Monday, November 23, 2020

#290 Jerry Lumpe


Jerry Lumpe  Kansas City Athletics

Career: Jerry Lumpe was a Yankee prospect who put up impressive minor league numbers but wasn't quite good enough to carve out a spot in their packed lineup in the second half of the 1950s. He spent the early 50s climbing their ladder and serving Uncle Sam. 

Lumpe was a utility infielder on the solid Yankee clubs that played the Braves in the 1957 and 1958 Series and won a ring. Like so many 'close, but not quite good enough' Yankees he found himself shipped to Kansas City in 1959. There he established himself as an everyday player and had a good career with the Athletics and Tigers. He was an All-Star in 1964 and from 1959 through his last season (1967) Lumpe hit nearly .270. 

Lumpe was a coach for the Athletics (under Dick Williams) in 1971 and then went into the banking and insurance businesses. 

In 1960: His numbers were close to his career norms as he had 8 homers and 53 BRI to go along with a .272 average.

Off The Charts: In 1994 Lumpe was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall Of fame. The ballfield in Warsaw, Missouri is named in his honor.

The Card: The cartoon shows Lumpe combing his two off-season hobbies, fishing and golf. Clever.  Here's a closeup.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

#289 Willie Jones


Willie Jones   Cincinnati Reds

Career: After serving in the US Navy during WWII, Willie Jones signed on with the Phillies in 1947. By '49 he was their starting third baseman. He had a hand in the Phils Whiz Kids era run in the early 50s and made a few NL All-Star squads. He was known for his fielding skills but he held his own at the plate for the most part. 

In the 1950 World Series against the Yanks Jones went 4 for 14 (.286) including a double. After his decade+ in Philly, Jones went on to play for the Indians and Reds. He retired after playing a few games during the '61 season and died at 58 from cancer.

From Wikipedia...Jones was the top fielding third baseman in the National League during the 1950s. He led the league in fielding percentage five times, in putouts for seven years (also tying a record), and twice in assists and double plays.

According to his SABR bio...Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts rated his Phillies teammate as the second-best third basement he ever saw, behind Brooks Robinson.

In 1960:  Jones his .268 in part-time duty as a pinch-hitter and occasional starter for the Reds. 

Off The Charts: From a blog entitled "Stuff Nobody Cares About" we get this...."So just how did “Puddin’ Head” get his unique nickname? He received it as a child after a song that was popular in the 1930s called Wooden Head, Puddin’ Head Jones."

The Card: Red seats and red pinstripes means this is Connie Mack Stadium. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

#288 Bob Mabe


Bob Mabe  Baltimore Orioles

Career: Bob Mabe had a long minor league career and was 28 when he hit the majors with the Cardinals in 1958. Along the way, he had a couple of big seasons for the Cards' Houston Buffs farm team where he won 37 games over two years. He was traded to the Reds after a 3-9 mark with the Cards. His year in Cincy was marginally better. Well, his ERA exploded but he managed to win four games. Then his contract was sold to the Orioles where he made his last couple of appearances. 

In 1960: Mabe was lit up in both his early-season appearances in Baltimore and was soon in the minors where he pitched in five games total for the AA clubs of the Orioles and Senators. That was the end of the line for his career. 

Off The Charts: Over on my '59 Topps blog, I mentioned that Mabe was an avid golfer and worked in management for K-Mart and Dan River Mills after retirement. I don't know where I found that info because there isn't a lot on the 'net for him.

The most interesting thing about Bob Mabe is his expression on his '59 card. 

Sunday, November 8, 2020

#286 Ray Semproch



Ray Semproch  Detroit Tigers

Career: Roman "Ray" Semproch liked to make a splash. He signed with the Phils in 1951 and won 17 games in his first minor league season. He was 13-11 in his rookie year with the Phils in 1958. In between, he worked his way up the ladder, improving with each step, and spent a couple years in the employ of Uncle Sam.

Semproch led the NL in wins at the All-Star break in '58 with 11, but things got sidetracked from there. In '59 Semproch's results continued downhill and he was dealt to the Tigers in the off-season. He was traded again, to the Dodgers, before being taken by the Senators in the Rule 5 draft. The Nats turned right around shipped him to the Angels where he pitched very briefly and was soon out of baseball.

In 1960: Semproch worked in 17 games out of the Tigers' bullpen with an ERA of 4.00 and a 3-0 record before being traded to the Dodgers. He pitched the rest of the year with their Spokane club in the PCL. He won 11 games and had a 3.96 ERA which was very good in a hitters league. 

Off The Charts: Semproch worked in his brother's Italian restaurant after baseball. He's 89 these days and I found a pic of him from 2019 with one of those stadium pieces which is drawn using the franchise's players' names.

Friday, November 6, 2020

#285 Harry Anderson

Harry Anderson  Philadelphia Phillies

Career: Harry 'The Horse' Anderson was a 6'3" outfielder/firstbaseman out of Maryland who signed with the Phils in 1953. A couple of minor league seasons and a military stretch later he was in the outfield at Connie Mack Stadium for 1957. He hit .286 that first season and .301 (with 23 homers and 97 RBI) the next and got scattered MVP vote each year. 

