Tuesday, March 8, 2016

#553 Bill Skowron Sport Magazine All Star

Bill Skowron Sport Magazine '60 All Star Selection

As an All Star: Skowron was a four time All Star as a Yankee. He was selected as the starting first baseman for four straight years beginning in 1957. He was 6 for 14 with a double over his five games.

In the '60 ASGs: He started both games at 1B for the AL going 2 for 4 with a pair of singles and a walk.

The Card: Another nice Jack Davis cartoon. Interesting that Topps references the Yankees as 'falling apart' in 1959.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

#275 Curt Flood

Curt Flood   St. Louis Cardinals

Career: He was originally signed by the Reds but he was a three time All Star in 14 seasons with the Cardinals. Won seven Gold Gloves and two World Series rings. Led the NL in hits in 1964. Multiple time leader in fielding categories. He's best know for his groundbreaking stand against baseball's reserve clause. This story at The Atlantic is a good read about that aspect of his life. He actually returned to the field for a brief stint with the the Ted Williams managed Senators in 1971.

In 1960: This was Flood's last of three seasons as just an average big league starter. He had hit .261 as a rookie and had seen his numbers sliding. He hit .237 in 1960 but raised his average about 80 points the next year and hit over .300 in six of the next nine seasons.

WikiFacts: From Flood's Wikipedia page:
Despite his outstanding playing career, Flood's principal legacy developed off the field. He believed that Major League Baseball's decades-old reserve clause was unfair in that it kept players beholden for life to the team with which they originally signed, even when they had satisfied the terms and conditions of those contracts.
On October 7, 1969, the Cardinals traded Flood, Tim McCarver, Byron Browne, and Joe Hoerner to the Philadelphia Phillies for Dick Allen, Cookie Rojas, and Jerry Johnson. Flood refused to report to the moribund Phillies, citing the team's poor record and dilapidated Connie Mack Stadium, and for (what he thought were) belligerent—and racist—fans. Flood said, "That I didn't think that I was going to report to Philadelphia, mainly because I didn't want to pick up twelve years of my life and move to another city."

The Card: This one is cropped strangely with Flood being somewhat off-center. The stadium is San Francisco's Seals Stadium. It's easy to tell by the red hand-railings visible in the out-of-focus background.

I love the color combo, the cream and gold back and the highlights text. It's one of my favorite cards in the set.

Monday, February 29, 2016

#296 Nelson Chittum

Nelson Chittum  Boston Red Sox

Career: He pitched in 40 big league games, all but two in relief, for the Cardinals and Red Sox between 1958 and 1960. His career mark was 3-1 with a 1.35 WHIP. Chittum had outstanding numbers as he moved up the Cardinals' chain from 1956 through 1958. But his brief tenure in St. Louis was not impressive and he was traded to Boston, His three 1959 wins and solid numbers in limited duty in '59 likely earned him a spot in this set.

In 1960: Chittum opened the season with the Sox but was dealt to the Dodgers for Rip Repulski early in May. He was sent to Omaha (AA) by the Dodgers and never again reached the majors. He finished with a couple of seasons in the Orioles system.

WikiFacts: From his SABR bio:
Chitttum once described his pitching style: "I threw everything but the ball. I'd throw 'em the arm, the elbow, the glove, and then I'd throw the ball…I had a good sinker, a good slider, good location. I didn't walk anybody, didn't strike out many guys but kept the ball down, made 'em hit ground balls, pop flies."

The Card: Not a bad card of a not very well known player. The addition of orange to the fairly common yellow/red/black scheme is actually nice.

The Red Sox made two trips to Yankee Stadium after Chittum was called up by the Sox in August of 1959. Topps was there to snap this shot.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

#499 Johnny James

Johnny James   New York Yankees

Career: Threw a couple of innings in 1958 with the Yanks but had longer stints in 1960 (Yankees) and 1961 (Angels). He wasn't an expansion pick by the Angels but was dealt there a month into the '61 season. In 66 MLB games (3 starts) he won five games and lost three.

In 1960: Went 5-1 with a pair of saves with the Yanks in half a year. He was farmed out near the end of July (see quote below).

