Tuesday, September 29, 2020

#265 Rip Repulski

Rip Repulski  Los Angeles Dodgers

Career: Eldon 'Rip' Repulski was signed by the Cardinals after a top-notch career as a baseball and football player at his Minnesota high school and St. Cloud State University. He spent six seasons moving up the Cards' chain. That wasn't unusual given the depth of talent some franchises held in those days.

Repulski made the St. Louis roster in 1953 and laid claim to the starting centerfield job. He had a solid season and got some Rookie of the Year consideration. He played four seasons for the Redbirds and hit .276 over that span. He had a reputation as a good defensive player, too. He made his only All-Star squad in 1956 and them was promptly traded to the Phils after the season.

In Philly, Ripulski hit 20 homers in 1957 but had a sub-par '58 and was traded again, this time to the Dodgers. His days as a regular were over and Repulski spent a couple of seasons in both LA and Boston coming off the bench as a pinch-hitter and spare outfield glove. The Sox released him mid-year in '61 and he caught on with the Twins AAA club. He retired after that and returned to his hometown to operate his bar.

In 1960: In May, after just a handful of at-bats with the Dodgers, Repulski was traded to the Red Sox. He hit .243 as their primary right-handed pinch-hitter and occasional starter in left. BTW... Repulski hit a grand slam at Fenway Park in his first American League at-bat. He hit it in the bottom of the eighth on May 10 against the White Sox. Ted Williams had drawn an intentional walk to load 'em up for Repulski who was batting for Gary Geiger who'd been announced as a pinch hitter before a pitching change by Chicago. His blast broke open a 5-5 game. The Red Sox hung on for a 9-7 win.

Off The Charts: Rip drew an intentional walk in his only at-bat in the 1959 World Series. In the bottom of the eighth inning of Game Five, after Ron Fairly was announced as a pinch-hitter for Don Demeter with Chicago up 1-0, the Sox countered by bringing Billy Pierce in from the bullpen. Repulski was then sent in for Fairly and drew his pass. Dick Donavan relieved Pierce and got out of the inning. The Dodgers would have to wait until Game Six in Chicago to wrap up the title.

According to his SABR bio, Repulski owned and operated a bar in St. Cloud, Minnesota, not far from where he was raised and where he went to college. A couple of paragraphs pretty much sum up his persona:

Repulski was a “hands-on” owner of his liquor establishment, frequently coming out from behind the bar to share tales of his baseball career with anyone who might have even a dim connection with the sport.

Never one to allow anything to get in the way of a good story, Rip regaled his audiences with tales of his ball-field exploits: how he escaped death in plane and bus crashes, that he could still hit left-handed pitching, that the Cardinals kept him in the minors too long, and that his lifetime batting average was the same as Yogi Berra’s (it wasn’t). The stories went on and on until closing time.

Rip did a VW Wagon commercial. No date available for this. Clever stuff.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

#264 Robin Roberts

Robin Roberts   Philadelphia Phillies

Career: Hall of Famer Robin Roberts was an Illinois native (and Michigan State alum) who won 286 games while pitching for mostly mediocre ballclubs. He had a brief but highly successful taste of the minors in 1948 and then was called up to the Phils. He quickly became one of the best right-handers in the game. He pitched a ridiculous 305 complete games. Between 1950 and 1956 he averaged 22 wins and 26 complete games a season. LOL

Each year from 1952 through 1955 Roberts led the NL in wins. Over that span, he was 97-52 (.651) while the Phils were 322-294 (.523) as a team. 

After his time in Philadelphia, just as it began to look like all the innings had degraded his arm, he found his way to Baltimore in 1962 where he had a resurgence and he pitched very well as a mid-rotation starter for the better part of three years. He finished up with some time with the Astros and Cubs. He was inducted into the Hall in 1976 after four election cycles.

Notable Achievements

  • 7-time NL All-Star (1950-1956)
  • 4-time NL Wins Leader (1952-1955)
  • 5-time NL Innings Pitched Leader (1951-1955)
  • 2-time NL Strikeouts Leader (1953 & 1954)
  • 5-time NL Complete Games Leader (1952-1956)
  • NL Shutouts Leader (1950)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 10 (1949-1956, 1958 & 1959)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 6 (1950-1955)
  • 25 Wins Seasons: 1 (1952)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 14 (1949-1960, 1963 & 1964)
  • 300 Innings Pitched Seasons: 6 (1950-1955)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1976

In 1960: This was Roberts' last relatively effective year in Philadelphia. His ERA was just over 4 and he went 12-16. He allowed the most homers among NL pitchers (although that wasn't unusual for Roberts).

Off The Charts:  Roberts made one start in the 1950 World Series against the Yankees. He pitched a complete game in Game Two and took the 2-1 loss against Allie Reynolds.

Roberts worked a season in the Phils' radio booth after he retired and then became the head baseball coach at the University of South Florida. He had diverse interests both during and after his career. He was involved in the Players Association for many years. Roberts owned a seafood company and played basketball during his offseasons with a team of other ballplayers.

The Card: Roberts had 221 wins, was a seven-time All-Star, had led the league in wins and strikeouts several times when 1959 had ended. Yet, he didn't rate a 'star' number on the checklist? I don't get it.

Friday, September 25, 2020

#263 Darrell Johnson

Darrell Johnson  St. Louis Cardinals

Career: Johnson's major league career came in bits and pieces spread over a decade for six different teams. He came out of Nebraska-Kearney and he caught in the St. Louis Browns' system beginning in 1949. He made their roster in 1952 but from there it was a journey through Chicago (Sox), New York (Yankees), back to St. Louis (Cardinals), Philly, Cincinnati, and Baltimore.

