Thursday, October 31, 2013
Marty Keough was California kid who signed as an outfielder with the Red Sox in 1952. He hit well enough as a prospect to move up the ladder and he got a couple of looks by the Sox before he made the club in 1958 as a bench player. He got into almost 70 games and although he didn't hit much he was back in 1959 having won over the team with his speed and much improved fielding. He improved his hitting and got into nearly a hundred games with Boston that year. But the Red Sox had more outfielders than they could use and early in 1960 he was traded to the Indians.
He finished that season with a .248 average and was selected by the Senators in that winter's expansion draft. 1961 in Washington proved to be Keough's busiest season as he had over 430 plate appearances and hit 9 homers to go with a .249 average.
He was traded once again that winter, this time to the Reds where he spent four uneven seasons, sometimes in a platoon role and sometimes, like in 1965, with no role at all. The Reds sold him to the Braves on the eve of the 1966 season but within six weeks or so he was traded yet again, this time to the Cubs.
He was done with playing in the majors after that but he did spend another year in the minors before putting in a year of baseball in Japan. He has stayed in the games as a minor league manager and scout for several organizations since he ended his playing days.
Keough is part of a baseball family that includes two brothers, a son and grandson all of whom played at least at the minor league level. His brother Joe played in the majors for six years with the A's, Royals and White Sox. Brother Tom was briefly in the minors and also played college baseball and football for Cal including All American honors and a Rose Bowl appearance.
While working as a scout Marty Keough recommended his son Matt as a third base prospect. Matt Keough was drafted by the A's as a pitcher and went on to have a nine year career with several clubs, mostly the A's and was a member of the 1978 AL All Star squad. Finally Matt's son Shane was a prospect in the Athletics organization for four seasons beginning in 2007.
Marty Keough's story is best told on his SABR bio page. His card shows him in what appears to be a smirk, obviously pleased with whatever was happening out near the mound as he posed near the third base dugout at Yankee Stadium.
Worth noting is that this entry easily broke a personal record for "Most Open Tabs While Researching". That happens when you look up a guy with four other ball playing family members.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
He pitched into the 1960 season with Milwaukee, becoming a reliever, and was sold to the White Sox that summer. He finished that year with the Sox ans was released. He then retired.
Bob Rush's Wikipedia page claims he was the 'best granpa ever' which I think is kind of a neat think to have edited in by a loving family member. A South Bend sports writer eulogized Rush after his 2011 death in an online posting. His middle name is Ransom which is only significant because I was reminded of 'Handsom Ransom' himself, Randy Jackson.
Bob Rush wasn't much past 30 when the picture on his card was taken but he already looks like he'd be a great candidate for being the 'best granpa ever', don'tcha think?
Saturday, October 26, 2013
One of seven brothers, all of whom played catcher at Northeast High in Detroit, Hobie Landrith got his first taste of the major league life as a 15 year old kid. He was asked to catch batting practice for his hometown Detroit Tigers by a Tiger scout. The story behind this (and the rest of a really neat interview) can be found right here. Landrith went on to play at Michigan State University before signing with the Reds in 1949.
He debuted with the big club in 1950 while getting a four game taste and did the same in 1951. In '52 he got a slightly longer look and he made the Reds as a back-up catcher in 1953. He spent three seasons as a part-timer in Cincy before being traded to the Cubs for 1956. That year he played in 111 games and had career highs in at bats and RBI. But the next season saw him in St. Louis where he played two seasons before moving to the Giants for three.
In 1961 the Mets made Landrith the first player selected by the team in the expansion draft. Casey Stengel is credited with an oft repeated quote. When asked why they chose Hobie Landrith Casey explained that you have to have a catcher or you'll have a lot of passed balls! On May 12 of that first Mets' season Landrith homed to give the team a walk off win.
But Landrith played in only 23 games for the Mets before he was traded to the Orioles who in turn dealt him to the Senators early in 1963. In 14 full or partial seasons in the majors Landrith batted .233 and hit 34 homers. His longevity came be credited to his defensive skills and handling of pitchers more than any hitting prowess. He coached for the Senators briefly after retirement and then went into public relations and sales for California Volkswagen dealerships.
EDIT (March 2014) A tip received as the blog wound down has clarified the site of the photo on this card:.
"There's some confusion over where the photo for #422 Hobie Landrith was taken. It's Wrigley Field. If the stands aren't a giveaway, look under his right arm - the angled brick wall down the left field foul line made famous many years later by Moises Alou and Steve Bartman.
