Saturday, August 22, 2015

#346 J.C. Martin

J.C. Martin  Chicago White Sox (Uncorrected error-That's Gary Peters pictured)

Career: He was originally an infielder/outfielder. After a couple of late season appearances Martin made the transition to catching and stuck on the Sox roster in 1961. He ended up playing nearly as much as starter Sherm Lollar. He was back in the minors for most of '62 and then served as the White Sox on again/off again starter for five seasons. He shared duties with John Romano for much of that time. He played for the Mets for a couple of seasons and won a championship with them in 1969. He got a pinch hit in his one playoff at-bat that year and was involved in a controversial play in the World Series (see below). And then it was back to Chicago and three years of spot duty with the Cubs. He remained in Chicago as a coach for the Cubs and TV analyst for the Sox.

In 1960: Martin had a nice season for San Diego in the PCL before he was called up to the White Sox in September. He got 20 at bats in seven games and picked up a pair of hits.

WikiFacts: "In Game Four of [the 1969] Series, his Mets leading two games to one, Martin was involved in a controversial play. With the game tied 1–1 in the bottom of the 10th and pinch-runner Rod Gaspar on second, Martin, again pinch-hitting for Seaver, bunted to the mound and, while running to first, was hit on the arm by Pete Richert’s errant throw, the error allowing Gaspar to score the winning run. Replays later showed that Martin had been running inside the baseline, which could have resulted in him being called out for interference. The umpires said they did not make the call, however, because they felt Martin did not intentionally interfere with the play. As a result of this play, the running lane that extends from halfway down the first-base line to the bag was added to all major league fields. A runner can be running in this lane and be hit by a thrown ball and not be called for interference."  -Wikipedia

The Card: I assumed Martin was always a catcher. The card showed me otherwise. This is one of the better color combos. . The Sox' fantastic 'flying sock' logo matches the lettering nicely. It was interference, dammit.

As noted in the intro Gary Peters picture was used for this card. J.C. Martin's photo was used on Peters' card. The error was not corrected.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

#419 George Crowe

George Crowe  St. Louis Cardinals

Career: A prep basketball star, Army vet and veteran of the Negro Leagues Crowe was 31 before he made his major league debut in 1952. He had his best season in 1957 with the Red Legs when he smacked 31 homers with 92 RBI and a .271 average. That homer total is more than double his output in any other season. His only All Star season was 1958. He was hitting over .300 at the All Star break that year but his numbers tumbled after that and he never regained that level.

In 1960: Nearing the end of his career Crowe was used mostly as a pinch hitter accumulating 72 at bats. He played briefly the next year and then finished the season in the minors as a player/coach.

WikiFacts: Crowe's story is an interesting one and his SABR bio is worth the read. Here is a bit of it that discusses his post-baseball life:

Away from sports, Crowe was adrift. He sold life insurance, worked for Pan American World Airways in California, and then returned to New York to teach physical education and coach the freshman baseball team at a high school. He and his wife divorced. When a doctor told him he was developing an ulcer, he blamed the stress of trying to teach kids who weren’t interested in learning.
As he reached his fiftieth birthday in 1971, Crowe dropped out. He moved to the back side of beyond, to the foothills of New York’s Catskill Mountains. His home, near the hamlet of Long Eddy, was a log cabin he called "The Jackass Inn," seven miles from the nearest paved road. It had no heat, electricity, running water, or telephone. The only way to his front door was a long hike up a rocky slope. Some described him as a hermit, but he stayed in touch with family and friends and was willing to talk to any reporter who took the trouble to find him.
Crowe lived as a mountain man for more than 30 years. "In these hills I’m free," he told a visiting writer. "I don’t have to punch anyone else’s time clock. I was sick of people and all the nonsense of our society." Although he had enjoyed hunting and fishing, he became a vegetarian for a while, growing most of his food. He stopped drinking and gave up white flour and sugar. The powerful athlete morphed into a skinny old man with a white beard. "Here, I make my own rules," he said. "I look at birds when I want to, eat all the raw fruits and vegetables I want, don’t have to chew tobacco any more to calm my nerves and think any way I want. Now I can honestly say, ‘Crowe isn’t anyone’s slave anymore.’"
The Card: I'm happy to see a '60 Topps that shows more than a head shot. Crowe is posing in Seal Stadium for this one. It's also nice to have a cream colored cardboard card with the 'bulleted' Seasons Highlights. Looks like he had a pretty nice month of August.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

#518 Tony Gonzalez

Tony Gonzalez  Cincinnati Reds

Career: The bulk of Gonzalez' 12 year career came with the Phillies. He quietly amassed some very solid numbers hitting over .300 three times and finishing second to Roberto Clemente in the NL with a .339 average in 1967.

