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.

Friday, January 15, 2016

#13 Roy Face - Pittsburgh Pirates


Elroy Leon Face
Pittsburgh Pirates
Pitcher

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

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.