Topps didn't shoot any photographs in Chicago in 1956, unsure about 1957, so this is probably Landrith in a Cardinals' road jersey with the cap airbrushed, taken in 1958."
Landrith, by the way, is the only major leaguer with the given name of Hobart. There have been over a dozen in the minors however. My favorite name among them has to be Hobart Van Alstyne. With a name like that he should have been the King of Prussia instead of a late 19th century ballplayer for teams like the 1886 Binghamton Crickets.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Outfielder Johnny Powers signed with the Boston Red Sox in 1949 and spent one year in their system before he was traded to the Pirates. A two year military stint interrupted his travels towards the big leagues but he hit with power at every stop.
He earned increasingly longer trials with the Bucs from 1955 trough 1957 and he made the club in '58 and stayed all season. But he had very little opportunity to show his talents and was traded to the Reds for 1959 and thus gets the Reds' logo on this card. But even there he didn't play much and was sold to the Orioles in the off season. 1960 proved to be a busy year for Powers. He was the opening day right fielder for the Orioles but quickly played his way out of a job and was sold to the Indians in May. They in turn dealt him back to the Pirates three weeks later. He spent the rest of 1960 and the next five seasons in the high minors, never getting another shot at the majors.
Powers finished with six homers in 151 big league games. He had nearly 300 in his long minor league career. He died in 2001 in his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. A few side notes came up in checking his career:
--I came across a few references to a story of a foul ball hit by Powers hitting and killing a fan in Miami in 1960 when he played for AAA Columbus.
--There was no other 'John Powers' in the majors at the time of this card yet Topps chose to use 'John C. Powers' on the front. 'Johnny Powers' is used on the reverse. Interestingly there was a Rockabilly performer of some note who was popular at the time and he bears a passable resemblance to 'our' Johnny Powers. Check it out:
OK, maybe it's just the hair. Powers' 1960 card:
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
There have been four guys named 'Bob Miller' to play in the big leagues, all of them pitchers and three of them nearly pitched in the bigs at the same time. Our featured Bob Miller, the only one to appear on a '59 Topps, was a member of the 'Whiz Kids' Phillies club of 1950. That was his first full season in the majors and he won 11 games as he finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting. Late that season, after beginning the year 8-0, Miller hurt his back and his effectiveness diminished.
He started (and lost) the fourth and final game of the World Series. In that game he allowed two runs (just one earned) on a pair of hits and a wild pitch. A game opening error contributed to his demise. With the Phils facing elimination he was on a very short leash that day.
His back woes continued to plague him into 1951 and in fact he was never able to match that rookie year. He spent 1952 in the minors and then returned to the Phillies and pitched through 1958, pitching primarily as a starter for a couple of years before moving to the bullpen. On August 9, 1953 Miller tossed a six hit shutout and had four hits of his own in a 7-0 win over the Cubs.
He finished his career with a 42-42 mark and a 3,96 ERA. He had been signed out of the University of Detroit by the Phils and he had served (and pitched) in the Army before his pro career began. After his playing days he went back to coach his old team at the University of Detroit for 39 years and worked in the insurance business. A very nice interview with Bob Miller appeared last summer on MLB.com.
He's pictured on this card as a Cardinal but he was only a member of that club for a short time and he never pitched for them. Late in 1958 he was sent to St. Louis in a conditional deal but the Cards returned him to the Phils the following April. He pitched in the minors very briefly that year before hanging up his glove. Topps re-used a picture of Miller that had been around for awhile and just airbrushed in a St. Louis cap logo.
Here are some of the cards of Miller that used that same photo:
Sunday, October 20, 2013
Catcher Hal Naragon spent all or part of 10 seasons in the majors between 1951 and 1962. He averaged about fifty games a year in his eight complete big league campaigns. Signed by the Indians in 1947 Naragon worked his way through the team's minor league system while hitting adequately but without any power.
In 1951 he got a look at big league pitching with a late season call-up but then proceeded to spent the next two years in the military. He returned in 1954 just in time to play behind Jim Hegan on the Indians' A.L. championship club. He continued to spell Hegan for most of his time with the Indians through 1957. He was farmed out for much of '58 and was traded to the Senators in May of 1959.
He managed to play a bit more than he was used to with the Nats that year and ended up with over 240 plate appearances. He played sparingly through the franchise's move to Minnesota, mostly sitting while Earl Battey played, and ended his active career after the '62 season.
He stayed on with the Twins as bullpen coach through their 1965 Series effort and then moved on to do the same job with the Tigers. He earned a ring in Detroit in 1968. On both clubs he worked with pitching coach Johnny Sain. He also lost both jobs when Sain lost his after having issues with the clubs' managers.
