Monday, February 20, 2017

#29 Jack Harshman - Chicago White Sox


Jack Elvin Harshman
Chicago White Sox
Pitcher

Bats:  Left  Throws:  Left  Height:  6'2"  Weight:  178
Born:  July 12, 1927, San Diego, CA
Acquired:  Traded by San Diego (PCL) to the New York Giants for Mike Budnick, Jack Graham, Jake Wade and $65,000, December 4, 1947
Major League Teams:  New York Giants 1952; Chicago White Sox 1954-1957; Baltimore Orioles 1958-1959; Boston Red Sox 1959; Cleveland Indians 1959-1960
Died:  August 17, 2013, Georgetown, TX (age 86)

Jack Harshman began his professional baseball career as a first baseman, but went on to have success as a left-handed pitcher with the White Sox and Orioles.  In 1947, Harshman hit 37 home runs for the Victoria Athletics (of the Western International League) and the San Diego Padres (of the Pacific Coast League) drawing the attention of the New York Giants.  The Giants acquired him that December, and he was their opening day first baseman in 1950.

Harshman began the transition to a full-time pitcher in 1953 and was traded to the White Sox in 1954 where he became a key member of their rotation.  That season, he struck out 16 Red Sox batters on July 25th to establish a franchise record and he threw a 16-inning shutout against the Tigers on August 13th.  Harshman finished his eight-year pitching career with a 69-65 record and a 3.50 ERA over 217 games.  He also hit 21 home runs in 424 at bats.

Building the Set
September 15, 2007 from Dad's eBay purchases - Card #301
Our first son Doug was born in December 2006, and this happy event led directly to my Dad visiting us on a more regular basis.  Dad was living by himself at this point in Mays Landing, New Jersey and he detested the 40 minute ride north to our house.  Among all the very positive memories I have of my Dad, one of my few negative memories is the fact that he absolutely seemed to loathe driving and that loathing increased exponentially if there was traffic or if it were dark.  But he made the trips anyway, sometimes staying no more than an hour, because he was so incredibly anxious and excited to spend time with his grandson.

By the time his second grandson (Ben) was born in April 2010, my Dad's health had begun failing and whatever visits we had were pre-arranged or consisted of us visiting him.  Which is why these visits during Doug's infancy and first few years are so special to me.  My Dad would show up, ecstatic to see Doug, there would be some small talk and we'd complain about the Phillies, and then he'd leave.  But on his way out, he'd always say he'd see us again in a few days and I'd look forward to these visits.

Dad with Jenna, Doug and me riding a merry-go-round
in Ocean City, August 2007
This background is needed to better explain how this Jack Harshman card came into our set.  In 2007, My Dad's days mostly consisted of an occasional round of golf, calls and visits to his kids - my sister and me, watching cable news, an afternoon nap and scouring eBay. Most (but not all) of his eBay purchases benefitted me in the form of 1956 Topps cards we needed for our set.  He'd show up at our house for a visit with Doug and nonchalantly hand me one of his recent purchases.  He handed me this Harshman card on September 15, 2007, along with a Jack Crimian (#319) card.

Throughout 2007, I suspect he had a backlog of purchased 1956 Topps cards piled up on his desk at his house, and he'd grab one or two to deliver to me as he was heading out the door to make the 40 minute drive to visit Doug.  Not to ruin the ending for this blog, but this is how we finished the 1956 Topps set.  Not with one last glorious purchase at a baseball card show, but with my Dad systematically and methodically checking off cards from our checklist through eBay purchases.

Together with my Mom, he'd deliver the last 29 cards we needed to complete the set as a Christmas present to me that year.

The Card
I'm awful with my stadium history and I had to do a little research to confirm my suspicion that the action photo was taken at Yankee Stadium.  The "No Betting" sign was my first clue and you can make out the "BA" in the Ballantine Beer advertisement on the far right in the background.  The portrait photo used is the same as was used on Harshman's 1954 and 1955 Topps cards.

The cartoon panels on the back reference Harshman's beginnings as a first baseman and the artist made sure the caricature actually slightly resembles him.

1956 Season
Harshman's best year came in 1956, when he went 15-11 for the White Sox with a 3.10 ERA, striking out 143 (but walking 102) over 226 2/3 innings.  The White Sox would finish the year in third place in the American League behind the pitching of Harshman, Billy Pierce (#160) and Dick Donovan (#18).  Harshman also slugged six home runs in 71 at-bats that season.

