Friday, November 29, 2013

#239 Bob Trowbridge

After signing with the Boston Braves in 1950 Hudson, New York native Bob Trowbridge pitched very well for a season in the low minors and then spent three full years in the military. While serving Uncle Sam Trowbridge honed his pitching skills and won 60 games while losing only six for the Nellis Air Force Base team located near Las Vegas.

He returned to the pro ranks in 1954 and was a standout in the minors. He earned a trip to the majors for a good chunk of the 1956 season and went 3-2 in 19 games for the Braves. He sported a 2.66 ERA but his numbers indicate a tendency to walk guys.

In 1957 he started well at the AAA level and again was brought up. He made 16 starts in 32 appearances and had success. He tossed a pair of gems in September of that year including his only career shutout and a five hit one run effort late in the month.

He appeared in Game Three of the World Series against the Yankees that year, He pitched the seventh inning and had a pretty rough go of it as he allowed two hits and walked three and saw each of those runners score. Tony Kubek's homer was the big blow. Trowbridge did get Mickey Mantle to fly out to end the inning. I'd give up ten years of my life to say I faced Mickey Mantle in a World Series game. It might have been a rocky outing but he got a ring that season.

He was almost exclusively a reliever for the next two seasons and didn't have the success he'd had previously. Trowbridge found himself traded to Kansas City for 1960 where he had modest numbers and pitched some in the minors. He was back in the minors briefly in 1961 before he was done with the game.

He went on to work for the Department of Corrections near his upstate New York home until he passed away at the age of only 49 in 1980.

I wouldn't swear to it but that might be Connie Mack Stadium behind Trowbridge. I think I see just enough red to make that possible. There have been enough Phillies cards showing that park for me to know that the Topps photographers did make it that far across the Hudson (and Delaware) Rivers.

Or it could be the Polo Grounds.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

#230 Bill Fischer

Look up the term 'baseball lifer' and you are likely to see a picture of Dom Zimmer or, just maybe, Bill Fischer. He was just 17 when the Chicago White Sox inked him to a pro deal out of Wisconsin and the righthander debuted as a pro with a 14-3 record in 19 starts the low minors.

He moved up the Sox' chain, spent two years in the military, pitched in the independent PCL, was re-acquired by Chicago and finally debuted with the White Sox in 1956. He made three appearances that season before being returned to the minors and then he was back in the bigs in 1957.

Over the course of the next nine seasons he pitched for four different organizations, mostly out of the bullpen but he was a part of the Washington Senators' rotation in '59 and then into 1960 before he was traded to Detroit for the second time in his career. That appears to be a Tigers' uni he's wearing in this card's picture with a drawn-in 'W' on the cap.

His career mark over those nine seasons with the Senators/Twins, Athletics, White Sox and Tigers was 45-58 with two shutouts and 13 saves. In 1962 with Kansas City he set a major league record by pitching 84 1/3 consecutive innings without a walk, a record that still stands.

From 1965 through 1968 he pitched in the White Sox chain at the AAA level and had really good numbers each of those seasons but he never again appeared in a major league game. That doesn't mean he never wore a major league uniform however.

His Baseball Reference Bullpen page gives a good account of Fischer's coaching odyssey which followed his days on the mound:

After his playing days, Fischer was a minor league pitching coach for the Kansas City Royals from 1975 to 1978, a Cincinnati Reds coach from 1979 to 1983, a minor league coach for the Royals again in 1984, and a member of the Boston Red Sox staff from 1985 to 1991. He worked in the Atlanta Braves chain from 1992 to 1999 and then was Tampa Bay Devil Rays pitching coach in 2000 and 2001. He returned to Atlanta for the period from 2002 to 2006. He has worked in the Kansas City Royals organization since 2007, serving as their Minor League Pitching Coordinator in 2009 and more recently as a Senior Pitching Advisor.