He currently resides in Ohio where he was raised and the high school stadium in his hometown of Barberton is named for him. His SABR bio is here and you can here his opinions on the 2013 Indians in a recent interview on and Ohio TV station site.
Yet another Yankee Stadium shot with Naragon resplendent in the classic Indian uni of the era.
Here is Hal Naragon going into the crowd to try for a foul ball.
Friday, October 18, 2013
Kentucky righty Herb Moford spent enough time in the minors that his '59 Topps cardback doesn't have room for a cartoon. That sort of thing is usually reserved for longtime stars like Warren Spahn and Stan Musial.
Moford signed with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1947 and worked his way through the Cards' system for eight seasons pitching for nine different clubs before he made the big league roster in 1955. He pitched in 14 games through mid-June. All his appearances came in relief until he got a start in the Polo Grounds, got cuffed around by the Giants, and was farmed out once again.
In 1957 the Cards dealt Moford to the Tigers and he spent the second half f the '58 season as a swing man for Detroit, going 4-9 in 11 starts.His 361 ERA during that stretch was easily the best of his spotty career. Traded to the Red Sox that winter Moford made a couple of April starts for the Sox and was his very hard.
The Orioles acquired him and after a couple of minor league seasons he was purchased my the Mets for whom he made his last big league appearances in 1962. He was one of four pitchers who appeared in the first ever game in that franchise's history. He retired to tobacco farming and ranching soon thereafter and even dabbled in politics as the campaign manager for wacky Jim Bunning's run for the governorship of Kentucky.
It seems he was a decent sort of guy and maybe he should have run for governor instead of Bunning. This is Moford's only card and he's airbrushed into a Red Sox hat. Under that garish 'B' is likely a Tigers' 'D' since he'd been traded in December this early series card was probably out by March.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
San Diego native Jack Harshman began his baseball 'life' as a power hitting, free swinging first baseman for the San Diego Padres of the PCL in 1945. After a year or so of playing on the west coast and a short Navy stint Harshman was obtained by the New York Giants in 1947 and he slugged his way through the Giants' chain for several years. He had modest success in his brief shots in the majors and finally his minor league team owner suggested that Harshman, who pitched batting practice to his teammates regularly, might try pitching full time as a way to return to the majors.
He became a full time pitcher in 1953 and went 23-7 for Class AA Nashville. Despite those lofty numbers the Giants sold him to the White Sox that fall and Harshman began a second life as a major league starting pitcher. In his first season as a major league starter, 1954, Harshman struck out 16 Red Sox in one game and pitched a 16 inning complete game 1-0 shut-out against the Tigers. It is estimated that Harshman threw 245 pitches in that one.
He went 48-34 in 4 seasons with the Sox and then was traded to the Orioles for 1958. His 12-15 record doesn't compare to his 2.85 ERA that year. A rocky start in 1959 earned him a trade to the Red Sox in June and a waiver ride to the Indians in July. He pitched sparingly for Cleveland in 1960 and had a few minor league appearances in '61 before he retired.
He never lost his power at the plate. He twice had six homer seasons and that number was good for fifth best among all players on the 1958 Orioles. Among his 76 major league hits are 21 homers! That's quite a ratio.
Harshman is truly a fascinating guy. Lots to read about in his personal life and professional career. As always there is his SABR bio and then there is a multi-part blog series that I found pretty interesting. You can get to through this site.
Here is a 'teaser' from one installment, a quote from the Saturday Evening Post:
Jack Harshman could hit the ball a mile, but his batting average was anemic. Then, aided by the uninhibited girl he married, he turned into a surprisingly crafty pitcher.
"Uninhibited" didn't have the same connotation back then. In this case, it's because she gives advice and shares opinions about his pitching performances.
There may never have been a baseball wife quite like Frances DeVee Oldman Harshman. She is pert, pretty -- and candidly ambitious for Jack. Her terse, matter-of-fact husband refuses to blow his own horn, but this uninhibited little blonde has been doing it for him ever since they were married in 1950.
Finally, check out this great picture of Harshman as a Giants 1B prospect:
Monday, October 14, 2013
I figured a good way to celebrate the 500th post on this blog was to feature the (arguably) most popular and (definitely) most expensive card in the set, that of Mickey Mantle. I consider myself lucky to have grown up watching Mantle. Although I wasn't a Yankee fan it was easy to find yourself in awe of him and his persona. My father and I were regular Sunday visitors to Yankee Stadium and if the Yanks were playing a doubleheader (they did that a lot) then Mantle usually started one of the games. If it was a single game there was a chance he would be sitting it out. That always disappointed me (and probably everyone else in the place).