Johnson's numbers through all that don't add up to full seasons worth of games but he learned a lot and it came in handy when he managed three teams later in life. He logged nearly a thousand games in the minors, was a player/coach for the Cardinals, and went on to manage the Red Sox (winning the '75 pennant), the Mariners (he was their first), and finally, briefly, the Rangers.

He was a career .234 hitter with one homer off Virgil Trucks and another one off Johnny Podres.

In 1960: Johnson started the season as a spare catcher and coach. When the Cards recalled top prospect Tim McCarver they took Johnson off the active roster and he was officially a coach for the rest of the year. He'd had just twenty-six at-bats over eight games hitting .154 with an RBI.

Off The Charts: Johnson ended his playing days with the Orioles and then began managing in their chain. He was pushed aside by the Rochester owner in favor of Earl Weaver and he moved on to scouting with the Yanks and then got back into managing. He took over the Red Sox job in 1974, finished third, and then took them to the Series.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

#262 Hank Bauer

Hank Bauer  Kansas City Athletics

Career: Bauer, whose reputation as a tough ex-Marine is widely known, had a 14-year playing career, twelve of those seasons were with the Yankees. His career peaked with the powerhouse early-to-mid 50s Yankees clubs and Bauer was an All-Star from 1952 through 1955. He picked up MVP votes in five straight years beginning in 1952 as well.

Bauer played in nine World Series with the Yanks, winning seven including five straight from 1949 to 1953. He is sixth on the list of World Series at-bats and hit seven Series homers including four in the '57 Series. The card's cartoon mentions the fact that Bauer holds the record for hits in consecutive World Series games. He still holds the record. His streak included 1956 WS games 1-7, 1957 WS games 1-7, and 1958 WS games 1-3. warren Spahn's two-hit shutout of the Yanks in Game Four of the '58 Classic ended Bauer's run. He got the last laugh though, as he homered off Spahn in his first at-bat in Game Six and he got his ring in the end.

He finished his career with the Athletics in '60/'61. He was the As' player/manager for part of his final active season.

Bauer managed the A's in both KC & Oakland, as well as the Orioles and he won another ring when the '66 Birds swept the Dodgers.

There is a lot more to the Hank Bauer story than I can include here so I'll point you to his SABR bio for a long but entertaining read.

In 1960:
Bauer came to the Athletics in the December '59 trade that sent Roger Maris to the Yankees. He got into 95 games and hit a respectable .275 which is right about his career average.

Off The Charts: Bauer's WWII Marine story as told by Wikipedia...
One month after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Bauer enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served with the 4th Raider Battalion and G Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines. While deployed to the Pacific Theater, Bauer contracted malaria on Guadalcanal, however he recovered from that well enough to earn 11 campaign ribbons, two Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts (for being wounded in action) in 32 months of combat and the Navy Commendation Medal. Bauer was wounded his second time during the Battle of Okinawa, when he was a sergeant in command of a platoon of 64 Marines. Only six of the 64 Marines survived the Japanese counterattack, and Bauer was wounded by shrapnel in his thigh. His wounds were severe enough to send him back to the United States to recuperate.
Hanks's next-to-last career homer was an inside-the-park job off his pal, Whitey Ford in June of 1961 at Yankee Stadium. I bet they laughed about that one over beers a time or two. Baseball-Reference's home run log says it was hit to 'deep' centerfield. In Yankee Stadium that likely means it rolled to the monuments.

The Card: Topps had their artist paint the A's logo on to Bauer's cap but so little of it is visible on the color shot you wonder why they bothered.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

#261 Pete Burnside


Pete Burnside  Detroit Tigers

Career: Burnside was a high school phenom who wowed the scouts with a blazing fastball. His control, however, was another matter. He never quite got a handle on where his ball was going. And too frequently it went over the fence.

He'd signed with the Giants in 1949 but his road to the majors was a bumpy one. His results never matched his talent and he suffered a few injuries and got detoured by Uncle Sam. He finally stuck with the Giants in 1957 but two rough years later he was traded to the Tigers.

Burnside still had that tantalizing arm strength but his results never matched it. He pitched for the Senators, Orioles, and in Japan for a few seasons without ever having much success.

In 1960: After a season in the Tigers pen, he was given a shot at starting. He started 15 of his 30 games and went 7-7. That win total was the best of his career. His other numbers were pretty lackluster and the Tigers let him go in the expansion draft.

Off The Charts: Coming out of New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois Burnside was sought after by the Cubs, his favorite team. But Burnside wanted to attend Dartmouth College and the Cubs didn't sign him. He was offered (and accepted) a deal by the Giants that allowed him to attend school and report to the team when his spring semester ended. In 1952 he graduated with a double-major in history and sociology.

During his time in the service, pitching for the Fort Leonard Wood (Missouri) Hilltoppers in October 1953, he gained national attention by striking out the first 17 batters in an inter-service game.

After his two seasons in Japan ended he returned to Illinois, got his Masters at Northwestern, and began his second career as a teacher and coach at New Trier. He retired from there in the early 90s. 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

#260 Power Plus

Power Plus (Rocky Colavito and Tito Francona   Cleveland Indians)

The happy couple posed at Yankee Stadium for this Topps Special.

This card was probably a painful one for Cleveland fans in 1960. In April, on the eve of Opening Day, Rocky Colavito, the 1959 AL home run champ and an immensely popular figure in the city, was traded to the Tigers for the defending AL batting champ Harvey Kuenn.

