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.

Friday, January 29, 2016

#16 Hector Lopez - Kansas City Athletics


Hector Headley Lopez
Kansas City Athletics
Third Base

Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  5'11"  Weight:  182
Born:  July 8, 1929, Colon, Panama
Signed:  Purchased by the Philadelphia Athletics with Joe Taylor from Drummondville (Provincial) for $1,500 prior to the 1952 season
Major League Teams:  Philadelphia Athletics 1955-1959; New York Yankees 1959-1966

Hector Lopez, also known as "The Panama Clipper," played 12 seasons with the Athletics and Yankees, serving as the primary left fielder for a Yankees team that would go to the World Series every year between 1960 and 1964.  He patrolled the Yankees outfield alongside Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle (#135) in the early 1960s.

In the 1961 World Series, Lopez hit .333 with five of his seven RBIs coming in Game 5 in which he hit a home run and a triple.  He won World Series rings with the Yankees in 1961 and 1962.  A career .269 batter, Lopez was a true utility player, playing all three outfield positions along with shortstop, second base and third base.  By all accounts he had a tough time with his defensive skills.

Lopez became the first black manager at the AAA level when he managed the Buffalo Bisons in 1969.  He was also the manager for Panama in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

Building the Set
July 19, 1997 in Ocean City, NJ - Card #151
This is the third of 11 cards my Dad and I purchased at the Ocean City baseball card show in 1997, with the first two cards being Warren Giles (#2) and Ray Boone (#6).  We spent $39 on those 11 cards that day and my records indicate that this was one of the cheaper cards purchased at $2.

The Card
I enjoy researching and writing posts on guys like Hector Lopez more than I enjoy researching and writing the posts for the well-known players.  Before this post, I knew absolutely nothing about Lopez and his baseball career.

The back of his card gives him two more inches in height than his official Baseball Reference page. Also of note is that Lopez was thought to be three years younger than his actual age during his playing days.  Baseball Reference and other official sources list his year of birth as 1929 but Topps (and everyone else in the 1950s and 1960s) was under the impression that Lopez was born in 1932.

1956 Season
Lopez served as the primary third baseman for the Athletics in 1956, his second full season in the Majors.  He hit .273 with 18 home runs and 69 RBIs, trailing only Harry Simpson (#239) for the team lead in both categories.  He was second in the American League with errors committed with 30.

1959 Topps #402
 
1966 Topps #177
 
2008 Topps Heritage Real One
Autographs #ROA-HL
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1956 Topps #16
First Topps Card:  1956 Topps #16
Last Topps Card:  1966 Topps #177
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2008 Topps Heritage Real One Autographs #ROA-HL

61 - Lopez non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 1/28/16

Lopez's first non-mainstream baseball card can be found in the oddball 1955 A's Rodeo Meats set. It's also interesting to note that Lopez's actual 1959 Topps cards features him with the Athletics, but his card found within the 2008 Topps Heritage Real One Autographs insert set features him with the Yankees.  He was traded on May 26, 1959 from the Athletics to the Yankees and Topps took the time to create a Yankees card for him for inclusion in its 2008 autograph set.

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, January 26, 2016

#15 Ernie Banks - Chicago Cubs


Ernest Banks
Chicago Cubs
Shortstop


Bats:  Left  Throws:  Right  Height:  6'1"  Weight:  180
Born:  January 31, 1931, Dallas, TX
Signed:  Signed by the Chicago Cubs a free agent in 1953
Major League Teams:  Chicago Cubs 1953-1971
Died:  January 23, 2015, Chicago, IL (age 83)
Hall of Fame Induction:  1977

Known by most simply as "Mr. Cub," Ernie Banks enjoyed a 19-year playing career and encapsulated everything that a baseball player should aspire to be.  His genuine appreciation and affection for the game was unrivaled.  Banks was the runner-up to Wally Moon (#55) in 1954 for the National League Rookie of the Year Award and he won the league's MVP honors in 1958 and 1959.  An 11-time All-Star, Banks hit 512 career home runs and tallied 1,636 career RBIs.  He excelled defensively at both shortstop (1953-1961) and first base (1962-1971).  When he hit his 500th career home run on May 12, 1970, he became just the ninth member to join that exclusive club.

During his Hall of Fame induction speech in 1977, he repeated his famous quote, "There's sunshine, fresh air, and the team's behind us.  Let's play two."

Building the Set
Dad - Christmas 1997

December 25, 1997 from San Diego, CA - Card #160
This was my big Christmas present from my parents in 1997.  Like the Ted Williams (#5) card I received for Christmas 1993, my parents had a (fortunate for me) habit of splurging on a "big" baseball card to leave under the Christmas tree for me.  My Dad was always proud of his haggling abilities and soon after opening this card, he was quick to tell me that he had paid $64 for the card after negotiating down the price with an employee of Kit Young Cards.  (I probably joked with him afterwards that the starting price had been $67.)

Our copy of this card is gorgeous with four sharp corners, a well-centered front and not a scratch or blemish to be found.

The Card
I was going to research to try to figure out when the action shot took place, but someone has already done the research for me.  In a post over at the Vintage Baseball Card Blog, William Szczepanek determined that the two players congratulating Banks are #37 Gene Baker (#142 in the set) and #4 Ted Tappe.

Banks hit two grand slams in 1955 scoring both Baker and Tappe.  The first was on May 11th off Russ Meyer (#227) of the Dodgers (also scoring Randy Jackson - #223) and the second was on May 29th off Lew Burdette (#219) of the Braves (also scoring Bob Speake - #66).  Unless someone has access to the Topps archives, we'll probably never know if this photo is Banks' grand slam from May 11th or May 29th.

