Saturday, May 27, 2017

#305 Richie Ashburn



Richie Ashburn  Chicago Cubs

Career: Richie Ashburn was a five time All Star outfielder who won batting titles with the Phils in 1955 and 1958. In his 15 year career he led the NL in OBP four times, hits three times, walks four times, triples twice and putouts by an outfielder nine times. He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee in 1995. He had 29 career homers, seven of those coming with the '62 expansion Mets in his final season.

12 of his seasons were with the Phils and he returned to Philadelphia as a broadcaster after his retirement as an active player.

In 1960: This was Ashburn's first season in Chicago after 12 with the Phils. He was acquired in a trade for John Buzhardt, Al Dark and Jim Woods. He led the NL in OBP and walks. His .291 average was a bounce-back after having dipped into the .230s in 1959.

WikiFacts: From Wikipedia...
After his playing career, Ashburn was hired by the Philadelphia Phillies as an analyst in 1963. Originally, Ashburn worked with Bill Campbell and Ford Frick Award winner Byrum Saam. When Campbell left the Phillies in 1970, he was replaced by Harry Kalas. Kalas and Ashburn would work together on Phillies broadcasts for twenty-seven years.
Ashburn, who was a boyhood friend of comedian Johnny Carson, became known for his homespun stories of his boyhood in Nebraska. He would lament the mistakes of the Phillies with an "Oh brother." Photographs of an aging Ashburn showed him with a jeff cap and a pipe. His rapport with Kalas was both legendary and genuine, Kalas referred to him as "His Whiteness."
The Card: Connie Mack Stadium is the backdrop for the picture in this one. Ashburn wears Phils gear without a cap. Topps painted the Cubs' "C" onto his cap in the secondary picture. card has a nice color combo but loses points for a capless player. Poor Richie.

Friday, May 26, 2017

#293 Gene Conley




Gene Conley  Philadelphia Phillies

Career: A native of Muskogee, Oklahoma Conley won 91 games over the course of 11 seasons with the Braves, Phils and Red Sox. His baseball career was highlighted by winning a ring with the '57 Braves. Paralleling his diamond work Conley played pro hoops with the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks.

In 1960: Coming off an All Star selection in '59 Conley's numbers went in the wrong direction in 1960. He slipped to 8-14 but a lot of that could be traced to the anemic Phils offense. They finished last in the NL in nearly every batting category.

WikiFacts: From Wikipedia....
He is best known for being one of only two people (the other being Otto Graham–1946 NBL and AAFC Championship, plus three more AAFC and three NFL championships) to win championships in two of the four major American sports, one with the Milwaukee Braves in the 1957 World Series and three Boston Celtics championships from 1959–61.
In the beginning of the 1952 season, Conley, along with fellow rookies George Crowe and Eddie Mathews, was invited to spring training with a chance of making the roster. Around that time, the United States Army was drafting for the Korean War. Many major and minor league players were selected to fight in the war, depleting team rosters. Conley was deferred because of his height (6'8'), which was above the Army maximum height for a soldier.
The Card: The main photo doesn't look retouched but the b/w one is obviously Conley in Milwaukee gear. The always fun Season's Highlights section gives plenty of evidence of his All Star 1959 season.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

#120 Duke Carmel



Duke Carmel St. Louis Cardinals

Career: New York City native Duke Carmel played in 124 big league games between 1959 and 1965 for the Cards, Mets and Yankees. He was also passed through the Dodgers and Indians organizations along the way. He showed lots of power in the minors but hit only four dingers in the bigs. The most interesting thing about Carmel is his transaction log...

June 15, 1960: Traded by the St. Louis Cardinals with Jim Donohue to the Los Angeles Dodgers for John Glenn.
September 19, 1960: Purchased by the St. Louis Cardinals from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
May 16, 1961: Traded by the St. Louis Cardinals to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Joe Koppe.
Before 1962 Season: Sent from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the St. Louis Cardinals in an unknown transaction.
March, 1962: Purchased by the Cleveland Indians from the St. Louis Cardinals.
Before 1963 Season: Sent from the Cleveland Indians to the St. Louis Cardinals in an unknown transaction.
July 29, 1963: Traded by the St. Louis Cardinals to the New York Mets for Jacke Davis and cash.
November 30, 1964: Drafted by the New York Yankees from the New York Mets in the 1964 rule 5 draft.

So he went from the Dodgers to the Cardinals to the Dodgers to the Cardinals to the Indians to the Cardinals to the Mets and to the Yankees. The Cardinals bought him, sold him, traded him (3 times!) and acquired him (twice) in unknown transactions.  All righty then.

In 1960: He spent most of the season at the AAA level for St. Louis and LA.

WikiFact: From his Wikimedia page: With his name he might have been a natural for having a candy bar named after himself. But he probably would have had a better chance had he put up numbers in the majors like the .324 batting average, 29 homers and 121 RBIs he had in 1957 when he led the Billings Mustangs to the Pioneer League pennant, or the 35 home runs he hit for Buffalo in 1964.

The Card: I love these orange Rookie Team cards. The back of this one was plenty faded,



Wednesday, May 10, 2017

#478 Frank Torre



Frank Torre, Milwaukee Braves

Career: Frank Torre spent seven seasons in the majors with the Braves and Phils, primarily as a platoon first baseman. He was eight years older than brother Joe who made the Hall of Fame and still works for MLB. Frank was good with the glove and led the NL in several defensive categories in 1957 and 1958, his two most productive seasons. He hit .309 with six homers and 55 RBI in ;58 which showed he could handle a bat pretty well, too.

He spent two years with the Phils after the Braves sold his contract to them in December of 1961.

In 1960: This was his last season with Milwaukee and he spent most of it and all of 1961 back in the minors after his numbers dropped off the previous season.

