Monday, October 26, 2015

#4 Carlos Paula - Washington Nationals


Carlos (Conill) Paula
Washington Nationals
Outfield

Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  6'3"  Weight:  195
Born:  November 28, 1927, La Habana, Cuba
Signed:  Signed by the Washington Senators prior to the 1954 season as a free agent formerly with the Paris Indians of the independent Big State League
Major League Teams:  Washington Senators 1954-1956
Died:  April 25, 1983, Miami, FL (age 55)

The Cuban-born Paula was the first black player in Washington Senators history.  He enjoyed an excellent rookie season in 1955, hitting .299 with six home runs and 45 RBIs in 115 games.  His numbers fell off in 1956 and the Senators sold him in April 1958 to the independent Sacramento Solons of the Pacific Coast League.  Paula would bounce around several minor league teams between 1958 and 1959 and appeared in 85 games for the Mexico City Tigers in 1960 before retiring.

Building the Set
August 29, 1996 in Winston-Salem, NC - Card #143
I attended college at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  On humid days, or after a heavy rain, the air was heavy with the faint smell of tobacco.  I absolutely loved my time as a Demon Deacon and I realize how lucky I was to be able to attend such a phenomenal college.

July 9, 1996 - Dad and me at the 1996 All-Star Game,
There was a baseball card store called Season Ticket on Silas Creek Parkway that I discovered half-way through my senior year, and I'd frequent the store whenever I had a little extra spending money - which honestly wasn't very often.  Given the timing of this purchase, I don't remember if my Dad was with me or not.  Save for a visit north for the 1996 All-Star Game, I spent the summer of 1996 living in Winston-Salem and this might have been a pre-start of the semester purchase that I made on my own.  I paid $10 for a lot of four cards needed for our 1956 Topps set, which included this card.  $10 would have bought a lot of Taco Ball back then (and it still would now) but adding four more cards to our set was worth the sacrifice.

I haven't been back to North Carolina in over a decade and whenever I get around to taking my wife and my sons on a road trip to visit my old campus, I'd love to see if Season Ticket is still there.

The Card
The head shot used is the same photo used for Paula's 1955 Topps card.  Topps preferred to call the Washington team by their more-popular nickname (Nationals) even though their official team name was the Senators.  I found this interesting article on the name conundrum which sheds some light on the confusion.

I could never figure out what's happening in the action shot.  Is the player (perhaps Paula) sliding back into second base following a pick-off throw or perhaps an outfielder had caught a fly ball and he's trying to not get doubled off?

Depending on whether you believe Baseball Reference or Topps, Paula was born on either November 28, 1927 (per Baseball Reference) or November 4, 1928 (per Topps).  I'm going to side with Baseball Reference whenever there's a discrepancy like this.  Topps touts Paula's speed on the back of his card, yet he stole just two bases in his 157 big league games.

1956 Season
I was surprised to see from Paula's Baseball Reference page that he played with the Senators, Yankees and Phillies minor league teams in 1956, all while apparently still the property of the Senators.  The 28-year-old Paula was up with the Senators in May and June, appearing in 33 games all in right or left field and hitting .183 (15 for 82) with three home runs.

Phillies Connection
As I mentioned above, Paula played briefly for the Miami Marlins in 1956 who were the Phillies Triple-A affiliate at the time.  He appeared in 11 games for the Marlins, hitting just .158.

1955 Topps #97
1979 TCMA '50s #205
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1955 Topps #97
First Topps Card:  1955 Topps #97
Last Topps Card:  1956 Topps #4
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  1979 TCMA '50s #205

6 - Paula non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 10/29/15

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, October 21, 2015

#3 Elmer Valo - Kansas City Athletics


Elmer William Valo
Kansas City Athletics
Outfield


Bats:  Left  Throws:  Right  Height:  5'11"  Weight:  190
Born:  March 5, 1921, Rybnik, Czechoslovakia
Signed:  Signed by the Philadelphia Athletics as an amateur free agent in 1938
Major League Teams:  Philadelphia Athletics 1940-1943, 1946-1954; Kansas City Athletics 1955-1956; Philadelphia Phillies 1956; Brooklyn Dodgers 1957; Los Angeles Dodgers 1958; Cleveland Indians 1959; New York Yankees 1960; Washington Senators 1960; Minnesota Twins 1961; Philadelphia Phillies 1961
Died:  July 19, 1998, Palmerton, PA (age 77)

Elmer Valo enjoyed a 20-year career, playing his first 13 seasons for the Philadelphia Athletics.  His best season was 1955 when he earned A.L. MVP consideration after posting a .364 average and a .460 OBP over 112 games.  Valo has the distinction of playing with three franchises that relocated - the Athletics, the Dodgers and the Senators.  Putting this post together, I realized I've always said Valo's name wrong.  According to Baseball Reference, the pronunciation is VOLL-oh and not VALL-oh as I had always assumed.

