Thursday, April 30, 2020

#149 Bob Nieman

Bob Nieman  St. Louis Cardinals

Career: Bob Nieman's bat, not his glove, kept him in the majors for 12 years for six different teams. He started his career with the Browns after originally being signed by the Reds. He spent more time with the Orioles than any of his other clubs and twice hit over .320 for them. Nieman had a .295 career average and was seventh in the AL MVP voting in 1956.

Nieman's only post-season experience was also his big league swansong. His final at-bat was a pinch-hitting appearance for the Giants in Game Four of the 1962 World Series. He hit for Ed Bailey and drew a walk. He was replaced by a pinch-runner and called it a career that winter.

In 1960: As shown on the card he was back in St. Louis, this time with the Cardinals. His career was winding down, and he was a platoon outfielder playing in 81 games, mostly against right-handed pitching. The Cards had struggled against lefties the year prior so they made a trade with the Orioles for him. He got quite the endorsement from former teammate Marty Marion: “He’s only a mediocre outfielder and he’s a hypochondriac, but, man, he can whale that ball.” Nieman supplied a solid bat that year, hitting .285.

Off The Charts: Nieman is one of two players in MLB history to homer in each of his first two big-league at-bats. Keith McDonald, in 2000, is the other. He did it for the Browns in September 1951 at Fenway Park. He hit both dingers off Mickey McDermott.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Giants Team Trio #153 #225 #469

The Giants finished just over .500 and in the middle of the pack in 1960. By all accounts, their first year in the new Candlestick Park was supposed to be a better one. Bill Rigney (see below) got them off to a good start but when they began sliding further behind the Pirates in June, Rigney was fired. He was replaced by Tom Sheehan, a scout. He couldn't do anything to turn the Giants' season around and they canned him at seasons end as well.

Willie Mays and Orlando Cepeda led the way at the plate. It was a group that finished about fourth in most categories in the NL. The pitching staff ranked near the top of the NL but couldn't overcome the team's batting woes. Mike McCormack and Sam Jones led the staff which also included rookie Juan Marichal as their fifth starter.

If you asked Alexa to 'Show me a baseball lifer' she'd probably come up with a shot of Bill Rigney.

I posted this Bill Rigney card on my Five Tool blog a few years back when I was featuring these managers cards:

Now Bill Rigney really looks like a manager. Arms crossed and leaning on the dugout (wood???) rail. Mouth clenched, eyes hard.

Rigney played all around the infield for the New York Giants from 1946 to 1953, four of those years as a regular. He made the '48 All-Star game and drew a walk after subbing in for Red Schoendienst. He began managing with the Giants in New York in 1956 and was a fixture in dugouts in both leagues right through 1976 when he returned after four years as an exec to manage the Giants a second time. 
In addition to his six seasons with the Giants he managed the Angels for nine and the Twins for three. His 1970 Twins team won the AL West title but fell to the Orioles in the playoffs. After managing he served in the front office of the A's and was a broadcaster.
Of the three coaches shown on the Giants' coaches card, Wes Westrum is the best known. He caught for the Giants for almost a decade and managed the Mets in the mid-60s. It was Westrum who took over for Casey Stengel when the original Mets manager broke his hip in 1965 and eventually retired. He returned to the Giants in the 70s and managed them for a couple of seasons.

Salty Parker was a long-time major league coach who had played very briefly for the Tigers in 1936. Ironically it was Parker who replaced Westrum for the last few weeks of the 1967 season when Wes was let go by the Mets. I remember Parker best as a coach in Houston from 1968-1972.

Bill Posedel was a Dodgers pitcher prior to WWII once winning 15 games.  He gave four years to the service during the war and came back to be a coach and scout.

Monday, April 27, 2020

#119 Chico Cardenas Sport Rookie Star

Chico Cardenas  Cincinnati Reds

Career: The Cuban native played from 1960 to 1968 with the Reds and made four All-Star squads. Moving to Minnesota he was a member of the Twins West Division champs there in '69 and '70 and again was an All-Star. His last season as a regular was 1972 with the Angels but he played for the Indians and Rangers through 1975 as a part-timer. Known as a good fielder, he won the NL Gold Glove at shortstop in 1966. He had some power for a smallish middle-infielder as he showed with several double-digit homer seasons. His high was 20 in '66.