One of his best performances of the season came against the Indians, when he and Indians pitcher Herb Score (#140) both threw two-hit complete games with the White Sox winning, 1-0.

1954 Topps #173
 
1960 Topps #112
 
2009 Topps Heritage Real One
Autographs #ROA-JH
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1954 Topps #173
First Topps Card:  1954 Topps #173
Last Topps Card:  1960 Topps #112
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2009 Topps Heritage Real One Autographs #ROA-JH

26 - Harshman non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 2/19/17

Sources:  
Baseball Reference
Beckett Database
SABR
The Trading Card Database

In some cases, the first and last cards listed above are subjective and chosen by me if multiple cards were released within the same year.  Most recent mainstream card may also be subjective and does not include extremely low serial numbered cards, buybacks or cut autograph cards.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

#28 Bobby Hofman - New York Giants


Robert George Hofman
New York Giants
Infield

Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  5'10"  Weight:  160
Born:  October 5, 1925, St. Louis, MO
Signed:  Signed by the New York Giants as an amateur free agent in 1944
Major League Teams:  New York Giants 1949, 1952-1957
Died:  April 5, 1994, Chesterfield, MO (age 68)

Known primarily for his pinch-hitting, Bobby Hofman enjoyed a seven-year career with the Giants which was interrupted for two seasons while he served in the Army during World War II.  He made it out onto the field in 205 of his 341 career games, playing mostly at second base but also seeing time at third and first base.  He also caught in 26 games.  At the time of his retirement following the 1957 season, Hofman was tied with Cy Williams for the most career pinch-hit home runs with nine.

Hofman would go on to serve as a coach with the Athletics (1966-1967, 1969-1970, 1974-1975, 1978), Senators (1968) and Indians (1971-1972).  He was the scouting director for the Yankees during the tumultous years of 1980 through 1984, and their director of player development from 1985 to 1988.

Building the Set
May 20, 1989 in Sea Isle City, NJ - Card #71
For 45 years, my grandparents owned a house in Sea Isle City on 37th Street.  As a result of the Storm of 1962, which wiped out the block of houses in front of them, their house became beach front property until the construction of the Spinnaker Condominiums in 1972.  We were lucky enough to spend most of our summers in Sea Isle, and the five-minute walk to the beach was accomplished by climbing up a ramp in back of the Spinnaker, crossing over the concrete promenade and walking down a few steps to the sand.

For several years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was a complete dive of a snack shop called Joe's Sno-Cone located in the Spinnaker at the top of that ramp.  The menu at Joe's was limited to the usual beach fare - hot dogs, soft pretzels, bags of chips, candy and yes, snow cones.  During a visit to Joe's on the weekend before Memorial Day in 1989, I noticed the shop's owner (Joe presumably) had set up a small display of baseball cards for sale.  This Hofman card was available for $3 and another 1956 Topps card, Ernie Johnson (#294), was also available for $3.  I purchased both cards and most likely added a cherry snow cone to my order before heading next door to the arcade to drop several quarters into the Rolling Thunder game.

The Card
Due to the fact that I purchased this card at a place called Joe's Sno-Cone, the border isn't nearly as white as it should be.  Rather, it's more a beige color but in otherwise decent shape.

The head shot is the same as was used on Hofman's 1954 and 1955 Topps cards.  The action shot features Hofman in action as a catcher, despite the fact that his position is listed as "infield" on the card.  In 1955, Hofman appeared in 19 games behind the plate, playing a position he had never before played in a professional baseball game.  As the back of the card mentions, this emergency duty was necessitated due to an injury to regular catcher Ray Katt.

The vital statistics on the card's back give Hofman an extra inch in height and 15 extra pounds in weight over the information presented on his Baseball Reference page.  Hofman was referred to as Bob on his 1952, 1953 and 1954 Topps cards and as Bobby on his 1955 and 1956 Topps cards.

1956 Season
Hofman played in his second to last season in 1956, hitting .179 over 47 games.  He appeared in just two games with the Giants in 1957, spending the bulk of that season with the Triple-A Minneapolis Millers.

1949 Bowman #223
1952 Topps #371
1994 Topps Archives 1954 #99
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1949 Bowman #223
First Topps Card:  1952 Topps #371
Last Topps Card:  1956 Topps #28
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  1994 Topps Archives 1954 #99

21 - Hofman non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 2/9/17

Sources:  
Baseball Reference
Beckett Database
SABR
The Trading Card Database

In some cases, the first and last cards listed above are subjective and chosen by me if multiple cards were released within the same year.  Most recent mainstream card may also be subjective and does not include extremely low serial numbered cards, buybacks or cut autograph cards.