Building the Set
June 20, 1992 in Ocean City, NJ - Card #99
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 99th 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 called his operation 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 of pizza with birch beer.  On the coldest winter days, Dad and I would daydream of having a slice from Mack & Manco's with the sounds of the boardwalk and sea gulls in the background.

The Card
As is the case with a lot of 1956 Topps cards, the action photo may or may not actually be the the main player featured.  Valo wore #10 during the bulk of his Athletics career and wore #35 in 1955. The outfielder leaping over the fence to presumably haul in a baseball appears to be wearing #14. The head shot of Valo had been used previously on his 1954 and 1955 Topps cards.  Interestingly enough, Valo's 1954 Topps card features the "A" logo on his cap and his 1955 Topps card switches over to a "KC" logo on his cap.  His 1956 Topps card reverts back to the "A" logo on his cap.

Valo never played in the World Series and the back of his card mentions the closest he ever got with the 1948 Athletics.  That team would finish in 4th place, 12 1/2 games behind the Indians.

My version of this card is the gray-backed version as opposed to the somewhat more desireable white-backed version.  I touched up the card to turn it into a Phillies card in this post over at The Phillies Room.

1956 Season
At 35 years old, Valo was released by the Athletics on May 21st and signed the next day with the Phillies.  He'd spend the entire season with the Phillies serving as one of the team's regular outfielders in right alongside Richie Ashburn in center and Del Ennis in left.  In 98 games with the Phillies, Valo hit .289 with 5 home runs and 37 RBIs.


Phillies Career
In April 1957, Valo was part of a six-player trade with the Dodgers ending his short time back in Philadelphia.  He'd return one more time to the Phillies in June 1961, appearing in 50 games and hitting .186 (8 for 43) before calling it a career.  Valo served as a scout for the Phils between 1969 and 1982 and served for several of those years as a special instructor at spring training in Clearwater.  The picture at right is Valo's photo from the Scouts' page in the 1980 Phillies Yearbook.

Valo entered the Athletics portion of the Phillies Wall of Fame in 1995, being inducted alongside Mike Schmidt.  He has two Phillies baseball cards that I'm aware of - 1957 Topps #54 and 1989 Pacific Legends II #187.

1949 Bowman #66
1951 Topps Red Backs #28
1957 Topps #54
1961 Topps #186
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1949 Bowman #66
First Topps Card:  1951 Topps Red Backs #28
Representative Phillies Card:  1957 Topps #54
Last Topps Card:  1961 Topps #186
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2007 Topps Distinguished Service #DS13

64 - Valo non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 10/20/15

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, October 16, 2015

#2 Warren Giles - National League President


Warren Crandall Giles
National League President


Born:  May 28, 1896, Tiskilwa, IL
Died:  February 7, 1979, Cincinnati, OH (age 82)
Hall of Fame Induction:  1979

Having served in World War I, Giles rose up the ranks of organized baseball eventually earning the chairman's title of the executive committee for minor league baseball in 1933.  In 1937, Giles was named the president and general manager of the Cincinnati Reds and his guidance helped the Reds to win consecutive N.L. pennants in 1939 and 1940 and the World Series title in 1940, defeating the Detroit Tigers.

Giles was named president of the National League in 1951 during a golden age for the senior circuit. During his tenure as president between 1952 and 1969, the Dodgers and Giants moved West, the Braves moved twice (first to Milwaukee, then to Atlanta), and the Mets, Colt .45s (later the Astros), Padres and the Expos joined the league.  Giles approved the creation of the East and West divisions in 1969.

He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee in 1979, the summer after he passed away at 82.

Building the Set
July 19, 1997 in Ocean City, NJ - Card #149
William Harridge occupied the top row of the first page of our 1956 Topps binder for over nine years before he was joined by Giles' card.  This card was the 149th card my Dad and I added to our set, and it came a few months after I had graduated college and a few weeks before I'd enter the working world.  My notes show that we paid $10 for the card, which seems like a fair price as our version of the card is well centered with four sharp corners.

The annual Ocean City baseball card show was still held at the Music Pier in 1997, but I remember it didn't quite feel as magical in 1997 as it had in the mid to late 1980s.  By 1997, it was getting much harder to keep up with the new baseball card releases and I remember being unfamiliar with some of the newer products for sale at the show.  It was a strange feeling to not recognize all the new, shinier releases.  Truth to be, while my Dad still enjoyed going to the shows with me, he was a lot less active in terms of tracking down cards on his own at this point.  I honestly think he liked just watching me thumb through stacks of cards, content to no longer be the primary searcher.

I have good memories of the summer of 1997.  Things would go decidedly south for me personally over the next five years before I'd find my path again.