For the record, these grand slams were the 27th and the 31st of Banks' career and his five grand slams in 1955 set a record at the time.  The record has since been tied and then broken by Jim Gentile (5 in 1961), Don Mattingly (6 in 1987), Richie Sexson (5 in 2006), Travis Hafner (6 in 2006) and Albert Pujols (5 in 2009).  With 277 career home runs as a shortstop, Banks still holds the National League record at that position, but Cal Ripken, Jr. is now the overall leader at shortstop with his 345 home runs.

The second panel mentions that Banks had no professional experience upon joining the Cubs in 1953. However, Banks had been a member of the Kanas City Monarchs in 1950 and 1953 (before and after a two-year stint in the Army) and barnstormed with the Jackie Robinson All-Stars in 1951.  Along with Robinson (#30), the young Banks had the opportunity to play alongside of Roy Campanella (#101), Don Newcombe (#235) and Larry Doby (#250).

1956 Season
Banks was just hitting his stride in 1956.  At 25 years old, Banks made his second All-Star game. He'd finish the season with 28 home runs and 85 RBIs, although he'd miss 18 games with a hand infection breaking his consecutive game streak of 424 games.  His beloved Cubs were awful in 1956, finishing in last place in the league with a record of 60-94.

1954 Topps #94
1971 Topps #525
1973 Topps #81
2015 Topps Stadium Club #13
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1954 Topps #94
First Topps Card:  1954 Topps #94
Last Topps Card (as a player):  1971 Topps #525
First & Last Topps Card (as a coach):  1973 Topps #81
Most Recent Topps Card (post-career):  2011 Topps #247B SP
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2015 Topps Stadium Club #13

Banks also appeared in the 1975 Topps set with two cards in the MVP subset to celebrate his 1958 and 1959 awards.

1,563 - Banks non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 1/25/16

Sources:  
Baseball Reference
Beckett Database
National Baseball Hall of Fame
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.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

#14 Ken Boyer - St. Louis Cardinals


Kenton Lloyd Boyer
St. Louis Cardinals
Third Base

Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  6'1"  Weight:  190
Born:  May 20, 1931, Liberty, MO
Signed:  Signed by the St. Louis Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1949
Major League Teams:  St. Louis Cardinals 1955-1965; New York Mets 1966-1967; Chicago White Sox 1967-1968; Los Angeles Dodgers 1968-1969
As a Manager:  St. Louis Cardinals 1978-1980
Died:  September 7, 1982, St. Louis, MO (age 51)

Ken Boyer was the greatest third baseman in the National League in the late 1950s into the early 1960s, winning five Gold Gloves, playing in seven All-Star games and winning the league's MVP award in 1964.  He enjoyed a 15-year career, with the first 11 of those years coming with the Cardinals.  He's been acknowledged by teammates Tim McCarver and Stan Musial as the true leader of the Cardinals teams of that era and many view him as the greatest third baseman in Cardinals history.  Boyer finished his career with 282 home runs, 1,141 RBIs and a career average of .287.

After his playing career, Boyer managed the Cardinals for three seasons beginning in 1978.  He compiled a record of 166-190 before being replaced in June 1980 by Whitey Herzog.  Boyer's #14 was retired by the Cardinals in 1984, and he's the only player whose number has been retired by the team who is not in the Hall of Fame.

Building the Set
March 1, 2003 in Ft. Washington, PA - Card #242
I paid $8 for this card at the 82nd Philadelphia Sports Card Show held at the Ft. Washington Expo Center.  As is the case with most of the card shows from this time, my Dad didn't attend with me but I would have definitely told him about the purchase after the show.

If I'm not mistaken, this is the first baseball card show I attended with my future wife, Jenna.  This is right around the time we started collecting the Topps Heritage sets together and most of my budget for this show probably went towards polishing off the latest Heritage set.  My records show that this Boyer card was one of only 9 cards from the 1956 Topps set that I purchased in 2003.

The Card
It looks as if the ball is about to get by Boyer in his action photo on this card, which is an unfortunate photo choice given his excellent defensive skills.  The third panel on the back of his card makes mention of his glove work.  The head shot used is the same as on Boyer's 1955 Topps rookie card.

The card back also mentions that Ken has four brothers playing professional baseball.  In addition to Cloyd and Clete (more on them below), brother Wayne played in the Cardinals system from 1946-1948, brother Lynn played in the Cardinals system from 1954-1955, brother Len played in the Cardinals system from 1964-1970 and brother Ron played in the White Sox and Yankees systems between 1962 and 1969.  The write-up on the back of this card is referring to Wayne, Lynn, Cloyd and Clete.

1956 Season
This was Boyer's second full season in the Majors, and he was selected to his first All-Star game.  He hit .306 with 26 home runs and 98 RBIs appearing in 150 of the Cardinals 154 games.

Boyer had two brothers who also played in the Majors, and I wanted to point out that neither of them appear in the 1956 Topps set although a case could be made for both.  Older brother Cloyd Boyer, a pitcher with the Cardinals and Athletics, wrapped up his five-year career with 30 appearances for the 1955 Athletics.  Younger brother Clete Boyer, the Yankees primary third baseman throughout the 1960s, also played for the Athletics in 1955 and 1956.  Despite Cloyd's and Clete's time in the Majors around this time, only Ken appeared in the 1956 Topps set.

1955 Topps #125
1969 Topps #379
1975 Topps #202
1980 Topps #244
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1955 Topps #125
First Topps Card:  1955 Topps #125
Last Topps Card (as a player):  1969 Topps #379
Most Recent Topps Card (post-career):  1975 Topps #202
First Topps Card (as a manager):  1979 Topps #192
Last Topps Card (as a manager):  1980 Topps #244
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2015 Panini Diamond Kings #84

217 - Boyer non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 1/18/15

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.