Saturday, June 29, 2013

#538 Chick King

Sometimes I come away from doing research on a player in this set and I find myself wishing I had had the chance to know him. Charles Gilbert 'Chick' King is one of those players.

The pride of Paris, Tennessee the outfielder never had an extended stay in the majors. King never spent more than a short stint in the big leagues in any of the five seasons in which he saw action. 12 games and 31 at bats were his limits as he made his way through the Tigers, Cubs and Cardinals. He had 85 at bats total and only one extra base hit, but don't dismiss him based on that.

First, you need to read some of the lovingly written first person accounts by young men who learned their baseball and much more from Chick King when he coached in his hometown after his playing days. Then read a great pair of articles that include interviews with him and his wife and stories about his minor league experiences, his upbringing, life after pro baseball...oh, and his meeting Fidel Castro.

Chick King died in 2012. His obits fill in some details about his life and add to his legacy.

Some other things about King of note....he was a standout prep football player and was recruited by Georgia but ruled ineligible when it was found that Georgia and used 'illegal inducements' in the recruiting process. King ended up at Memphis..... King played 11 minor league seasons in at least that many different cities all over the map. He had a career .280 average in over 1400 games.

I haven't posted a high number card in a while. Topps had gone to the black ink for the text and stats by the time they were printing these, probably because they were cranking out their football set using black inked backs at about this time as well. King's card has the 'Traded to..' line on the back. It is not a variation as some of them with the 'Optioned to' line have been.

Here is King's only other card, a 1955 Bowman.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

#127 Kent Hadley The Sporting News Rookie Stars

You just never know what you'll find when you follow one of these cards down the rabbit hole. This Kent Hadley rookie is a good example. I figured this would be a straightforward, simple post. Young, power-hitting first baseman comes from Idaho, drafted by the Tigers out of college, traded to the A's, a few years in the minors lead to a taste of the big leagues. He plays a season as a regular before he. like every other Kansas City Athletic in the 50's, gets dealt to the Yanks. He plays a little in NY and then finishes in Japan. End of Story.

Not quite. As I've found, the best stuff doesn't always show up on the first page of a Google search. First there is Hadley's SABR bio which talks in detail about his relationship with legendary college coach Rod Dedeaux at USC. Also there you find stories of his impressive tryout performances which led to his signing by Detroit, Much more of course, SABR is a great resource.

But then I stumbled across a couple of blogs. One is written (as best I can tell) by Hadley's daughter, Lynn. It's not active now but the 27 posts that make up Kent Hadley Idaho Yankee, written in 2009, tell the story on Hadley's life before, during and after his career. Great stuff.

A second blog, written by an Idaho native and journalist, isn't specifically about Hadley but does have an entry about him. What made this special is that it led me to the author's Flickr site dedicated to Hadley. It contains many pics and documents about the ballplayer. Tons of great things to see there including pictures of Hadley and his buddy Roger Maris, who he played alongside in both KC and New York (the two were included in the same trade to the Yanks in 1960).

So now I have a whole new perspective on a guy I'd vaguely heard of from his time with the Yanks. And I discovered his 1960 Topps. It's pink and I love pink cards. I'm adding it to my list of 'wants'. It's much cooler than the '59 rookie.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

#394 Randy Jackson

Randy Jackson does his best in this shot to live up to his nickname of 'Handsom Ransom'. Yes, his given name is Ransom. I checked into that at Baseball Reference to see if Randy here is the only 'Ransom' to have a record in the game. Turns out that Bob Rush, longtime NL pitcher, has Ransom as his middle name and has a card in this '59 set. We'll see that one of these days. BTW, I've also seen Jackson's nickname spelled as 'Handsome'.

But the name is shared by four minor leaguers including two I felt compelled to mention, Ransom(e) Crisp and Ransom Pringle. Mr. Pringle played for the Celoron Acme Colored Giants based in Jamestown, New York in the Iron and Oil League way back in 1898. The IOL was around in a couple of different forms back in the 1890's. Honus Wagner and his brother Butts Wagner both played in it. The Celeron club was the only black team. How cool is all that!?!?

But back to Handsom Ransom. He's a native of Arkansas who attended the University of Arkansas, transferred to TCU and then to the University of Texas. I wonder if he left behind a string of broken hearts given how damn 'handsom' he was. He played football and baseball in college and led both the Longhorns and Horned Frogs to Cotton Bowls as a halfback.

