Wednesday, July 31, 2013

#179 Don Rudolph

Lefty pitcher (and Baltimore native!!) Don Rudolph seems like an average guy. Pitched 17 seasons of professional baseball including a long stretch climbing through the White Sox system. Spent some time in the service. Had a spectacular sophomore minor league season when he went 28-8 in the Georgia State League in 1951.
Got in 6 big league seasons (all or parts of) with the White Sox, Reds, Indians and Senators. Was 18-32 for his big league career. He actually led the AL in fielding percentage at his position in 1963. He's the only White Sox player in the 1959 set to have a green framed card. Died at the age of 37 from injuries sustained in a truck accident.
And he has this intriguing cartoon on the back of his '59 topps:

He was married to a professional dancer. That's kind of unusual. Maybe we should look into this. Turns out he was married to one Miss Patti Waggin. And here is a publicity still of said dancer:

scroll down, please cover the eyes of any impressionable children.

Scroll some more.

Here's the happy couple.

And they are again. She really is quite attractive. Go back and look at the cartoon. It resembles her I think.

Ms. Waggin has a website. You can join her fan club (and Don Rudolph's as well it seems).

And just to prove that SABR covers every angle, below is their take on the courtship of Don and Patti.
One night in 1954, Rudolph made a fateful visit to a nightclub that soon changed his life. Performing that night was Patti Waggin, a popular burlesque dancer. Patti, whose real name was Patricia Artae Brownell, was born into a family of vaudeville performers. After dropping out from Chico State College in California, where she was known as the “Coed With the Educated Torso,” she performed burlesque numbers throughout the country. By the time she met Don, she was well-known in her field, appearing on a list of top 10 strippers in the country. Rudolph said that after sitting through three straight shows that night, it was “love at third sight.” However, when he tried to approach Patti after the last show, he was rebuffed. But Don was a persistent man and when he saw an advertisement for another performance in his hometown of Baltimore, he went to see her again. After another initial rebuff, he was able to charm Patti and buy her a soda. From there, their relationship blossomed and in 1955, they were married.
Who knew there was a list of "Top Ten strippers"? You just can't make this stuff up. There is a Patti Waggin Facebook page which, along with that 'fan' page revolves mostly around the author's penchant for shilling this book.

OK, this may get me suspended from Blogger, but here are a few more pics of the lovely Ms. Waggin.

After this point, you're on your own.

LATE EDIT.....looks like I have lost two 'followers' today. I was at 56 yesterday. Seems Patti Waggin is still casting her spell.

Monday, July 29, 2013

#142 Dick Stigman The Sporting News Rookie Stars

I can usually count on the Baseball Reference 'Bullpen' page for some tidbits about a player I'm posting. Apparently the guy who did Dick Stigman's page was in a hurry. Here it is in it's entirety:

In 1965-66, Stigman became the first pitcher ever to make ten consecutive starts without a decision. This is still a record, although it has been tied by Randy Lerch and John D'Acquisto, both in 1977.

OK, so I turn to the ever trusty SABR bio project and sure enough I learn that:

1) Dick Stigman was signed out of Minnesota by the Cleveland Indians' Cy Slapnicka, the same scout who signed Bob Feller, Bob Lemon and Herb Score. 

2) Stigman was picked for the All Star team by White Sox manager Al Lopez but sat out both of the games played that year.

3) He was a member of the 1965 Twins that made the World Series but didn't get into a game.

4) On May 26, 1959 while pitching for San Diego, the AA affiliate of the Indians he pitched 10 and two third innings of no hit baseball. Unfortunately he chose to shine the same night Harvey Haddix pitched his incredible 'Almost' Perfect Game. Stigman's feat got buried on the back pages.

SABR never disappoints.

