Tuesday, April 23, 2019

#86 Dick Gernert

Dick Gernert  Chicago Cubs

Career: He played eight seasons for the Boston Red Sox as a 6’3″ first baseman-outfielder and then finished his 11-year career with short stints for the Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds, and Houston Colt .45s. He had a few seasons as the BoSox regular first baseman but more frequently he shared the job. He twice had 20 or more dingers and his .291 in 1956 was a career high. He had four pinch-hit appearances in the 1961 Series with Cincy.  He was a Colt .45s expansion draft pick but was released in May which spared him the misery of the Houston summer and mosquitos.

In 1960: He started the year as a brand new Cubbie but was traded to the Tigers with a month to go in the season. His power numbers were down with just one homer in 160+ trips to the plate.

Off The Charts: Per Wikipedia..."He was involved in the first interleague trade without waivers in baseball history on November 21, 1959, when Boston shipped him to the Cubs for first baseman Jim Marshall and pitcher Dave Hillman"

The Card: Pink is a plus, as is the Yankee Stadium facade. He got a Jack Davis cartoon and the 'last entry is a trade note' treatment. Overall, not a bad card.

Friday, April 19, 2019

#85 Frank Lary

Frank Lary  Detroit Tigers

Career: Frank Lary came to the Tigers after a couple years in the service and in their farm system. He was a double-digit winner from 1955 through 1961. He was a workhorse who led the league in starts and innings on several occasions and in wins with 21 in 1956. He was a two-time All-Star, a Gold Glove winner and he finished third in the Cy Young voting in his 23-win-season of 1961.  A leg injury he suffered on Opening Day in 1962 led to arm woes that killed his effectiveness and he finished his career scrambling for wins with the Mets, Braves and White Sox before his retirement. 

In 1960: He finished 15-15 but a lot of that was due to the Tigers poor season. The numbers show that he was much better than his W/L and he made the All-Star team.

Off The Charts: He was called 'The Yankee Killer' due to his dominance over the Bronx crew. I once asked my father if he hated Lary and another guy with a reputation of beating the Yanks, Charlie Maxwell. He said 'No, it just means the Yanks are good. Nobody cares who kills the Senators.' Point taken. BTW...he was 28-13 against New York. That is by far his best record against any opposing team. 

The Card: this dugout photo could be from almost any AL stadium. Odds are it's NY but that is by no means a given. Three of the highlights listed for 1959 come against the Yankees and the August 4 entry notes his mastery of them.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

#84 Hal Smith

Hal Smith  St. Louis Cardinals

Career: Not to be confused with the OTHER Hal Smith whose card (#48) was posted at the end of January. THIS Hal Smith played from 1956 through 1961 with the Cardinals. He was their starting catcher for much of that time. He was a two-time NL All-Star. His best season was 1959 when he had career-highs in homers and RBI. He got into a few games with the Pirates in 1965 when he was activated for a bit while serving as a coach for the club. He was a coach and scout for many years after his playing days. He is usually differentiated from his namesake by his middle initial, 'R'.

In 1960: Coming off an All-Star season he slid from 13/50/.270/.295 to 2/28/.228/.291 and lost some playing time to Carl Sawatski and several others.

Off The Charts: Even Baseball Reference has problems keeping it's Hal Smiths straight. On various pages, it names BOTH as the uncle of former Padre player Tim Flannery. I believe this Hal Smith is Flannery's relative.

The Card: It's not often you get two photos of a catcher in his gear on a card one of these sets. Having the catcher wearing his mask is even more of an oddity. I really like this one with Smith squatting in Seals Stadium.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

#83 Tony Kubek

Tony Kubek  New York Yankees

Career: Tony Kubek was the AL Rookie of the Year for the Yankees in 1957 and he played for nine big league seasons, all in NY. He was a three-time All-Star and won three rings in six World Series shots with the Yanks. He received much notoriety when a bad-hop grounder off the bat of Bill Virdon in the 7th game of the 1960 Series struck him in the throat allowing Virdon to reach and the Pirates to rally and win on Mazeroski's famous dinger.  He retired at 29 due to a neck injury that threatened to cause permanent damage. He spent almost 30 years as a broadcaster for the Jays, Yanks, and NBC.

In 1960: He had comparable numbers to his All-Star seasons but didn't get the nod. His 14 homers were a career high.

Off The Charts: From Wikipedia...In Game 3 of the 1957 World Series, he had one of the best World Series games a rookie has ever had, going 3 for 5 with two home runs, three runs scored, and four RBI.