He had an outstanding arm was also was an excellent glove in center as he led the league in fielding at that spot three times. He did well in his only post-season experience when with the '69 Braves he homered and went 5 for 14 in the NLCS. After finishing his major league career with the Angels he played a season in Japan and another year in the minors, serving as a player-coach.

In 1960: This was his rookie season and he got off to a slow start with the Reds before he was traded with Lee Walls to the Philadelphia Phillies for Frederick Hopke, Harry Anderson and Wally Post in mid-June. In Philly he made a huge turnaround and hit .299 as a near regular in the outfield.

WikiFacts: "The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Cuban remembered being called “Little Dynamite” because when he hit the ball, it was said to explode off his bat." -SABR bio

The Card: This is a high number series card and the write-up reflects that with references to the opening of the current season. You don't see that these days.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

#317 Pumpsie Green Topps All Star Rookie

Pumpsie Green  Boston Red Sox

Career: The Red Sox were the last team to integrate and Pumpsie Green was the one to do it. He debuted in late July of 1959. Pitcher Earl Wilson followed about a week later. Green and Wilson became the first African-Amercans to take the field in Red Sox uniforms at Fenway on August 4th (Green) and 5th (Wilson).

Green played for Boston through the 1962 season as a utility infielder. He finished his major league career with a '63 stint as a New York Met. Bracketing his big league days were many years in the minors. He hit .246 for his career with 13 homers.

In 1960: This was Green's first full season and it was his busiest. He got into 133 games and had just over 300 plate appearances hitting 3/21/.242/.350.

WikiFacts: Green's SABR bio is well worth the read. It's an interesting look at a guy who wasn't trying to be a pioneer, just a ballplayer. And as a sidelight there is this strange story:
The biggest headlines Green earned in 1962 were when he and Gene Conley went AWOL, walking off the team bus as it was stuck in heavy New York traffic. It was July 26, and the team had just lost to the Yankees, 13-3, and the players were hot. They thought they might get a drink, and seem to have “done the town in style.” Conley apparently also tried to talk Pumpsie into going to Bethlehem with him “to be nearer to God.” Pumpsie preferred rejoining the team in Washington and turned up a little more than 24 hours later. Conley returned on the 29th. Pumpsie appeared in 56 games (fielding in only 23 of them), hitting .231 in 91 at-bats. He drove in 11 runs.
The Card: The subsets in the 1960 Topps set are all pretty sharp. That's Yankee Stadium behind Pumpsie. But it's the right field line which doesn't get the exposure that the left field side does in Topps cards. He doesn't look happy but any card with the Rookie Trophy automatically gets bonus points.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

#211 Taylor Phillips

Taylor Phillips  Philadelphia Phillies

Career: Phillips is one of 178 players who have appeared for both Chicago franchises (89 of those pitched for both). He was 16-22 with the Braves, Cubs and Phillies from 1956 through 1960. He made 138 appearances, about a third of them as a starter. Then after three seasons in the minors he returned to the bigs in 1963 making a handful of rather ineffective appearances with the White Sox. One more year of minor league ball and then Phillips retired.

In 1960: He was with the Phils for about a month or so in 1960. After a loss in his first game, a June 2 start in which he lasted two innings, he was sent to the bullpen when he ran hot and cold before being shipped back to the minors.

WikiFacts: As a rookie for the first place Braves in 1956 Phillips made his first career start on August 9 in the first game of a doubleheader against the Cardinals. He pitched a three hitter for a 4-1 win. He gave up only singles, to Don Blasingame, Wally Moon and Stan Musial.

The Card: Pretty standard stuff. That's Wrigley Field I believe. Phillips didn't have enough '59 highlights for the bullet-ed list so he gets a paragraph. The cartoon is pretty generic but I like it.