Cleveland.com has the story (as do about 500 other online sites). The deal was huge at the time. Even I remember the stir it caused in baseball.

Colavito's 1960 season in Detroit wasn't up to par for him but he bounced back in a big way in 1961. Meanwhile, Kuenn hit .308 for the Indians. That was well off his .353 of 1959 but he did make the All-Star team. What I hadn't realized until I was doing some poking around for this post was the season opener for both teams...yup, you guessed it...was the Indians in Tiger Stadium. I bet that was a fun day for Frank Lane.

Tito Francona, Terry's father, had a solid season. His .292 average was below his ..363 of 1959 (when he was fifth in MVP votes) but he had another .300 year just around the corner in 1961 when he also made his only All-Star team.

On a side note...Francona was flirting with .400 through most of the summer of 1959. He'd forced his way into the Indians' lineup with a super hot bat. His average, as the card back notes, was 10 points higher than Kuenn's but he lacked having quite enough at-bats to qualify for the batting crown.

Friday, September 18, 2020

#259 George Altman

George Altman  Chicago Cubs

Career: George Altman is another two-sport college star who found his way to major league success. He attended Tennessee State (then Tennessee A&I) to play basketball and did so for four seasons. Tenn A&I didn't begin their baseball program until Altman's junior year but he signed up and excelled. Altman reports (in this really nice interview) that the school played a very limited baseball schedule but it did include games against Army base teams and Negro League clubs.

He gravitated to baseball over hoops (he wasn't drafted by the NBA) and when he graduated he was recruited to join the Kansas City Monarchs where he spent the summer playing for Buck O'Neil's club. He played for the Monarchs in the summer of 1955 and drew interest from the Cubs. They signed him and he began a climb to the majors that took him through two minor league seasons wrapped around two with the US Army.

Altman made the Cubs team in 1959 and nailed down a starting outfield slot. His numbers over his first couple of seasons were hampered by nagging illnesses and injuries. He found his footing and had his most productive years in 1961 and '62. He was an All-Star both years. That was no small feat considering the NL outfield talent at the time and the fact that with Ernie Banks on the club so there wasn't any 'every team has to be represented' bias in his selection. He hit over .300 both years and contributed with speed and plenty of extra-base hits.

Rather surprisingly he was traded to the Cardinals for the '63 season. The Cards had wanted him to take advantage of the short rightfield fence in old Busch Stadium. His season was disappointing and he was then traded again, this time to the Mets. The year, 1964, was his last as a starter in the majors. He was dealt back to the Cubs where he platooned for a few years and spent most of 1967 in the minors.

He has a very successful career playing in Japan that ended with a bout with colon cancer in 1975 (he beat it). He then returned to Chicago and began a second career as a commodities broker. Altman has maintained his health and was the keynote speaker at SABR's 19th annual Jerry Malloy Negro Leagues Conference in 2016. He and his wife are active in charitable and youth-oriented programs in the Chicago area.

In 1960:  He didn't quite get into as many games as he had in his rookie season of 1959. This was due in large measure to the Cubs adding Richie Ashburn to the outfield mix. Altman started games at all three OF spots and some at first as well. His numbers across the board were better this year than the previous one. He hit .266 with 13 homers and drove in 51 runs. But he was still a season away from his All-Star days.

Off The Charts: Wikipedia sums up his career in Japan this way:

He was a spare outfielder in both 1965 and 1966, and then, in 1967, he spent part of the year at Triple-A, where at age 34 he played regularly and regained his batting stroke. It served him well the following season, when he began his career in Japanese baseball. He played from 1968 through 1975 for the Lotte Orions and the Hanshin Tigers, and enjoyed seasons of 39, 34 and 30 homers—and four more years with 20 or more blasts—and batted over .300 six times. Highlights from his NPB career included leading the Pacific League in hits (170), runs (84), and RBI (100) in 1968; and being named to the "Best Nine" Pacific League team in 1968, 1970, and 1971. He credited martial arts training for baseball success in Japan.
Altman is a pretty remarkable guy. Interesting and outspoken in many areas. His SABR bio is recommended as the interview linked above. Warning...if you are an Ernie Banks fan you may want to skip that linked interview. Just sayin'

Here is Altman at the Malloy SABR Conference in '16 and a shot from his days in Japan:

The Card: I like seeing some of Wrigley behind him. You usually get pics with the walls or scoreboard in the background but here you see a piece of the cage and the stands to the third base side of home plate. When we visited there in 2013 that's where we sat.

And his pose is more interesting than the standard headshot. This exact color combo is used on four Cubs' cards. The Cubs have eleven different combos across the set which is the most of any team. The most frequent combo for them is nearly the same but with white letters for the team and position. That one is used on seven cards and that total is the lowest 'most frequent combo' of any of the 16 clubs. Now you know.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

#258 Dick Groat

Dick Groat  Pittsburgh Pirates

Career: Dick Groat's baseball career ran alongside his basketball career for a while and both of those came after his top-notch collegiate career at Duke. Well, maybe it was sort of the other way around. I dunno. What I do know is that Groat was a multi-sport star at every level. He was an All-American and National Player of the Year for the Blue Devil hoops team in his senior season of 1951-52. He was a first-round pick of the Fort Wayne Pistons and played one season before the money available in baseball turned him away from what was his favorite sport.

Branch Rickey signed Groat for the Pirates in 1952 as soon as he finished his 4-year athletic commitment to Duke. Rickey had attempted to sign him the previous summer but Groat was intent on finishing at Duke and took a handshake promise from Rickey that he would sign the following summer. He did. 

