Friday, January 15, 2016

#13 Roy Face - Pittsburgh Pirates

Elroy Leon Face
Pittsburgh Pirates

Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  5'8"  Weight:  155
Born:  February 20, 1928, Stephentown, NY
Signed:  Signed by the Philadelphia Phillies as an amateur free agent in 1949
Major League Teams:  Pittsburgh Pirates 1953, 1955-1968; Detroit Tigers 1968; Montreal Expos 1969

Roy Face was one of the best relief pitchers of his era, compiling an unprecedented record of 18-1 for the 1959 Pirates.  Only Max Scherzer has matched that mark since, going 18-1 for the 2013 Tigers. He ended his 16-year career with 191 career saves and 802 games with the Pirates.  At the time, only Walter Johnson had pitched in that many games with one team, as Johnson had appeared in 802 games for the Washington Senators.

Face was a three-time All-Star with the Pirates, making the N.L. squad in 1959, 1960 and 1961.  With the help of his forkball, he helped seal the 1960 World Championship with three saves in the Pirates seven game win over the Yankees.  Face led the league in saves three times, including an impressive 28 save season in 1962.  He was baseball's all-time saves leader during the 1962 and 1963 seasons before being passed by Hoyt Wilhelm (#307) in 1964.

Building the Set
Febrruay 18, 2001 in Cherry Hill, NJ - Card #228
This was the lone 1956 Topps card purchased at what I have in my notes as the "Cherry Hill Mall Mega Sports Card Show".  My memories during 2001 are hazy at best, but I do distinctly remember that this baseball card show was nowhere near "Mega" that day.  I paid $10 for this card.

Similar to most baseball card shows around this time, I doubt my Dad attended with me but I definitely would have told him about the card purchase so that he could update his lists.

The Card
Maybe I'm looking in the wrong places, but I couldn't find an explanation as to why Face is wearing a helmet in this card, along with his 1958 Topps card and several other Pirates team issued cards.  It's odd to see a pitcher, and a premier reliever at that, photographed in a batting helmet.

The card's back alludes to Face's absence in the 1954 season.  After appearing in 41 games in 1953 as a Rule 5 draft pick, he spent the entire 1954 season pitching for the New Orleans Pelicans - the Pirates Double-A club at the time.

1956 Season
This was the season that new Pirates manager Bobby Bragan permanently moved Face to the bullpen.  Face appeared in 68 games, with all but three of those games coming in relief.  He led the league in appearances, entering into four more games than the Giants' Wilhelm.  Face saved just four games, but went 12-13 with a 3.52 ERA.

Phillies Connection
Face was originally drafted by the Phillies and he spent the first two seasons of his professional career (in 1949 and 1950) pitching for the Class D Bradford Blue Wings in the Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York (PONY) League.  Face pitched extremely well for the Blue Wings (32-7 with a 2.88 ERA), but the Phillies made the unfortunate decision to leave him unprotected in the annual winter draft.  Branch Rickey drafted the young right-hander and added him to the Dodgers stable of young pitchers.

In 1954, Rickey, who had moved on to the Pirates, drafted Face again beginning what would become a 15 year relationship between the reliever and Pittsburgh.

I'm not a huge fan of the modern day Bowman releases, but it's cool to think that if prospect sets had been around in the late 1940s/early 1950s, we'd have a card of Roy Face in the 1950 Bowman Draft set, photoshopped into a Phillies uniform.

1953 Topps #246
1969 Topps #207
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1953 Topps #246
First Topps Card:  1953 Topps #246
Last Topps Card:  1969 Topps #207
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2007 Sweet Spot Classic #179

121 - Face non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 1/14/16

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.


  1. Rickey had all the Pirates wear helmets (more hard caps, really) as a safety measure.

    "The Pirates were the first team to wear the helmets in 1952 and 1953, and their adoption was speeded after the Braves' Joe Adcock was beaned so severely by the Dodgers' Clem Labine on Aug. 1, 1954, that he was unconscious for 15 minutes.

    Adcock said the helmet may have saved him from a severe injury, and the next day the Brooklyn Dodgers ordered all players in their organization to begin wearing helmets. Other teams quickly followed."

    There's a bit more here:

    Keep up the good work on the blog.

  2. Excellent! Thanks for passing this information along. Always great to learn new things and I'm hoping more of these types of comments pop up on this blog. Thanks again!

  3. I believe in 1976 MLB made it mandatory for all players to wear helmets. In the 1975 World Series game 7. Red Sox backup catcher Bob Montgomery pinch hit in the 9th inning without a helmet. I think he was the last guy to hit without a helmet in MLB.