In 1960: Cardenas was called up and debuted on July 25. He had a couple of hits, an RBI and scored a run in that one. The Reds' shortstop job was his to lose at that point. He had multi-hit games in three of his first five starts. He cooled off and by September Roy McMillan had reclaimed the spot.  Cardenas finished with a .232 average.

Off The Charts: Cardenas, from a family of 15 kids, came from Cuba on the eve of the revolution that cut off the flow of players from that island. He fudged his age by a year at least when he signed with the Reds. The minimum age for a big-league contract was 17, Chico was 16 at best according to multiple sources. In 1959, while playing in Havana with the Reds' AAA club, he was inadvertently shot by fans who were firing off guns in celebration of a revolution anniversary. His given name is Leo, btw.

The Card: Cardenas looks every bit of 16 in that photo. The bio makes note of his power/size ratio.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

#118 Bob Bruce Sport Rookie Star

Bob Bruce  Detroit Tigers

Career: He pitched six seasons in the minors and spent over a year in the service before getting to debut in September 1959. After a nice rookie season, he regressed in 1961 and was traded to Houston where he went on to be a solid starter for four seasons. He peaked with a 15 win/2.86 ERA effort in '64. After an off-year in '66 he was dealt to the Braves where he finished his career splitting one season between Atlanta and AAA. Bruce was 49-71 with a 3.85 ERA while pitching for generally second division teams.

In 1960:  This was his rookie season and he made the most of it. His 4-7 record doesn't reflect better stats like his 3.74 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in a season of big-hitting in the AL.

Off The Charts: He was the starting pitcher for the Colt .45s in their last game at Colt Stadium and the starting pitcher for the Astros in their first NL game in the Astrodome.

Friday, April 24, 2020

#115 Fork & Knuckler

Two of the era's top relief pitchers posed for this card. Each had a highly specialized repertoire on the mound. Elroy Face is arguably the best-known forkball pitcher of all time. The pitch was (allegedly) invented by 'Bullet' Joe Bush in the 1930s. Face truly mastered the thing and used it to get himself named to five NL All-Star squads.

Hoyt Wilhelm had a remarkably long and productive career. He debuted with the 1951 Giants and over 21 seasons he won 143 games as both a starter and reliever for nine different clubs. His knuckleball inspired Paul Richards, his manager in Baltimore, to construct an oversized catchers' mitt in an effort to reduce the number of passed balls his catchers accumulated. Wilhelm is a Hall of Famer.

More than likely this photo was taken at one of the two All-Star games in 1959. Both were held at NL parks so we can't point to the home uni on Face or Wilhelm's Orioles roadie as a clue. I'd like to think it was the first of the two, the July game at Forbes Field.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

#117 Tom Borland Sport Rookie Star

Note: I'm breaking my posting pattern to spread out the Sport Magazine Rookie Star cards. I'll say this here and won't repeat it endlessly...this subset holds a special place in the hobby for me. I remember that when I first pulled some from 1960 packs I thought these guys were true immortals! Each destined to be a superstar. Of course, that didn't happen but the design remains, along with the 1958T All-Stars, at the top of my list of great card designs. I loved these then and still do.

Tom Borland Boston Red Sox

Career: After pitching at Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University) Borland had a couple of impressive minor league seasons in the Boston chain. He debuted with the Sox in 1960 and pitched in 27 games over two seasons. He finished with an 0-4 record. He finished his pro career pitching not far from home for Oklahoma City in the Colt 45s system.

In 1960: He made all but one of his big-league appearances this season between mid-April and August. Borland made four starts and had three saves out of the bullpen and compiled an ERA of  6.53 over 51 innings. He also pitched in five games at the AA level for Boston.

Off The Charts: OSU's athletic site paid tribute to Borland after he passed in 2013 with this...

"[Borland}was inducted into the Cowboy Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998. He helped lead the Aggies to back-to-back College World Series appearances in 1954 and 1955 and was named the CWS Most Valuable Player in 1955."

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

#114 Ken Aspromonte

Ken Aspromonte  Washington Senators

Career: Aspromonte spent eight years banging around with six different clubs. He spent most of his career as a utility infielder and had experience at all four spots. Only in 1960 did he play in an everyday role. He briefly returned to the minors and then went to play in Japan when his days in MLB were over. He played three seasons there.

