Thursday, October 20, 2016

#287 Felipe Alou

Felipe Alou  San Francisco Giants

Career: He was the first native of the Dominican Republic to play in the modern big leagues when he debuted with the Giants in 1958. He was followed soon thereafter by many others including his brothers Jose (doh) Jesus and Matty. The three played together in 1963 with the Giants. Felipe worked his way into the Giants' starting lineup over the course of several years and by 1962 he was an All Star.

The Giants stacked plenty of slugging talent in those days and Alou was traded to the Braves in 1964. There he made two more All Star squads and twice led the NL in hits. The went on to play for the Yankees and several other clubs before beginning his second baseball life and a coach and manager, most notably with Montreal.

He had the Expos six games up in the NL East in 1994 at the time of the lockout and missed his shot at managing in the postseason. He did win Manager of the Year.

In 1960: He played in over 100 games for the first time but his numbers were off a bit (8 homers, 44 RBI) from his 1959 production.

WikiFacts: Contrary to the popular myth the three Alou brothers never started a game together in 1963. The three all appeared in the same game for the Giants eight times and on three occasions they played the outfield as a unit.

The Card: Classic posed 'action shot' which stands out among the many portraits in this set. I'm guessing that's Wrigley Field. Nice color combo as well. Makes for one of the better cards in the set IMHO.

Friday, October 14, 2016

#365 Minnie Minoso

Minnie Minoso  Chicago White Sox

Career: Minoso began his pro career with the New York Cubans of the Negro Leagues in 1946. He finished with a cameo at the age of 77 as a member of the independent St. Paul Saints in 2003. In between he spent 17 seasons in the majors winning three Gold Gloves, being named to 7 All Star squads, finishing second in the 1951 ROY balloting and four times finishing in the top five in MVP votes. He led the A.L. at various times in hits, doubles, triples, hit by pitches (many times) and sac flys.  He was a player/manager in Mexico for quite awhile in the '60s and '70s.

In 1960: This was his first season back with Chicago after having spent seven years with the from 1951 thru 1957. He made the All Star team and led the A.L. with 184 hits. He hit 20 homers and drove in 105 runs.

WikiFacts: From his Wikipedia page: "Miñoso's White Sox uniform number 9 was retired in 1983, and a statue of him was unveiled at U.S. Cellular Field in 2004. Miñoso was elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in Exile in 1983, and to the Mexican Professional Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996."

The Card: Looks like Topps tried to replicate the White Sox jerseys by putting their sleeve number over the Chief Wahoo logo on the sleeve. But the Sox wore the number on the other sleeve.  They get points for trying though.

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 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.