Jackson was signed by the Cubs in 1947 and spent three seasons in the minors. But he got a chance to taste the majors with a 34 game trial in 1950. In '51 he took over the regular 3rd base job for Chicago and held it for five years. Over that period he batted .265 and made the NL All Star squad in both '54 and '55, getting an RBI single in the later of those two appearances.

He was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers and played on their World Series club in '56 after sharing the hot corner spot with Jackie Robinson. That was his last year as a regular as he suffered knee injury in 1957. He spent the next three seasons shuttling between the Dodgers, Indians and Cubs (again).  For some reason his retirement announcement was noted in the Victoria (Tx) Advocate in 1959. I guess he was still a name in Texas based on his football days. Check out the story to the right of the Jackson blurb. Seems Dodger coach Charlie Dressen was fined $300 for 'acting up' during the '59 Series.

There is an interview with Jackson and more insights into his career on this webpage. I'll let Wikipedia supply some Randy Jackson tidbits, cuz I'm getting tired of typing:

  • 28 September 1957: Hit the final home run in Brooklyn Dodgers history before the team moved to Los Angeles for the 1958 season in a 8-4 victory over the Phillies.
  • Another unusual game occurred on June 29, 1956, he was playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers against the Philadelphia Phillies, who were leading 5-2 going into the bottom of the ninth inning. Pee Wee Reece(sic) was on second base when Duke Snider preceded Jackson with a home run which brought the game to 5-4. Jackson then hit a homerun to tie the game, and on the next pitch Gil Hodges hit another home run to win the game for the Dodgers. This was the only time in Major League history that a baseball game ended with three consecutive home runs.
  • 17 April 1954: With the wind at his back, he had four hits, including a home run that hit an apartment building on Waveland Avenue, across from Wrigley Field, in a NL record three-hour and 43-minute game against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cubs won the game 23–13, the highest scoring game ever between these two rivals, and the two teams combine for 35 hits, including five homers and a 10-run Chicago 5th inning. Jim Brosnan is the winning pitcher over Gerry Staley.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

#490 Frank Thomas

Frank Thomas has appeared here previously on a 'special' multi-player card. And I ragged on that card a lot. Time to give 'The Original One' his due.

Thomas was signed in 1947 by the Pirates. He got a taste of the big leagues in 1951 when he was called up in mid-August and played as a regular through the end of the year. Did do badly either. But he spent most of the '52 season in the minors before getting a starting job with the Bucs in their outfield in 1953. He hit 30 homers and drove in 102 runs and got some MVP votes but not a peep in the ROY balloting. I'm guessing he was ineligible because of his '51 experience. It should be noted that the '52 Pirates went 42-112 so that fact that Thomas wasn't up for much of that season was probably a blessing.

The Original Thomas had what could be called an 'interesting' career. First there is his nickname, 'The Big Donkey'. Yes, the miracle of Google has informed me that Adam Dunn also has that name so I suppose that Thomas could claim to be the 'The Original Big Donkey'. But anyway Thomas played on seven different national League clubs during his 16 year career. He must have kept a bag ready because his transaction log resembles MapQuest directions from Alaska to Tanzania.

Other high and low lights:

-He was traded by the Phillies to Houston in 1965 for starting a fight with teammate Dick Allen on the field. Now considering that Thomas supposedly earned his nickname because of his lousy people skills a fight with the charisma impaired Dick Allen was probably a hot wager in the Phillie clubhouse.

-He played on the Original (snort) New York Mets in 1962, another team considered among the worst of all time.

-Bill James's win shares (of which I am clueless), sez he was the worst fielding third baseman ever among those among the top 300 in innings played at third.

-In 1958 he made his third NL All Star squad and had his best season. That year he hit 35 homers with 109 RBI to go with a .281 average.

-As the first baseman for the Pirates e made the last putout at the Polo Grounds when it was the home of the New York Giants on September 29th of 1957.

He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in July of 1958. If you open that issue there is a feature story on him with pics of his family. (Also an unrelated swimsuit pic of an attractive French model appears in the letters section. SI hasn't changed all that much I guess). 

You know, for a guy who was supposedly not the most friendly, he has a lot of 'smiley' shots.

Friday, June 21, 2013

#285 Joe Cunningham

Welcome to "Joe Week" here at '59 Topps.

It's another 'Regular Joe', that's three in a row!

Joe Cunningham came from Lodi, New Jersey. That's my neck of the woods, just a few towns over from where I lived as a kid. The Cardinals signed Cunningham in 1949 as a firstbaseman and he worked his way up through the minors taking a couple of years to serve in the military.