Fischer was the pitching coach for Roger Clemens when the then Red Sox ace won three of his Cy Young awards. Only Leo Mazzone, Dave Duncan and George Bamberger have coached more Cy Young winners. A year ago, according to this page on the KC Royals' site, Fischer even stepped back into his active coaching role, even if only as a fill-in for a couple of games. So since 1948, with a couple of years away serving his country, Bill Fischer has been associated with baseball. That's a 65 year stretch. That's a 'baseball life'!.

Monday, November 25, 2013

#228 Don Gross

I'm not really sure what prompted Topps to pose pitcher Don Gross holding a bat in Seals Stadium much less use the shot on his 1959 card. It's not like he was a good hitting pitcher or a converted position player. Just a curiosity of the set I guess.

Anyway, the left-handed Gross signed with the Reds in 1950 after playing (though not lettering apparently) at Michigan State University. He worked his way up through the Reds' chain with some impressive numbers, spent 1953 in the military, and debuted in July of 1955 with Cincinnati.

He went 4-5 that first half season in 11 starts over 17 appearances. He split the '56 season between the Reds and AAA Havana and then was 7-9 in a spot starters role in 1958. He was traded to the Pirates after that season in a deal that brought Bob Purkey to the Reds. While Purkey went on to All Star status with the Reds Gross won only six more games as his career finished with him bouncing around the minors through 1963.

A near no-hitter against the Braves that turned into a tough luck 1-0 loss on May 28th of 1958 was his career highlight. Or maybe not. Gross was part of a wacky 9 run bottom of the ninth rally that the Giants put together on May 5, 1958 in Seals Stadium.

Cruising along with an 11-1 lead Vern Law looked to finish off the Giants with three more outs. Then this happened:

Leading off, Ray Jablonski singles, and so does Orlando Cepeda. Hank Sauer reaches on an error and the bases are loaded. Willie Kirkland flies out. Jim King hits a pinch double to score two. John Antonelli doubles in two more to make it 11-5. Bob Speake hits a pinch double, the third in a row by the Giants and it's now 11-6. Curt Raydon replaces Law and promptly walks Willie Mays who is then forced at second, the second out of the inning.

Ray Jablonski then hits a 3 run homer to draw the Giants to within two at 11-9. Ron Blackburn comes on to pitch and gives up a homer to Cepeda and it's suddenly a one run game! But were are not quite done. Sauer walks, representing the tying run and on to pitch comes our guy, Don Gross. He walks pinch hitter Bob Schmidt and Jim Finigan, hitting for King grounds to short where it's booted for an error. The bases are now loaded. Any of the 5,502 Giants fans who had stayed to the end on a runaway game must have thought the were about to witness one of the best comebacks in baseball history.

But Don Taussig, the fifth pinch hitter of the inning, pops out to second to end the fiasco and give Don Gross a save, his first of seven that season.

Bottom line on the Giants ninth inning:
9 runs, 7 hits including three consecutive doubles and back-to-back homers, 3 walks, 
5 pinch-hitters, a pinch-runner, 2 errors and 3 LOB.

The line score:
                1  2  3   4  5  6   7  8  9    R  H  E
                -  -  -   -  -  -   -  -  -    -  -  -
Pirates         0  2  0   0  0  1   5  0  3   11 14  3
Giants          1  0  0   0  0  0   0  0  9   10 12  1

And now that I think about it, given the the picture on this card was taken in '58 at Seals Stadium in San Francisco, might Gross have been trying to send some subliminal message by holding up a bat? Taunting the Giants on the day following that crazy game? I guess we'll never know.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

#171 Willard Schmidt

Willard Schmidt has a great card, doesn't he?. The back frame that contrasts and compliments those Reds' duds, Seals Stadium with the distinctive red railings and, maybe best of all, a terrific cartoon on the reverse. It became even greater as I researched his career as you will see. 