Stigman pitched six years in the minors before his 1960 debut. He went 5-11 that year which makes one wonder why Lopez tabbed him for the All Star team. It was not a case of needing a Cleveland rep since Vic Power was on the squad. Looking at his 1960 game logs shows that Stigman was 4-4 when the squad was likely chosen but he had a decent ERA. It also shows he walked 10 batters(!) the day before the July 11 All Star Game for the Indians against Al Lopez' White Sox(!!). But the AS game was being played in Cleveland so I can see Lopez asking him to "come back tomorrow, kid. You can't possible do worse than you did today."

Stigman pitched one more year for the Indians and was traded to the Twins where he blossomed. He went from 2-5 in 1961 to 12-5 as a swing man with the Twins in '62. He was 12-12 in 1963 as a starter and then was moved back to the bullpen.

He was traded to the Red Sox for the 1966 season, lasted one year and was traded again, this time to the Reds. He spent the '67 year pitching in the Reds' chain and then retired.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

#480 Red Schoendienst

Now that's a baseball card, right? Love the Braves' road flannels, the "M" cap and the seafoam green frame. But I think Hall of Fame member, 'baseball lifer' and revered Cardinal 'ambassador' Red Schoendienst deserves a nice card. He's been involved in the professional game since 1942! At the age of 90 he is still in uniform during Spring Training during the season is still serving as a special assistant in the St. Louis front office.

Albert 'Red' Schoendienst was signed by the Cards in '42 and he spent 2+ years in the minors including a 1943 season that saw him hit .345 and win the Piedmont League's MVP. He joined the Army late in 1943 but received a medical discharge due to an eye injury and he returned to baseball during the 1944 season. That injury hampered his hitting while batting right handed against righty pitchers so he taught himself to become a switch hitter.

He made the Cards as their starting second baseman in 1945 and promptly led the NL in stolen bases. The next season he made the first of his 10 All Star teams. He led the league in doubles in 1950 and his batting averages improved as he played with a high of .342 in 1952. He won the first of his World Series rings with the Cards in 1946.

He spent eleven full seasons as the Cardinals infield anchor but was traded to the Giants in June of 1956. Almost a year to the day later he was traded to the Braves. Not often that the league base hit leader is a guy who was traded in mid year. He won his second ring that year as the Braves beat the Yankees.

1958 was his last year as a regular and he was signed by the Cards for the 1961 season. He played part time in St. Louis for a couple of seasons before becoming a coach. When Johnny Keane quit following the Cards' 1964 Series win Red took over (a deal with Leo Durocher apparently fell through) and remained the Cardinal skipper for 12 years. He also served two stints as an interim manager when asked by the Cards. His overall winning percentage as a manager was .522 and he won a World Series in 1967.

Quite a baseball resume for the guy. In fact Wikipedia passes along this bit of Red Schoendienst wisdom:

Schoendienst was a member of five winning World Series teams, all of which won in seven games: as a player with the Cardinals and Braves in 1946 and 1957 respectively; as the Cardinals manager in 1967; and as a Cardinals coach in 1964 and 1982. He was also a member of three teams that lost the Series after leading three games to one: the 1958 Milwaukee Braves (to the Yankees), the 1968 Cardinals (to the Detroit Tigers), and the 1985 Cardinals (to the Kansas City Royals).
As noted Red Schoendiest is still involved with his club after celebrating his 90th birthday. We should all be so lucky. I know he was working with the team during the regular season as late as three seasons ago. We saw him on the field, in uniform before a Cardinal-Astro game at Minute Maid Park.

One final set of quotes courtesy of Wikipedia:

  • "The greatest pair of hands I've ever seen." – teammate Stan Musial
  • "He was just a tremendous ballplayer. He and I dressed side-by-side and I'll never forget how much he taught me about the game. He was a terrific leader." – teammate Hank Aaron

Thursday, July 25, 2013

#415 Bill Mazeroski

Hall of Famer and Ohio native Bill Mazeroski was about 21 when this picture was taken. He looks about 16. He was a few years away from his great moment in the sun....the famous World Series winning homer off Ralph Terry to win the 1960 World Series for the Pirates.