WikiFacts: From his (highly entertaining) SABR bio:
After his playing career ended, Frank entered the sporting-goods business. Initially he and Joe operated a sporting-goods store. Frank then joined Adirondack Bats and became manager of the company’s professional division. Part of that job consisted of visiting all the major-league spring-training facilities in a trailer that served as a portable bat factory (Yes, the trailer was referred to as a “bat-mobile”) that provided custom-made bats to major leaguers. Inside the trailer were Adirondack craftsmen, as well as a special lathe and other equipment that produced a custom bat in 30 minutes that even included the player’s own signature.

The Card: That's Memorial Coliseum behind Torre. that background, the Braves classic uni and the color combo all add up to make this one of the nicer cards in the set.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

#187 Jay Hook



Jay Hook, New York Mets

Career: Jay Hook split eight seasons and 160 big league appearances pretty evenly between the Reds (who signed him in 1957) and the Mets (who acquired him in the '61 expansion draft). His 29-62 career mark is pretty much matched by his other numbers, a career 5.39 ERA and 1.43 WHIP.

In 1960: Hook had his best and busiest (in terms of IP) year. He was 11-18 as a regular member of the Reds' rotation. Of his five full or nearly full seasons in the majors this one featured his best ERA and WHIP.

WikiFacts: From Wikipedia.... Hook won the first game in Mets franchise history. On April 23, 1962, he pitched a five-hit 9–1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Forbes Field, giving his team its first regular-season victory after nine defeats. In that season he compiled an 8–19 mark for the Mets, and led the team in complete games (13) and games started (34)....After receiving a master's degree in thermodynamics, Hook retired in 1964 at age 28 to take a job with Chrysler Corporation.

The Card: Looks like Wrigley Field to me....ivy walls, the roll-up door, the houses across Waveland. Hook was a Chicago native so he probably had family there. The cartoon mentions his attending Northwestern which is just up the Lake Michigan shoreline in Evanston. He was probably 23 in this photo. He looks about 15.

The first Season's Highlight notes his first big league win, a complete game against the Cubs. That came at Wrigley. Topps sure liked to use black elements on the cards of Cincinnati players back then.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

#315 Bobby Shantz



Bobby Shantz  New York Yankees

Career: Bobby Shantz was deemed too small by many scouts in the 40s but he had a long productive career with the A's, Yankees, several National League clubs. He pitched on three pennant winning Yankee teams and won a ring in '58 although an injury prevented him from appearing in that Series. He moved from a starters role to the bullpen and back again winning 119 games and  accumulating 48 saves.

His best year was undoubtedly 1952 when he won 24 games and was named the AL MVP. That season's 24-7 record came on an A's club that finished 79-75. He made 33 starts, completed 27 of them and had five shutouts and a league leading 1.048 WHIP. He hurt his wrist late in the year and thus began a three season long period of erratic results due to arm and wrist ailments.

In 1960: In his second go-round as a reliever Shantz had a career high 11 saves in 47 relief appearances. He was in the middle of a run of eight straight Gold Glove awards!

WikiFacts: 

From Wikipedia:
Shantz had the distinction of being selected in expansion drafts in consecutive seasons. He was selected in the 1960 MLB expansion draft by the Washington Senators from the New York Yankees, and in the 1961 MLB expansion draft by the Colt .45s from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Card: This is a card I picked up two years ago and sent to Shantz to be autographed along with two others. I posted in my Five Tool blog about that TTM from Shantz. He answered my question about his memories of Yankee Stadium with a nice long paragraph. I'm re-posting that at the bottom here. Shantz was one of my Dad's favorite players and although I was never a real Yankee fan I became a Bobby Shantz fan.

For that reason plus the fact that the color combo on this card is my very favorite in the set makes this a special post. Bobby Shantz is now 91 and still signs (with great inscriptions!) for a small fee which he donates to the Salvation Army. What a guy.


And the other two cards I sent are here:



Monday, February 27, 2017

#328 Earl Battey



Earl Battey  Chicago White Sox

Career: After coming through the White Sox system and three seasons as a back-up Battey's career took off in Washington. After being traded from the Sox to the Senators just before this card was issued he went on to backstop that franchise as they moved to Minnesota. He helped the Twins win the AL Pennant in 1965.

During his seven seasons as the Twins primary catcher he made four All Star squads and won three straight Gold Glove awards ('60-'62). He also finished in the Top Ten in MVP votes three times. He hit .302 in 1961 and had career highs in homers (26) and RBI (84) in 1963. There were not a whole lot of catchers who matched his combination of hitting and defense during his heyday.

In 1960: Battey was traded to the Senators two weeks before the 1960 season opened. And when it did he was ready. He had a couple of hits including a two run homer in support of Camilo Pascual's nifty three hit 15 strikeout performance in a win over the Red Sox. Handed the starting job he slashed a solid 15/60/.270 and picked up his first Gold Glove.

WikiFacts: Battey's SABR bio has the story of his original signing by Chicago:
According to Bob Vanderberg, Chicago Tribune assistant sports editor, “Billy Pierce told me the story that when the Sox were in California training, Paul Richards after practice asked Billy to go with him to see a high-school game. When Billy asked why, Richards told him about a great young catcher [Battey] who supposedly was the best in the country.” White Sox scout Hollis Thurston signed Battey to a $3,999 contract. His mother was ill and his family needed the money. At that time, a player signing for a bonus of $4,000 or more had to be kept on the major-league roster for at least two years.

The Card: It has an interesting color combo and you have to love old Comiskey in the background. For me though the uni Battey wears makes it such a nice card. I love the pinstripe look and especially the red-trimmed elements. I've always liked the white and red S-O-X logo's cap. It took me a long time to find a well made example.. I finally nabbed one when we saw the Sox play in Chicago last summer.