He broke in with a bang in June of 1954 with a homer off Art Fowler in his first game. He backed that up with two homers off Hall of Famer Warren Spahn the very next day. He finished out that season with a .284 average and 11 homers to go with 50 RBI. But the next year the Cardinals moved Stan Musial to first and Cunningham found himself back in the minors for a couple of seasons.

He returned to the Cards in 1957 with a role that gave him near full time status as he filled in for Musial at first when he wasn't sharing the corner outfield spots with St. Louis regulars. He hit over .300 both seasons. Handed the right field job for 1959 Cunningham had his best season to date with a .345 average and tying for the league lead in OBP. He made his only All Star squad that year and got a pinch hit opportunity in the second of the two games.

Two more years with St. Louis preceded a trade to the White Sox for Minnie Minoso after the '61 season. He hit well for the Sox that year but a broken collarbone in '62 slowed his career. He finished up with a stint with the Senators before he retired.

After coaching and managing in the Cardinal system he took on a roll in the Cards' front office which he was still involved in. You can read a nice series of 'interviews' with Cunningham here. In it he discusses his current duties and reflects on his career in the game. Seems like a really great guy. He looks like one on his card as well. That's the Polo Grounds in the shot.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

#64 Joe DeMaestri

Welcome to "Joe Week" here at '59 Topps.

A California kid, Joe DeMaestri signed with the Boston Red Sox in 1946. He spent several years in their system, was drafted away by the White Sox and debuted with them in 1951. He was traded to the Browns for 1952 and then back to the White Sox who, in that same off-season, shipped him to the Philadelphia A's in time for the 1953 season.

It was in Philadelphia that DeMaestri earned a starting shortstop job and he held it for seven seasons. If you look at his numbers over his tenure with the A's you see a pretty consistent if not very spectacular run. He always seemed to hit around .245, knock out 6 to 8 homers and drive in 30 to 40 runs.

His hitting numbers were not what kept him in the lineup though. DeMaestri was among the top fielding shortstops of the 50s, usually finishing at or near the top of several defensive categories. He made the AL All Star team in 1957 but didn't play in the game.

In December of 1959 he was dealt to the Yankees (let's all act surprised) along with Roger Maris and Kent Hadley for Hank Bauer, Don Larsen, Norm Siebern and Marv Throneberry. As part of the Yanks in 1960 and '61 he played on a couple of pennant winners. He played in the 1960 Series but not in the '61 Series. He may not have been included on the Series roster for the Yanks that year. No way to know if he received a ring but he likely got a share of the winner's money as he had been with the Yanks all season.

If you scroll down to the bottom of this Sports Illustrated article from the Baseball Preview issue of 1961 you'll find a story about the 'pebble grounder' that hit Yankee shortstop Tony Kubek in the throat in Game Seven of the 1960 Series. Apparently DeMaestri was going to enter the game as part of a defensive switch for Kubek prior to the inning. Casey Stengel had a change of heart and DeMaestri remained on the bench and saw Bill Virdon's grounder to short play a key role in the Series outcome.

DeMaestri owned a beer distributorship for many years after he retired following the 1961 season.

Monday, June 17, 2013

#141 Joe Shipley, The Sporting News Rookie Stars

Welcome to "Joe Week" here at '59 Topps.

Well if Joe Shipley's former teammate Felipe Alou is to be believed:
....Giants manager Felipe Alou said Giants pitcher Joe Shipley once heaved a fastball that went over the screen at Seals Stadium and clobbered a fan. "I heard he was ordered to hit somebody," says Alou. Mission accomplished. (Legend has it that as a minor-leaguer Shipley hit a batter who was in the on-deck circle.)
In 1953 Tennessee native Shipley was acquired by the New York Giants from Vidalia, an independent pro team in the Georgia State League. Shipley had gone 1-9 with a 6.99 ERA and had issued over eight walks per nine innings with the two clubs he pitched for that first season as a pro. But the Giants must have seen potential.

He fought his way up the Giants' minor league ladder while showing some promise mixed in with bouts of wildness. He made one appearance with the now San Francisco Giants in July of 1958 and took a pounding. In 1959 he pitched with the big club into June making ten trips to the hill including one start. He had no decisions but the Giants lost every one of those games. That's a pretty weird stat. 

He made 15 relief appearances with the 1960 Giants, again with no decisions while the Giants went 1-14 in those games. I'm not Dick Tracy but I'm seeing a pattern here. Shipley was released prior to the 1962 season and moved through a couple of organizations before he got one final shot from the White Sox. In three games in July of 1963 he pitched a total of 4.2 innings, gave up 9 hits, seven runs and six walks. He took a loss and that was his only career decision.