Friday, February 10, 2017

#27 Nelson Burbrink - St. Louis Cardinals


Nelson Edward Burbrink
St. Louis Cardinals
Catcher

Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  5'10"  Weight:  195
Born:  December 28, 1921, Cincinnati, OH
Signed:  Signed by the Chicago Cubs as an amateur free agent in 1941
Major League Teams:  St. Louis Cardinals 1955
Died:  April 12, 2001, Largo, FL (age 79)

Nelson Burbrink played only 58 games in the Majors, serving as the Cardinals' back-up catcher to Bill Sarni (#247) in 1955.  Prior to his call-up to the Cardinals, Burbrink had toiled for 11 seasons in the minors mostly with the Cubs organization.  He missed three seasons in the prime of his career (1943-1945) in service to his country with the Navy.

After his playing days were over, Burbrink served as a scout first for the Cardinals and then for the Mets where he was responsible for signing Tom Seaver in 1966.  He served as the Mets' scouting director from 1968 to 1972, and as the Mets' director of player development from 1973 to 1977.

Building the Set
June 24, 1989 in Ocean City, NJ - Card #76
My Dad and I purchased this card at the Ocean City IX baseball card show held within the Ocean City Music Pier on the boardwalk.  I have in my notes that we paid $2.50 for this card, along with the cards of Jim Finigan (#22) and Don Zimmer (#99).  I would have just finished my freshman year of high school when we bought this card and I was in the middle of collecting the 1973 Topps set.

I wrote this about the shows on the Music Pier back when I featured Finigan's card in October:  "The windows would have been open inside the showroom floor, and the sounds and smells of the shore served as the background as I poured through binders or boxes of baseball cards.  Above the din of the collectors looking for bargains and dealers hawking their wares, you could hear the occasional sea gull or even the crashing of waves.  I miss those shows and I become more and more nostalgic about them every year."

I found the flyer featured here in a folder along with some of our old 1956 Topps checklists.  The "Seashore IX Agenda" shows two autograph signers for the weekend - Dick Sisler and Jim Bunning. My Dad didn't like driving at night, which is why we wouldn't have stuck around for Bunning on Saturday.  I probably never realized we had missed our chance at meeting Sisler the night before, and the names Sisler and Bunning meant no where as much to me then as they do now.

The Card
If you're a Nelson Burbrink master collector, you're in luck.  This is his first and last mainstream baseball card and it's available in both a white back and gray back version.  His only other cards can be found within the 1949 Los Angeles Angels (PCL) team issued set and the 1954-55 Cardinals Postcards set.

For cards like Burbrink's the cartoon artist was forced to get a little creative.  I can't imagine many other card backs featuring the evolution of a batter going from "golfing the ball" to "drilling base hits."  The artist also indicates Burbrink had 14 years in the minors, but he had missed 3 of those years while in the military.

This is the first card we've encountered in the 1956 Topps set that is both a player's first and last Topps card.

1956 Season
The 34-year-old Burbrink played the entire 1956 season with the Triple-A Omaha Cardinals, batting .256 in 111 games.  A year later, he was demoted to the Double-A Houston Buffaloes and he'd hang up his spikes following the season.  In total, Burbrink played 1,449 games in the minor leagues and had a lifetime .291 average.

Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1956 Topps #27
First Topps Card:  1956 Topps #27
Last Topps Card:  1956 Topps #27
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  1956 Topps #27

4 - Burbrink non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 2/9/17

Sources:  
Baseball Reference
Beckett Database
The Trading Card Database

In some cases, the first and last cards listed above are subjective and chosen by me if multiple cards were released within the same year.  Most recent mainstream card may also be subjective and does not include extremely low serial numbered cards, buybacks or cut autograph cards.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

#26 Grady Hatton - Boston Red Sox


Grady Edgebert Hatton, Jr.
Boston Red Sox
Third Base

Bats:  Left  Throws:  Right  Height:  5'8"  Weight:  170
Born:  October 7, 1922, Beaumont, TX
Signed:  Signed by the Cincinnati Reds as an amateur free agent in 1946
Major League Teams:  Cincinnati Reds 1946-1954; Chicago White Sox 1954; Boston Red Sox 1954-1956; St. Louis Cardinals 1956; Baltimore Orioles 1956; Chicago Cubs 1960
As a Manager:  Houston Astros 1966-1968
Died:  April 11, 2013, Warren, TX (age 90)

Upon being discharged from the military in 1946, Grady Hatton promptly signed with the Reds and became their every day third baseman.  A lifetime .254 hitter over 12 seasons in the Majors, Hatton was named to the National League All-Star team in 1952.  His best season was perhaps in 1947 when he hit .281 with 16 home runs and 77 RBIs (both career highs) for the Reds.  After his playing days, Hatton joined the Cubs minor league coaching staff and was briefly activated in 1960 by the big club to serve primarily as a pinch-hitter.

