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.

Monday, January 11, 2016

#316 Willie McCovey All Star Rookie

Willie McCovey  San Francisco Giants

Career:  Notable Achievements (from Baseball Reference)
  • 1959 NL Rookie of the Year Award
  • 1959 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
  • 6-time NL All-Star: (1963, 1966 & 1968-1971)
  • NL MVP (1969)
  • 1969 All-Star Game MVP
  • 1977 NL Comeback Player of the Year Award
  • NL On-Base Percentage Leader (1969)
  • 3-time NL Slugging Percentage Leader (1968-1970)
  • 3-time NL OPS Leader (1968-1970)
  • 3-time NL Home Runs Leader (1963, 1968 & 1969)
  • 2-time NL RBI Leader (1968 & 1969)
  • NL Bases on Balls Leader (1970)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 12 (1962, 1963, 1965-1970, 1973-1975 & 1977)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 7 (1963 & 1965-1970)
  • 40-Home Run Seasons: 2 (1963 & 1969)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 4 (1963 & 1968-1970)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 2 (1963 & 1969)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1986
In 1960: Coming off his R-O-Y '59 season Stretch slipped significantly at the plate. His .238 average was nearly 120 points below his rookie number. His slugging and OPS numbers were down by similar percents. It took a couple of seasons for him to return to the level he reached in his first season.

WikiFacts: "In 1963, McCovey won the first of three NL home run crowns, knocking 44 – the number he wore on his jersey – over the fence. He would belt 521 long balls for his career, and chalk up 18 grand slams, at the time second only to Lou Gehrig’s 23. In 1962, the Giants returned to New York to take on the Yankees in a thrilling, seven-game World Series. With the Giants trailing 1-0 in Game 7, McCovey was at bat with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and runners on second and third. McCovey slashed what looked like a Series-winning hit to the left of Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson but he caught the ball. The moment was so stunning it was immortalized in a “Peanuts” comic strip by Charles Schulz."  From his page on the Hall of Fame site.

The Card: McCovey looks painted/airbrushed/retouched on this, his rookie card. And I'm not certain where the photo was taken. The red seats usually indicate Connie Mack but it doesn't look like it otherwise. It looks like Seals Stadium and maybe it is with the seats retouched to match the railings or something.
This is one of two key rookies in the 1960 set, the other being that of Carl Yastrzemski. As the card back alludes to McCovey packed a lot of highlights in what essentially was a half season of game during his rookie year. 4 for 4 in his first game....not a bad way to kick off a career!

Monday, January 4, 2016

#352 Cincy Clouters

The Card: This is the second Cincy-centric 'special' I've posted. The first one featured Vada Pinson and Jim O'Toole. Here we have three of the club's top hitter from the late 50s. Like the first one this looks to be a Wrigley Field photo.

Gus Bell played nine seasons for the Reds before he was taken by the Mets in the 1962 Expansion Draft. He had a nice rebound year in 1959, hitting .293 with 115 RBI. Frank Robinson was, well, Frank Robinson. His numbers for '59 were 36/125/.311/.391 so his spot on the card was obvious.

Jerry Lynch was fourth on the club in homers in '59, fifth in RBI. He trailed Pinson in both those categories but Topps was spreading the wealth and used this shot. Those sleeveless reds tops and white crowned lids were unique and pretty awesome.