16-time AL All-Star (1952-1965, 1967 & 1968)
As for the card, well it's a classic and one of my favorite Mantle Topps cards. I can't say I remember pulling it from a pack as I wasn't buying packs in 1959 but in the early to mid 60s it was a big thrill to pull a Mantle from a pack no matter how you felt about the Yanks. I picked this one up for what I thought was a reasonable $100 after many losing bids on lower conditioned examples. It's more appealing in person than it appears in my scan which seems to have washed out some of the color. Mantle poses near the batting cage in Yankee Stadium with some teammates and the third base seats in the background.
I met Mantle once some years after he had retired. In the late 70s and early 80s I would spend a day every spring at the Houston Open Wednesday Pro-Am. Back then there would be actual sports and entertainment celebrity players out on the course. I'd get there very early and hang out around the clubhouse parking lot area seeing who I could see. I never approached any of the celebs with one exception. I'll never forget turning around to see Mickey Mantle alone on the passenger side of a golf cart parked in a row of other carts near the clubhouse steps. Oddly no one else was around so I went over and said hello and mumbled something about the fact that my Dad's two favorite players were him and Joe DiMaggio. I don't remember what he said but he did shake my hand and smiled. I never thought to ask for an autograph. I probably didn't have anything for him to sign anyway.
When my Dad died I stuck a Mickey Mantle pin onto his lapel just before they closed his casket. I'd bought the pin on a whim a few years earlier at a game in the old Yankee Stadium. Probably the last game I attended in the park I'd enjoyed so many Sunday afternoons at with my father. Even though it looked different due to the refurbishings it had gone though it was still Yankee Stadium and it held some great memories for me.
Here is my favorite picture of Mickey Mantle....
Saturday, October 12, 2013
Infielder Bobby Adams was 37 years old and in the last season of his pro career when this card was issued. He had signed with the Cincinnati Reds way back in 1939 and spent four seasons in the minors, three of the hitting well over .300. Interestingly he was signed by the Reds as part of a sort of 'family deal' that included his brother Dick Adams.
After the 1942 season both Adams brothers were called to military service and they played alongside Joe DiMaggio in California. Bobby Adams remained in the service through 1945 and re-joined the Reds organization the following spring. He made the big club and played in a platoon/utility roles until he worked into the Reds' full time third base job in the early 1950s.
Always a good fielder, Adams led the league in games played and at bats in 1952 while hitting .283 on 180 hits which was good for third in the league. He even garnered a few stray MVP votes that year. He played everyday again the following season but after that his performance and playing time waned until he was dealt to the White Sox in 1955. He moved on to the Orioles in '56 and then to the Cubs in '57. He played sparingly through 1958 and after three games played in 1959 he was sent to the minors where he saw his final action as a pro.
After his active days Adams served in several capacities in baseball, as a coach, league executive and players association executive. He also raised a major leaguer, son Mike Adams who played for three different clubs in the 1970s.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Faye Throneberry, brother of Marv Throneberry whose card was featured earlier, had a very similar career to his younger brother. They had similar career lengths and not so dissimilar numbers when they were finished. And each finished his career with an expansion club.
Faye signed with the Boston Red Sox in 1950 and put together respectable stats in the minors before debuting with the BoSox in 1952. Ted Williams' U.S. Marine stint opened some playing opportunities in the Red Sox' outfield that season. He had over 300 at bats and hit .258 in nearly 100 games. Uncle Sam came calling in December and Faye served two seasons in the military. When he returned to Boston he was used sparingly for a couple of seasons before being traded to the Senators in late April of 1957. With the Nats he experienced his best season when, in 1959, he hit .251 but had career highs with 10 homers and 42 RBI in 117 games.
He had about half as many at bats in 1960 and that December he was acquired by the fledgling Los Angeles Angels after the draft ended. He served mostly as a pinch-hitter for the Halos before he was farmed out in July and after another year plus a few games in the minors he retired.
After his playing days Faye Throneberry became successful professional bird dog trainer in Tennessee. Details, of course, are provided in his SABR bio.
Griffith Stadium provides the backdrop for this card on a day the Senators hosted the Yankees.