He joined the Houston organization in 1963, managing their Triple-A team in Oklahoma City from 1963 to 1965 and jumping to the Majors to manage the Astros from 1966 to 1968.

Building the Set
October 3, 1999 in Raleigh, NC - Card #180
Details of my time living in North Carolina are sketchy at best.  My records indicate I purchased this card on my 26th birthday at the Sports Card Show held in Raleigh.  The show was most likely at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds.  I spent $34 on eight cards that day, including $2 for this nearly pristine Hatton card.

The Card
The action shot is a fantastic play at the plate, and it appears as if Hatton may be in the process of being called out on the play.  The opposing team could be either the Yankees or Tigers.

The portrait shot is the same used for Hatton's 1954 and 1955 Topps cards, although the original photo (as seen on his 1954 Topps cards) features him in a Reds hat.  Hatton's Texas background and his offseason work as a cattle rancher are given attention on the back of the card.  A life-long resident of Texas, Hatton starred at Texas University and was an instrumental figure in the early history of the Astros.

1956 Season
Hatton bounced around during the 1956 season, playing five games with the Red Sox before being sold to the Cardinals on May 11th.  He lasted 44 games with the Cardinals before being sold again, this time to the Orioles.  In 76 total games with those three times, Hatton hit just .209 in 76 games. Following the season, the Orioles released him and he'd begin his coaching tenure within the Cubs organization.

1949 Bowman #62
1951 Topps Red Backs #34
1966 Topps #504
1974 Topps #31
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1949 Bowman #62
First Topps Card:  1951 Topps Red Backs #34
Last Topps Card (as a player):  1956 Topps #26
First Topps Card (as a manager):  1966 Topps #504
Last Topps Card (as a manager):  1968 Topps #392
Most Recent Topps Card (post-career):  1974 Topps #31
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  1994 Topps Archives 1954 #208

46 - Hatton non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 2/7/17

Sources:  
Baseball Reference
Beckett Database
The Trading Card Database

In some cases, the first and last cards listed above are subjective and chosen by me if multiple cards were released within the same year.  Most recent mainstream card may also be subjective and does not include extremely low serial numbered cards, buybacks or cut autograph cards.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

#25 Ted Kluszewski - Cincinnati Redlegs


Theodore Bernard Kluszewski
Cincinnati Redlegs
First Base

Bats:  Left  Throws:  Left  Height:  6'2"  Weight:  225
Born:  September 10, 1924, Argo, IL
Signed:  Signed by the Cincinnati Reds as an amateur free agent in 1946
Major League Teams:  Cincinnati Reds 1947-1957; Pittsburgh Pirates 1958-1959; Chicago White Sox 1959-1960; Los Angeles Angels 1961
Died:  March 29, 1988, Cincinnati, OH (age 63)

Ted "Big Klu" Kluszewski was a powerful slugger with the Reds throughout the 1950s, known as much for his huge biceps and his sleeveless jerseys as his home run totals.  A four-time All-Star, Kluszewski enjoyed his best season in 1954, leading the National League in home runs (49) and RBIs (141), while striking out only 35 times.  He finished second in the 1954 N.L. MVP voting behind Willie Mays (#130).

Kluszewski played 15 years in the Majors, tallying 279 home runs.  His sole postseason appearance came in the 1959 World Series when he hit .391 and launched three home runs for the White Sox in a losing effort against the Dodgers.  Following his playing days, Kluszewski served as a Reds coach during the Big Red Machine years between 1970 and 1978.

Building the Set
August 30, 1988 in Millville, NJ - Card #65
There were two baseball card stores located on High Street of my hometown Millville, NJ while I was growing up.  The first was affectionately known as the "Card Doctor's" and I have no idea as to the official store name or any details on the store's owner.  The second was Brokell's, located in a small stand-alone building.  After a quick Google Maps search, I believe the former location of Brokell's is now a Tae Kwon Do studio?  (I honestly don't know if this is right building or not, but it seems right.)