Maz is a Hall of Famer having been elected 12 years ago by the Veterans' Committee. There was talk at the time that he wasn't deserving due to his batting numbers. But for me there needs to be some recognition of the part that defense plays in the game. And besides, if Pop Haines can be in the Hall, Maz should be there as well. Hell, if Pop Haines can be in the Hall so should Mike Cuellar, Dennis Martinez, Virgil Trucks and about 150 other pitchers I can name off the top of my head. But I digress.

Maz was signed by the Pirates in 1954 and debuted with the Bucs in 1956. A year later he took over a 2nd base job that he held for 12 seasons. He was a seven time All Star and won seven Gold Gloves. While never know for his stick it's not like he was an automatic out. He had a .260 career average which is pretty respectable given the era he played in. And he hit 138 homers, six times totalling in double digits. His postseason batting average of .323 is something to be proud of as well. This is Maz' second appearance here, his All Star card in this set was posted almost a year ago.

Maz has two World Series rings. Although he was close to the end of his career and was no longer an everyday player he did help the '71 Bucs to a title.

Interesting article posted here that compares the careers of Maz and another fine fielding second baseman, the Royals' Frank White. The author makes the case that Maz and White had similar careers but Maz made the Hall based on his WS homer.

Sports Illustrated looked back at the 1960 World series with a 40 year anniversary story in 2000. I have not read it all but it looks interesting.

Hard to imagine anyone not having seen this before but here is the late, great Chuck Thompson's call of the Maz homer.

Here is a 10 minute newsreel report of the final game of the Series.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

#569 Bob Friend The Sporting News All Star

Poor miscut, badly scanned Bob Friend. Seems his '59 All Star card can't catch a break. This is his third and final appearance in this set. He had his regular card featured here in 2011 and then he showed up on a special multi-player card, Buc Hill Aces, with Ron Kline, Vern Law and Roy Face last year.

Friend made the NL All Star team in 1956, '58 and '60. He started in 1956 and 1960 (first of two games) and got the win both times. He didn't allow a run in either of those games going three inning both times. In 1958 he came out of the bullpen and went 2 1/3, allowed four hits and two walks taking the loss.

I hadn't realized that he started the fateful ninth inning in Game 7 of the 1960 Series. He came in with a shot to close it out but quickly allowed two hits before he was replaced by Harvey Haddix. Haddix allowed those runners to score and the Yanks to tie the game at 9-9. We all know what happened in the bottom of that inning. The card of the central figure in that dramatic game is queued to post in a few days.

As is the case with most of the Pirates photographed around this time, Friend is shown wearing a batting helmet. The batting helmet was designed by Charlie Muse, an executive of Branch Rickey's company and Rickey, at the time the Pirates' president, decided that all his players would wear one both at bat and in the field.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

#453 Les Moss

This is one of my favorite cards in the '59 set. First of all Ohio native Les Moss was an original Baltimore Oriole having come over with the club from St. Louis for the '54 season. He's wearing a uniform I favor, the simple White Sox road gray of the mid/late 50s with the sleeve number. And finally he is posing in the classic catchers' pose, the 'baseball card squat' and has the facade, lights and flags of the original Yankee Stadium displayed behind him.

Moss' professional baseball career was long and varied. He spent all or parts of 13 big league seasons with four AL clubs beginning with the Browns in 1946 and ending with the White Sox in 1958. Never an everyday catcher, Moss has six or so years in which he carried about half the load behind the plate. While never an All Star or dangerous hitter, Moss did have some seasons with double digit homers and respectable batting averages. His primary skill, however, was as a defensive standout and he was known as an exceptional handler of pitchers.

By the time this card was issued Moss was no longer a major leaguer. In fact he had had only two at bats in 1958 despite having been on the White Sox roster all that year. He served as the teams' bullpen and third catcher for the season and got into only two games. In 1959 and 1960 he was transitioning from active player to the coaching and scouting jobs by working in the Sox organization at the major league and AAA level and occasionally playing for the Sox' San Diego farm club.