The card back blurb notes that if Shipley can ..."control his wildness and cut the corners he'll be a fine major leaguer." 

Shipley pitched in the minors for a few more years and then went on to coach baseball at East Tennessee State from 1966 to 1975. His best record there came in 1972 when his club went 12-7. That's Joe in uniform at ETSU below. And below that is his 1960 Topps cards. Two cards for a guy with one decision in his career. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

#55 Tom Brewer

Eight seasons, 91 wins, an All Star Game appearance and his face on a Sports Illustrated cover. Righthander Tom Brewer did pretty well for himself in his big league career. The Red Sox signed him out of Elon University in 1951 and assigned him to their Class D club in High Point, North Carolina where he proceeded to win 19 of 22 decisions.

He spent the next two years in the military (where, according to his mother, he became know as 'Tom' rather than 'Austin' as he was called in his hometown) and when he returned he grabbed a spot in the Sox' rotation and kept it through 1960. He won in double digits every one of those seasons as a starter and had his best year in 1956 when he went 19-9 with an ERA of 3.50 with four shutouts and 15 complete games. That was his All Star year, too. Yes, he gave up three runs in two innings to the National League but he did strike out Duke Snider.

Brewer's numbers fell off in 1961 and he pitched in only two games after June 5 of that year, possible due to an injury.

Tom Brewer facts and stuff: He earned some nice words in the Sports Illustrated issue that included his face (that's him on the bottom row, second from the right). This link will take you to the issue and you can scroll over a few pages for the All Star Game preview article.

Brewer is currently a volunteer pitching coach at his old high school in Cheraw, NC and has had the baseball field there named in his honor.

Another routine Yankee Stadium shot with Brewer gazing towards the Yankees' dugout on the first base side. He went 1-4 in the previous two seasons in the Bronx. Maybe he psyched himself out with that stare.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

#104 Del Rice

Whoa. Catcher Del Rice had his first professional at bat in 1941 with the Williamson Red Birds, a Cardinals farm club in Williamson, West Virginia. He had his last professional at bat with the El Paso Sun Kings, an Angels farm club in El Paso, Texas in 1970. That's right, 1970. For the math impaired that's a span of 29 seasons. In fact, Ol' Del had two hits in three trips in 1970. At the age of 47.

In between Del Rice played 17 major league seasons, mostly with the Cardinals and Braves. He debuted with the Cards in 1945 and after a couple of seasons as a reserve his career gained traction and he was the Cards' primary catcher from the late 40's through the 1953 season. He got a World Series ring with the Cards in 1946, a Series that saw him go three for six with a double in three games.

He was never a big hitter but he had some decent batting averages and smacked the occasional long ball. Where he excelled was as a defensive player and as a handler of pitchers. He made the NL All Star team in 1953, a year after leading the league's catchers in putouts and assists. Traded to the Braves in 1955 Rice backed up All Star Del Crandall and served as Bob Buhl's 'designated catcher'.

By the end of the decade he had picked up his second World Series ring with the 1957 Braves club and then in 1960 and '61 he saw action with the Cubs, Cards (again), Orioles and Angels before leaving the field and entering the coaching/managing ranks. It was as a minor league manager that Rice got those last few at bats. He managed the 1972 Angels to a fifth place finish in 1972, his only year as a big league skipper.

He later was a scout for the Giants and was serving in that job when he passed away in 1983 at the age of 60. Rice had been an outstanding two-sport athlete and played pro basketball for the old NBL's Rochester Royals for several years while also playing for the Cardinals. There is a youth baseball league named for him in his native Ohio.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

#33 Ed Fitzgerald

Ed Fitz Gerald was rarely an everyday catcher and never an All Star during his 12 year career. But he certainly had his moments and he was able to put together a quite respectable .271 lifetime average and he gained a reputation as a reliable, strong-armed backstop.

He was signed by the Pirates out of St. Mary's of California in 1946 after serving in the Pacific during WWII. Fitz Gerald hit very well in two minor league seasons before he debuted in '48 with the Buccos. He returned to the minors for most of the 1950 season and was primarily a reserve and pinch-hitter in Pittsburgh until he was sold to the Senators early in the 1953 season.

As a Nat he had a nearly two year run as a starter and then spent 1955 in a platoon situation with Clint Courtney before losing that job in 1956. During his tenure as a starter he had his best season in 1954 when he hit .289 with 40 RBIs.