Groat went straight to the majors and played almost a hundred games that first year. He hit .284 and was third in the RoY balloting. After a stint in the service, Groat returned to the Pirates and played short, next to Bill Mazeroski through 1962. Along the way, he won a ring with the Bucs in 1960.

He was traded to the Cardinals in 1963 and won another ring the following year as the Redbirds beat the Yankees. During his career he was an ironman, rarely missing a game and making five NL All-Star teams. 

Groat, finished his playing career with some (very) short stays with the Phils in 1967. After retiring he built and managed a gold course with former teammate Jerry Lynch. He was the color commentator for Duke basketball for 40 seasons until he left the job in 2019.

In 1960: Not a bad year for Groat, all-in-all. He won the first of his World Series rings and made the All-Star team. Groat also won the National League Most Valuable Player. He slashed.325/.371/.394 with 32 extra-base hits, including 26 doubles, four triples, and two home runs. On the defensive side of things, he lad the league in Defensive WAR and some other stat geek categories like Total Zone Runs.

Off The Charts: Lots of fun Groat trivia and stories floating around. Here are a few from online newspaper stories, Wikipedia, and SABR:

Groat is one of 13 athletes that played in both the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball. The thirteen are: Danny Ainge, Frank Baumholtz, Gene Conley, Chuck Connors, Dave DeBusschere, Johnny Gee, Groat, Steve Hamilton, Mark Hendrickson, Cotton Nash, Ron Reed, Dick Ricketts and Howie Schultz.

Groat began playing for the Pistons while still a student at Duke so he could finish those credits. But the university had a rule at the time, he said, that if you missed three classes, you were out, just like at the plate. He missed one while playing for the Pirates that year, then missed another while playing for the Pistons when his flight from Detroit to North Carolina was grounded. So he called Pistons owner Fred Zollner and told him he could no longer play basketball for him.
“I only was allowed three cuts at Duke,’’ Groat says. “My father would have killed me with the grades I had if I hadn’t graduated from Duke.”

The colorful Zollner, perhaps the richest NBA owner at the time who became the first in the league to purchase an airplane to charter the Pistons to games cut a deal with Groat through GM Carl Bennett. They offered to provide a private plane to fly Groat back and forth to Duke from wherever the Pistons played so he would not miss another class.

Critics [...] pointed to his lack of range at shortstop and weak arm. Fellow shortstop Alvin Dark defended him. “They say he doesn’t have much range at shortstop. What’s range but getting to the ball?” Dark said. “You watch Groat. He’s always in front of the ball. He’s smart and he knows the hitters and plays the position as well as anyone I ever saw. Maybe he doesn’t have a great arm, but he makes up for it by getting the ball away quicker than anyone else.”

At the end of his career, he ranked ninth in major league history in games at shortstop (1,877) and fourth in double plays (1,237), and was among the NL career leaders in putouts (10th, 3,505), assists (8th, 5,811) and total chances (9th, 9,690).

Groat is the great uncle of the golfer Brooks Koepka, who won the 2017 and 2018 U.S. Open, and the 2018 and 2019 PGA Championship.

Monday, September 14, 2020

#255 Jim Gilliam

Jim Gilliam  Los Angeles Dodgers

Career: Jim 'Junior' Gilliam was a baseball junkie from his youngest days. He left school at 14 to play ball for some semi-pro clubs around his native Nashville, Tennessee. He soon found himself signed and playing for the Baltimore Elite Giants of the Negro National League. It was there that veteran George Scales got him into switch-hitting, a tool that helped make him so valuable in later years.

Gilliam signed with Brooklyn in 1951 after four years with the Elite Giants and he reported to the AAA Montreal Royals. Wikipedia reports that he wasn't sent to the AA Ft. Worth Cats because black players were not welcome in the Texas League. No mention of that in Gilliam's SABR bio which is usually pretty thorough. SABR does, however, tell us that Gilliam was 'loaned' to the Cubs organization in 1950 by the Elite Giants on a conditional deal but the Cubs were not impressed enough to sign him. His Baseball-Reference stats don't show and numbers with either of the Cubs' farm teams mentioned so perhaps it was a winter ball sort of thing.

But, anyway, Gilliam had solid two minor league seasons in Montreal and made his major league debut with the Dodgers in 1953. He made a real splash in Brooklyn and won the NL Rookie of the Year Award easily over Harvey Haddix of the Cardinals. He was an iron man, playing second, left, and right and rarely missing a game it seems. He had over 700 plate appearances, a plateau that he reached several times both in the majors and minors. He also led the NL in triples.

Gilliam played his entire fourteen-year career with the Dodgers. Many years he rotated through the starting nine, playing second, third, and two or all three outfield slots.

He was a part of seven World Series clubs and took home four rings. His Series average was only .211 but he hit two homers in his first, the 1953 Series against the Yankees. He was a two-time All-Star and homered in front of the hometown Los Angeles crowd in the second ASG in 1959.

Gilliam coached for the Dodgers after he finally retired (he had been a player/coach at the end). He had hoped to become a manager (there had, of course, been no black managers in the majors at that point) but the opportunity never came his way. He stayed with the Dodgers as a coach until he passed away in 1978.

In 1960: His .248 average was the lowest of his career to that point but his OBP remained fairly high due to his ability to draw walks. His other numbers, RBI,  runs, extra-base hits, etc. remained on a par with his previous few seasons.

Off The Charts: Gilliam was named the Dodgers' first base coach in 1965 as his skills were on the decline. But struggles by his intended replacement at third, John Kennedy, inspired the Dodgers to push Gilliam back to full-time playing status. He responded with a .280 season and a key defensive play in the '65 Series. SABR relates this story of the meeting where he was asked to return to the field...