From that point forward Moss held scouting, coaching and managerial jobs until he finally left the game in 1995. He managed in the majors with the White Sox on two occasions in the late 60s as interim skipper and he took the reigns of the Tigers in 1979. Just when it appeared that Moss, called a 'faithful soldier' by some, was going to get a long deserved shot at a full time managerial gig, Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson came available and the Tigers jumped. Just 53 games into that '79 season, and with Moss directing his club to a one game over .500 record, Detroit, not wanting Anderson to take another available job, kicked Moss to the curb and signed the former Reds' manager.

Moss bounced back by taking a job in the Cubs' organization as a pitching coach/instructor and then in 1982 he joined the Astros as pitching coach and outlasted several managers in Houston. He was very well thought of and respected by the Houston press and the fans. He moved on to the Giants' organization and served as pitching coordinator before finally retiring in 1995.

A long and distinguished career leads to a lot of kudos and Moss, who died in 2012, has a rather interesting SABR bio. It's recommended reading.

Here is Les Moss' '54 Bowman. Part of my Orioles collection.

And here is the 1979 Topps Tigers Team card featuring Les Moss.

Friday, July 19, 2013

#488 Walt Moryn

Outfielder Walt 'Moose' Moryn served a six and a half season apprenticeship in the Brooklyn Dodgers' chain before getting his shot with the Bums in June of 1954. Called up to serve as a left handed hitter off the bench, Moryn got a chance to play every day when Duke Snider got hurt. He took advantage of the chance and went 9 for 14 in his first three games.

Snider returned soon but Moryn remained with the Dodgers, mostly  as a pinch hitter, the rest of the season. He hit .275 for the year but found himself back in the minors for most '55. Such was the life of a guy stuck in the extremely well stocked Brooklyn chain. He was traded to the Cubs after the year and got a chance in Chicago to play every day.

He took over a regular outfield slot in Wrigley and stayed in front of the ivy covered walls until June of 1960. During his time with the Cubs he hit a respectable .272 and slugged 84 homers. He had career highs in batting average (.289) and RBI (88) in 1957. He made his only All Star team in 1958 although he did not get into the game.

Moryn's shining moment on the North Side came when he made an outstanding shoestring catch of a sinking line drive robbing Joe Cunningham of a two out hit in the ninth inning to save Don Cardwell's no-hitter against the Cardinals on May 15, 1960. The Cards must have been impressed with that effort as they obtained Moryn in a trade with the Cubs in June of that year.

He didn't hit much for the Cards and exactly a year after trading for him, the Cards traded Moryn to the Pirates where he spent the second half of his final season. After baseball Moryn worked in his family's retail business before he opened a bar in Cicero, Illinois. 

Moryn's (very long) SABR page tells of his days as one of 700 Dodger hopefuls in his early spring trainings and also gives evidence of how well thought of he was by his teammates. Here is a small excerpt:
Among those who remembered Moose was Cardwell, whose no-hitter was nearly overshadowed by the drama of the game-saving catch. “He made me famous,” Cardwell told Jerome Holtzman for an obituary in the Chicago Tribune. “After I threw the pitch, I was leaning down with him and saying, ‘C’mon, Moose, make the catch.’“He was a good man, a ballplayer’s ballplayer. After the game I told him, ‘Moose, I owe you a beer.’ And he said ‘I’ll take you up on it.’ He enjoyed life. And he enjoyed people. He always drew the biggest crowd.”Another Cubs teammate was fellow St. Paul native Jerry Kindall, who was just 21 when he first arrived in Chicago fresh from the University of Minnesota. Kindall told Holtzman about his first encounter with the Moose. “I walked into the clubhouse and there was Walt,” Kindall said. “He was wonderful to me. He shepherded me around. He gave the appearance of a very gruff guy, but if you were a teammate, you saw through that in a hurry. He was really a tender-hearted guy.”
Late edits... I forgot to mention that Moryn already appeared on a special multi-player card in this set and I fixed my mis-spelling of Duke Snider's name. I've fired my editor so maybe Night Owl will forgive that egregious error. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

#63 Jim Hearn

In 1959 pitcher Jim Hearn was at the end of his baseball trail. He pitched in 6 games, didn't win any and was released by the Phillies in May, a few months after this Series One card was released. But he'd had a pretty nice career previously, winning 108 games with a solid 3.81 ERA and getting himself a World Series ring with the 1954 Giants.