Schmidt was signed out of Hays, Kansas in 1949 by the Cardinals. He won 56 games in three seasons as he climbed through the Cards' well stocked farm system. He got brief looks in St. Louis in 1952 and '53 but was back in the minors for the following season and a half where he again was impressive. He won 30 games over that span and was recalled to the Majors by the Cards in July of '55, this time for good. 

He was primarily a starter for that '55 season and continued in that role in 1956. He posted impressive numbers, especially in his rookie campaign. That half year he went 7-6 with a 2.86 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP. He had some memorable games among his fifteen starts. His first start resulted in a four hit complete game win over the Giants in New York. Ten days later he nearly matched that with a five hit win over the Pirates at home.

On August 11th he took a no-hitter into the seventh against the Braves in Milwaukee. Johnny Logan singled to end the no hit bid but Schmidt breezed through the rest of the game for the shutout win. On September 4th he took a perfect game into the 7th before the Cubs got to him and tagged him for a loss. Finally, on September 21, in what turned out to be his final start of the season, he went 12 and a third against Cubs at home. He had allowed just seven hits and three runs going into the 13th but the Cubs rocked him and he took a 7-4 loss. Hard to envision that game given the changes that have taken place in baseball since then. Twelve and a third innings is probably two games work for many of the games starters these days. 

His 1956 numbers were not quite up to those of his rookie season and in '57 he was converted to a reliever. He went 10-3 but his hits per inning went way up and the Cards had younger prospects on the rise. After that year he was traded to the Reds in the deal that brought Curt Flood to St. Louis. In '58/'59 he won six games and then found himself back in the minors to close out his career. 

Before he was done though he was able to grab a bit of notoriety by becoming the first player in major league history to get hit by a pitch twice in the same inning by two different pitchers when Bob Rush and Lew Burdette of the Milwaukee Braves hit him in the third inning of a wild and crazy 11–10 Reds win on April 26th of 1959. From the box score it appears he took a shot off the bat of his old nemesis Johnny Logan that KO'd him. 

After his retirement he co-owned Schmidt-Tullius Dodge and Schmidt Bicycle and Lawnmower Center in the Norman, Oklahoma area and later retired from that to a small farm in Newcastle, Oklahoma. His 2007 obituary states he had been preceded in death by six brothers and three sisters and survived by two other sisters, that his family had been among the first German-Russian settlers in the Hays, Kansas area and that his first language was German. He also attended Fort Hays College for a year before turning to pro baseball.

In the process of researching Willard Schmidt I came across a blog written by his great nephew, James Schmidt. James, a chemist by trade, is a Civil War historian and author who specializes in the art/science of medicine during that remarkable time. As a Abe Lincoln-phile I immediately had my interest piqued and then I was really pleased to find that James lives right here in Houston and does lectures and discussions on his interests and books. In fact I missed one held by the Houston Public Library by just a week or so. Fascinating stuff. 

I had found a post on his blog centered on great-uncle Willard and I reached out to James and he was kind enough to respond and point me to another post and he filled in a bit of his family background. How great is that? I'm looking forward to meeting James Schmidt one of these days and hearing more about his great uncle and especially more about his field of interest, the Civil War. 

Oh, that cartoon on the back of Willard Schmidt's '59 Topps?  Behold this classic:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

#197 Ray Semproch

Cleveland native Ray Semproch signed with the Phillies in 1951 and won 17 games in the lower minors that season before he spent the next two years in the military. Returning to baseball in 1954 he worked his way to the majors with four more seasons of minor league ball. Interestingly his 1957 season at AAA was far better than any previous year he spent at a lower level. I came across a few pages in a book on Google that tells of a heroic pitching effort Semproch delivered in the International League championship series in 1956 for Miami.

He earned himself a job in the Phils' rotation in 1958 and he went 13-11. At one point he was 13-6 and his 11 wins at mid-season led the league. A look at his game logs for '58 show that he mixed some really nice starts with some real stinkers. That win total was second only to Robin Roberts on the Phillies' staff and is made even more special when you compare it to the teams' 69-85 season record.