The Card: A pink element and highlights bullet list are plusses.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

#82 Ruben Gomez

Ruben Gomez  Philadelphia Phillies

Career: Not enough room to list Gomez' comings and goings through all the many levels and leagues that he was a part of. He was the second Puerto Rican-born pitcher to reach the majors (with the Giants in 1953) and he was the first to pitch in (and win) a World Series game (1954, Game Three). He was also the first major league pitcher to win a game on the West Coast as he led the Giants to an 8-0 win over the Dodgers to open the '58 season. He threw for four major league clubs over ten seasons. He pitched a remarkable 28 seasons in the Puerto Rican Winter League between 1947 and 1977. His NY Times obit is a good place to read about him. It's fuller than his Wikipedia page and shorter than his SABR bio. But whatever you do, check out his career. He was an interesting guy.

In 1960: He opened the season in the Phils' bullpen and was largely ineffective. He was sent to the minors in June and didn't return to the majors until he resurfaced with the Indians and Twins in the second half of the 1962 season. 

Off The Charts: This story is found on Gomez' Wikipedia page, and in his SABR bio. Take it for what it's worth:

One day [while Gomez was pitching in the Mexican League in the late 60s] a young boy begged Gómez to buy a lottery ticket that he was selling to make some badly needed money. The boy insisted that Gómez buy the ticket because his uniform number matched that of the ticket, and Gómez, who did not normally buy such tickets, agreed. To his great surprise, the ticket was a winner of a $35,000 prize. Gómez attempted to share the money with the boy's family and when they refused, he went to a local bank and set up a trust fund for the lad, to be given to him at age 18.

In 2001, Gómez was hospitalized after a lengthy fight against cancer and was about to receive surgery. A doctor from Mexico requested permission to attend the operation. When Gómez asked the doctor why he had come, he replied, "I was that little boy, the money that you left in trust was enough to pay for my medical school."

The Card: I'm beginning to think three-color cards should have been standard with this set. The green/yellow/white combo plays well with the red of Gomez' uni and the Connie Mack Stadium backdrop. A nice card for sure.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

#80 Johnny Antonelli

Johnny Antonelli  San Francisco Giants

Career: He began and ended his career with the Braves. In between, he made a name for himself in New York as the Giants' ace in their 1954 championship season. In that '54 run, he won 21 games and led the league with a 2.30 ERA and 6 shutouts. He had a complete game win and a save in the Series against the Indians.

In total, he won 126 games and made five NL All-Star squads.  Post-baseball he owned and operated a string of Firestone outlets around his Rochester, New York home region.

In 1960: He was nearing the end of the line and had issues with both his performance and Giants management. He had a strong start to the year but by seasons' end he was out of the rotation and soon was traded away.

Off The Charts: I found this little tidbit in an MLB.com post about him: "Antonelli was selected* by the expansion 1962 New York Mets, which would have brought him back to the Polo Grounds. But he was tired of traveling and had already started a thriving chain of Firestone Tire stores, so he turned down the offer and retired."

*Baseball Reference has him being purchased by the Mets, not as part of the draft itself.

The Card: Not a bad card but I'd have liked a different color than orange for the 'action' picture background. And it's another one where Topps cropped the main photo oddly giving it an off-center look.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

#79 Walt Dropo

Walt Dropo  Baltimore Orioles

Career: After a three-sport starring role at UConn and an Army stint Walt Dropo exploded into the AL by becoming the 1950 Rookie of the Year with the Red Sox. He wasn't even on the club to start the season. But when he got his call-up he made the most of it by hitting .322 with 34 homers and tying teammate Vern Stephens with 144 RBI for the league lead. He had another fine season in '52 but overall he never could replicate that rookie year. He played 13 years for five clubs and then went into his families' fireworks business.

In 1960: This was his second full season with the Orioles and he got about 180 at-bats but was being pushed aside by rookie star Jim Gentile. He had a decent average (.268) but by the end of May the following season he was out of baseball.

Off The Charts: He was nicknamed 'Moose' for both his size and his hometown of Moosup, Connecticut. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears and the old ABL Providence franchise but chose baseball for both the quick check and his love of the game.

The Card: I like a lot about this one, the colors, the cartoon that references his nickname, and the great portrait shot.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

#78 Bob Grim

Bob Grim  Kansas City Athletics

Career: Grim was signed by the Yankees and spent four seasons in their system before serving two years in the military. He was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1954 winning 20 games for the Yankees. He developed arm issues but managed a brief comeback in 1957 when he won 12, led the AL with 19 saves, and made the All-Star team. After that, he was never the same pitcher. He bounced around with several other teams and ended his career back with the A's (briefly) in 1962.