WikiFacts: From a Seamheads.com interview in 2009:
In 1960 I was doing pretty well. I was 5-1 and had pitched in more games than any other pitcher. Casey comes with a left-handed pitcher who was playing down in Richmond, named Billy Short. He called me into the office after I had pitched the last four innings of a game against the White Sox, and sent me back to Richmond. I had an option left in my contract. The guys told me he didn’t really want to send me back, he wanted to get rid of Duke Maas, but Casey had a thing about, a fear I should say, about giving up a player who might be picked up by another team in the American League, and the possibility of hurting the Yankees later on.Since they had an option on my contract, they didn’t have to ask waivers on me. They sent me back, which really kind of broke my heart, and I didn’t really react to it very well.
The Card: I think he sort of resembles Bobby Shantz but that has nothing to do with the card I guess. Spring training photo and probably the only Topps card to ever reference a spring training no-hitter with a cartoon.

Monday, January 25, 2016

#356 Joe Amalfitano

Joe Amalfitano  San Francisco Giants

Career: He's a baseball lifer. He began with a "Bonus Baby" signing in 1954 and he remains in the game to this day. Remarkably he's never been employed by an American League club. He played for ten seasons with the Giants, Colt .45s and Cubs. He managed the Cubs and spent many years in coaching, scouting and front office assignments for a variety of teams. He coached third base for over a decade for Tommy Lasorda in Los Angeles. According to the Giants' website he is currently a special assistant for player development, primarily working in their farm system.

In 1960: He had his highest career batting average (.277) to go along with a couple of homers and 27 RBI. After his mandatory two years on the Giants' roster as a Bonus baby and a stint in the minors this was his first full season as a major league regular.

WikiFacts: Fun blog interview with Amalfitano can be found here. Here is the opening quote from Amalfitano:
“So, we had a team meeting the night before the (1954 World Series) and Durocher started reading from this scouting report and going through their lineup. After about the third name, he stopped and said, ‘We beat these guys in the spring and we’ll beat them again’ and that was the end of the meeting. He took that scouting report and threw it in the trash.”
Lasorda has a blog post about his pal Amalfitano which is found here.

The Card: That has to be a minor league shot of Amalfitano on the card. They airbrushed a Giants 'SF' logo on the cap but left the pinstripes. This is one of the lesser conditioned ones in my binder. the front is lined and scuffed. Candidate for an upgrade one of these days.

The write-up refers to Amalfitano's first tenure the Giants as his 'time with the 'Rigneymen'' as in current (at the time of the card) Giants manager Bill Rigney. But the manager in '54/'55 was Leo Durocher. I see where they were going with that but it seems odd.

You have to love a cartoon that mentions a player's musical skills.

Monday, January 18, 2016

#343 Sandy Koufax

Sandy Koufax  Los Angeles Dodgers

Career: Notable Achievements (as listed on his BR Bullpen page):
  • 6-time NL All-Star (1961-1966)
  • NL MVP (1963)
  • 3-time ML Cy Young Award Winner (1963, 1965 & 1966)
  • 3-time NL Pitcher's Triple Crown (1963, 1965 & 1966)
  • 1963 World Series MVP
  • 1965 World Series MVP
  • 5-time NL ERA Leader (1962-1966)
  • 3-time NL Wins Leader (1963, 1965 & 1966)
  • 2-time NL Winning Percentage Leader (1964 & 1965)
  • 2-time NL Innings Pitched Leader (1965 & 1966)
  • 4-time NL Strikeouts Leader (1961, 1963, 1965 & 1966)
  • 2-time NL Complete Games Leader (1965 & 1966)
  • 3-time NL Shutouts Leader (1963, 1964 & 1966)
  • 15 Win Seasons: 5 (1961 & 1963-1966)
  • 20 Win Seasons: 3 (1963, 1965 & 1966)
  • 25 Win Seasons: 3 (1963, 1965 & 1966)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 5 (1961 & 1963-1966)
  • 300 Innings Pitched Seasons: 3 (1963, 1965 & 1966)
  • 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 6 (1961-1966)
  • 300 Strikeouts Seasons: 3 (1963, 1965 & 1966)
  • Won four World Series with the Brooklyn Dodgers (1955; he did not play in the World Series) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (1959, 1963 & 1965)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1972

In 1960: This was Koufax' last season as a flamethrower whose record didn't reflect his ability. He was 8-13 with a 3.91 ERA and a 10.1 Ks per 9 innings average that led the league. Bigger things were coming....soon.