He remained with the Nats through May of 1959 being used as a pinch-hitter and second catcher. He finished his career with the Indians in '59. The Reds signed and then released him prior to opening day of 1960. In total he had played in over 800 games, hit a career .260 and had thrown out 40% of attempted base stealers.

Fitz Gerald caught Cliff Chambers' no-hitter in 1951. In June of 1958 he broke up Chicago White Sox pitcher Billy Pierce's bid for a perfect game by doubling with two out in the ninth. The ball landed just inches inside the first-base line. Pierce discusses his memories of that day in this blog post. Following his playing days he coached for several different big league teams and managed for a couple of seasons in the minors.

Definitely a Yankee Stadium picture used here. His last name is actually two words which I think is rather unusual. I hadn't noticed until I saw it that way on Baseball Reference and then I looked closer at his card and saw that Topps, which didn't seem all that devoted to such details back then, separated 'fitz' and 'gerald' on the card front. Ed's signature properly reflects the two words as well.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

#29 Jim Bolger

Another in a spate of recent 'hometown' signees, outfielder Jim Bolger was a native of Cincinnati and was signed by the Reds in 1950. Despite being only 18 at the time he saw a bit of action with them that year. He got a couple more looks sandwiched around some impressive minor league seasons but was dealt to the Cubs for 1955 but hit only .207 in 173 at bats.

Another minor league season passed and then in 1957 Bolger enjoyed his best days in the majors. He led the NL pinch hitters with 17 hits and a .354 average. He hit .275 overall for the year. In 1958 he numbers dropped off and he was dealt off to the Indians and then to the Phils getting little action in either place. He spent 3 years in the minors and hit well but never got another shot at the big leagues. He retired to go into private business and still lives in Cincinnati.

Bolger touches on his pinch hitting philosophy and the burden of being a ballplayer wearing glasses in a post on Tom Owens' blog.

My copy is off center but is otherwise in EX shape and I like the green frame. I believe the photo was shot in the Coliseum in LA but I wouldn't put money on it. Might be Seals Stadium.

Friday, June 7, 2013

#98 Arnie Portocarrero

Righty pitcher Arnie Portocarrero was a New York city kid born of Puerto Rican-American descent who signed with the Philadelphia A's in 1949 at the age of 18. Following the pattern we've seen many times here he played a bit in the minors before serving in the military during the Korean War.

When he returned in 1954 he went straight to the majors and claimed a spot in the A's rotation. Making 32 starts Portocarrero went 9-18 with a 4.06 ERA. His hits per inning ratio was good, as was his strike out totals but wildness kept him from having more success. He led the AL with 9 wild pitches.

The following season, with the A's now in KC, saw him get fewer starts but similar results and in 1956 he spent almost the whole season in Birmingham, a Yankee affiliate. I can't find a transaction that sent him to the Yanks, and given the chummy relationship the A's and Yanks had in those days it may well have been a case of a player 'loan'.

He was back in KC in 1957 and didn't see much mound time and was traded to the Orioles prior to 1958. He blossomed there in Baltimore under Paul Richards, at least for one year. On a lousy club he somehow won 15 games and lost only 11 with an ERA of 3.25, easily his best year. He then spent the '59 and '60 seasons trying without success to replicate his banner 1958 campaign. In 1960 he split his pitching between the Orioles and their farm club. He was out of the game by early in the 1961 season.

His obit states that he was involved in amateur baseball in the Kansas City area after his retirement. He died in 1986 at the young age of 54. I came across this article online dated last winter that chronicles an adopted young man's search for his birth parents. It turns out that his father was Arnie Portocarrero.

On this card Arnie is in Yankee Stadium in his home town. I hope his family got to see him pitch there. He got into one game in the Bronx in 1958, the fifth game of the season with a relief appearance. He didn't fair well but his year sure turned out well.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

#277 Turk Lown

Turk Lown has to be the 20th White Sox pitcher with a red framed card and a shot taken at Yankee Stadium with the 3rd base side grandstands in the background. OK, maybe not the 20th. But there have been several and they tend to run together and when you add in the nearly identical Detroit Tigers' pitchers' cards.... well, I am getting deja vu all over again.

Anyway, Turk Lown (real name Omar Joseph Lown) came out of Brooklyn and was signed by his home borough Dodgers in 1942. After a year in the minors he spent three years in the military and then returned to pitch his way up through the Dodgers' system. He had some pretty good years along the way. But the Dodgers being the Dodgers Lown had a hard time squeezing himself into a big league role and in 1951 the Cubs rescued him via the old Rule 5 draft.