Buzzie Bavasi called a meeting of the front office and dugout management. According to Bavasi: “We talked over several possibilities… Finally, I said, ‘Let’s reactivate Old Slowfoot.’ Gilliam, attending the meeting as a coach, looked at me out of the corner of his eye. We were playing the Cardinals that night. He said, ‘You picked a fine day to bring me back. We’re going against [Bob] Gibson tonight. Wait until tomorrow.’”

Here are a few quotes from the same SABR bio:

“Junior played to win ballgames,” Fairly said. “He didn’t care who was the player who won the game so long as the Dodgers won the game. Jim didn’t worry about personal things like that.”

The difficult to please and proud of it coach Leo Durocher, said of him, “He never – and I mean never – misses a sign. He does everything right. He’s a double pro.”

Added Gilliam’s long-time skipper, Walter Alston: “He doesn’t make any mistakes…He gives you 100 percent, day in and day out. He never moans. He’s a good team man. If I had eight like him, I wouldn’t have to give a single sign.”
The Card: Nice shot of Gilliam at the Polo Grounds. This color combo (blue/yellow/black/red/black) is the most common one in the '60 set. It appears 50 times and is the 'standard (most used) for the Indians, Braves, and Dodgers.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

#254 Arnie Portocarrero

Arnie Portocarrero  Baltimore Orioles

Career: A New York native of Puerto Rican descent, Arnie Portocarrero was signed by the Philadelphia Athletics in 1950 after a very successful high school career. He spent two seasons in the low minors, two years at my favorite Army base, Ft. Dix in New Jersey.

When he returned to the A's he jumped into the starting rotation and became the ace, at least for a season. His nine wins led the club. Arnie wasn't as successful in '55 and when he got off to a tough start in '56 (he'd hurt his arm in winter ball) he was shipped to the minors. 1957 was a mixed bag and early in 1958, he was dealt to the Orioles. Charm City revived him for a bit and he had some nice outings there including back-to-back shutouts in May/June over the red Sox and Tigers. He finished with a 15-11 mark, the most wins on the team, and in his career.

Arnie never came close to replicating that '59 season and after a couple of seasons with the Orioles and in their farm system, he retired. He went to work for U. S. Rubber as a salesman and stayed active playing amateur baseball around Kansas City.

In 1960: This was in for Arnie. He was on the O's staff through mid-June. He got into thirteen games making five starts and pitching about 40 innings. His results weren't ugly (3-2, 4.43) but the Baby Birds staff was formed and there apparently wasn't room for a 28-year-old journeyman. He was sent down to AAA Miami and made ten starts there the rest of the way.

Off The Charts: Arnie Portocarrero made it into a few fun oddball issues in the 50s. He had two cards in the 1955/56 Rodeo Meats Athletics regional issue. There are some color variations in there as well. Plus he had a 'premium' card related to the set. Getting the straight scoop on how the premiums were distributed is difficult. In fact, everything I come across about the Rodeo sets conflicts with whatever story I read previously.

Below is a Rodeo Meats 'Premium' of Portocarrero. This is part of a set of 16(?) which were apparently not premiums in the normal hobby sense. I believe they are more along the lines of the team-issued picture packs that were a common thing back in the 50s and 60s. Sold by the team at the stadium or through the mail as a complete set.

He's also paired with Curt Roberts in Topps' 1955 DoubleHeader set.

Roberts as seen with the card unfolded:

Our guy Arnie on the reverse:

Flip it and fold it and here's Arnie with feet:

Friday, September 11, 2020

#253 Eddie Bressoud

Eddie Bressoud  San Francisco Giants

Career: Bressoud, a Los Angeles product, played twelve seasons in the majors, mostly with the Giants and Red Sox. He signed in 1950, played a few years in their system, did two years in the military, returned to the minors, and then broke through to the Giants in 1956. During the club's last two seasons in New York Bressoud was up and down between the Polo Grounds and AAA. He had a reputation as a versatile infielder with a good glove anywhere he was stationed.

But he wasn't an automatic out at the plate, either. At least in most years. In 1964 for the Red Sox he hit .293 and made the AL All-Star team. His career average was .252 which is better than a lot of the infielders of the era.

Bressouud had a couple of seasons with the Giants in which he was a near-everyday player. But when he reached the Red Sox in 1962 he took over as their shortstop and had a nice three-year run. He had good power for a middle infielder and put up double-digit homers for several seasons in a row. His numbers fell off in 1965 and he found himself with the Mets in 1966 where he enjoyed one final season as a starter, and with the Cards in 1967 where he was a spare part.

Bressoud worked as a minor league manager and scout once his playing days were done.

In 1960: This was his second year as the Giants' starter at short (he got into 116 games with over 430 plate appearances) but he didn't hit well enough to hold the job. His .225 average was the lowest of his career. He'd soon give way to Jose Pagan at short for the Giants.

Off The Charts: Bressoud's move from San Francisco to Boston came with a detour. He was taken by Houston in the December '61 expansion draft and then traded to the Sox for Don Buddin. SABR has this to say about the deal:
Bressoud never played for Houston. In fact, he was earmarked for the Boston Red Sox even before the Colt .45s drafted him. In discussions during the World Series, Mike Higgins of the Red Sox talked with GM Paul Richards of Houston. The Sox had tried to obtain Bressoud from the Giants, but failed, and so a deal was struck whereby Houston would draft Bressoud and then swap him to the Red Sox for Boston shortstop Don Buddin. Buddin was no fan favorite in Boston, and Higgins was looking for someone steadier in the field. Columnist Dan Daniel quoted an unnamed Boston writer: “Mike Higgins would not have dared to open the 1962 season with Buddin still on his club. The fans hooted Don all last summer.”