Semproch never again approached the success he had as a rookie. He went 3-9 in 1959 and was then traded to the Tigers. He won three games in relief in Detroit in 1960 but was traded to the Dodgers in mid-season and was farmed out.

He was drafted by Washington in December of '60 thus becoming one of the first players acquired by the 'new' version of the Senators but was sold to the equally new Angels in April of '61. He pitched only twice for the Angels, spent most of the year in the minors, and then retired.

He worked in his brother's Italian restaurant after that. Semproch's first Topps card came in 1958. On it he is listed by his given name of 'Roman'.

His nickname was 'Baby". I have no idea why.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

#129 Frank Herrera The Sporting News Rookie Stars

Cuban born Francisco "Pancho" or "Frank" Herrera played in 300 games with the Phillies over three years between 1958 and 1961. Don't let that short career fool you. Herrera is one very interesting guy. When he debuted for the Phils at the age of 23 he had already been in organized ball for about 8 years. He began at 15 or so around Havana as a member of a group of youngsters called gitanillos, or little gypsies. These players worked with Cuban pro teams during practices but sat in the stands with the other fans during games. Occasionally they were called on to actually fill-in for a regular.

He was also boxing (until him mother saw him KO'd and made him quit) and an agricultural student around that time. But baseball called and he signed to play pro ball in Cuba in 1950. He was obtained by the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League in 1952. His contract was purchased by the Phillies and he began in their organization in 1955.

He played some in Philly in 1958 and hit .270 in 63 at bats but spent the '59 season in the International League with Buffalo and just tore the league up to earn MVP honors. He stepped into a regular role as the Phils' first baseman in 1960 and finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting. He put together a .281 average with 17 dingers and 71 RBI but he fell off in '61, went back to the minors and was dealt to the Pirates. He never again played in the majors although he hung on in the minors with several organization through 1969 and then played in Mexico and with an independent Florida State league club as late as 1974. At times he served as player/manager.

Along the way Herrera had played winter ball in Nicaragua, Venezuela, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico in addition to Cuba. He made his home in the US in Miami and was part of the Cuban culture there for many years. He worked for United Airlines and for a health service provider in South Florida as well as having several baseball-related interests such as batting instructor in Mexico and running a baseball camp with fellow Cuban Paul Casanova. 

The father of three daughters Frank Herrera died in 2005 in Miami. He is a member of the International League Hall of Fame. You can (and should!) check out his SABR bio here. More info on Herrera and his part in the integration of baseball (he was the Phils first black Latino player) can be found in this book on Google.

This card is one of three 'rookie' cards issued by Topps for Frank Herrera. One version of his 1958 card is prized because of the 'error' which is described as a misspelled name on the front. It seems to be a printing error. 

Here is the more common 'correct' version:

The 1959 Rookie Stars card is featured up top and he also had a 'rookie star' card in the 1960 set. That one is my favorite because I am a fan of that '60 Rookie subset.

Interestingly he had a 1961 All Star card but no regular card by Topps.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

#189 Neil Chrisley

Here we have another of those multi-sport stars, Neil Chrisley. At Newberry College he played baseball and basketball. He was drafted by the Red Sox in 1950 and spent five years in the minors and two in the military before making his debut in the majors with the Washington Senators in 1957.

The left handed hitting outfielder spent the '58 season in Washington where he hit just .215 in part-time duty and was traded to the Tigers. He was again a part-timer in Detroit but he did manage to put together a decent season in 1960 hitting five homers while batting .255 in nearly a hundred games. His most memorable week came in May of that year when he had the only hit, a first inning double, off Bill Monbouquette in a one-hitter by the Red Sox hurler. A week later he had his only career two homer game.