In 1942 the Cards signed Hearn, a native of Atlanta, out of Georgia Tech and he had a good season of Class B baseball before he was off to the military for three years during WWII.

When he returned in '46 he got in another year in the minors and debuted with the Cardinals in 1947. He went 12-7 that season, slid just a bit in '48, split the '49 campaign between the Cards and the minors and found himself waived to the Giants in July 1950.

He returned to his rookie form with the Giants, went 11-3 the rest of that '50 season, pitched five shutouts and won the NL ERA crown. Not a bad year for a guy who was essentially a late inning mop-up man for the first three+ months of the season.

In 1951 the Giants relied on Hearn as a #3 starter behind 20 game winners Sal Maglie and Larry Jansen. Hearn won 17 games and went on to win his only start in the Series that year against the eventual champion Yankees.  

Hern remained a part of the Giants' rotation through 1956 and won 14 games in '52 and '55. In the Giants 4 game sweep of the Indians in that year's World Series Hearn, by now the clubs' fourth starter, didn't see the field.

Despite a nice ERA he went 5-11 for New York in 1956 and was traded to the Phillies that October. He spent two seasons pitching out of the Phils' bullpen and then, as noted, was released in 1959. He was charged with a loss, the final decision of his career months after his release due to a May game being suspended. He was 'on the hook' for that game and when it was completed in July he took the loss.

Hearn hit two inside-the-park home runs in his career. One came in a game in July of 1955 in which he also hit fence-clearing homer. Pretty remarkable to have two 'leg' homers given that here have been only a total of eight hit by pitchers since 1954. 

Hearn's card features a view that you don't see often (or ever?) in this set. Behind him looms the far left field/center field grandstands of Connie Mack Stadium. Over Hearn's left shoulder is the scoreboard which is topped by the Ballantine Beer sign. 

"Make that three ring sign, Ask the man for Ballantine"

Monday, July 15, 2013

#153 Jim Marshall

I'd venture a guess to say the two closest things to major league baseball without actually being the majors have been the old independent PCL and the Japanese Leagues. Jim Marshall spent quite a bit of time in both of those, and he got in five seasons in our big leagues as well.

Marshall signed with the White Sox in 1950 and for the next eight seasons he put up some big power numbers with the Oakland Oaks of the PCL and various farm clubs in the Sox, Giants and Orioles' chains.

He debuted with the Orioles in 1958, was the regular first baseman for awhile and in August was waived due to his .215 average and went to the Cubs. His averages continued to be low while his power, so good in the minors, dried up against major league pitching. 1959 was his busiest and best big league season. He got into over 100 games with the Cubs and had 11 homers and 40 RBI in nearly 300 at bats.

That off season was a hectic one for Marshall. He was traded to the Red Sox who in turn traded him to the Indians during spring training of 1960. But when Sammy White, the other player traded to the Indians, refused to report Marshall was returned to the Cubs. Four days later, still before the season started, the Red Sox dealt Marshall to the Giants for Al Worthington.

He spent two seasons with the Giants, was sold to the expansion Mets for '62 and then was traded to the Pirates in May. While a member of the Mets he became the first player to homer in consecutive games for that club.

Following his tour with the Bucs he went to Japan and played three seasons over there.Since his playing days he has been a coach on two continents, managed in the big leagues for both the Cubs and A's and is currently in the front office of the Arizona Diamondbacks as Senior Advisor, Pacific Rim Operations. 

That's an Orioles uni Marshall is wearing at Yankee Stadium on this '59 card. Love the facade and flags flying on top of Yankee Stadium. So many memories.

Marshall is the victim of a very shoddy airbrush treatment on his 1961 Topps card. Just look at the cap. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

#93 Julio Becquer

"Money is secondary with me," [Julio Becquer] said. "I love the game and I believe this is true of most major league players. In fact, many would play for nothing because they love the game so much."