In 1960: He started the year with KC but had his contract sold twice, first to the Indians and then to the Reds. He went 3-3 in 44 games overall.

Off The Charts: Wikipedia reports that [Grim] took the loss in Game 4 of the 1957 World Series when he allowed a walk-off home run to Milwaukee Braves third baseman Eddie Mathews.

The Card: Love the first entry on the highlights list. Topps could get a touch snarky when they wanted to. This is the second consecutive KC player on the set checklist following Hank Foiles who also played for three clubs that season. My copy is a bit the worse for wear but it may not be quite upgrade worthy.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

#77 Hank Foiles

Hank Foiles  Kansas City Athletics

Career: Foiles is one of the most interesting guys I've come across while researching these team sets from the late 50s/early 60s. He was a career back-up catcher for seven teams and, while he only had 300+ at bats twice, made the 1957 All-Star squad. He was also a bit of a renaissance man having authored a book, done a lot of public speaking and sued the Orioles (booo!) for using his photo without permission in a stadium giveaway card set. The link a bit lower that goes to my '59 set blog will lead you to much more on this interesting (and very much alive) character. 

In 1960: Foiles played in 56 games for three clubs in 1960 but only six were in the A's uniform. As a back up in Cleveland and Detroit as well as KC he hit .282 with a homer.

Off The Charts: From my 1959 Topps blog posting of his card that season: "He was on the roster of four clubs during the 1960 season. Traded after the '59 campaign by the Pirates to the A's he was traded back to the Pirates in June of '60. But Foiles was to be assigned to the minors and he refused. The Pirates allowed him to engineer his own trade so the next day he was dealt to the Indians. In late July Foiles was traded again, this time to the Tigers. To add to the fun he was drafted after the season by the Orioles. So, to sum it up... between December of 1959 and November of 1960 Foiles followed this path: Pirates->Athletics->Pirates-Indians-Tigers-Orioles!!!"

The Card: Foiles is pictured in his Pirates gear in Wrigley Field but, as noted above, he was on tour within the American League when this card was new. But, in any case, it's a beauty. I love the color combo and the posed shot with Wrigley and pregame activities as a backdrop. His trade to the A's is noted in the write-up.

Friday, April 5, 2019

#76 Bill Fischer

Bill Fischer  Washington Senators

Career: (In a weird coincidence Fischer popped up in the rotation here the same day I posted his card on my 1958 blog. Crazy!) As noted in my other set blog, Fischer was a lifelong baseball guy who pitched for 20 years in pro ball and then turned to every other job in the game after thet. He was an occasional starter in the bigs for four AL clubs, none of which ever got him a post-season shot.

In 1960: He struggled during the first half of the season for the Senators but a late July trade to the Tigers (his second go-round in Detroit) changed his luck and he improved his numbers. He finished 8-8 in 40 games, 20 with each team.

Off The Charts: When he passed away last year at the age of 88 he had just completed his 71st year in pro baseball in a career that began in 1948 as a 17-year old in the White Sox organization.

The Card: That's the old Comiskey behind him. And seeing that Nats logo reminds me of how much I always liked it.

Monday, April 1, 2019

#75 Vic Power

Vic Power  Cleveland Indians

Career: Owner of one of the great names in baseball history, Vic Power emerged from Puerto Rico (as Victor Pellot) to become a versatile, dependable big league star for a dozen years. He was first signed by the Yankees but dealt to the Athletics in 1953, supposedly because of who he chose to associate with (i.e. he dated white women). Power was a four-time All-Star, seven-time Gold Glove winner, and frequent gatherer of MVP votes. In his years with the A's, Indians, Angels, Twins, and (very briefly) the Phils, he hit .284 with 126 homers. Power was primarily a first-baseman but Dodgers general manager Al Campanis once remarked that he was also the best second baseman he had ever seen. Power never had a shot to show his talents in a World Series.

In 1960: He had a career-high 84 RBIs to go with his 10 homers and .288 average. He was inserted into the 2nd of two All-Star contests and had a pair of fly-outs and made five putouts at first.

Off The Charts: Luis Mayoral, Power's friend, and a blogger for the Hall of Fame wrote: I asked Vic if he enjoyed reading and he responded, “Reading is my hobby. Books are my best friends. I take pride in my career in baseball, but I’m also very proud of being a good photographer.”

The Card: Nice color combo on this one. Not many 'long sacrifice fly' references among the highlights lists in the 1960 set. Final thought...I wish I had a buck for every time Topps used the 'Stop Thief' bit in a card cartoon!