The Card: See, this is what a good headshot looks like. Shows him leaning on the cage, Wrigley scoreboard, and players in the background. Nice colors as well. Good effort by the Topps crew here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

#252 Ray Herbert

Ray Herbert  Kansas City Athletics

Career: Herbert's career, which began in the Tigers' chain in 1949, was a series of peaks and valleys. Starting at the AAA level, he had a terrible first year. But the Tigers must have seen potential because he remained at the top rung of the ladder and was more impressive at Toledo his second time around.

Herbert earned a spot on the Tigers' staff and sandwiched three and a third seasons around nearly two years spent with Uncle Sam. His record in Detroit, where he was mostly a mop-up reliever, ranged from 'not bad' to terrible. He was traded to the Athletics in May of 1955 and spent the rest of that season pitching batting practice (in real games to opponents). Two years of seasoning in the minors transformed Herbert into a much better pitcher. He grabbed the role of a starter and won 36 games for the A's. He had enough value to be a key part of a deal that sent him to the White Sox in June of 1961.

Hebert's best years came on the South Side. He won 20 in 1962, made the All-Star team (he pitched three innings and got the win in the second of that years' ASGs), and even got a look from MVP voters. After a 13-win '63 season and a 6-win 1964 (diminishing returns), he was dealt to the Phils. There he had decent numbers as a starter one year, not-so-good as a reliever the next and retired after being released in December of 1966.

In 1960: Herbert had a really good season with a 3.28 ERA and a 14-15 record on a team that finished last and 38 games below .500.  It's not surprising that he was dealt off the next year. What IS surprising is that it was to the White Sox and not the Yankees.

Off The Charts: His SABR bio tells us about his post-playing days...
"Herbert and his family continued to live in the Detroit area. Herbert had been employed by Montgomery Ward as a sporting goods department manager during the offseason, and now this became his full-time occupation. Herbert continued to be involved with baseball, working as batting practice pitcher for the Tigers from 1967 to 1992 when the team was at home. He was also president of the Detroit Tigers Alumni Association. The Tigers appreciated Herbert enough to include him with their traveling group for playoff games, and for the World Series in 1968 and 1984."

Since he's from the upper Midwest and not Louisiana I'm assuming we were correct as kids when we called him Ray "Her-burt". Now that I'm in Texas and near Cajun country, I slip into thinking it's 'ā-bear". Thought you should know.

The Card: I don't hate headshot cards as much as some do but this just isn't a good one. Cropping it differently, maybe showing more uni, would have made a difference. I always like that Athletics' logo though.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

3251 Bobby Malkmus

Bobby Malkmus  Philadelphia Phillies

Career: Bobby Malkmus was a good glove, bad bat infielder for three big-league clubs over bits and pieces of six seasons. He broke in with the '57 Braves and went on to play for the Senators and Phils. His busiest time came in 1960 and '61 when he played in a total of  200 games for Philadelphia over both years.

When he got nearly 400 plate appearances in '61 he responded with his best hitting. He had a .231 average that year while also launching seven of his eight career homers. 

His time with the Braves in their title season of 1957 came in June so he wasn't around to watch the Series from the bench.

Malkmus was, as they say, a baseball 'lifer'. His last seasons as a pro were spent as a player/coach in the Phils organization. He went on to manage in the minors for them, the Expos, and the Orioles.  He was involved in scouting for the Giants as late as 2013 and has been active in baseball schools and camps.

In 1960: Malkmus played in 79 games, 32 as a starter. He was the clubs utility guy and divided his time between second, third, and short. He hit just .211 but had his first home run, a grand slam against the Giants. Details below.

This nugget from his SABR bio is a 1960 story: On September 15 at Connie Mack Stadium, Malkmus clubbed his first big-league home run, a grand slam off the San Francisco Giants’ Sam Jones to tie the score in the sixth inning of an eventual extra-inning loss. Starting at second base the following evening in Milwaukee, he was involved in a memorable game. With two outs in the ninth inning facing Warren Spahn, Malkmus hit a screeching liner back to the mound. Spahn reached for the ball reflexively, but it ricocheted off his glove, only to be scooped up by shortstop Logan, who threw to Adcock at first to record the final out in Spahn’s first career no-hitter.

Off The Charts: Recycled from my post of his 1958 card... On September 16, 1960, 39-year-old former teammate Warren Spahn threw the first no-hitter of his illustrious career against the Phils, striking out 15. He struck out every player in the starting lineup except Malkmus.

Malkmus was a product of Newark N.J.'s South Side High School and played football and baseball there. I'm from nearby Nutley and NSS was one of my home town's football rivals. He was before my time though.

The Card: This photo was taken in the same session as the one used on his '59 card. That 'P' they drew on his cap for the 'action' shot would have been visible from Delaware.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

#250 Stan Musial

Stan Musial  St. Louis Cardinals

Career: Stan Musial, Hall of Famer and St. Louis institution. Hell, in many ways Stan Musial IS St. Louis.

I'll list his career accomplishments but a couple of things that jump out at me when I look at his stat page: 1) he was either an All-Star or received MVP votes in every full season he played, and 2) he hit .315 in 1942 at the age of 20 and hit .330 in 1962 at the age of 41! And yes, he played damn near every day in that '62 season.