At that point it appeared the Phils had a star blooming but Anderson fell off the hitting cliff in 1959 and he soon found himself with the Reds where he banged around between the majors and minors before retiring after the '62 season.

In 1960: He was off to a slow start (although it wasn't much worse that the previous year) and on June 15 he was shipped to the Queen City where he served mostly as a pinch-hitter. For the year he hit .214 in about 180 at-bats over eighty games.

Off The Charts: The trade that sent Anderson to Cincinnati brought Tony Gonzalez to the Phils where he played for almost a decade and hit close to .300 for that period.

The Harry Anderson I remember was this guy....

Actor/Magician Harry Anderson played Judge Harry Stone on the NBC sitcom Night Court in the 80s and early 90s. I've never been a sitcom guy (I never once watch Seinfeld) but I enjoyed Night Court. Anderson had a fun, sarcastic personality and the side characters were well written.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

#284 Don Gross

Don Gross  Pittsburgh Pirates

Career: Pitcher Don Gross, like our previous subject Joe Nuxhall, was a product of the Cincinnati system. He signed with the Reds in 1950 and moved impressively up through the ranks a few steps behind Nuxhall. 

Gross made the Reds' staff for parts of both 1955 and 1956 season and was primarily a starter during those two stints. He put up some pretty decent numbers in '56 (3-0, 1.95 ERA in seven starts) and returned in '57 to spend the whole season with the big club. But he couldn't replicate his previous success and at year's end he was traded to the Pirates for Bob Purkey. Most sources blame a series of arm problems for Gross' failure to sustain his minor league numbers.

Gross worked out of the Pirates' pen for a couple of seasons and collected 9 saves along the way but he was about to run out of chances for big league success. His career ended after a couple of seasons back in the minors and he returned to Cincinnati to raise a family (he had two sons who were ballplayers at the college or minor league level) and went to work in the sporting goods business.

In 1960: Gross made a handful of appearances out of the Pirates' bullpen in April and may before being farmed out to Salt lake City in the PCL. There he took a starters role and had a good season but he never made it back to the Pirates (or any other major league team). He missed out on a shot at pitching in a World Series. God knows he couldn't have done any worse than a lot of the pitchers the Pirates threw out there at the Yanks that fall.

Off The Charts: Interesting tidbit from his SABR bio....Gross wasn’t always a left-hander. “I was right-handed as a young boy,” he said in 1956. “At the age of 7, I caught my arm in a washing machine and broke my arm. I switched to the left and have been throwing and batting that way ever since.” Yikes!

Gross' nephew, Todd Benzinger, had a nine-year big-league career.

Monday, November 2, 2020

#282 Joe Nuxhall

Joe Nuxhall  Cincinnati Reds

Career: Lefty Joe Nuxhall made his MLB debut with the Reds at 15(!) in 1944. He then hit the reset button and spent seven years honing his craft for a more normal big league rookie experience in 1952. He pitched for 14 seasons (not counting that 1944 appearance) and pitched in over 530 games, about half as a starter.

He had a fine record with a 135-117 w/l and a career 3.90 ERA. Nuxhall took a couple of detours (through KC, Baltimore* and LA) in between his two long stretches in Cincinnati. He led the NL with five shutouts among his 17 wins in 1955 and twice made the NL All-Star team. 

Nuxhall worked as a broadcaster after his playing days and served as the Reds informal 'pre-game' coach for many years hitting fungoes and pitching BP.

*=He was with the Orioles in Spring Training in 1962 after being released by the Athletics but was sold to the Angels right around Opening Day. Nuxhall never pitched for the O's in a 'real' game. He lasted only five games with the Halos. He was back with the Reds later that summer after a spin through the PCL where he claims he learned to harness his temper and his fastball.

In 1960: Nuxhall ended his first stint with the Reds this year. He'd lost his spot in the rotation and moved to the bullpen. His 4.42 ERA and zero saves led to a trade to the Athletics at years end. But he'd return a few years later.

Off The Charts: Nuxhall, who became a much beloved figure in Cincinnati during his long tenure as part of their radio team, is always associated with the novelty of his debuting at 15 in 1944. What isn't well known is that the Reds initially were looking to shore up their war-depleted team by signing Orville Nuxhall, Joe's father. The elder Nuxhall, a former semi-pro star, had five kids at that point and not surprisingly passed on the opportunity. The Reds then turned to the junior-high-aged Joe. Fun details and videos can be found here.

And here's something interesting...if you check his Baseball-Reference page it shows this line for his 1946 season: Did not play in major or minor leagues (Voluntarily Retired). 'Voluntarily Retired'...he was 17. 😄 Maybe he was afraid he'd miss his prom.

The Card: Another Seals Stadium shot. And, as you may have noticed, it's signed by Nuxhall. This was part of a crop of signed cards I bought cheap from a longtime dealer and friend when he closed his shop a few years ago. 

Bonus Coverage: A neat video from a Cincy TV station newscast that delves into Nuxhall's debut and more. Well worth the two minutes.