With the Cubbies through May of 1958 (he spent part of 1954 and all of 1955 in the minors) Lown evolved from a spot starter/reliever into a closer, or at least a game 'finisher'. In '56 he pitched 61 times and in '57 he led the NL in appearances with 67. He had 47 games 'finished' in both of those seasons and saved 25 which was a lot back then. He moved to the Reds and then the White Sox in 1958.

He and Jerry Staley formed a formidable one-two bullpen punch in 1959 for the pennant winning Sox and manager Al Lopez gave them much of the credit for that clubs' success. Lown led the way with a league high 15 saves. He appeared three times in the World Series that year and allowed two hits and no runs in 3.1 innings.

Lown slumped in 1960, rebounded with a good year in '61 and after a decent year in 1962 he left the game. He'd been released by the Sox and turned down an invite to the Reds' spring camp. He took a job with the postal service in Colorado and worked there for many years.

I love the S-O-X caps the White Sox wore in the late 50's. And the touch of red on the cap's lettering was duplicated in the stirrups. Those road unis are pretty sweet. So, maybe having all the Sox pitchers in the same type shot isn't so bad. My copy is a replacement and it's still one of the lesser quality cards in my set. It looks better in person but the scan brings out the surface marks.

Monday, June 3, 2013

#89 Billy Gardner

Billy Gardner began playing professional baseball when he signed with the New York Giants as an 18-year-old infielder in 1945. He banged around their chain and spent a year in the military before he finally debuted in 1954. In April of 1956 he was purchased by the Orioles and stepped into the role of starting second-baseman that year.

In 1957 Gardner blossomed and had the best season of his career, batting .262 while playing every game and leading the league in plate appearances and tying for the lead in doubles. He was voted as the Orioles' MVP and in what had become their first .500 season. While in Baltimore Gardner was known as an 'average Joe' who could be found after most home games enjoying steamed crabs at the popular Obrycki's. 

Gardner, who was known as 'Shotgun' for his powerful arm spent two more seasons as a regular in Baltimore and then was dealt to the Senators where he continued his regular 2nd base duties. Moving with the team to Minnesota, Gardner was lucky enough to be traded to the powerhouse Yankees in June of that year and as a result he picked up a World Series ring. He pinch hit for Luis Arroyo with two down in the bottom of the ninth in Game Two and lined out to short to end the Reds 6-2 win. But his days as an everyday player were over.

He was traded again, now to the Red Sox, in 1962 and played in Boston for one more season before turning his sights to coaching and managing on both the minor and major league levels. As a manager in the Boston organization he was even able to pick up a few at bats as late as 1971 meaning he had a playing career that spanned three American wars.

Gardner managed the Twins from 1981 though part of 1985 with his best season being a third place finish in the AL West and a .500 record. He took over for the ill Dick Howser with the Royals in 1986 but was replaced late in the year. His son, Billy Jr., continues to be a minor league manager.

The Baltimore Sun had a nice article/interview with Gardner in 2011. He currently lives in his home state of Connecticut and seems to be as 'scrappy' as ever..

It's a pretty ordinary card, yellow frame with a Yankee Stadium shot, but Gardner is an Oriole so that's a big plus.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

#216 Andre Rodgers

Andre Rodgers was the first Bahamian to play in the major leagues. The story goes that he was a talented cricket player and paid his way to a New York Giants' try out camp in 1954. Lacking polish and baseball experience Rodgers set about 'learning' the game as he played his way up the teams' chain. As a shortstop he had impressive minor league stats, especially for a guy who hadn't played any baseball prior to his signing. The Giants noticed and he debuted in 1957.

He got month+ 'looks' in '57 and '58 and made an impact in 1959 when he played in 71 games and hit 250 while sharing the shortstop job with Eddie Bressoud. After a 1960 season in which his progress seemed to stall he was traded to the Braves and then on to the Cubs on the eve of the 1961 season.

Another year of platooning gave way to a full time shortstop job with the Cubs in 1962 as he replaced Ernie Banks who was moved to first base. He had his best seasons in Chicago hitting .278 in '62 and 12 homers in 1964. He held that job for three seasons and was traded to Pittsburgh where his output and playing time dwindled. After spending 1968 back in AAA he played one partial season in Japan before retiring.

Rodgers, who passed away nine years ago in his hometown of Nassau, had two brothers who played minor league baseball. One was killed in a car wreck just as his career was starting.