He was traded to the Braves and played very little in 1961 and was sold to the fledgling New York Mets that October. The Mets returned Chrisley to the Braves on the eve of Opening Day. The Braves farmed him out and he never returned to the majors. He retired to become an insurance salesman in 1964.

Chrisley, whose given name was Barbra, passed away earlier this year in his native South Carolina.

Friday, November 15, 2013

#151 Bob Malkmus

Infielder Bob Malkmus came out of New Jersey (not far from where I grew up, btw) and played in 268 major league games spread over parts of six seasons in the majors. Oddly his very best season, the only one in which he was a regular, was his last full year, 1961 with the Phillies. That season accounted for nearly half his appearances and well over half his big league at bats.

Malkmus originally signed with the Braves in 1951 and took the long six year tour of their farm systen before he got into a handful of 1957 games with the big club. He was traded to the Nats prior to the '58 campaign and got into about 40 games. He had a solid season in Denver with the Nats' AAA club in 1959 hitting .300 and earned his way back to the majors via the Rule V draft courtesy of the Phils.

But he was back in the minors in 1962 despite that previously mentioned 1961 season and he finished out his career with five more seasons in the Phillies' chain. That 1961 year, in which he hit .231, garnered him 22nd place in the League MVP voting. Here is an article from the Spokane newspaper of 1965 that mentions some of his minor league exploits.

After he retired as an active player he managed for nine seasons in the minors and then went into private business. He returned to baseball as a scout for the Indians and Giants. He is a shot of him from 2011. He's the guy in the red and white Phillies cap.

Malkmus is wearing pinstripes on this card and his hat is tilted so as to hide the logo. My conclusion is that he is wearing his Senators uni in Griffith Stadium. It's one of those times that Topps used the 'hide the logos he might get dealt' photo when the player was actually on the correct team.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

#96 Lou Berberet

Lou Berberet was a two sport athlete at Santa Clara University for two years before he accepted an offer from the New York Yankees in 1950. After  productive 1951 season in the minors he spent two years in the military and then returned to pro ball. The Yankees had Yogi Berra behind the plate in those days and Casey Stengel favorite Charlie Silvera backing him up, so Berberet's chances of getting much playing time with the Yanks were slim to none.

He did get a couple of looks though. He got ten at bats spread out over 1954 and '55 and picked up 4 hits giving him a career .400 average in pinstripes. According to his son Tom, Lou Berberet was playfully proud of that accomplishment.

Traded to the Senators (the Athletics must have had a bunch of Yankee reject catchers already) for 1956 Berberet played as more or less the Nats regular catcher for a couple of seasons. He had some notable defensive accomplishments as a catcher. He made just one error in 460+ innings behind the plate in 1956. Just to prove that was no fluke he bettered that mark the next season by having a flawless year in over 600 inning over 70 games. In '56 and '59 he led the AL in caught stealing percentage.

He was traded to Boston in May of '58 and then spent the final two years of his career with the Tigers. After retirement he worked for many years managing liquor distributorships in California and Nevada. His Baseball Reference Bullpen page chips in with a couple of humorous stories from his playing days:

Longtime Washington Senators announcer Bob Wolff tells of the time Berberet, the team's catcher, settled under a pop fly, threw away the glove and attempted to make the catch with his mask but never touched the ball.In another instance, he was catching and chewing a chaw of tobacco when a player came down the line and collided with him. Berberet swallowed the tobacco and almost choked. He had to be revived on the field.
Looks to be an altered cap logo on this card. Could be that a Red Sox logo was finagled to resemble the Tigers' "D" or a Senators logo was wiped out and the "D" drawn form scratch. Ahhh. life's little mysteries.

btw... this is the last card from the '59 Topps checklist numbered below 100 to be featured. That's if I haven't screwed up someplace.