He managed the Indians from 1972 thru 1974 with his clubs finishing fifth, sixth, and fourth.

In 1960: He had his best season with a slash of 10/48/.288. All were easily his best totals. But the bulk of it didn't come in a Senators' uni. In May Washington (these were the original Senators) traded Aspromonte to the Indians. In December the 'new' Senators (the expansion version) drafted him from the Indians and that same day traded him to the Angels. Bottom line...he was with two separate Washington Senator franchises in one calendar year.

Off The Charts: Only in three of his eight big league seasons did he end the year in the same uni he started it in.

His brother Bob played 13 years in the NL, primarily with the Colts/Astros, and is a member of the Astros Hall of Fame.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

#113 Bob Skinner

Bob Skinner  Pittsburgh Pirates

Career: He had a solid 12-year career, the bulk of it (and easily the best of it) coming in Pittsburgh beginning in 1954. He had some pop and some speed as he had double-digit totals in both homers and stolen bases five times each. He was twice an All-Star, and he won Series rings with the Bucs in 1960 and the Cardinals in 1964. Skinner had two hits and a walk in four pinch-hitting appearances in that '64 win over the Yankees.

He managed the Phils from mid-season 1968 after taking over for Gene Mauch. He was let go about 100 games into the '69 season. He managed (and won) one game as interim skipper for the Padres in 1977.

In 1960: Skinner hit .273 which was down from his previous few seasons but his 15 homers and 86 RBI were career bests to that point. He was the NL's starter in left field in both 1960 All-Star games. He went 2-for-4 with a stolen base.

Skinner was hurt in the first game of the Series (jammed thumb) against the Yanks and didn't return until Game Seven.

Off The Charts: While Skinner played (and managed) exclusively in the NL, his son Joel played (and managed) nine seasons total for three AL clubs, the White Sox, Yankees, and Indians.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

#112 Jack Harshman

Jack Harshman  Cleveland Indians

Career: He began his pro career in the Giants organization as an infielder before transitioning to pitching in the early 50s. He had some solid, double-digit win seasons thru the middle of the decade for the White Sox and Orioles. He retained his hitting ability and served as a pinch hitter frequently. He pitched well enough in 1958 in Baltimore to garner some MVP votes.

In 1960: This was his final big league season in a career that was taking a sudden nosedive. He had some decent numbers despite only pitching in 15 games, eight of them being starts. But he wasn't nearly as effective as he had been in the second half of 1959 (after coming to Cleveland in a July trade from Boston) and was released after the season.

Off The Charts: From his SABR bio...
For many years, before the advent of the homer-driven careers of Dave Kingman and Mark McGwire, Harshman held an obscure major league record--of his 76 career hits, his 21 home runs were the highest ratio (27.6 percent) of home runs to hits for any batter with more than 400 plate appearances.
The Card: Lots of Cleveland players had their Topps pics taken right there in that same spot in Municipal Stadium. And I think he sort of resembles that Indians' logo. Well, a little.

He had cards as an Oriole in Topps' 1958 and 1959 set. Here he is on a Jay Publishing Photo Pack pic.

Friday, April 17, 2020

#116 Jim Rivera

Jim Rivera  Chicago White Sox

Career: The basics... Rivera was a speedy, slick-fielding outfielder for the Sox from 1952 thru 1961. His time with them was bracketed by partial seasons with the Browns and Athletics. He was a career .256 hitter with some pop to go with his fleet feet. But numbers don't tell Rivera's story. As I did when I posted his '59 Topps card on that set's blog, I am going to point you to an entry on the Baseball Fever board that details Rivera's (ahem) checkered history. A longer version can be found by hitting up his SABR bio.

In 1960: As noted in the SABR bio linked above, Rivera lost his starting job when the White Sox made a trade with Cleveland to bring back Minnie Minoso. Rivera played in only 48 games, mostly as a defensive replacement and pinch-runner. He only had 20 plate appearances in total. That's less than all but one of the Sox' full-time pitching staff.

Off The Charts: He wrapped up his career with time as a manager in Puerto Rico, as a minor league player-coach in the AA and PCL, and as a player in the Mexican Leagues. He lived to be 96.

The Card: Yes, my copy of this card is mis-cut, just as it looks in the scan above.  And, yes, I am posting a bit out of my usual numerical sequence. I hadn't intended to with this one but sometimes you just push the wrong button, yes?