The Card
If you think about it, the first two cards of the 1956 Topps set should be fairly difficult to find.  Kids in 1956 would have had no interest in baseball cards of two old guys in suits and I imagine a good share of the Harridge and Giles cards were simply tossed out by young collectors.  Fortunately, this is the last card featuring someone wearing a suit and tie in the set.

The back of the card refers to Giles' tenure in the Redlegs' front office, although they were still known as the Reds during those years.  The Reds adopted the Redlegs moniker in the mid-1950s at the height of the nation's Red Scare.  Topps kept up with the times and refers to Cincinnati's team as the Redlegs on the back of Giles' card and throughout the set.

Like the Harridge card, Giles' 1956 Topps card was reprinted as card #2 in the 2005 Topps Heritage set.

1956 Season
Giles is credited with creating the National League's logo, which featured eight stars for the eight teams and became official in December 1956.  He was entering his fifth season at the N.L.'s top spot when this card was released.

Phillies Connection
Giles and his wife Jane had one son, Bill, who was born in 1934.  The younger Giles shadowed his father throughout his baseball career and grew up completely absorbed by baseball.  Bill Giles helped establish the Houston Colt .45s in 1962 and he joined the Phillies organization in 1969.  He rose through the ranks with the Phillies, eventually becoming part of the new ownership group that acquired the team from the Carpenter family in 1981.  Giles served as general manager of the Phillies from 1984 to 1987 and as president of the club from 1982 to 1997.

He's now the honorary president of the National League, and he annually presents the Warren C. Giles trophy to the National League Champion.

1957 Topps #100
1958 Topps #300
1959 Topps #200
2005 Topps Heritage #2
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1956 Topps #2
First Topps Card:  1956 Topps #2
Last Topps Card:  1959 Topps #200
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2006 Topps Heritage #100

45 - Giles non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 10/15/15

Sources:  
Beckett Database
National Baseball Hall of Fame
SABR
SportsLogos.net
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, October 14, 2015

#1 William Harridge - American League President


William Harridge
American League President


Born:  October 16, 1881, Chicago, IL
Died:  April 9, 1971, Evanston, IL (age 89)
Hall of Fame Induction:  1972

Will Harridge served as the president of the American League from 1931 through the end of 1958. Having never played the game of baseball, Harridge was hired by former league president Ban Johnson in 1911 to be Johnson's personal secretary.  Perhaps his biggest accomplishment during his tenure was helping to usher in the annual All-Star Game against the rival National League, which was originally to be just a one-time event held at Chicago's Commiskey Park in 1933.  Harridge was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee in 1972, a year after his death.

Building the Set
June 25, 1988 in Ocean City, NJ - Card #57
I acquired this card in the infancy of my Dad and I officially deciding to collect the 1956 Topps set.  I remember finding the card in a bargain bin at the annual Ocean City baseball card show held at the Music Pier on the boardwalk.  I had to convince my Dad that this card was actually from the 1956 Topps set and that its $5 price tag made this card a huge bargain.  I had diligently studied pictures of all the 1956 Topps cards within my copy of Topps Baseball Cards: The Complete Picture Collection and I recognized this card as one of the two league president cards that kicked off the set.

My guess is that the dealer at the card show had no idea this was the first card from the 1956 Topps set.  According to my checklist from right before we purchased this card, the "book" value for this card was $60 in 1988, given that it was hard to track down a copy without rubber band marks around the sides.  My original set checklist shown here was pain-stakingly created on my Commodore 64 and I then took a ruler to add the pencilled lines around each number.  In the summer of 1988, when I wasn't down at the shore, I'd spend hours each week studying the price guides, reviewing my checklists and looking at pictures of the set in my Topps book.  It was a good summer.

The Card
At 75 years old, Harridge is by far the oldest person featured in the 1956 Topps set.  I'm sure kids finding this card in their packs back in the day weren't thrilled to pull a card of a guy who resembled Woodrow Wilson.  I've always liked that the back of the card features the logos of the then eight American League teams.  As is the case with all of the first 180 cards from the set, this card can be found with either a white or a gray back.

Topps reproduced this card as the first card in its 1956 Topps-themed 2005 Topps Heritage set.  I've always wondered what made the Topps folks decide to dedicate two cards to the league presidents and not the Commissioner of baseball at the time, Ford Frick.

1956 Season
Harridge was two years away from retirement during the 1956 season, as he'd step down from the American League's top spot in December 1958.

1957 Topps #100
1958 Topps #300
2005 Topps Heritage #1
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1956 Topps #1
First Topps Card:  1956 Topps #1
Last Topps Card:  1958 Topps #300
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2012 Panini Cooperstown Bronze History #97/599

26 - Harridge non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 10/13/15

Sources:  
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.