That comes from a 1958 interview of Julio Becquer that is quoted on his Baseball Reference Bullpen page. Hard to imagine a player saying that today. Becquer was signed by the Washington Senators out of his hometown of Havana, Cuba in 1952. He was a student who worked as both a bookkeeper and ballplayer in Havana. He is one of a number of black Cubans tagged by the legendary scout/entrepreneur Joe Cambria and signed by the Senators.
Becquer played a season of stateside baseball when he signed with the Nats and then, still their property, played two seasons at home in Havana. He got his first look at the majors in 1955 with a 10 game trial and returned to the minors in '56. For four seasons, through 1960, Becquer played as a part time first baseman and pinch-hitter for the Senators.
He was drafted by the expansion Los Angeles Angels for the '61 season but barely was fitted for a halo before he was sold to the Phillies in May who assigned him to Buffalo. He was then sold again, back to the Twins (the former Senators) in June.
Becquer spent most of the '62 through '64 seasons playing in Mexico. But he returned to the Twins for one game in 1963 to qualify for his pension. He pinch ran and scored in that game which is a nice touch for a guy who by all accounts was a very nice man.
I'd be willing to bet that Bequer, if asked, would list his July 4, 1961 pinch hit walk-off grand slam as his career moment. It beat the White Sox 6-4 and came just two weeks after he homered as a pinch hitter leading off the bottom of the ninth to beat Jack Fisher and the Orioles, 5-4. That homer marked both the first walkoff and first pinch homer in Minnesota Twins' history. It was an especially sweet dinger for the Twins because after leading 4-1 they were tied in the top of the ninth by a three run homer off the bat of Earl Robinson.
This card shows Becquer in what appears to be his home pinstriped Nats uni but the stadium behind him looks like Yankee Stadium. But I'm pretty sure is Griffith Stadium. There have been several other Senators in pinstripes in that same pose/spot on their cards. When you look at Roy Sievers' card you can see the differences. I conclude that: 1) Becquer is posing in Griffith and 2) I'm likely the only person in the free world who actually gives this any thought.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

#208 Willie Jones

This, my friends, is Willie 'Puddin' Head' Jones. You have to love a guy who uses that nickname as his signature.

He was a ten year starter at 3rd base for the Phillies from 1949 through 1958. He was a contributor to the 1950 Whiz Kids club in Philadelphia and had his best season that year. He had personal bests in hits, runs, triples homers and RBIs. He played in a league high 157 games that year which isn't easy given the 154 game schedule.

Jones had signed with the Phils in 1947 and was brought up for an 18 games trial that year. He got a similar look in '48. He took over at third in '49 and kept the job for a decade as noted. On April 20th of 1949 against the Braves he had four consecutive doubles. Seems odd that guy could get four doubles in a game and not score a run. He made two NL All Star squads. In 1950's 14 inning game he played the whole game at third and went 1 for 7. That's a record for most at bats in an All Star game.

Jones was known as a good fielder and he led the NL in fielding percentage from 1952 through 1956. He led again in '58 and finished second in '57 and '59.

In the 1950 World Series he had four hits in 14 at bats. That was his only postseason experience. He was moved twice in 1959, traded from the Phils to the Indians and then sold by the Indians to the Reds. He played in just about half the Reds' games in that season and the next but was let go early in the 1961 season. Had he lasted he would have been around for the Reds pennant that year.

The story of how he got that distinctive nickname isn't clear. This blog post asked the question and the replies varied from his name coming from a popular Rudy Vallee song to his daily intake of liver pudding(!) and a few in between. The actual story seems lost to time.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that it looks like the Polo Grounds is the site of this card's picture. There have been others shot there but this angle gives a look that I don't recall before.