Thursday, April 16, 2020

#111 Vic Wertz

Vic Wertz  Boston Red Sox

Career: He played 17 seasons in the majors and was a four-time All-Star as well as a four-time Top 10 MVP vote-getter. Yet he is primarily known for one swing of the bat...the drive in the 1954 World Series that Willie Mays nabbed with one of the most memorable catches in baseball history.

He played for five different AL clubs after breaking in as an outfielder with the Tigers in 1947. He had been an outfielder but moved to first base in '54 when he was traded from the Orioles to Cleveland on June 1st of that year. That deal sent him from a terrible first year Orioles club to the eventual AL champions.

In 1960: With his career winding down, Wertz had a very nice last hurrah in Boston. He hit .282 with 19 homers and 103 RBIs in his final season as an everyday player.

Off The Charts: Wertz was 8 for 16 with a dinger in that '54 Series but I bet he'd trade it all for about another foot of height on the shot that Mays caught.

But to his credit he never let it bother him. According to Wikipedia...
After he retired from playing, Wertz kept a photo of “The Catch” in his office at his beer distribution company and explained he had no negative feelings about being remembered for hitting a deep fly out.
"I'm very proud that I'm associated with it," Wertz told UPI in 1979. "I look at it this way: If that ball Willie caught had been a home run or a triple, how many people would've remembered me? Not many. This way, everybody who meets me for the first time always identifies me with Willie's catch, and that makes me feel good."

And to his further credit, he was a big supporter of Special Olympics through his businesses and personal contributions of time and financing.

But because we have to....

Here's a short video of his two-RBI triple in his first World Series at-bat.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

#110 Cal McLish

Cal McLish  Cincinnati Reds

Career: He pitched for seven different clubs over a 15-year career that began in the mid '40s. He was a 'late bloomer' and won 37 games with Cleveland in 1958/59 after turning 32. Finished with a career mark of 92-92.

In 1960: This was his only season with the Reds after being traded from the Indians in the off-season. It was a disappointing year as he went 4-14 following his All-Star worthy campaign in 1959.

Off The Charts: His given name is Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish. He picked up a save in his only All-Star appearance, the second of the two 1959 ASGs.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

#109 Cletis Boyer

Cletis Boyer  New York Yankees

Career: Like a lot of Yankee players of this era he began his career with the A's. He spent 10 of his 16 big league seasons as a starter and won two World Series rings with the Yanks in five tries. He rarely hit over .250 for a season but was an outstanding fielding third baseman and won a Gold Glove with the Braves in 1969.

In 1960: This was his first season as a full time starting player, and he claimed a position that had been in flux for the Yankees. He hit .243 with 14 homers which was about what he averaged over his career as a full-time player.

Off The Charts: He's one of three Boyer brothers to play in the majors. Ken was a perennial All-Star with the Cardinals and faced Clete in the '64 Series. Cloyd had a modest career as a pitcher, mostly with the Cards in the early '50s. He was Clete's teammate with the 1955 A's.

The Card: He's wearing #34 in the B/W 'action' photo but he switched to #6 in 1962 and wore it for the rest of his career.

Monday, April 13, 2020

#108 Pete Daley

Pete Daley  Kansas City Athletics

Career: Hit .239 in seven seasons in the majors as a platoon and reserve catcher. Came up with the Red Sox and was in Boston for five seasons. Finished up with a year each in K.C. and Washington.

In 1960: This was his only season with the A's. He hit .263 with five homers while splitting time with Harry Chiti and Danny Kravitz. His 273 at-bats were a career-high.

Off The Charts: In his five years with the Red Sox he had a fielding pct. of .996, committing only four errors in over 1,000 chances.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

#107 Carl Willey

 Note: I am going to resume posting these great cards. I will likely make some adjustments to what I include with each entry.

Carl Willey   Milwaukee Braves

Career: He pitched five full seasons with the Braves after about that many in their system and a military stint. he was generally their #4 starter during his time there. He appeared in one game in the 1958 World Series. He pitched for the Mets from 1963 to 1965 spending a season as a starter and then finishing his career in the bullpen.

In 1960: He went 6-7 with an ERA over 4.30 in 21 starts.

Off The Charts: In 1958 he was second in the Sporting News Top Prospect poll and pitched four shutouts which led the NL.