Tuesday, December 11, 2018

#37 Bill Bruton

Bill Bruton  Milwaukee Braves

Career: Bruton led the NL in steals his first three seasons in the league. He went on to play centerfield for twelve years, eight with the Braves and the last four with the Tigers. He was a member of two NL championship Braves squads but missed the '57 World Series due to a knee injury. He hit .412 with a homer in the '58 Series. 

In 1960This was his last season in Milwaukee but he made it a good one as he led the league in runs and triples.

Off The Charts: From his SABR bio: "...Bruton’s development as a player benefited directly from the professional baseball help and advice he received from his father-in-law, Hall of Famer William Julius “Judy” Johnson. Johnson spent 18 years in the Negro Leagues playing third base primarily with the Hilldale Club of Philadelphia and the Pittsburgh Crawfords."

The Card: Wonderful card that ticks off all the boxes for this set...nice color combo, "action" (posed) shot, great Braves uni, Wrigley Field background, cream cardboard, Season's Highlights bullet list on the back. Damn near perfect!

Monday, December 10, 2018

#36 Russ Nixon

Russ Nixon  Cleveland Indians

Career: Russ Nixon spent 12 seasons as a big league catcher for the Indians, Red Sox and Twins. He was never an All-Star or hit for much power but he had a respectable career .268 average. He also managed the Reds and Braves and served as a coach, instructor, and  minor league manager well into his 70s.

In 1960: He split the year between the Indians and Red Sox due to a trade in June. The deal revived his bat and he hit .295 after arriving in Fenway. Here's a fun fact from Wikipedia on his 1960 season: "Nixon was actually traded twice to the Red Sox in 1960. Cleveland initially dealt him to Boston on March 16 for catcher Sammy White and first baseman Jim Marshall. White chose to retire and the trade was canceled but not before Nixon played five exhibition games for the Red Sox. Nixon returned to the Indians and started the regular season with them, appearing in 25 games, 21 as the starting catcher; then, almost three months after the original swap, on June 13, he was traded to the Red Sox a second time, with outfielder Carroll Hardy for Canadian-born pitcher Ted Bowsfield and outfielder Marty Keough."

Off The Charts: His twin brother, Roy Nixon, never reached the majors. They were both signed on the same day by the Cleveland Indians and were teammates on the 1953 Green Bay Bluejays and both had 46 hits - but Russ did it in 137 AB while it took Roy 182 at-bats to reach that figure.

The Card: Someone, likely a kid, wrote his initials on the back of this card. Writing on the front of a card is an issue for me. On the back? It's not a big deal. This photo was taken at Municipal Stadium. Nice for a change of pace. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

#35 Whitey Ford

Whitey Ford   New York Yankees

Career: Ford burst on the scene in July of 1950 and won nine games for the Series-bound Yankees. He was 9-0 until he lost in relief late in September when he was asked to pitch several innings two days after a complete game win. In his Hall of Fame career he was known for his control, fast games, clutch pitching, and friendship with Mickey Mantle among other things.

He won six titles in New York while helping the Yanks to eleven WS appearances. He had ten Series wins with a WHIP of just over 1.1 and was the '61 Series MVP with 2 wins. Over the course of the 1960 and 1961 Series he pitched 32 innings without allowing an earned run. 

In 1960: He went 12-7 and had four shutouts which led the league. He started the second of that season's two All-Star games and threw gopher balls to Willie Mays and Eddies Mathews and took the loss. He was the only effective Yankee pitchers in their Series loss to the Pirates.

Off The Charts: "Some of Ford's totals were depressed by Yankees manager Casey Stengel who viewed Ford as his top pitching asset and often reserved his ace left-hander for more formidable opponents such as the Tigers, Indians, and White Sox. When Ralph Houk became the manager in 1961, he promised Ford that he would pitch every fourth day, regardless of the opponent; after exceeding 30 starts only once in his nine seasons under Stengel, Ford had 39 in 1961". -Wikipedia

The Card: One of my very faves in this set. Love the color scheme, the cartoon and even the fact that four of the 'season's highlights' came against the Orioles.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

#34 George 'Sparky' Anderson

George Anderson  Philadelphia Phillies

Career:  Sparky Anderson signed with the Dodgers in 1953 and after six years climbing the extremely crowded ladder that was their farm system was dealt to the Phils. He had an interesting one year career. Interesting in that not many players are full-time starters as rookies and then never appear in the majors again. Of course, Sparky was destined to manage with the Reds and Tigers and land in the Hall of Fame for that body of work. He was a pretty decent minor league hitter before and after his one big league season.