I'm also not sure what would have led to my Dad and me to head over to Brokell's on this late summer Tuesday.  Dad worked over the summer, so the fact that this card was purchased on a Tuesday is even more mysterious to me.  This was the only card we purchased that day and we weren't doing much to help pay Mr. Brokell's rent as my records show we paid only $2 for the card. This is one of four cards we acquired for the set from Brokell's, all purchased between April and October 1988.

The Card
As this is the first Reds card in the set, we need to talk about the use of the "Redlegs" name on all the Reds cards.  The Reds adopted the Redlegs moniker in 1953 at the height of the nation's Red Scare for fear of being associated with the threat of Communism.  Topps followed suit until the "Reds" name was restored for the 1959 baseball season.  All Topps Reds baseball cards issued between 1954 and 1959 include Redlegs as the team name.

Kluszewski's portrait on this card is the same as his 1955 Topps card.  The action shot shows him presumably crossing home plate after hitting a home run and shaking hands with #23, who I had thought was most likely his former teammate Jim Greengrass (#275).  A review of his Home Run Log courtesy of Baseball Reference shows that Greengrass was never on base during one of Kluszewski's 251 home runs while with the Reds.  However Stan Palys, who assumed #23 after Greengrass had been traded to the Phillies on April 30, 1955, was on base for three of Big Klu's home runs.

This action photo was most likely taken after one of three home runs in 1955 - June 24th off Murry Dickson (#211), July 1st off Bob Buhl (#244) or July 2nd again off Buhl - all of which occurred when Palys was on base.

1956 Season
1956 was to be Kluszewski's last great season, as he hit 35 home runs and knocked in 102 runs.  He'd never again come close to those marks, as a bad back hampered him the rest of his career.  According to his SABR biography, the bad back resulted from a 1956 clubhouse scuffle.  Other sources quote Big Klu as saying the bad back was a result of a sudden movement to field a ball at first on opening day.  His biography, Big Klu: The Baseball Life of Ted Kluszewski, seems to conclude once and for all that the clubhouse fight was nothing but a rumor.  Both Kluszewskii and the alleged antagonist, infielder Chuck Harmon (#308), deny any fight ever occurred.

1957 was to be the slugger's final season with the Reds as he was traded to the Pirates on December 28, 1957 for first baseman Dee Fondy (#112).

1949 Leaf #38
1951 Topps Red Backs #39
1961 Topps #65
1974 Topps #326
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1949 Leaf #38
First Topps Card:  1951 Topps Red Backs #39
Last Topps Card (as a player):  1961 Topps #65
First Topps Card (as a coach):  1973 Topps #296
Last Topps Card (as a coach):  1974 Topps #326
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2015 Diamond Kings #128

234 - Kluszewski non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 10/12/16

Sources:  
Baseball Reference
Beckett Database
Big Klu: The Baseball Life of Ted Kluszewski - pages 75 and 76
SABR
The Trading Card Database

In some cases, the first and last cards listed above are subjective and chosen by me if multiple cards were released within the same year.  Most recent mainstream card may also be subjective and does not include extremely low serial numbered cards, buybacks or cut autograph cards.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

#24 Dick Groat - Pittsburgh Pirates


Richard Morrow Groat
Pittsburgh Pirates
Shortstop


Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  5'11"  Weight:  180
Born:  November 4, 1930, Wilkinsburg, PA
Signed:  Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1952
Major League Teams:  Pittsburgh Pirates 1952, 1955-1962; St. Louis Cardinals 1963-1965; Philadelphia Phillies 1966-1967; San Francisco Giants 1967

Dick Groat was a five-time All-Star and the National League MVP in 1960, enjoying an extended period of success in the early 1960s.  He finished second in N.L. MVP voting in 1963 behind Sandy Koufax (#79) and he earned two World Series rings with the Pirates (in 1960) and Cardinals (1964). Groat made his debut with the Pirates in 1952, spending no time in the minor leagues.

He missed two seasons while serving in the military and he also briefly played in the NBA in 1953 for the Fort Wayne Pistons.  Groat was elected to the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007 for his All-American career at Duke University.

Dad on his 62nd birthday, January 2006
Building the Set
December 3, 2005 in Ft. Washington, PA - Card #271
This was a relatively late edition to our set and one of eight cards we purchased at the 93rd Philadelphia Sports Card Show held at the convention center in Ft. Washington. With the Ocean City baseball card shows long gone by now, our only options for local baseball card shows were the "Philly Shows" held in Ft. Washington or the occasional mall baseball card show.