Monday, November 11, 2013

#105 Lee Walls

Lee Walls was a high school phenom as a pitcher in California and he caught the eye of Pittsburgh GM Branch Rickey. Walls was also an outfielder with hitting skills and that is what interested Rickey. After signing with the Pirates in 1951 as an 18 year old Lee Walls spent a productive year in the lower minors and opened the 1952 season as a major league outfielder. But a slow start sent Walls back for more seasoning and it wasn't until 1956 that he returned to the bigs.

And when he did come back it was with a nice season hitting .274 with 11 homers and 54 RBI. About a month into the '57 season he was dealt to the Cubs. His '57 numbers were below the previous season but he peaked in 1958 and represented the Cubs on the NL All Star squad and got into the games as a pinch hitter and played left field. His season of 18 doubles, 24 homers, 72 RBI, and .304 average were all career highs.

Walls never again approached his 1958 totals but he did remain a regular for a year or so and than as a part time outfielder and pinch hitter for the Reds, Phils and Dodgers. He was gone from the majors after 1964 but he played a season in Japan before returning stateside to manager in the minor leagues.

One note of interest is that Walls was the 22nd and final player selected by the Mets in the expansion draft of 1961 but he was traded to the Dodgers (along with $100,000) for Charlie Neal two month later.

Topps had a handful of capless Walls pictures and used them for several years.

1961 Topps, Walls in Pirates gear(?) on a Reds card. Hard to say if the piping is Cubs' red and blue or Pirates gold and black.

Above and below are his two issued 1962 Topps cards. The photo above seems to have been taken at Connie Mack Stadium and the pinstripes on Walls' jersey colored gray to hide the Phillies' red ones.

This second '62 uses the same picture as the '61 and I'm leaning towards Cubs' colors on his color.

Third time is a charm for this shot as it appears on his '63 cards. Now I'm pretty certain the picture is one that was taken during his days in Chicago.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

#123 Don Dillard The Sporting News Rookie Stars

This is the first of three consecutive 'rookie star' cards that Topps put out for Don Dillard. Dillard was a Cleveland Indians signee in 1955 and the outfielder spent six seasons banding around in their system with more good seasons than bad. He got a taste of the majors in both 1959 and 1960 before he earned a job as a fourth outfielder and pinch hitter in 1961.

He held that job for two seasons. In '61 he had seven dingers to go with a .272 average in almost 150 at bats. He was somewhat busier in 1962 but not as effective and the Tribe shipped him off to Milwaukee as part of the deal that brought them Joe Adcock in November of that year.

You'll note that the cardback mentions that Dillard has 'good speed'. But in his career he was 0-fer-3 in steal attempts. In his defense he had lots of doubles and triples in his minor league career so maybe he just never got the green light in Cleveland and Milwaukee. Base stealing was confined to a relative few players back then.

His one full season with the Braves didn't do anything to revive his numbers and he spent most of 1964/65 in the minors with a second half call up by the Braves in '65. After two more minor league seasons he was out of the game and starting his 'second life' as a businessman owning a marina and a sporting goods business. He later was co-owner of a baseball camp.

Dillard currently resides in his native South Carolina. His other two rookie star cards were issued in '60 and '61. The 1960 version used the same photo as this one. Here they are fresh from the 'net:

That 1960 rookie card design is one I like very much but the 1961 Dillard has a cool Colavito-esgue vibe don't you think? 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

#110 George Witt

George 'Red' Witt took seven minor league seasons and a year in the service after signing with the Dodgers in 1950 to make it to the big leagues. When he got there on September 21 of 1957 with the Pirates he was treated pretty harshly. That day he got a start against the New York Giants at Forbes Field and he didn't make it past the second inning. He was shelled for six earned runs in an inning and a third.

But in the spring of 1958 he was ready and that season he went 9-2 with a sterling 1.82 ERA and he had three shutouts among his five complete games in 15 starts. He had two wins over the Champion Milwaukee Braves one was a two hitter and the other a ten inning shutout. His 1959 season sadly saw a reversal in his fortunes as he went 0-7 due in large part to elbow issues. In fact Witt won only two more games over the course of the next three partial seasons he spent in the majors in Pittsburgh as well as stops with the Angels and Colt 45s.