In 1960: Coming off his .218 average as the full-time second-baseman for the Phils he was set adrift and landed in Toronto with the AAA Maple Leafs. He hit .227 for what was that year an Indians affiliate club.

Off The Charts: Anderson is the last American League manager to date to win a game by forfeit. This came a month after being hired in Detroit when, as a result of Disco Demolition Night in Chicago, the second half of a doubleheader with the Chicago White Sox had to be called off after an anti-disco demonstration went awry and severely damaged the playing surface at Comiskey Park. Even after White Sox groundskeepers removed debris from the field, Anderson refused to let the Tigers take the field. -Wikipedia

The Card: Sparky was a guy who always looked to be in his 70s. But this photo, taken in Connie Mack Stadium, actually seems to do him some favors. The red in the uni, cap, and seats is a nice compliment to the yellow.green/white card color combo.

Monday, November 12, 2018

#33 Tom Morgan

Tom Morgan  Detroit Tigers

Career: Morgan was an under-the-radar spot starter turned reliever for the powerful Yankee clubs of the early to mid-50s. He put up fairly consistent numbers in the Bronx.  And he won three rings. His time with the Tigers, A's and Senators was a bit rockier but he found his form again 1961 in Los Angeles. He went 8-2, had ten saves and a WHIP under 1 and backed that up in '62 with a nine-save season. He retired as a player after 1963 but spent many years as a pitching coach, manager, and instructor in several organizations.

In 1960: Morgan was dealt from the Tigers to the Senators in July. He made 36 appearances overall and his subpar numbers gave no indication of the nice season he was to have with the fledgling Angels in 1961. 

Off The Charts: Morgan was traded twice in 1957..in February from the Yankees to the Athletics and in November from the A's to the Tigers. Those two trades involved 25 different players. 

The Card: Morgan seems to attract the oddball colors in Topps' sets. He had a sweet pink card in 1958 and a lime green one in '59. Seafoam green/red/yellow/white is not common in this 1960. I've come across worse I guess.

Friday, November 9, 2018

#30 Tito Francona

Tito Francona  Cleveland Indians

Career: The father of Indians' manager Terry, Tito Francona had a long pro career. He began as a Browns signee in 1952 and played 15 big league seasons, six with Cleveland. He was a top 5 MVP candidate in 1959, led the league in doubles in 1960 and made the AL All-Star team in 1961. He passed away at the age of 84 earlier in 2018.

In 1960: After a sterling 1959 season (.363 and a career-high 20 homers) in 1959 his numbers dipped a bit to a .291 average and 17 homers.

Off The Charts: He and Rocky Colavito tied for 2nd with one vote each in the 1956 ROY balloting. The winner was Luis Aparicio who got 22 votes. Hey, second place isn't always the first loser.

The Card: Dig that chaw of tobacco in Tito's cheek. And that classic gold on cream card-back with seasons highlight bullet points. I love it. It takes me back to the schoolyard and my friends and I shuffling through stacks of these things. Nostalgia is a helluva drug.

Friday, November 2, 2018

#29 Clem Labine

Clem Labine  Los Angeles Dodgers

Career: He pitched in 13 big league seasons, mostly with the Dodgers in Brooklyn. He was the Bums' main bullpen guy in their (sometimes) glorious mid-50s. He led the NL in saves in 1956 and 1957 which happened to be the two years he was an All-Star. He pitched in six World Series, five with the Dodgers. He had two Series game wins and two saves. He finished his career in 1962 with a short stint with the Original Mets. He retired to admire his three Series rings after being released a month into the season. 

In 1960: Nearing the end of his career, he was traded to the Tigers in June, released by them in August and was lucky enough to hook on with the World Series-bound Pirates for the last six weeks of the season. His full regular season numbers were pretty decent but like every Pirate pitcher in the Series against the Yankees he was shelled, badly. But as we all know the Bucs pulled out a classic seven-game Series win and Labine had his third ring. 

Off The Charts: The late Robert Creamer, one of our best baseball biographers, wrote this terrific article about Labine for the June 3, 1957 issue of Sports Illustrated. Seriously great writing.

The Card: Super nice color combo and a picture from Wrigley Field. What's not to like?  Interestingly Topps gave his card the 'write-up' treatment rather than the 'bulleted highlights' thing. He had eight saves and five wins in the previous season but I guess it was a matter of them wanting to touch on his career Series exploits rather than just 1959. Can't blame them.