Sunday, April 9, 2017

#187 Jay Hook



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.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

#96 Ralph Terry



Ralph Terry  New York Yankees

Career: Won 107 games over twelve seasons, 78 of those wins came in two stints with the Yankees ('56-'57 and '59-'64). He pitched in five consecutive World Series from 1960 thru 1964. He had a 2-4 WS record but pitched way better than that as he 2.93 ERA and 1.02 WHIP indicate.

In 1960: Terry was 10-8 in 23 starts and a dozen relief efforts for the Yanks. He famously gave up Bill Mazeroski's game winning homer that won the World Series for the Pirates.

WikiFacts: He was such a fine golfer that he played on the PGA tours after his baseball career ended in 1967. He also is credited with teaching Tug McGraw the screwball during his time with the Mets in 1966/'67.

The Card: Another fine Jack Davis cartoon graces this card which I remember from my schoolyard days in New Jersey. Yankee cards were highly sought and most kids held them back during our card flipping sessions at recess. Colorful scheme on the front, cream colored cardboard, season highlights and a fine illustration=a great card. The scan makes the back appear miscut. It isn't.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

#155 Charlie Neal



Charlie Neal  Los Angeles Dodgers

Career: Charlie Neal signed with the Dodgers in 1950 but as a middle infielder his spot on the major league roster was blocked at the top by a couple of guys named Reese and Robinson. He broke through in 1956 with Brooklyn and had a a short but very good eight year career. He peaked in 1959 with sparkling work at bat and in the field. He hit .287 with 19 homers and nearly 90 RBI. Add in 17 stolen bases, a Gold Glove and leading the NL with 11 triples and it's not hard to see how he finished in the top ten in the MVP balloting.

In the 1959 World Series against the White Sox Neal had two homers among his 10 hits and a .370 average. His six RBI in the Series easily topped the team.

Neal was an original '62 Met having come to New York in a trade the winter before the club opened play. He was among the few bright spots for the expansion team but in '63 he was slumping and traded to the Reds in July. He retired after that 1963 season.

Neal is also a vet of the Negro Leagues having played with the Atlanta Black Crackers.

In 1960: He was coming off his best season but his numbers dipped across the board. Despite that he again made the NL All Star squad. It was his second and final time for that honor. His average dropped nearly 30 points to .256 and his homers fell off to just eight.

WikiFacts: Neal had 24 triples in his second minor league season, 1951 with Class B Lancaster. No major leaguer has had that many in a year since 1925. Among current players only Curtis Granderson and Jimmy Rollins have had as many as 20 in a big league season season.

The Card: That's really a nice color combo for a Dodgers player in this set. Neal is in Memorial Coliseum. The season highlights give a good accounting of how well Neal played in 1959. Featured are his fielding marks (tied for most putouts in a game in MLB history) and his postseason exploits (big games in the NL playoff against the Braves and the World Series against Chicago). Too bad the card isn't on the cream colored cardboard.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

#256 Dick Brown



Dick Brown  Chicago White Sox

Career: Dick Brown signed with the Cleveland Indians and in 1953 began a climb thru their system that saw him debut in the bigs in 1957. He gained playing time as his career moved him to the White Sox and he was the Tigers starter in 1961 and 1962. He was dealt to the Orioles and again worked his way into what was to be a starting job in 1966 when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Another tumor was found soon after and his career as a player was over. He scouted for the Orioles for several years until his death in 1970. He was only 35 years old.

In 1960: Prior to the 1960 season he was traded by the Indians with Don Ferrarese, Minnie Minoso and Jake Striker to the Chicago White Sox for Norm Cash, Bubba Phillips and John Romano. He spent quite a bit of the season in the minors (curiously he was playing for an Orioles affiliate) but manged to get 43 at bats for the Sox, He hit only .163 in what was his worst season as a major league catcher. He was traded to the Tigers after the season by way of an initial trade to the Braves.

WikiFacts: Brown was a high school catcher for Herb Score and was dating Score's sister Helen when Score signed with the Indians. Brown was planning on going to dental school, but Helen told the Indians they should sign Score's catcher also. The Indians needed catchers in their minor league system, so they did in 1953. -Baseball Reference Bullpen

The Card: I'm gonna take a guess here and say it's Municipal Stadium in this one. He gets the small write-up rather than a season highlights listing. That's always a letdown. It's one of many capless player poses. At least there's a reason for this one...he was traded in the off season.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

#7 Master & Mentor




The Card: Even without the creamy home Giants jerseys you can tell this was taken at Seals Stadium. You can make out just enough of the red railings in the seating areas to be sure.

Nice photo of Willie Mays and Bill Rigney near the batting cage. The back features a write-up that focuses mostly on the Giants' manager. This is an inexpensive card ungraded and an easy way to  snag a Mays card from his career.