'.

I really like those 1960 Rookie Cards. And Will looks a bit like Bill Virdon on that one, doesn't he?

I really love Polo Grounds pictures on these cards. Those apartment towers seen through the stands.... I dunno, it's just a cool view. And the Cubs' uni of that era is pretty sweet as well. Love that cap with the piping.  What a great baseball card!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

#557 Ken Boyer The Sporting News All Star

A second look at Ken Boyer in the Topps '59 set. His regular card, a pink framed beauty, featured a Polo Grounds shot. So does this one. And maybe it's the angle but I think he looks so much like his brother Clete in this shot. More so that usual.

Ken Boyer was a seven time All Star. He played in 10 games total and hit .348 with two dingers. He went 0-fer-2 as the starting third baseman in the second of the two 1959 All Star games. As a pinch hitter in the first one he singled off Whitey Ford in the bottom of the eighth and scored the tying run on Hank Aaron's hit. The NL won 5-4.

Monday, May 6, 2013

#221 Bob Bowman

After signing with the Phils in 1950 Bob Bowman used a strong arm and pretty good power to propel his way to the majors in 1955. A brief look that season was followed by another minor league trial and taste of the bigs in 1956.

He made the Phillies as a semi-regular outfielder the next season and hit .266 while finishing second in the NL in outfield assists in 1958. He struggled at the plate again in '59 and the Phils experimented with him as a relief pitcher late that year, getting him into five games. He lost his only decision in a 13 inning game on an unearned run. He'd entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the 12th, drawing a walk.

That game was his last big league appearance of any kind. He finished up his career with a couple of minor league seasons including a handful of games on the mound. The Northern California native worked for a beer distributor after his baseball days.

That's a Connie Mack Stadium shot on this card. Topps' photographers made it that far into the boonies I guess.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

#118 John Buzhardt The Sporting News Rookie Star

From what I can tell John Buzhardt's last name is pronounced "buz-ART', not "BUZZ-heart". So, 50 years later, I stand corrected. Whatever.

Anyway as you can see Buzhardt was a Cub prospect in 1959 and with good reason. And climbing through the team's farm system since he was signed in 1954, he had had a nice start to his career in '58. He had gone 3-0 with a 1.85 ERA in six September games including two impressive wins over the Dodgers to finish the month.

He returned to earth in '59 while taking his lumps as a starter and reliever and was dealt off to the Phils for 1960. Two rocky season in Philly led to a trade to the White Sox. Back in Chicago Buzhardt saw the best results of his career in 1964 and '65 when he went a combined 23-16 with very nice overall numbers.

Another decline in 1966 put him on the 'expendable' list and he played for three clubs in 1967, the Sox, Orioles and Astros.  He pitched in seven games for the Birds, poorly for sure, but I have no recollection of him with my club. And I was living in Houston during his time here (which stretched into 1968) even though I followed the 'Stros fairly closely.

In 1961 the Phillies suffered an NL record 23 game losing streak. Buzhardt had the honor(?) of winning the games at both ends of that streak. As a footnote to that footnote, he lost three games during the streak. This page recalls the game that ended the streak.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

#236 Ted Bowsfield

Ted Bowsfield is another guy who has a lot more interesting story than you'd think at first glance, mostly because he comes across as such a neat guy and one who truly enjoyed and appreciated his time in the big leagues.

He attracted scouts when he mowed down a visiting team of Cuban All Stars in an exhibition game at the age of 17. The native of British Columbia, Canada was signed by the Red Sox in 1954 and worked his way up through the organisation, debuting in relief in a game on July 20, 1958. That game was significant because the opposing pitcher, the Tigers' Jim Bunning threw a no-hitter at the Sox in Fenway. He went on to post a 4-2 record that rookie season with three of those wins coming against the Yankees. All that caused Casey Stengel to refer to Bowsfield as "the feller who throws them ground balls!".

Despite that early success he spent most of 1959 in the minors and was traded to the Indians during the 1960 season. He was drafted, returned and re-drafted (don't ask) by the Los Angeles Angels following that season and spent '61-'62 with the expansion club. He went 20-16 with the newest AL club including a career high 11 in 1961.

He was traded to Kansas City and pitched for the A's for two seasons before retiring after some minor league work in '65. His career record was 37-39 while pitching for a series of pretty weak clubs. He went on to hold front office jobs with a couple of big league teams.

Tom Owens has a nice interview with Bowsfield on his Baseball by the Letters blog. And Bowsfield is a member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and his page there has more details. And a Canadian baseball-centric blog post by Kevin Glew is a good read as well.

Hey, Bowsfield posed at Yankee Stadium for Topps. I'd like to think it was before one of the games he won over them.