Friday, August 14, 2015

#177 Johnny Kucks

Johnny Kucks  Kansas City Athletics

Career: Kucks was a Yankee product who won 42 games in the Bronx from 1955 until he was traded to the A's in 1959. 1956 was a career year for him as he won 18 games and was selected to the AL All Star Squad. He pitched in four World Series for NY, winning two rings.

In 1960: This was his final big league season. He opened in in the A's bullpen and moved into the rotation in June. He put up some ugly numbers that year but he managed to pitch three more years in the minors before retiring for good.

WikiFacts: "In 1956, Kucks was in just his second season with the Yankees and was not expected to be part of the starting rotation; he went 8-7 the previous year as a spot starter and reliever.

But when other pitchers faltered, he became the Yankees’ second-most reliable starter, behind Whitey Ford. He won 14 games before the end of July, making the American League All-Star team, and finished the season 18-9, with a shutout of the Chicago White Sox on 73 pitches on Aug. 24.

Still, he was something of a surprise choice to start the seventh game of a World Series. Kucks had faltered in September, and when he had been called on to pitch in relief against the Dodgers in the first two games, both of which the Yankees lost, he had not fared well. Moreover, Ford was available, having won Game 3 four days earlier.

But Kucks pitched brilliantly, giving up just three singles as the Yankees clubbed four home runs and won easily, 9-0. Sixteen of the 27 Dodgers outs were recorded on ground balls. Just two fly balls made it to the outfield."   -Kuck's New York Times obit, 11/1/2013

The Card: I'm puzzled by the photo used on this card. First things's hard to tell if this shot was been airbrushed. Kucks came over to Kansas City with four months left in the season so he had the opportunity to pose in his A's gear. The cap may or may not show airbrushing but it would be out of character for Topps' artists to paint in the jersey piping or the hint of the A's sleeve patch. So we'll give them the benefit of the doubt and say it's Kucks in his A's uni.

I would normally look at the red railings and assume that the setting was Seals Stadium in San Francisco but when would Kucks have been there? He was an American Leaguer his whole career and whether that is an airbrushed photo or not neither the A's or Yanks played in San Francisco in 1958 or 1959. The A's played in Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia prior to moving to KC for 1956 and it could be Kucks as a Yankee in an airbrushed card but Connie Mack had many red seats, not railings. One other possibility is Milwaukee County Stadium. Maybe Kucks posed there during the '57 or '58 World Series while he was with the Yankees. But that place also had some red seats along with red railings, at least in the photos I see.

I can't find any shots of Fenway, Tiger Stadium, Comiskey Park or Memorial Stadium that match either. Nobody else cares but I'm going to do some more research on this one.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

#292 Dodger Backstops

The Card: Posing at Seals Stadium in San Francisco we have Joe Pignatano and Johnny Roseboro. As the card states Roseboro took over behind the plate for the Dodgers with the burden of attempting to fill the void following the car wreck that disabled Roy Campanella. He held the job for a decade and was a standout, winning a couple of Gold Gloves and making two NL All Star squads. He finished his career with the Twins and Senators.

Joe Pignatano had backed up Roseboro in 1959 but in 1960 he slipped from #2 on the depth chart to #2b behind Larry Sherry. In 1961 he found himself with the Athletics and had his best season stats-wise while still playing part-time. He moved on the the Giants and finished his playing career with the '62 Mets. He coached on the Mets' staff for many years after his playing days.

This is a '59 picture as that was the first season the Dodgers had 'Los Angeles' on their road shirts. That remained the caes for about a decade until they adopted home and road jerseys with 'Dodgers on the front. The city designation returned in 1999.

Monday, August 10, 2015

#405 Bobby Richardson

Bobby Richardson  New York Yankees

Career: Richardson played his entire career with the Yankees. He broke in with brief stints in 1955 and 1956 before establishing himself as a starter (and All Star) in '57. He twice hit over .300 and is one of only four players to have 11 or more hits in two different World Series. He appeared in seven World Series with the Yanks, winning three. He was a seven time AL All Star, won five Gold Gloves and was second in the 1962 MVP voting.

In 1960:  Richardson had one of his worst years at the plate during the regular season but his .367 average and 12 RBI in the Yanks title win over the Giants earned him the Series MVP.