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
As soon as you get to Lou Skizas' Baseball Reference page and you see that he was known as "The Nervous Greek" you know that there is an interesting story here. And when you check out the first paragraph of his SABR bio, you know that there most certainly is:
“I was a character in baseball. I saw it as an interim type of career,” Lou Skizas told Bill Gleason. Skizas, known as “The Nervous Greek” during his four-season major-league playing career, was perhaps best known for an unusual ritual that he followed before coming to bat. Before reaching the plate, the right-handed-batting Skizas dropped his bat, covering it with dirt. Then, wiping the bat off by rubbing it between his pants legs, he kissed the end of the bat before reaching into his back pocket at least three times to touch an object that was said to be a good-luck piece. Placing all of his weight on his right leg, Skizas kept his left foot off of the ground until just before the pitch reached the plate. This was the unorthodox style that belonged to the man Casey Stengel once called “the greatest natural-looking hitter I've ever seen.”Skizas was born in Chicago and raised in a home where only Greek was spoken. He claims to have been labeled as 'retarded' (his words) when he first entered school because he didn't know what his teacher was saying. As a ballplayer in high school he caught the eye of Yankee scouts and was signed in 1949 and while playing in their farm system he developed a close friendship with Mickey Mantle that remained in place all their lives. Skizas spent two seasons in the military along with his five years in the minors before he got a token shot with the Yankees in 1956. He was dealt (as all marginal Yankee players were then) to the Kansas City Athletics in May of '56.
He hit .316 in about 300 at bats that year and held down a regular outfield spot for the club in '57. That winter he was part of a huge 12 player deal that sent him to the Tigers with whom he split the '1958 season between the majors and minors. The White Sox drafted him prior to 1959 but traded him to the Reds early in the season. He was therefore technically a part of the Sox' AL champion club but he was long gone by the fall. He played for three season in the Reds' chain and one more in Detroit's, never again making a major league appearance. He also played in Cuba during the winter of 1959.
He finished with a .270 lifetime average and had 30 homers. After retiring Skizas finished a bachelor's degree he'd been working on for over a decade and then went further by adding a masters and doctorate in biology. He was a college professor in Illinois at Illinois State and the University of Illinois-Champaign along with coaching the schools' baseball teams.
As late as the 1990s he continued to be part of the game as a part-time scout for the Cubs in the Chicago area.
Sunday, October 6, 2013
After signing with the Giants in 1952 out of the University of Oregon Curt Barclay finished that season with a nine game taste of pro baseball before he spent 1953 in the military. Returning to the States in '54 Barclay ascended the Giants' farm system with three impressive seasons.
He made the Giants staff in 1957 and was the #3 starter, finished second on the team in wins (9) and had the best ERA among the starting staff. He moved with the club to San Francisco but injured his shoulder early in the '58 campaign and spent most of that year and the next trying to work his way back up to the Giants from their AAA club. After his injury he managed to appear in just seven games for the Giants. His last big league appearance was a rocky 1/3 of an inning that he had in April of '59. He finished out his career with 12 games of minor league ball in 1960.
After his playing days Barclay worked for a lumber manufacturer. He died at the age of 53 in 1985. During his days at Oregon he played alongside Earl Averill on the ball field and was a starter on the basketball team that featured 'Jungle Jim' Loscutoff who played on seven Celtic NBA title teams.
Friday, October 4, 2013
Luis Aparicio makes his third appearance in the 1959 Topps set with this All Star card. It follows his regular issue card and his Keystone Combo special card appearance alongside Nellie Fox.In his career Looie make 8 All Star squads appearing in 10 games. His Hall of Fame career is not reflected in his All Star game numbers as he went 2 for 25 with one stolen base in those 10 games.
No way to tell if this shot was taken at the same time as his regular issue card photo but they were both taken at Yankee Stadium.
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Detroit native Ray Hebert signed with his hometown Tigers in 1949 and after putting up some nice minor league stats he got a taste of the majors in 1950. He spent most of 1951 and all of '52 in the service before returning to Detroit and taking a spot in the Tigers' bullpen.
He had control problems and was beaten up pretty badly over two seasons before he was sold to the Athletics for the 1955 season. Another subpar year led to a couple of seasons back in the minors. He returned to the bigs in 1958 and had better results in a swingman role. The next two years saw Hebert gain a spot in the Athletics' rotation and he won 25 games for some pretty bad KC clubs. He was traded to the White Sox in June of '61 and he career took another turn for the better.
He went 20-9 with a 3.27 ERA in 1962 and he made his only All Star appearance, a game he ended up winning. He won fewer games in 1963 (13) but he led the A.L. with seven shutouts and had a 3.24 ERA. His numbers declined after that and he was out of the majors following 1965 after a couple of seasons with the Phillies.