WikiFacts: Great quotes about Sandy Koufax, from his page on the Hall of Fame site and around the 'net:

"Either he throws the fastest ball I've ever seen, or I'm going blind,” said Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn.

“I can see how he won 25 games. What I don't understand is how he lost five,” said Hall of Famer Yogi Berra in 1963.

“He was the greatest pitcher of his time in baseball,” said [sportswriter] Jimmy Cannon.

“And that Koufax. You name a better left-hander in the history of baseball and I’ll eat my hat,” said Hall of Famer Harry Hooper.

"There are two times in my life the hair on my arms has stood up: The first time I saw the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the first time I saw Sandy Koufax throw a fastball" - Al Campanis

"Trying to hit him was like trying to drink coffee with a fork." - Willie Stargell

"It's no disgrace to get beat by class." -Bob Hendley, the losing Chicago Cubs pitcher in Koufax's perfect game.

"It wasn't a matter that he could win ballgames, He could completely shut you down." -Joe Torre

The Card: As a Koufax collector this is not my favorite card. Actually the b/w 'action' shot is better than a lot of the others on 1960 Topps cards but I'd rather see Koufax with a cap on. Where and when the shot was taken is a mystery to me. The cap-less look might mean it was taken late in the Dodgers' days in Brooklyn and Topps was listening to the rumors of a move out west. But they probably took these kind of pics of almost everyone so it's more likely they chose it as what they thought was the best available.

The background looks like it might be the Memorial Coliseum or the apartments behind the Polo Grounds, or Wrigley Field, or someplace different entirely, I'm just not sure. And that bugs me.

As with other star (read: expensive) cards in this set I went with a F/G condition example. Putting together a vintage set in acceptable condition within a budget forces one to compromise.

Friday, January 15, 2016

#537 Boston Red Sox #220 Billy Jurges #456 Red Sox Coaches

In 1960: Boston finished in 7th in 1960. They were in the throes of a downhill slide after finishing third in both '57 and '58. They slid steadily towards a ninth place finish in 1966 before bouncing back in the 'Impossible Dream' season, 1967.

In '60 the Sox were middle of the pack in most hitting categories but sat at the bottom when it came to pitching. Ted Williams was playing his final season and even at the age of 41 he led the club with 29 homers and his .316 average was just behind Pete Runnels' .320 mark. Vic Wertz drove in a team high 103 runs.

Bill Monbouquette anchored the starting rotation and went 14-11 with a 3.64 ERA and a 1.326 WHIP. Mike Fornieles closed for the club and had 10 wins and 13 saves and the best ERA (2.64) of anyone on the staff.

The Card: High number card that carried a slight premium despite the rough condition it was in. This is one of the last dozen or so cards that was on my wantlist. The soft corners are sort of balanced out by it having an unmarked back.

Manager's Card: Billy Jurges

Career: Billy Jurges only managed 122 games for the Red Sox in 1959/1960. He was at the helm for the last 80 games in 1959 and got the team into fifth place after taking the reins with them in the basement. But he lasted until June 7th in 1960 before being fired after a 12-3 home loss to the Indians. Overall he had a record of 59-63. This stint with Boston was his only managing job in the bigs but he coached and scouted for decades.

He was a three time All Star for the Cubs and Giants during a solid 17 year playing career.

The Card: It's way off center in both directions but even so it's one of the best cards in the subset. I love his 'foot up on the batting cage' pose.

Coaches Card: Rudy York was a seven time AL All Star who led the league in homers and RBI in 1943. Billy Herman was a ten time NL All Star second baseman with Brooklyn and Chicago among others. Three times he finished fourth or better in the MVP voting. Del baker spent fifty years in baseball. Along the way he managed the Tigers to the 1940 pennant. He retired at the end of the 1960 season so his last day in uniform was also Ted Williams' last day. Sal "The Barber" Maglie had a long and colorful career on the mound and as a coach. My post of his 1959 Topps card has links to SABR and other places well worth checking out.