Here is a bonus picture of Puddin' Head that ran in Life magazine. I'm including it here because I like it. He looks like he should be named Puddin' Head, doesn't he?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

#301 Earl Averill

If the name is familiar it's probably because 3rd baseman Earl Averill is the son of Hall of Fame outfielder Earl Averill. Earl the Younger is not a 'Jr.' because his father's name is actually Howard Earl Averill. Sadly our Earl doesn't carry a spiffy nickname like his father's "The Earl of Snohomish" (which was shared, btw, with another Snohomish, Washington native, Earl Torgeson). 

Earl Averill was signed (six days after my birthday) by his father's team, the Cleveland Indians, as a catcher. He was converted to an infielder in the farm system and got quick looks at the majors in 1956 and 1958. He was dealt to the Cubs prior to the '59 season and spent that year shuffling around the field playing 3rd, the outfield, behind the plate and some at 2nd base. He hit 10 homers in 186 at bats that year. 

In 1960 he was traded by the Cubs to the Braves, spent a month in the minors and was then dealt to the White Sox. After that tumultuous year he was drafted by the expansion Angels. He had his best season in '61, hitting .266 with 21 homers and 59 RBI. He tailed off after that, spent a year with the Phils and a couple in the minors before retiring

Looks like Topps' airbrush department caught a break with this card. They were able to take the Indians' 'C' on the cap in this photo and smooth it out to resemble the Cubs' logo 'C'. Probably fooled kids in 1959, as long as they didn't really look too close.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

#275 Jack Sanford

If the term 'bad ass' had been popular back when pitcher Jack Sanford was active, he'd have been called one. He threw hard, didn't always know (or care) where the ball was going, and once was suspended for 10 games for refusing to give up the baseball when his manager came out to take him out of a game. That's bad ass.
Sanford tried out at a Red Sox camp in 1948 after high school but they thought he was too small and he wasn't signed. A Phillies scout had seen his performance and offered him a contract and he pitched until 1954 in their chain. He spent a year in the military and in 1957, his first full season in the bigs, he won 19, lost only 8 and posted a 3.08 ERA to earn NL Rookie of the Year honors.
He was hit with the sophomore jinx in 1958 and his numbers slipped. The Phils traded him to the Giants for Valmy Thomas and Ruben Gomez in a move they regretted soon enough. Sanford rebounded and pitched very well in San Francisco for five seasons. His best year was 1962 when he won 24 games and finished second in the Cy Young voting. 16 of those 24 wins came consecutively. In 1963 the workhorse started a league high 42 games. (It's a different game today, Phil Niekro was the last pitcher to start that many, taking the mound 44 times in 1979.)
Sanford started three games in the 1962 Series for the Giants. He went 1-2 against the potent Yankee squad. He pitched very well in the series and in Game 7 he started and allowed only one run. Sadly for the Giants his club was shutout by Ralph Terry in the deciding game. Each of his Series starts, in fact, came against Terry.
He remained in the majors with the Giants, Angels and A's before retiring after the 1967 season and left with 137 career wins. Following that he coached for a couple of seasons in Cleveland and worked as a country club director.
Sanford died in 2000 of brain cancer. A well written blog post reminisces about his career. That's likely a Polo Grounds shot of Sanford in his Phils uni with a barely visible airbrushed SF logo on his cap.

Friday, July 5, 2013

#548 Elmer Singleton

Righty pitcher Elmer Singleton threw his first pitch as a pro in 1940 in Wenatchee, Washington as a newly signed Yankees prospect. 24 seasons later, in 1963, he completed a circle of sorts as he threw his last one in Seattle, Washington for the PCL Seattle Rainiers.

In between Singleton pitched in 8 major league seasons for the Braves, Pirates, Nats and Cubs. His two complete seasons in the bigs came with the '47/'48 Pirates. He never won more that four games in a year and finished with an 11-17 mark. His last big league season was the year this card was issued, 1959.

He made 526 minor league appearances including 342 staters. His record was 184-186 and that a lot of decisions. His best seasons came in the early to mid 50s with the PCL's San Francisco Seals a a couple of other clubs. From 1952 through 1961 he won in double digits 8 of 9 seasons including 17, 18 and 19 win years. His ERA was never over 3.40 in those years and frequently much lower.