Notable Achievements

  • 20-time NL All-Star (1943, 1944 & 1946-1963)
  • 3-time NL MVP (1943, 1946 & 1948)
  • 7-time NL Batting Average Leader (1943, 1946, 1948, 1950-1952 & 1957)
  • 6-time NL On-Base Percentage Leader (1943, 1944, 1948, 1949, 1953 & 1957)
  • 6-time NL Slugging Percentage Leader (1943, 1944, 1946, 1948, 1950 & 1952)
  • 7-time NL OPS Leader (1943, 1944, 1946, 1948, 1950, 1952 & 1957)
  • NL At Bats Leader (1946)
  • 5-time NL Runs Scored Leader (1946, 1948, 1951, 1952 & 1954)
  • 6-time NL Hits Leader (1943, 1944, 1946, 1948, 1949 & 1952)
  • 6-time NL Total Bases Leader (1943, 1946, 1948, 1949, 1951 & 1952)
  • NL Singles Leader (1946)
  • 8-time NL Doubles Leader (1943, 1944, 1946, 1948, 1949 & 1952-1954)
  • 5-time NL Triples Leader (1943, 1946, 1948, 1949 & 1951)
  • 2-time NL RBI Leader (1948 & 1956)
  • NL Bases on Balls Leader (1953)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 10 (1948-1957)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 6 (1948, 1949, 1951 & 1953-1955)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 10 (1946, 1948-1951 & 1953-1957)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 11 (1943, 1944 & 1946-1954)
  • 200 Hits Seasons: 6 (1943, 1946, 1948, 1949, 1951 & 1953)
  • Won three World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals (1942, 1944 & 1946)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1969 His page there

In 1960: Musial hit .275, sixty below his career average but twenty points better than he hit the previous year. His 387 plate appearances were the lowest of his career, and age had sapped some of his power as he totaled 17 homers. But anyone who thought he was done was mistaken.

He was an All-Star, and while he wasn't in the starting lineup for either game, he got a pinch-hitting shot in both. The results? A single in the Jully 11 game, and a homer in the on on the 13th.

Off The Charts: Stan's brother, Ed Musial, played four seasons of minor league ball between 1946 and 1950. He was, at least for part of that, in the Cubs' chain.

Some quotes from the Donora Pa. native's BullPen Wiki page at Baseball-Reference:

"I could always hit. It's not something I ever had to think too much about. A lot of guys are very scientific about it. It just seemed to come naturally, even when I was growing up." - Musial
"How good was Stan Musial? He was good enough to take your breath away." - Vin Scully
"Here stands baseball's happy warrior; here stands baseball's perfect knight." - Ford Frick dedicating the Stan Musial statue outside Busch Stadium

The Card: This combo (orange/green/yellow/white/black) seems to work well with some photos and not with others. It's standard for the Tigers and shows up 18 times in the set.

I like the cartoon here. It references The Man's seven batting crowns.

The photo, though, is a bit of a mystery. That's Seals Stadium in San Francisco, one of the more common photo locales for NLers in the '60 Topps set. That nails down the years of the pic to 1958 or 1959. What is strange is that there looks to be some sort of patch(?) on Musial's left sleeve.

St. Louis hadn't worn the 'script-front/bird sleeve patch' jerseys since the one year run in 1956. From the Hall of Fame's Uniform database:

Their 1958 and 1959 look was this:

So what's that on Stan's sleeve? That same Hall site has a listing of all memorial sleeve patches. Nothing noted for the Cards in that timeframe.

Looking closer at that section of the cards shows that there is something red on his sleeve. And that is the head of a 'Bird on a Bat' on his chest. (Hard to see on the card in hand).

So, I don't know what to think. Stray ink blob? Bloodstain? The card isn't obviously airbrushed or otherwise altered so that possibility is pretty remote. Plus, Topps did plenty of  'editing' on the b&w 'action' pics but next to nothing on the color, main photos. I don't know the answer and nobody else cares so it'll remain one of life's little mysteries.

Also noteworthy is that Seasons Highlights section that contains, not just big game production, but some super career milestones for Musial...400 dingers, 3200 hits, and the then-record 652 doubles. He finished with 725, 21 behind Pete Rose for the NL lead, and third all-time behind Rose and Tris Speaker's 792.

Friday, September 4, 2020

#248 Del Rice

Del Rice  Chicago Cubs

Career: Rice joined the Cardinals in 1945 after four seasons in the minors and spent half a decade as a platoon/semi-regular catcher. In 1950 he claimed their fulltime job behind the plate and held it four seasons. He was Roy Campanella's backup in the 1953 All-Star Game but Campy played all nine innings.

Rice was dealt to the Braves in 1955 and spent five seasons there riding the pine behind Del Crandall. Then he toured both leagues, playing with the Cubs, Cardinals (again), Orioles, and the expansion Angels in 1961, his last stop in the bigs.

In the end, Rice had fashioned a 17 season career, largely due to his defensive skills. 

He played in two World Series and was on the winning side both times. While earning rings in '46 and '57, he went four for twelve in five total games. He was a member of the NL champion Braves in 1958 but didn't get into a game in that Series.

After retiring as a player he worked as a coach and minor league manager for many years, primarily with the Angels' organization. He had one year as the Angels manager, 1872, but the team finished fifth and Rice was given a scouting job and replaced in the dugout by Bobby Winkles. He later scouted for the Yanks and Giants.

In 1960: He began the year with the Cubs but was let go in June after playing in 18 games. He signed with the Cardinals, got into one game in August after spending time at AAA, then was released again. He signed with the Orioles and made it into one game with the Birds that September.

He hit .218 in 54 at-bats with the three clubs.