My Dad didn't like the drive to Ft. Washington, and this would have been one of only a few shows we attended together in this location.  Looking at my records of when and where we purchased our cards, a full year would go by before we'd add any more cards to the set.

The year-long hiatus in collecting the set came at a time my wife and I were expecting our first son and as we moved into our first real house.

The Card
I always thought this card looked slightly out of place with the other cards in the set for the sole reason that you can see Groat's shoulders, chest and left arm.  As Topps produced later series of the 1956 Topps set, the card designers got a bit more liberal with showing the players' shoulders in the large profile picture.  But in series one, Groat is truly an anomaly as most of the cards cut the players' portraits off at the neck.

We may never know if Groat was safe or out in the action shot, featuring a fantastic play at the plate with perhaps Roy Campanella (#101).  The aforementioned head and shoulders picture was previously used on Groat's 1954 and 1955 Topps cards.

1956 Season
In his second full season as the starting shortstop for the Pirates, Groat hit .273.  The rebuilding Pirates would finish in seventh place in 1956 and again in 1957 before reaching the World Series in 1960 behind Groat and fellow stars Roberto Clemente (#33), Bill Mazeroski, Vern Law (#252) and Roy Face (#13).

Phillies Career
Groat was traded to the Phillies from the Cardinals on October 27, 1965 with catcher Bob Uecker and first baseman Bill White for pitcher Art Mahaffey, outfielder Alex Johnson and catcher Pat Corrales. The starting shortstop for the Phillies in 1966, Groat appeared in 155 games and hit a respectable .260 with 53 RBIs.  On May 18, 1966, Groat collected his 2,000th career hit off former teammate Bob Gibson.

Groat appears on a few oddball issues with the Phillies (1966 Sports Service Phillies, 1967 Dexter Press Phillies, 1992 Action Packed ASG) but his only mainstream Phillies baseball card can be found within the 1967 Topps set.  That card is reprinted within the 2001 Topps Archives set.

Groat's 1967 season would be the last of his 14-year career.  Limited to only 10 games with the Phillies due to an ankle infection, he was sold to the Giants on June 22nd.  He appeared in 34 games for the Giants, hitting .171 and retiring following the season.

1952 Topps #369
 
1967 Topps #205
 
1975 Topps #198
 
2013 Topps Heritage
Real One Autographs #ROA-DG
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1952 Topps #369
First Topps Card:  1952 Topps #369
Representative Phillies Card:  1967 Topps #205
Last Topps Card (as a player):  1967 Topps #205
Most Recent Topps Card (post-career):  1975 Topps #198 (with Roger Maris)
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2013 Topps Heritage Real One Autographs #ROA-DG

183 - Groat non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 10/12/16

Sources:  
Baseball Reference
Beckett Database
The Phillies Room
SABR
The Trading Card Database

In some cases, the first and last cards listed above are subjective and chosen by me if multiple cards were released within the same year.  Most recent mainstream card may also be subjective and does not include extremely low serial numbered cards, buybacks or cut autograph cards.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

#23 Freddie Marsh - Baltimore Orioles


Fred Francis Marsh
Baltimore Orioles
Infield

Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  5'10"  Weight:  180
Born:  January 5, 1924, Valley Falls, KS
Signed:  Signed by the Chicago Cubs as an amateur free agent in 1942
Major League Teams:  Cleveland Indians 1949; St. Louis Browns 1951-1952; Washington Senators 1952; Chicago White Sox 1953-1954; Baltimore Orioles 1955-1956
Died:  October 26, 2006, Corry, PA (age 82)

Fred Marsh was a middle infielder who spent his entire seven-year career playing in the American League.  He served as the regular third baseman for the Browns in 1951, appearing in 130 games and hitting .243.  He wouldn't crack the 100-game plateau in any other season, and he'd finish his career with a .239 average.

In 1952 he was traded to the Senators from the Browns, only to be traded back to the Browns less than a month later.  Following his playing days, Marsh served as a mailman.

Building the Set
June 20, 1992 in Ocean City, NJ - Card #102
This is one of 11 cards (and the 4th I've covered on this blog) that my Dad and I bought in June 1992 at the Ocean City baseball card show held on the boardwalk at the Music Pier.  We paid $60 for the lot of 11 cards, which at the time was most likely a steal.  Chronologically, I have this listed as the 102nd card we added to the set.  I'm actually surprised this card made it into our set, given the few dinged corners.  Dad must have been letting his guard down a little, as he was probably thinking ahead to his slice of Mack & Manco's.

I would have just graduated high school when we attended this show, and I'd be heading off to college in the fall.  If I had to guess, I'd say we purchased this lot of 11 cards from a baseball card dealer who had a store called Diamond Dust.  His cards were always nicely displayed in binders and I remember his table would be positioned in the back right of the lower level of the Music Pier.

After purchasing these cards, Dad and I undoubtedly sat at the counter of Mack & Manco's, enjoying a few slices with birch beer.

The Card
Marsh is one of six players to receive the position designation of "infield" on his 1956 Topps card. Over his career, he received the bulk of his playing time at third base (232 games), followed by shortstop (107 games) and second base (99 games).  Interestingly enough, he's "Fred" on his 1952, 1954 and 1955 Topps cards, but "Freddie" on his 1953 and 1956 Topps cards.

This is the third time his profile picture from the front of the card had been used on a Topps baseball card, having previously appeared on his 1954 Topps (in a White Sox hat) and 1955 Topps cards.  I guess that could be Marsh attempting a leaping grab in the action photo.  He wore #7 and #25 with the White Sox and #2 with the Orioles.  Maybe the uniform number peaking through is a #2?

I also spent some time searching the internet for additional information on Marsh's offseason cattle ranch, only to come up empty.

1956 Season
Marsh missed over half the 1955 season with elbow and leg injuries, and 1956 was to be his final season in the Majors.  He appeared in just 20 games for the Orioles, hitting .125 (3 for 24) and appearing in his last game on May 29th.  He spent the remainder of the season playing for the Vancouver Mounties, the Orioles' top farm club in the Pacific Coast League.

1952 Topps #8
 
2005 Topps Heritage
Real One Autographs #ROA-FM
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1952 Topps #8
First Topps Card:  1952 Topps #8
Last Topps Card:  1956 Topps #23
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2005 Topps Heritage Real One Autographs #ROA-FM

Marsh's autograph barely changed over 50 years, as evidenced by his 2005 Topps Heritage autographed card.

18 - Marsh non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 10/8/16

Sources:  
Baseball Reference
Beckett Database
The Trading Card Database

In some cases, the first and last cards listed above are subjective and chosen by me if multiple cards were released within the same year.  Most recent mainstream card may also be subjective and does not include extremely low serial numbered cards, buybacks or cut autograph cards.

Monday, October 3, 2016

#22 Jim Finigan - Kansas City Athletics


James Leroy Finigan
Kansas City Athletics
Second Base

Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  5'11"  Weight:  175
Born:  August 19, 1928, Quincy, IL
Signed:  Signed by the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent in 1948
Major League Teams:  Philadelphia Athletics 1954; Kansas City Athletics 1955-1956; Detroit Tigers 1957; San Francisco Giants 1958; Baltimore Orioles 1959
Died:  May 16, 1981, Quincy, IL (age 52)

Jim Finigan's first season in the Majors was also his best, as the rookie was named to the 1954 American League All-Star team.  He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting that year behind Bob Grim (#52), and he'd return to the All-Star Game in 1955.  Finigan originally came to the Athletics as part of a 11-player trade with the Yankees in December 1953.

Finigan would never again find the same success from his first two seasons, and he'd bounce around from the Tigers, Giants and Orioles between 1958 and 1959.  He wrapped up his six-year big league career as the back-up to Brooks Robinson for the 1959 Orioles.

Building the Set
June 24, 1989 in Ocean City, NJ - Card #75
This is one of three cards from the set my Dad and I purchased at the Ocean City baseball card show held within the Ocean City Music Pier in June 1989.  I would have been just wrapping up my freshman year of high school, and most of my baseball card spending money would have gone towards the 1973 Topps set I was slowly collecting.  In my notes, I've indicated that we purchased this card at "Ocean City IX" which most likely means it was the ninth annual event.

Having just recently attended a baseball card show with my nine-year-old son at a convention center inside a casino, I realize how special those Music Pier shows were.  The windows would have been open inside the showroom floor, and the sounds and smells of the shore served as the background as I poured through binders or boxes of baseball cards.  Above the din of the collectors looking for bargains and dealers hawking their wares, you could hear the occasional sea gull or even the crashing of waves.  I miss those shows and I become more and more nostalgic about them every year.

The Card
Finigan's 1955 Topps rookie card features the same portrait photo, but his 1956 card updates his cap logo from the interlocking "KC" to the "A".  The back of his card makes mention of his inclusion in the massive A's-Yankees trade that brought him to Philadelphia.

1956 Season
Finigan appeared in 91 games for the Athletics, and his slipping batting average (.216 for the season) saw him lose playing time to Vic Power (#67) at second and Hector Lopez (#16) at third.  Following the season, he was traded to the Tigers.

1955 Topps #14
1959 Topps #47
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1955 Topps #14
First Topps Card:  1955 Topps #14
Last Topps Card:  1959 Topps #47
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  1959 Topps #47

Finigan also appeared within oddball/regional sets such as 1955 A's Rodeo Meats, 1979 TCMA '50s and 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola Baltimore Orioles.

23 - Finigan non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 10/3/16

Sources:  
Baseball Reference
Beckett Database
The Trading Card Database

In some cases, the first and last cards listed above are subjective and chosen by me if multiple cards were released within the same year.  Most recent mainstream card may also be subjective and does not include extremely low serial numbered cards, buybacks or cut autograph cards.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

#21 Joe Collins - New York Yankees


Joseph Edward Collins
New York Yankees
First Base

Bats:  Left  Throws:  Left  Height:  6'0"  Weight:  185
Born:  December 3, 1922, Scranton, PA
Signed:  Signed by the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent in 1939
Major League Teams:  New York Yankees 1948-1957
Died:  August 30, 1989, Union, NJ (age 66)

Joe Collins played in parts of 10 seasons with the Yankees, serving as their starting first baseman between 1951 and 1954 and winning five World Championships with the club.  He hit four key World Series home runs, including a pair in Game One of the 1955 World Series to give the Yankees a 6-5 win over the Dodgers.  Wearing #15 during his formidable years with the Bronx Bombers, Collins appeared in 908 career games and had a .256 lifetime average.  He finished his career with 86 home runs and 329 RBIs.

Building the Set
January 10, 1999 in Raleigh, NC - Card #175
I indicate clearly in my notes that this card (along with two others) was purchased at the Raleigh Sports Card & NASCAR Collectibles Show, not to be confused with the more benign Raleigh Sports Card & Memorabilia Show.  In any event, the card set me back only $6, which is an absolute bargain considered the card is in pristine shape and it's a card from the highly coveted Yankees team set.

I don't miss my time living in Raleigh, but I do miss these semi-regular baseball card shows which were held at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds.

The Card
What's happening in the action photo?  My best guess is that Collins is bending over to stop an errant pick-off throw and the runner has scampered back, balancing himself on the corner of the bag.  The portrait of Collins was used on his 1955 Topps card, but not his 1954 Topps card.

On the back of the card, the 14 seasons referenced also include his time playing in the Yankees minor league system.  There's also mention of his two home runs in Game One of the 1955 World Series, perhaps his most memorable feat on the diamond.

1956 Season
By 1956, Collins had lost the every day job as the Yankees starting first baseman to Moose Skowron (#61).  Platooning with Skowron, and starting most games in which the opponent started a right-handed pitcher, Collins still appeared in 100 games that season, hitting just .225.  In the 1956 World Series, Collins hit .238 (5 for 21) with two RBIs.

Phillies Connection
After his 10th season with the Yankees, at the age of 35, Collins was sold to the Phillies.  With Ed Bouchee suspended for the duration of the season, the Phils were in need of a regular first baseman and their hope was that Collins would fill the void.  Rather than report to the Phillies for the 1958 season, Collins announced his retirement, and it was reported by the New York media that he declared, "I want to be remembered as a Yankee."  Collins forfeited a $100,000 salary by declining to report to the Phillies.

1952 Bowman #181
 
1952 Topps #202
 
1957 Topps #295
 
2002 Topps Chrome
1952 Reprints #52R18
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1952 Bowman #181
First Topps Card:  1952 Topps #202
Last Topps Card:  1957 Topps #295
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2002 Topps Chrome 1952 Reprints #52R18

40 - Collins non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 6/29/16

Sources:  
Baseball Reference
Beckett Database
The Trading Card Database

In some cases, the first and last cards listed above are subjective and chosen by me if multiple cards were released within the same year.  Most recent mainstream card may also be subjective and does not include extremely low serial numbered cards, buybacks or cut autograph cards.