After finally retiring Singleton worked for a car dealership in his native Ogden, Utah. He died in 1996.

On his card Singleton has the slightly road weary look of a guy who has 20 seasons of baseball behind him. I'm not really sure where this was taken. Even blown up the picture doesn't reveal much in the way of clues. It doesn't quite strike me as the Polo Grounds or either of the West Coast parks. There is a slight Ebbets Field 'vibe' to the picture but the seating/wall arrangement looks wrong. I'll have to keep digging, because this stuff is oddly important to me.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

#56 Carl Sawatski

From his signing with the Phillies in 1945 at the age of 18 until his death in 1991 Carl Sawatski spent nearly his entire adult life in the game of baseball. Born in Pennsylvania but raised in Little Rock Sawatski spent four seasons in the minors as the property of three different franchises before he debuted with a handful of at bats in 1948 with the Cubs. Prodigious power numbers in Nashville in '49/'50 earned him another look at big league pitching before Uncle Sam called and Sawatski gave two years to the military service. His minor league exploits are chronicled here on the Nashville Sounds website.

Returning to baseball he played another season for the Cubs before being traded to the cross town White Sox. He didn't hit much for either club and found himself back in the minors in 1956 and then returned to the bigs with the World Series champion Braves in 1957 as a back-up catcher. He got a couple of Series at bats and a ring for his efforts.

The Braves traded him to the Phils in 1958 and they in turn passed him along to the Cards in 1960. For  six seasons, from 1958 until he retired after the '63 season, Sawatski averaged around 80 games and 210 at bats each year. He twice hit nearly .300 and had a career high 13 homers in 1962.

After retiring he became the GM of the Arkansas Travelers in the Cards chain and then served as the president of the Southern League until his passing.

Looks like a Connie Mack stadium shot here. Topps' East Coast photographers sometimes traveled out of New York, kicking and screaming I'm sure.

And note that the Phils cap on the logo is missing the red ink. From a quick googling it appears all the '59 Sawatski cards suffered from this. It is not listed as a variation or error on this usually reliable list. Perhaps printing anomolies are not considered errors/variations.

Monday, July 1, 2013

#97 Jerry Lynch

If I had a buck for every guy in this set that played one season of minor league ball and then went into the service, well I'd have enough to upgrade this set quite a bit. But my Jerry Lynch wouldn't require upgrading, it's pretty sweet.

Anyway, Lynch, who played six and a half seasons with the Pirates sandwiched around six and a half with Cincinnati, is known as one of the game's best pinch hitters. As of this writing his 116 pinch hits ranks him tenth on the all time list. When he retired his 18 pinch homers was the best of all time and he still ranks third in that category.

When he returned from the service after the Korean War he played a season in the Yankee chain and then was drafted by the Pirates. He got 300 plate appearances  with them in 1954 and '55 but he hardly played in 1956 (injury?). The Reds drafted him from the Pirates and he he carved out a place for himself there as an outfielder and key man off the bench.

He spent a lot of his big league seasons as what I'd call a 'semi full timer', getting 300 to 400 at bats. His best season came in 1961 when he hit .315 and drove in 25 runs as a pinch hitter. That year the Reds took the NL crown. This comes from Lynch's obit (he died last year):
In his New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, James made a case for Lynch being named MVP for his 1961 heroics:
"He hit over .400 as a pinch hitter with power and played 44 games in the outfield. His slugging percentage of .624 and 50 RBI in 181 at-bats was a far better rate than Roger Maris had that same season, hitting 61 home runs," James wrote. "More than that, Lynch had big, big hits; game after game, when the Reds were in danger of falling short, Lynch came up with the big hit to put them back in front, and the Reds, picked to finish sixth, won the pennant."
Lynch got three at bats in the '61 Series and went hitless but was issued an intentional walk. After retirement he and former teammate and friend Dick Groat were in the golf course management business together.  He was selected as a member of the Reds' Hall of Fame in 1988.