WikiFacts: "In his playing career and his life, Bobby Richardson cast a longer shadow than his 5'9" frame might suggest. He was a good hitter and a marvelous set-up man for one of the most famous slugging duos in baseball history. He was an excellent fielder for a team loaded with groundball-inducing pitchers. Above all, he was a member of the New York Yankee family during one of their most golden eras, and he was proud of it. Famously, Mickey Mantle's widow, Merlyn, asked "the Preacher" to deliver the eulogy at Mickey's funeral service in 1995. The Mantles were at Roger Maris' funeral ten years earlier when Bobby recited a poem that a fan sent him, and Mickey made Richardson promise that he would read it at Mickey's funeral, too." -Richardson's SABR bio

The Card: It's very much miscut...I picked it up in that condition to counteract the "Yankee Tax" you pay for cards of the Bombers from this era. I like it a lot though, as I do any card with the Yankee Stadium scoreboard in the background.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

#162 Sammy Taylor

Sammy Taylor   Chicago Cubs

Career: Taylor played in 473 games over six years in the majors, all but four of them in the NL, primarily with the Cubs. He was the primary backstop in Chicago in his first two seasons 1958 & '59. He had some pop as his 13 homers in '59 will attest. But he had some defensive shortcomings, too. That same season he led the NL catchers in errors and stolen bases allowed and he was second in passed balls.

He had a military stint of five years after first turning pro in 1950. After his tenure with the Cubs he joined the '62 Mets late in April of that inaugural season after a trade. His final year in the bigs was 1963 and he was traded twice, from the Mets to the Reds and then on to the Indians.

In 1960: Coming off his two seasons as the Cubs' semi regular catcher Taylor was one of a committee of four catchers that shared the job in 1960. His hitting fell off to .207  from the previous season's .269 career best.

WikiFacts:  On June 30, 1959, Taylor was involved in one of baseball's stranger plays.  Stan Musial of the Cardinals drew a walk on a wild pitch from the Cubs' Bob Anderson. As the pitch got by Taylor, Musial tried for second.

Cubs' third baseman Alvin Dark ran to retrieve the ball which had been tossed by a bat boy to the field announcer Pat Peiper. Peiper let it drop so that Dark could field it. While this was going on, umpire Vic Delmore routinely tossed a new ball to Taylor.

Taylor threw the ball to Anderson and Anderson threw it to second at the same time Dark was throwing the "real" ball to shortstop Ernie Banks. Anderson's throw was high and the ball rolled into the outfield.

Musial thought it was safe to continue to third and was tagged out by Banks. Musial is ruled out by the umpires even though the bat boy touched the ball. -Numerous sources

The Card: Assuming the picture was taken the previous season Taylor is about 26 years old in the photo used on his card but he looks to be about 18. And knowing Topps that is probably a shaky assumption.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

#5 Wally Moon

Wally Moon   Los Angeles Dodgers

Career: Moon played for 12 seasons in the majors, the first five coming with the Cardinals. He was the 1954 Rookie of the Year in the NL, beating out Ernie Banks and Hank Aaron. He went on to win a World Series ring with the '59 Dodgers, garner a Gold Glove, twice appear on the NL All Star squad and finish fourth in the 1959 MVP voting. 

In 1960: This was his second season with the Dodgers and his numbers were just a tick below what they had been in 1959. He led the NL is fielding among left-fielders and earning his Gold Glove.

WikiFacts: "He came to the big leagues in 1954, playing as a regular. The story is that he mistakenly showed up at the major league camp in spring training instead of the minor league camp, and the Cardinals kept him; in fact he had been playing winter ball in Venezuela and his team, Pastora de Occidente made it to the 1954 Caribbean Series finals. As the minor league camp was about to wind up, General Manager Dick Meyer gave him the option of going straight to the major league camp, although manager Eddie Stanky was not aware of the deal. For his part, he had told himself that either he won a job with the Cardinals or he would quit, returning to Arkansas with his wife and children to take up a teaching job that was offered him. But he impressed enough in spring training that not only did he make the team, but the Cardinals decided to trade veteran Enos Slaughter and make him the starter in right field." -Moon's Baseball Reference Bullpen page

Wally Moon has a website: The Official Site of Wally Moon

The Card: 1960 Topps doesn't get much better than this, at least to me. BP portrait shot of Moon, who's face has a lot of character. Pink block holding his 'action' shot. An informative cartoon and it's all printed on the lighter, cream colored cardboard. Boom.