Off The Charts: Rice is credited as being the very first Los Angeles Angel. He signed with Gene Autry as a player/coach on December 12, 1960. The expansion draft that filled their roster was held two days later.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

#247 Gil McDougald

Gil McDougald   New York Yankees

Career: After three red-hot minor-league seasons McDougald made the '51 Yanks starting at third and some at second, and proceeded to win the Rookie of the Year award.

He went on to play ten seasons in the Bronx, hit .276 with decent power for an infielder (he moved to short and then second before returning to third), was a five-time All-Star, and had several Top Ten MVP totals.

The 50s Yankees being what they were, McDougald played in eight World Series, winning five rings. He didn't hit particularly well in the post-season as far as average goes, but he homered in the first four he participated in and had two dingers (and a .321 average) in the '58 Classic against the Braves.

McDougald turned down an offer to play for the expansion Angels in 1961 to go into retirement. He scouted for the Yanks for some years and lived his last years on the middle Jersey Shore, passing away at 82.

In 1960: This was the end of the trail for McDougald. He played the fewest games and had the fewest at-bats of his career but he still played in nearly 120 games alternating and third and second with Clete Boyer and Bobby Richardson. Casey Stengel was pulling a boat-load of strings between naps. His numbers were actually as good or better than his previous season in fewer at-bats. You could look it up! 😉

His last big-league appearance came in Game Seven of the 1960 World Series. He entered the game in the top of the ninth as a pinch-runner for Dale Long who had singled a couple of batters earlier and had advanced to third on Mantle's hit. (Why Casey waited to put a runner in for Long until he'd been advanced to third is beyond me. I was watching but I'm sure it went over my 8-year-old head. Anyone?) Anyway, McDougald came home on Yogi Berra's grounder and that run tied up the game at 9-9 and set up what happened in the bottom of that crazy inning. McDougald, btw, had gone in to play third so he had a decent view of Maz' homer sailing over his left shoulder and into history.

Off The Charts: I'm generally not a fan of the Bleacher Report site but the link to this came up in my McDougald search and I thought it was interesting.
Gil McDougald: [...] Line Drive Tragedy

In Aug. 1955, Bob Cerv, who had almost as much power as Mickey Mantle, hit a line drive during batting practice. McDougald, who was otherwise engaged, was standing near second base when the liner struck him in the ear. It eventually cost him his hearing.
McDougald kept his deafness a secret until 1994 when he revealed it to Ira Berkow of the New York Times. A group of physicians read the article and told McDougald that a cochlear implant might restore his hearing. It did.

The other line drive was hit on May 7, 1957 in Cleveland. It struck Cleveland Indians left-hander Herb Score in the eye. Score remained on the ground for several minutes before being carried off the field. Neither Score nor McDougald was ever the same.
From 1951-56, McDougald hit .284/.369/.419, averaging 15 home runs and 77 RBIs over a 162-game season. After the "Herb Score incident," McDougald batted .264/.336/.394, averaging 13 home runs and 61 RBIs.

The Card: Another mystery is why McDougald is pictured capless. It not like he just came over to the Yanks from another club.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

#246 Lee Maye

Lee Maye  Milwaukee Braves (and The Crowns)

Career(s):  Lee Maye played pro baseball for 18 seasons, 13 in the majors with the Braves, Astros, Senators, White Sox, and Indians. He was never an All-Star, missed out on post-season play, and is relatively unknown despite a career .274 average and nearly a hundred homers.

After his minor league climb, he played for the Braves from 1959 thru early in the 1965 season. In 1964 his 44 doubles (twice his next best total) led the NL. That year his .304 average was good for 12th in the NL, just a few points outside the Top Ten.

He was traded to the Astros early in the 1965 season and later toured the AL before finishing with more minor-league duty and a 1972 retirement.

Running parallel to his baseball career was a music career that saw Maye make doo-wop records for several labels beginning in the mid-50s. He'd been singing since his days at Jefferson High in South Central L.A. The bulk of his music came from his time as lead singer for The Crowns. He signed his first professional contract at 19. Much more about his musical career can be found below.

Lee Maye died at 67 in 2002. Certainly a life well-lived.

In 1960: Maye was with the Braves to start the season but played sparingly through early May when he was sent to AAA Louisville. There he played well, was back in the bigs in July, and was handed an everyday spot in the Braves' outfield. He responded by hitting .301 in nearly a hundred at-bats.

Off The Charts (literally): This was one of the most fun posts I've had the pleasure to research. This is his 'rookie' card so I didn't get to dive down the rabbit hole of his music for my other set blogs. There are so many neat little items about his life that I think I'll just post some links here and let you explore if you wish.

Highly recommended is this page that has extensive photos, playlists of Maye's music, interview excerpts, and more.

Another extensive interview and background site is here. Bunches of photos, a complete(?) discography, and much more.

If you do Spotify, here is a Maye playlist.

Marv Goldberg's Rock and Roll Notebook is another fun site with a lot of stuff on Maye and his music.

This Astros Daily interview focuses on his baseball career and shows him to have been very outspoken in many ways. It's a good one.

The Card: The cartoon references his singing career. His '61, '63, '65, and '68 Topps cards also had cartoons that mentioned his 'side job'. This oldies/pop-oriented site has a great bio that focuses on his dual career and shows some of the cartoons.

The card itself is pretty cool. The blue/orange/red/white/black combo isn't unique but it is one of only six found in the 1960 set. And the Braves' sweet unis make it even more colorful. Add in that super cartoon and you have a great baseball card.

Here are a few music videos of The Crowns from YouTube: