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 an 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.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

#20 Al Kaline - Detroit Tigers


Albert William Kaline
Detroit Tigers
Outfield


Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  6'1"  Weight:  175
Born:  December 19, 1934, Baltimore, MD
Signed:  Signed by the Detroit Tigers as an amateur free agent in 1953
Major League Teams:  Detroit Tigers 1953-1974
Hall of Fame Induction:  1980

Al Kaline, "Mr. Tiger," became the regular right fielder for the Tigers in 1954 at the age of 19.  He'd stay with the franchise for parts of three decades, eventually retiring at the age of 39 following the 1974 season.  At just 20 years old in 1955, Kaline led the American League in hitting with a .340 average becoming the youngest player to accomplish that feat.  He'd finish his impressive career with 15 All-Star Game selections, 10 Gold Gloves, a .297 lifetime average, 399 home runs and 1,582 RBIs.  His ability to serve as the Tigers' designated hitter in 1974 allowed him to achieve the 3,000 hit plateau, and he'd retire with 3,007 career hits.

Kaline helped lead the Tigers to a World Series title in 1968 and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980.

Building the Set
December 25, 1995 from San Diego, CA - Card #142
Kaline wasn't really on my radar growing up, and the first time I became aware of him was because he was a favorite of Thomas Magnum, the title character in the amazing Magnum P.I. television show.  In one of my favorite episodes from the series, the season eight premier episode, Magnum's friend Rick brings him a 1954 Topps Kaline rookie card in an effort to reach a comatose Magnum.

That episode aired in October 1987, and this 1956 Topps Kaline card entered my collection eight years later as a Christmas present from my parents.  I was a senior in college in 1995, and my records show that this is the one and only 1956 Topps card we added to our set that year.  The last cards added to set before I received this Kaline card were the cards I received from my parents for Christmas in 1994.  Such was life for a college junior/senior where there were bigger fish to fry (and bills to pay) in lieu of obtaining vintage baseball cards.

As was the norm for big ticket purchases, Dad purchased this card from Kit Young Cards in San Diego and he paid $60 for it.

Christmas 1995 with my sister Carol

The Card
This is Kaline's third Topps card, all of which use the same portrait photo.  In the action photo, it looks as if Kaline just misses tripping on a glove and a bat as he crosses home plate.

The back of the card references Kaline's status as a bonus baby, meaning the amount the Tigers paid to sign him was high enough that they had to keep him in the majors rather than send him directly to the minors.  Evidently, the Topps artist felt that Kaline would have bought some weird truck/tank combo vehicle with his bonus money.  His two home runs in one inning feat came on April 17, 1955 against the Athletics in the sixth inning.

1956 Season
At just 21 years old, Kaline was already the Tigers franchise player.  Sharing starting outfield duties with left fielder Jim Delsing (#338) and center fielder Bill Tuttle (#203), Kaline started all but three games for the Tigers in right field.  He was named to his second All-Star team and hit .314 with 27 home runs and 128 RBIs.  His outstanding season helped him to finish third in the American League MVP voting behind Yogi Berra (#110) and triple crown winner Mickey Mantle (#135).

1954 Topps #201
1974 Topps #215
1975 Topps #4
2016 Topps Archives #304
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1954 Topps #201
First Topps Card:  1954 Topps #201
Last Topps Card (as a player):  1974 Topps #215
Most Recent Topps Card (post-career):  1975 Topps #4
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2016 Topps Archives #304 SP

Kaline received a card in the 1975 Topps highlights subset, celebrating his 3,000th hit.  His final base card as a player appears within the 1974 Topps set.

1,548 - Kaline non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 6/14/16

Sources:  
Baseball Reference
Beckett Database
National Baseball Hall of Fame
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, March 25, 2016

#19 Chuck Diering - Baltimore Orioles


Charles Edward Allen Diering
Baltimore Orioles
Outfield

Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  5'10"  Weight:  165
Born:  February 5, 1923, St. Louis, MO
Signed:  Signed by the St. Louise Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1941
Major League Teams:  St. Louis Cardinals 1947-1951; New York Giants 1952; Baltimore Orioles 1954-1956
Died:  November 23, 2012, St. Louis, MO (age 89)

Chuck Diering was signed by his hometown Cardinals in 1941, but his three years of service during World War II postponed his big league debut until 1947.  He became a regular with the Cardinals in 1949, splitting time in center field with Stan Musial.  The Cardinals traded him to the Giants following the 1951 season and he came to the Orioles following the 1953 season via the Rule 5 draft. As the starting center fielder for the Orioles in their inaugural 1954 season, Diering hit .258 and was known more for his glove and steady defense than for his bat.  He was chosen as the MVP of that first Orioles team.

Building the Set
Summer of 1983 or 1984 in Millville, NJ - Card #1
Diering's card has the honor of being the symbolic first card in our 1956 Topps set.  I've previously posted this recollection over at The Phillies Room, but I'll repeat that post here to tell the story of how my Dad and I first started collecting the 1956 Topps set.  Technically speaking, we actually began collecting the set in the summer of 1987, but this card (along with the other Original 44) first entered my collection three or four years before that.

I think it was either the summer of 1983 or 1984 when a shoebox of vintage baseball cards, football cards and a few non-sports cards arrived into my world.  The box contained about a hundred cards dating between 1950 and 1956, and for the most part, they were all in excellent shape.  A friend of the family was in the process of cleaning up and moving into her new house when she found the old shoebox and she wondered if the only kid she knew who collected baseball cards (me) would be interested in looking through it – maybe even taking the box off her hands.

She dropped the box off to my parents and asked them to have me look through the box and take what I was interested in. Turns out, I was interested in everything.  Up to that point, the oldest cards in my collection were cards from the early '70s I had obtained through trades or cards that my Dad had picked up for me at yard sales or small baseball card shows.  (My Dad had given me a few dog-earred ’59 Topps cards – Juan Pizzaro and Jim Busby – a few years prior, and I completely forget how or why he had purchased these cards for me.)

My parents asked me to pick out a few cards from the box, and then we’d return the rest to the family friend.  Problem was, I wanted them all.  I really wanted them all.  I diligently and meticulously went through one of my price guides and determined the “value” of the treasure chest. I probably used my Sport Americana Baseball Card Price Guide No. 4, edited by Dr. James Beckett, and I had no way to value the football or non-sports cards.  My memory is fuzzy, and I can't find the original tally, but I think I came up with the box being worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 to $400, which I knew my parents definitely did not have in their discretionary spending budget.  But they could tell how much I wanted those cards, as I lovingly studied each and every one and handled each as if it were some long-lost artifact.

I don’t know the exact details, but I believe my Dad went back to the friend and told her we’d take the whole box, but only if she let him give her some money for it.  I believe she was genuinely shocked that the box of old cardboard pictures had some value, and that someone was willing to give her cash for it.  My Dad shared the list I had created showing the “book value” of the cards and he mentioned how it was going to be close to impossible to get me to pick and choose which ones I wanted.  When all was said and done, the family friend, who had absolutely no intention of making money on this endeavor, walked away with (I think) something in the neighborhood of $100 for the whole lot.

Within the spoils were 44 cards from the 1956 Topps set – by far the most cards from any one set.  I studied them, I sorted them, and I pretty much memorized every detail of those 44 cards.  

And so a few years later, in the summer of 1987 while on a family vacation, I was giddy with excitement when we came across a few ’56 Topps cards in the Walker Gallery on the main drag in Cooperstown, New York.  My Dad and I studied the cards for sale and he casually asked me the question, “Why don’t we try to put together the whole set?” We bought four cards that day for $9.25.  Those cards, along with the 44 from the magic shoebox, became the basis for our 1956 Topps set.

The Card
Since this is one of Original 44, I've probably studied and appreciated this card more than most of the cards in the set.  For that reason, whenever I come across Diering's name or one of his other baseball cards, I instantly think of the smiling young man from the back of this card wearing a crown.

Diering wore #32 with the Orioles, so it's very likely that the action photo actually features him sliding into second in a game against the Yankees.  (Or maybe the White Sox?)

1956 Season
Relegated to a bench position in 1956, Diering played his last major league game on June 24th.  In 50 games, Diering hit .186 (18 for 97) with a home run and four RBIs.  It appears as if he was loaned to the Dodgers' organization at some point during the season, as he appeared in 57 for their Triple-A club in Montreal.  Diering split time between the Orioles and Cardinals organizations in 1957, appearing in a total of 143 minor league games before calling it a career.

1950 Bowman #179
 
1952 Topps #265
 
2005 Topps Heritage Real
One Autographs #RO-CD
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1950 Bowman #179
First Topps Card:  1952 Topps #265
Last Topps Card:  1956 Topps #19
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2011 Topps Lineage Autographs #CD

Diering appeared within the 1947 Tip Top and 1949 Eureka Stamps sets, but I consider his 1950 Bowman card to be his first mainstream baseball card appearance.  He also had an autographed card within the 2005 Topps Heritage Real One Autographs set, which reprinted his original 1956 Topps card.

25 - Diering non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 3/24/16

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, February 22, 2016

#18 Dick Donovan - Chicago White Sox


Richard Edward Donovan
Chicago White Sox
Pitcher

Bats:  Left  Throws:  Right  Height:  6'3"  Weight:  190
Born:  December 7, 1927, Boston, MA
Signed:  Signed by the Boston Braves as an amateur free agent in 1947
Major League Teams:  Boston Braves 1950-1952; Detroit Tigers 1954; Chicago White Sox 1955-1960; Washington Senators 1961; Cleveland Indians 1962-1965
Died:  January 6, 1997, Weymouth, MA (age 69)

Dick Donovan appeared in parts of four seasons with the Braves and Tigers in the early 1950s before establishing himself as one of the American League's best pitchers in 1955.  That season saw him win 15 games and make his first All-Star team.  One of his best seasons was 1957 when he went 16-6 with a league leading 16 complete games. He made two more All-Star teams in his career - in 1961 when he led the league with a 2.40 ERA and in 1962 when he won 20 games.  His stellar 1962 season gave him a placing of fifth in that year's league MVP voting.

Building the Set
December 3, 2005 in Ft. Washington, PA - Card #270
This was one of eight cards I purchased at the 93rd Philadelphia Sports Card Show, held in the Ft. Washington Expo Center.  I imagine most of my budget for this show went towards completing the 2005 Topps Heritage set, which used the 1956 Topps design.  My wife Jenna and I attended this show together and we would have been married less than six months at this point.

The Card
The back of this card contains an uncorrected error, indicating that Donovan threw left-handed. Donovan was in fact a righty, as evidenced by his photo on the front of the card.  Also, Donovan changed his number with the White Sox from 31 to 22 in 1955, meaning that that the action photo on the front of the card was taken during the 1955 season.

The final panel on the back mentions Donovan's hitting prowess.  In 1955, he finished the season with a .224 average (17 for 76) with a home run and five RBIs.  He'd finish his career with a .163 average and 15 career home runs.

1956 Season
Donovan was the White Sox number two starter in 1956 behind staff ace Billy Pierce (#160).  In 34 games, he compiled a record of 12-10 with a 3.64 ERA.  His WHIP of 1.155 led the entire American League.

1955 Topps #146
1963 Topps #370
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1955 Topps #146
First Topps Card:  1955 Topps #146
Last Topps Card:  1963 Topps #370
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  1963 Topps #370

This most recent mainstream card is definitely subjective here.  Donovan has appeared on a number of extremely short-printed cut autograph cards over the past 15-plus years.  He appeared in a few TCMA collector sets following his playing days - 1979 TCMA 50's and 1981 White Sox 1959 TCMA.  Finally, as his career winded down with the Indians, Donovan was featured in the 1964 and 1965 Jay Publishing Indians sets and the 1964 Kahn's sets.  I'd consider all those sets to be more oddball than mainstream.

66 - Donovan non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 2/21/16

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 2, 2016

#17 Gene Conley - Milwaukee Braves


Donald Eugene Conley
Milwaukee Braves
Pitcher


Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  6'8"  Weight:  225
Born:  November 10, 1930, Muskogee, OK
Signed:  Signed by the Boston Braves as an amateur free agent in 1950
Major League Teams:  Boston Braves 1952; Milwaukee Braves 1954-1958; Philadelphia Phillies 1959-1960; Boston Red Sox 1961-1963

Gene Conley, all 6 feet and 8 inches of him, won a World Series ring with the Braves in 1957 and helped the Boston Celtics win three NBA titles in 1959, 1960 and 1961.  His SABR biography notes that he played 12 seasons in the NBA and MLB over six years without a day off in between seasons. A two time Minor League Player of the Year (in 1951 and 1953), Conley was also named to three All-Star teams.

In 11 seasons with the Braves, Phillies and Red Sox, Conley went 91-96 with a 3.82 ERA.  He also played six seasons in the NBA with the Celtics and New York Knicks.

Building the Set
June 20, 1992 in Ocean City, NJ - Card #101
This is one of 11 cards my Dad 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 101st card we added to the set.

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
As is the case with most of these first series cards, this is the third time collectors would have seen Conley's head shot photo.  The same photo is used on his 1954 and 1955 Topps cards. All three panels on the back of Conley's card paint him as a larger than life athlete.

1956 Season
Shoulder problems hampered Conley throughout the 1956 season, although he still appeared in 31 games with the Braves.  Appearing primarily as a relief pitcher as the season wore on, Conley went 8-9 with a 3.13 ERA for the second place Braves.

Phillies Career
Right before the start of the 1959 season, on March 31st, the Phillies traded Ted Kazanski, Stan Lopata (#183) and Johnny O'Brien (#65) to the Braves for Conley, Harry Hanebrink and Joe Koppe. The new Phillies general manager was John Quinn.  Quinn had spent the previous 13 years as GM for the Braves so he was familiar with the players he was acquiring.  Conley reported late to spring training following the trade as his Celtics were busy wrapping up their second NBA title.

Conley enjoyed one of his finest baseball seasons in 1959, making the N.L. All-Star team and finishing the season with a 12-7 record and a 3.00 ERA.  He pitched two perfect innings in the All-Star Game, striking out both Ted Williams (#5) and Yogi Berra (#110).  At the end of the season, he was named the N.L. Comeback Player of the Year.

Conley's second and final season with the Phillies saw him post a record of 8-14.  When he refused to end his basketball career to focus solely on baseball, the Phillies sent Conley to the Red Sox on December 15, 1960 for Frank Sullivan (#71).  Conley appeared on two Topps cards and within three oddball issues to mark his time in Philadelphia.  He's in the 1959 and 1960 Topps sets, as well as the 1960 Armour Coins and 1961 Post sets as a member of the Phillies.  He also has a postcard within the multi-year set released by the club throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

1953 Topps #215
 
1959 Topps #492
 
1964 Topps #571
 
2013 Topps Heritage Real
One Autographs #ROA-GC
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1953 Topps #215
First Topps Card:  1953 Topps #215
Representative Phillies Card:  1959 Topps #492
Last Topps Card:  1964 Topps #571
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2013 Topps Heritage Real One Autographs #ROA-GC

50 - Conley non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 2/1/16

Conley's final Topps card features him as a member of the Cleveland Indians.  He had signed with the Indians on April 22, 1964, following his release by the Red Sox.  He pitched two minor league games with the Indians before deciding his long lingering shoulder injury couldn't take any more strain.  He retired from baseball at the age of 33.

Granted, I know absolutely nothing about basketball cards, but I find it strange that Conley didn't appear on any basketball cards during his six-year NBA career.

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.