But Witt did win a ring with the 1960 Pirates. In fact he was the only one of the ten pitchers used by the Bucs who did not give up an earned run in the World Series. He was out of baseball after a 1963 season spent in the minors and he went on to earn a Masters of Education at Cal State-Long Beach and had a long teaching and coaching career at Tustin High School in California. After he retired from that noble profession he pursued an amateur singing career with various Christian groups.

George Witt died earlier this year at the age of 81. Certainly for him a life well led.

Here is a tribute to him played at his services I found on YouTube:

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

#449 Tom Gorman

Tom Gorman began his professional career was a Yankees prospect who they drafted in 1946 after he had been in the Navy serving in the Pacific in WWII. He was more or less a local kid having been born and raised in Valley Stream on Long Island.

He pitched erratically in the Yankees' chain but got a call mid season in 1952. He made six starts with an equal number of bullpen outings and went 6-2. He made an appearance in the World Series that year against the Dodgers getting into the Game Three in the ninth inning after Eddie Lopat had allowed the deciding runs in the loss.

The next season he pitched in 40 games for the Bombers, all but one in relief and posted six saves which was good for ninth best in the A.L. He made another World Series appearance and earned his second ring. In that Series he pitched three innings in relief of White Ford in Game Four and struck out the first batter he faces, Brooklyn's Billy Cox. Gorman allowed a run in that outing and even came up to hit once and whiffed.

He pitched for the Yanks up until July of the '54 season when he was farmed out despite decent numbers. I can't find out anything more but I suspect he was blocking the progression of a younger arm. Tom Morgan perhaps?

Either way the Yanks traded him to Kansas City in the off season (Another deal with K.C.? Shocking!). Gorman pitched for the Athletics for four full seasons and part of a fifth. 1955 was his busiest and best year. He collected a career high 18 saves which translated to second among AL bullpen guys. He was a spot starter for the A's in '56 and '57, went back to the pen full time in 1958 and was washed out of the big leagues early the next season.

Gorman died in Valley Stream in 1992. He is not related to umpire Tom Gorman who worked in the NL for nearly three decades or to the Tom Gorman who pitched for several NL clubs in the 1980s.

I've always liked his 1953 Bowman. Anyone out there collect these? I'd love to swap for some of your dupes.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

#373 Herb Plews

Herb Plews is one of 181 players who have gone from the University of Illinois-Champaign/Urbana to the ranks of pro baseball. One of them is a Hall of Famer, Lou Boudreau.

Plews was signed by the Yankees out of UI in 1950. He took spent four seasons as a pretty good hitting infielder and a couple of years in the service before he debuted with the Washington Senators in 1956. He had been traded by the Yanks to the Nats that winter. With Washington Plews spent three years as a semi-regular at second base and filling it at third and short.

His numbers were actually pretty good for a middle infielder as he hit .264 with 82 RBI for Washington. He was traded to the Red Sox early in the 1959 season. But after only 12 at bats in 13 games he was shipped to the minors when the Red Sox finally integrated their club by bringing up Pumpsie Green.

Beginning in 1960 Plews was an everyday infielder in AAA for five different organization over six seasons. He retired in 1965 and currently resides in Denver.

There sure is a lot of Herb Plews material available to read. Here is a Denver Post article about Plews in his days as a Yankee farmhand in Denver. He was part of one of the best minor league teams ever assembled. Hobby blogger Tom Owens recounts his interactions with Plews in this entry. Here is another lengthy but worthwhile interview done in 2010. And of course SABR has perhaps the definitive Plews bio.

Herb Plews' smiling visage in Yankee Stadium on his '59 card seems to reflect his overall personality and character. These traits come through in all those articles. For a guy I'd never really been aware of he seems to have acquired quite a fan base among writers.